National lab scientists assail state education proposal

October 10, 2017

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Dozens of scientists and engineers at a national nuclear weapons laboratory in New Mexico are voicing disagreement with public school science standards proposed by the state, cautioning that the guidelines could weaken the study of climate change, evolution and earth sciences.

Sixty-one senior technical staff at Los Alamos National Laboratory wrote to the New Mexico Department of Education to express their disagreement with the standards, publishing their letter in a full-page newspaper ad Monday.

The letter said the proposed standards suggest the denial of human-caused climate change as well as possibility of an alternative scientific explanation for the history of life on earth other than evolution.

“There is absolutely no scientific rationale for weakening the treatment of these subjects,” they wrote.

Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski called the letter important and said that state officials are listening to the concerns.

“Right now we have a proposal on the table, and that’s what this process is all about,” Ruszkowski told the Associated Press. “We’ve made incredible progress in collaboration and what I’m trying to facilitate now is more collaboration.”

The Education Department is seeking several changes to standards developed by a consortium of states and the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists from the national laboratory in Los Alamos, where the first atomic bomb was developed, were dismayed to see references to “global warming” replaced with “temperature fluctuations.”

A weeks-long public comment period culminates in a public hearing on Oct. 16 in Santa Fe to gather feedback on the science standards.

Ruszkowski said he received feedback from school district superintendents, parents and at least one teacher as the Education Department customized the proposed science standards, declining to name the superintendents or provide more specifics.

“It could be an incredible moment for the state if we came together with the particular variety of perspectives and still moved forward,” he said.