Home| Letters| Links| RSS| About Us| Contact Us

On the Frontline

What's New

Table of Contents

Index of Authors

Index of Titles

Index of Letters

Mailing List


subscribe to our mailing list:



SECTIONS

Critique of Intelligent Design

Evolution vs. Creationism

The Art of ID Stuntmen

Faith vs Reason

Anthropic Principle

Autopsy of the Bible code

Science and Religion

Historical Notes

Counter-Apologetics

Serious Notions with a Smile

Miscellaneous

Letter Serial Correlation

Mark Perakh's Web Site

On the Frontline

Be the first to read new TalkReason articles - subscribe to our mailing list!

Evolution and climate education update: September 21, 2012

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A preview of Bill McGuire's Waking the Giant. NESCent is taking its show on the road again. And NCSE's Mark McCaffrey debunks the idea of "teaching the controversy" about climate page in The Earth Scientist.

A PREVIEW OF WAKING THE GIANT

NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of Bill McGuire's Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Volcanoes (Oxford University Press, 2012). The preview consists of the bulk of chapter 2, "Once and Future Climate," in which McGuire observes, "some past climates can provide a useful, and somewhat terrifying, [guide] to what our planet might look like by 2100 and in the centuries that follow. In particular, the post-glacial period provides us with the perfect opportunity to examine and appraise how abrupt and rapid climate changes drive the responses of the solid Earth."

McGuire is Professor of Geophysical and Climate Hazards at University College London and the author of numerous books, including Global Catastrophes: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2006), Surviving Armageddon: Solutions for a Threatened Planet (Oxford University Press, 2007), and Seven Years to Save the Planet (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2008). Of Waking the Giant, Library Journal's reviewer wrote, "The author succeeds at interpreting complex earth science into compelling reading for a popular audience. Anyone with an interest in climate change, geology, and atmospheric science will enjoy this work."

For the preview of Waking the Giant (PDF), visit: http://ncse.com/book-excerpt
For information about the book from its publisher, visit: http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/LifeSciences/Ecology/?view=usa&ci=9780199592265

ON THE ROAD AGAIN WITH NESCENT

The Darwin Day Roadshow is returning! The Roadshow is a project of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, in which NESCent staff shares their enthusiasm for evolutionary science with students, teachers, and the general public on the occasion of Charles Darwin's birthday, February 12. According to NESCent, "Our teams talk to students, teachers and the general public about their research in evolutionary science, describe what it takes to become an evolutionary biologist (and what some of the rewards and challenges are), and convey why evolutionary science is relevant to everyone."

And the results are delightful: as NESCent's Craig McClain wrote at Pacific Standard (May 15, 2011), "for all of us the Darwin Day Road Show was a gratifying adventure that no one will forget. From the landscapes with their silos, combines, center pivot crop circles, high school gymnasiums, to the indelible interactions we had along the way, we absorbed it all." Applications from schools interested in hosting the Roadshow, especially those who would not be likely to have access to Darwin Day activities otherwise, are now being accepted. Act soon, though; the application deadline is November 9, 2012.

For information about NESCent's Darwin Day Roadshow and about applying to host it, visit: http://roadshow.nescent.org/
http://roadshow.nescent.org/apply/
For McClain's article in Pacific Standard, visit: http://www.psmag.com/science/scientists-take-charles-darwin-on-the-road-31211/

NCSE'S MCCAFFREY IN THE EARTH SCIENTIST

NCSE's Mark McCaffrey contributed "Teaching controversy" to a special issue of The Earth Scientist focusing on climate change education. The abstract of his article:

What could be wrong with presenting in a science class "both sides" of controversial topics like evolution or climate change, or having students debate the topics, using argumentation to improve their critical thinking skills? In the case of evolution, presenting supposed alternatives, such as intelligent design or young-earth creationism, is not only considered bad practice, but also unconstitutional in public schools due to the separation of church and state. However, in the case of climate change, the practice of teaching it as controversial and presenting "both sides" as if they are equally valid, is a too common practice among science teachers. This paper examines the reasons why teachers may be encouraged or drawn to "teach the controversy" about climate change, why it is not an effective practice and leaves students more confused, and how the Next Generation Science Standards may help to transform how we teach about climate and global change science and solutions.

The Earth Scientist is the journal of the National Earth Science Teachers Association. McCaffrey's article appears in the fall 2012 issue (vol. 28, no. 3), pp. 25-29.

For McCaffrey's article (PDF), visit: http://www.nestanet.org/cms/sites/default/files/journal/current.pdf
For information about The Earth Scientist, visit: http://www.nestanet.org/cms/content/publications/tes
For information about NESTA, visit: http://www.nestanet.org/cms/

September 7, 2012

A sign of progress in South Korea. NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott receives the Richard Dawkins award from the Atheist Alliance of America. NCSE's Mark McCaffrey and Joshua Rosenau argue that science literacy still matters. And reservations are now available for NCSE's next excursion to the Grand Canyon.

PROGRESS IN SOUTH KOREA?

A panel overseeing revisions to science textbooks in South Korea "reaffirmed that the theory of evolution is an essential part of modern science that all students must learn in school," according to a report in Nature (September 6, 2012). The panel was convened after it was announced that, owing to pressure from a creationist organization, the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology instructed publishers to exclude discussions of the evolution of the horse and of Archaeopteryx -- favorite targets of creationists, including the "intelligent design" movement -- without consulting any biologists for their advice.

Nature reported that on September 5, 2012, the panel concluded that Archaeopteryx should still be included but conceded that "the textbooks' explanation of the evolution of the horse was too simplistic and should be revised or replaced with a different example, such as the evolution of whales." Duckhwan Lee, the leader of the panel, told Nature that he hopes that the panel's work will improve the public's understanding of evolution, adding, "We welcome any petition in the future ... if it is regarding flaws in the evolution parts of science textbooks. But we do not want to waste our time if it has any religious implication."

For the report in Nature, visit: http://www.nature.com/news/science-wins-over-creationism-in-south-korea-1.11377
And for NCSE's previous coverage of international events, visit: http://ncse.com/news/international

NCSE'S SCOTT RECEIVES DAWKINS AWARD

NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott received the Atheist Alliance of America's Richard Dawkins Award at the group's annual meeting in Denver, Colorado, on September 1, 2012. Unable to attend the ceremony in person, the namesake of the award began his video introduction by saying, "Eugenie Scott is one of my very favorite people, although we have our civilized disagreements, as I shall tell," and adding, "it's impossible to meet Genie without loving her, whether you agree with her or not." Scott began her acceptance speech by joking, "I now possess awards in the names of both Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins. This demonstrates that I can get along with everyone. Regardless of my historic amiability, however, I do not anticipate ever being presented with the Ken Ham award, if such exists."

Scott concluded by saying, "it is with much feeling that I accept this award with Richard's name on it. It is meaningful to me and in some ways brings full circle a respect I have had for his influence on science and its significance to us as human beings. Not only in influencing my own understanding and teaching of evolutionary biology, but in my more recent career as director of NCSE, in trying to spread more broadly the understanding of evolution as a science, and to encourage people to think about it, regardless of the philosophical or religious system they embrace. ... I can't hold a candle to Richard when it comes to increasing scientific knowledge -- but I am honored to be considered, with him, to be a strong advocate of increasing the public understanding of that knowledge, and I join him in that important task."

For Dawkins's video introduction, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgwaR7ExVdg
For information about the Atheist Alliance of America, visit: http://atheistallianceamerica.org/

NCSE'S MCCAFFREY AND ROSENAU IN NATURE CLIMATE CHANGE

"Science literacy still matters" -- a letter by NCSE's Mark McCaffrey and Joshua Rosenau -- was published in the journal Nature Climate Change (2012; 2[9]:636). Responding to mischaracterizations in the media of a recent study finding that science literacy is negatively correlated with concern about climate change, they noted that the study in question failed to examine people's understanding of climate science in particular, and thus cannot be regarded as evidence that climate literacy efforts are fruitless. Different researchers have found a correlation between understanding of climate science in particular and concern about climate change, they added.

McCaffrey and Rosenau observed, "in US schools, climate change is often skipped entirely and, if taught, is presented briefly or as a political controversy. ... Most students rely on their schools for climate change science and -- with rare exceptions -- they are not getting what they need." They concluded, "strategic framing, including minimizing doom and gloom by integrating science with solutions, is vital, especially in educational settings. But dismissing literacy as unimportant or irrelevant is wrong. Although literacy alone can't solve the climate problem, it provides society with the tools and shared basis for understanding the science and solutions before us."

For McCaffrey and Rosenau's letter (subscription required), visit: http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v2/n9/full/nclimate1644.html
And for NCSE's resources on climate education, visit: http://ncse.com/climate

NCSE AND THE GRAND CANYON 2013

Explore the Grand Canyon with NCSE! Reservations are now available for NCSE's next excursion to the Grand Canyon -- as featured in the documentary No Dinosaurs in Heaven. From July 15 to 23, 2013, NCSE will again explore the wonders of creation and evolution on a Grand Canyon river run conducted by NCSE's Genie Scott and Steve Newton. Because this is an NCSE trip, we offer more than just the typically grand float down the Canyon, the spectacular scenery, fascinating natural history, brilliant night skies, exciting rapids, delicious meals, and good company. It is, in fact, a unique "two-model" raft trip, on which we provide both the creationist view of the Grand Canyon (maybe not entirely seriously) and the evolutionist view -- and let you make up your own mind. To get a glimpse of the fun, watch the short videos filmed during the 2011 trip, posted on NCSE's YouTube site. The cost of the excursion is $2530; a deposit of $500 will hold your spot. Seats are limited: call, write, or e-mail now.

For further information about the excursion, visit: http://ncse.com/about/excursions/gcfaq
For information about No Dinosaurs in Heaven, visit: http://www.nodinos.com/
For NCSE's YouTube channel, visit: http://www.youtube.com/NatCen4ScienceEd
And for contact information for NCSE, visit: http://ncse.com/contact

August 31, 2012

A Bill Nye video on the creationism/evolution controversy goes viral. Plus a new issue of Reports of the NCSE is available, The New York Times covers climate change in zoos and aquariums, and two NCSE staffers discuss climate change issues at the Daily Kos blog.

BILL NYE VIDEO ON CREATIONISM

A two-and-a-half-minute video with Bill Nye discussing the creationism/evolution controversy went viral, garnering over 2.5 million views in its first week on-line. Posted on August 23, 2012, on the YouTube channel of Big Think, under the title "Creationism is not appropriate for children," the video reiterates the centrality of evolution to the life sciences and laments the prevalence of evolution denial in the United States. In it, Nye remarked, "And I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that's completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that's fine, but don't make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future."

Nye later told CBS This Morning (August 28, 2012), "My concern is you don't want people growing up not believing in radioactivity, not believing in geology and deep time. You don't want people in the United States growing up without the expectation that we can land spacecraft on Mars. You want people to believe in science, this process, this great idea that humans had to discover more about the universe and our place in it, our place in space. And I really want to emphasize, I'm not attacking anybody's religion, but science, if you go to a museum and you see fossil dinosaur bones, they came from somewhere, and we have by diligent investigation have determined that the earth is 4.54 billion years old."

NCSE's Steven Newton was interviewed on KPCC (August 29, 2012) for its story about Nye's video. Nye's remarks were fully in step with the views of the scientific community, Newton explained, adding, "Science teachers around the country are pretty much in sync with scientists around this country in understanding that evolution is the foundation of the biological sciences, and as such, it should be part of the curriculum and it should be taught," citing the courageous teachers in Dover, Pennsylvania, who in 2005 refused to read the evolution disclaimer mandated by the school board there. "Intelligent design or overtly biblical Creationism -- all of them have the same root [in] a denial of evolution and how science works," Newton commented.

A Supporter of NCSE, Bill Nye "The Science Guy" was the host of the popular science education television programs Bill Nye the Science Guy -- which won eighteen Emmys -- and The Eyes of Nye; he is currently the executive director of the Planetary Society, the world's large space interest organization. The video was by no means Nye's first excursion into defending the teaching of evolution: in 2011, for example, he told Popular Mechanics, "it's fine if you as an adult want to run around pretending or claiming that you don't believe in evolution, but if we educate a generation of people who don't believe in science, that's a recipe for disaster. ... the main idea in all of biology is evolution. To not teach it to our young people is wrong."

For Nye's "Creationism is not appropriate for children" video, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHbYJfwFgOU
For the CBS This Morning story, visit: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505270_162-57501492/bill-nye-on-creationism-critique-im-not-attacking-religion/
For KPCC's interview with Newton, visit: http://www.scpr.org/programs/patt-morrison/2012/08/29/28156/bill-nye-the-science-guy-warns-about-not-teaching-/
For the Popular Mechanics interview with Nye, visit: http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/environment/evolution-classroom-bill-nye-science-education

RNCSE 32:4 NOW ON-LINE

NCSE is pleased to announce that the latest issue of Reports of the National Center for Science Education is now available on-line. The issue -- volume 32, number 4 -- features Valerie First's "My Niche in Human Evolution," reporting the author's experiences in discussing evolution as a docent at her local science center and at her local zoo. For his regular People and Places column, Randy Moore discusses the career of Carl Akeley, the pioneering taxidermist whose work is still on display at the American Museum of Natural History.

Plus a host of reviews of books on the public understanding of evolution: Tim Beazley reviews Frank S. Ravitch's Marketing Intelligent Design, George Bishop reviews Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzer's Evolution, Creationism, and the Battle to Control America's Classrooms, Richard F. Firenze reviews David Sloan Wilson's The Neighborhood Project, Timothy H. Goldsmith reviews the films Creation and Darwin's Darkest Hour, Brandon Haught reviews the film No Dinosaurs in Heaven, and Richard P. Meisel reviews Greg Graffin and Steve Olson's Anarchy Evolution.

All of these articles, features, and reviews are freely available in PDF form from http://reports.ncse.com. Members of NCSE will shortly be receiving in the mail the print supplement to Reports 32:4, which, in addition to summaries of the on-line material, contains news from the membership, a regular column in which NCSE staffers offer personal reports on what they've been doing to defend the teaching of evolution, a new regular column interviewing NCSE's favorite people -- members of NCSE's board of directors, NCSE's Supporters, recipients of NCSE's Friend of Darwin award, and so on -- and more besides. (Not a member? Join today!)

For the table of contents for RNCSE 32:4, visit: http://reports.ncse.com/index.php/rncse/issue/current/showToc
For information about joining NCSE, visit:http://ncse.com/join

DISCUSSING CLIMATE CHANGE IN INFORMAL EDUCATION

"With many zoos and aquariums now working with conservation organizations and financed by individuals who feel strongly about threatened habitats and species, managers have been wrestling with how aggressive to be in educating visitors on the perils of climate change," reports The New York Times (August 26, 2012). "Surveys show that American zoos and aquariums enjoy a high level of public trust and are ideally positioned to teach," the Times explains. "Yet many managers are fearful of alienating visitors -- and denting ticket sales -- with tours or wall labels that dwell bleakly on damaged coral reefs, melting ice caps or dying trees."

The solution: "a patter that would intrigue rather than daunt or depress the average visitor." Paul Boyle, the senior vice president for conservation and education at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, told the Times that most of the association's 224 member institutions have some sort of climate message. The AZA itself is encouraging its member institutions to engage their visitors in understanding climate change, observing, "Overwhelming international scientific consensus confirms that human activities are disturbing Earth's climate ... Effects from climate change are already threatening biodiversity and human health and are expected to increase."

For the story in The New York Times, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/27/science/earth/zoos-and-aquariums-struggle-with-ways-to-discuss-climate-change.html
For the AZA's discussion of climate and wildlife, visit: http://www.aza.org/climate-disruption/

NCSE'S MCCAFFREY AND ROSENAU AT DAILY KOS

When the popular Daily Kos blog decided to devote a week-long blogathon, running August 17 through August 24, 2012, to climate change, two NCSE staffers were invited to contribute.

In "Why climate literacy matters," posted on August 20, 2012, Mark McCaffrey observed, "Ideology, cultural norms, and corporate profits certainly contribute to climate change denial. But arguably one of the biggest drivers of denial is ignorance. Most people, even many meteorologists, never learned anything about climate change in school." There are signs of hope, he explains: "In recent years, a few projects have been funded to develop sound, scientifically accurate climate education materials for educators, museums and science centers, key influentials such as community leaders, and yes, even TV weathercasters." But there is abundant room for improvement, he concluded: "For a real sea change, a national climate and energy literacy initiative is needed so that humans and the ecosystems that sustain us can survive and thrive in the 21st [c]entury."

In "Attacks on climate change education are attacks on our future," posted on August 22, 2012, Joshua Rosenau argued, "The greatest climate change battlefield in the US may not be Congress and the White House, but the nation's more than 17,000 elected school boards and the classrooms they run. Disputes over local curriculum make fewer headlines, but those decisions shape the generations that will be most affected by climate change -- the citizens (and voters) who will have to respond to climate change." Reviewing a host of recent incidents of climate change denial in the schools, he urged, "In order for future citizens to be able to make scientifically informed decisions about how to deal with the challenge, the science of climate change needs to be taught -- accurately, thoroughly, and without compromise -- in the classroom."

Among those also contributing to the Daily Kos's Climate Change SOS blogathon were Michael E. Mann, John P. Abraham, Bill McKibben, Henry Waxman, Brian DeMelle, Ed Markey, and Al Gore.

For McCaffrey's and Rosenau's posts, visit: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/08/20/1121963/-Why-Climate-Literacy-Matters
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/08/22/1122994/-Attacks-on-climate-change-education-are-attacks-on-our-future
For a chronological list of posts in the blogathon, visit: http://www.dailykos.com/user/Climate%20Change%20SOS/history

August 24, 2012

A pair of interviews with Eugenie C. Scott on science denial. Renewed concern about the public funding of private schools that teach creationism in Louisiana. And a glimpse of Global Weirdness.

TWO INTERVIEWS WITH EUGENIE C. SCOTT

NCSE's executive director was recently interviewed twice about science denial in on-line venues.

Speaking to Liza Gross for KQED's Quest series (August 21, 2012), Scott discussed the similarities between those who reject vaccines and those who reject evolution and climate change. In all of these cases of science anomalies, she explained, there is a tendency to construe anomalies as disproving accepted scientific views, motivated by religious or political ideologies or -- as with vaccination -- concern for their children. Noting that only a few are diehard science denialists, Scott commented, "I think we shouldn’t abandon the people who are in that one segment of society who are bound and determined not to accept vaccinations but we should really focus our attention more on keeping people from slipping down into that category. Certainly, that’s what we’ve done with evolution and that’s what we are likely to be doing with climate change as well."

Speaking to Paul Fidalgo for the Committee for Scientific Inquiry (August 22, 2012), Scott addressed the continuities and changes in the antievolution movement. "I am not surprised we're still dealing with attacks on evolution: It is a topic that generates a great deal of emotion, and that can prevent people from listening to the scientific evidence," she commented, but added, "this is not your grandfather's creationism." Tennessee's new antiscience law, which encourages teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of topics such as evolution and climate change, is a case in point, she explained. The law presents these "as if they were topics that were of questionable validity in science. They may be controversial to the general public, but they certainly are not controversial among scientists."

Recent video interviews of NCSE staff are available at the Recent Interviews playlist on NCSE's YouTube channel.

For the KQED interview, visit: http://science.kqed.org/quest/2012/08/22/in-defense-of-science-an-interview-with-ncse%E2%80%99s-eugenie-scott/
For the CSI interview, visit: http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/show/eugenie_scott_on_the_stealth_of_science_denialism/
And for NCSE's YouTube channel, visit: http://www.youtube.com/user/NatCen4ScienceEd

"LOUISIANA'S LOCH NESS MYTHOLOGY"

The Baton Rouge Advocate (August 16, 2012) editorially excoriated Louisiana's controversial new voucher program for its funding of schools that "not only teach creationist nonsense, but are proud of it." As NCSE previously reported, the voucher program uses public school funds to pay for tuition and certain fees at private schools for students who attend low-performing public schools and whose family income is below 250% of the federal poverty level. But as Zack Kopplin told the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education at its July 2012 meeting, at least 19 of the 119 schools slated to benefit from the program apparently teach creationism instead of or along with evolution.

As a result, as Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University, a founder of the Louisiana Coalition for Science, and a member of NCSE's board of directors, told the Advocate, "What [students] are going to be getting financed with public money is phony science. They're going to be getting religion instead of science." Alluding to a textbook published by Accelerated Christian Education, the editorial noted, "Among the dubious assertions of creationist pseudo-science is that evolution is called into question by sightings of the Loch Ness monster, a 'dinosaur' living in the modern age -- according to those who believe in the Loch Ness myth."

Quoting the state superintendent of schools, John White, as saying "If students are failing the test, we're going to intervene, and the test measures evolution," the editorial retorted, "The state has no intention, apparently, of launching any serious investigation of the Loch Ness monster in school curriculums. Instead, it will pay and pay, for years, and -- if students do poorly on science tests at some future date -- the state Department of Education might raise the question of why mythology is part of a school’s curriculum," adding, "A more-effective way would be for the department to open its eyes to this kind of educational malpractice before children’s futures are endangered."

The voucher program is presently under legal challenge from the Louisiana Association of Educators and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers along with a number of local school boards. But the issue of the state's funding the teaching of creationism is not part of the challenge. Rather, as the New Orleans Times-Picayune (July 10, 2012) explained, "Two key issues are at play in the voucher suit: whether providing private schools with money from the Minimum Foundation Program violates the [Louisiana state] constitution by redirecting those funds from public schools, and whether a last-minute vote setting the new MFP formula in place received enough support in the state House to carry the force of law."

For the editorial in the Baton Rouge Advocate, visit: http://theadvocate.com/news/opinion/3590598-123/our-views-louisianas-loch-ness
For the story in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, visit: http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/07/judge_denies_injunction_in_vou.html
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit: http://ncse.com/news/louisiana

A GLIMPSE OF GLOBAL WEIRDNESS

NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of Climate Central's Global Weirdness (Pantheon, 2012). The preview consists of the introduction to the book, which explains that it is intended "to lay out the current state of knowledge about climate change, with explanations of the underlying science given in clear and simple language," and chapter 4, "Dinosaurs Didn't Drive Gas-Guzzlers or Use Air-Conditioning," which reviews the natural influences on climate, concluding, "However, the fact that something can happen naturally doesn't mean it's always natural."

Global Weirdness was written by Emily Elert and Michael D. Lemonick, but produced collectively by scientists and journalists at Climate Central, a nonprofit, nonpartisan science and journalism organization that conducts scientific research on climate change and informs the public of key findings. The reviewer for Booklist wrote, in a starred review of Global Weirdness, "Without talking down to readers, the authors do a masterful job of clarifying all aspects of a complicating and alarming topic, making it that much more difficult from global-warming denialists to keep their heads in the sand."

For the preview of Global Weirdness (PDF), visit: http://ncse.com/book-excerpt
For information about the book from its publisher, visit: http://www.randomhouse.com/book/209517/global-weirdness-by-climate-central
For information on Climate Central, visit: http://www.climatecentral.org/

Evolution and climate education news: August 17, 2012

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A new survey on Canadian public opinion on climate change. Plus potentially bad news for evolution education in both Missouri and Kentucky.

POLLING CLIMATE CHANGE IN CANADA

A new survey addresses the views of Canadians on climate change. Conducted by Insightrix Research, Inc. for IPAC-CO2 Research Inc., which describes itself as "an environmental non-government organization (ENGO) created to provide ndependent risk and performance assessments of CO2 storage projects," the survey asked its respondents, "Where do you stand on the issue of climate change?" Of the respondents, 32% agreed that climate change is occurring due to human activity, 54% agreed that climate change is occurring partially due to human activity and partially due to natural climate variation, 9% agreed that climate change is occurring due to natural climate variation, and 2% agreed that climate change is not occurring at all; 4% of respondents were not sure.

According to the report, the results were consistent with the results from a survey conducted in 2011. Regionally, residents of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba were least likely to agree that climate change is occurring due to human activity, while residents of Quebec, the Atlantic provinces, and British Columbia were most likely to agree. The report added, "Younger respondents are most likely to believe that climate change is occurring due to human activity and least likely to believe that it is occurring due to natural climate variation. Men are more likely than women to believe that climate change is occurring due to natural climate variation. No significant differences in beliefs by level of education are noted."

The poll was conducted between May 29 and June 11, 2012. Reporting on the survey, the Canadian Press (August 15, 2012) explained, "Unlike traditional telephone polling, in which respondents are randomly selected, the Insightrix survey was conducted online among 1,550 respondents, all of whom were chosen from a larger pool of people who agreed to participate in ongoing research. They were compensated for participating. The survey set quotas by age, gender, region and education to match the general population. The polling industry's professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population."

By way of comparison, a survey from Angus Reid Public Opinion, conducted in May and June 2012, asked respondents in Canada (as well as the United States and the United Kingdom), "Which of the following statements comes closest to your view of global warming (or climate change)?" "Global warming is a fact and is mostly caused by emissions from vehicles and industrial facilities" was preferred by 58% of Canadians, "global warming is a fact and is mostly caused by natural changes" was preferred by 20% of Canadians, "global warming is a theory that has not yet been proven" was preferred by 14% of Canadians, and 8% of Canadians were not sure. The Angus Reid survey was also conducted on-line with the results weighted to ensure a representative sample.

For the report of the Insightrix Research survey (PDF), visit: http://www.ipac-co2.com/uploads/File/Surveys/IPAC-CO2%20-%202012%20-%20National%20Survey.pdf
For the Canadian Press's story (via the CBC), visit: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/story/2012/08/15/calgary-climate-change-web-poll.html
For the report of the Angus Reid Public Opinion survey (PDF), visit: http://www.angus-reid.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/2012.06.27_Climate.pdf
And for NCSE's collection of polls and surveys on climate change, visit: http://ncse.com/polls/polls-climate-change

A WORRY FROM MISSOURI

Is a new amendment to the Missouri state constitution going to undermine the teaching of evolution in the state's public schools? On August 7, 2012, voters overwhelmingly approved a proposal to revise a portion of the state constitution that concerns freedom of religion. Among the revisions was the addition of a provision "that no student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs." And that provision, as NCSE's Joshua Rosenau told Science Insider (August 14, 2012), is worrisome from the point of view of science education: "Those words give students the legal right to skip assignments related to evolution if the subject matter conflicts with their beliefs, Rosenau says."

Evolution was not mentioned in the proposal and was not apparently mentioned in the legislature's discussion of House Joint Resolution 2, the instrument that placed the proposal on the ballot. Opponents of the proposal warned, however, that the integrity of science education was at stake. Michael McKay of the Skeptical Society of St. Louis told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (July 30, 2012) that if the amendment passes, students could graduate from school without having taken an important science class, avoid learning about evolution," and The New York Times (August 6, 2012) editorially expressed a similar concern that the proposal "would allow students who believe in creationism, for example, to opt out of assignments on evolution."

Susan German, president of the Science Teachers of Missouri, told Science Insider, "It could be an issue. There are teachers that work in very conservative districts and they already have students on a yearly basis that voice their concerns about having to learn some of these concepts," and recommended that her colleagues "wait and see what the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education advises them to do" before taking any action in light of the new amendment. It remains to be seen whether teachers will be expected to provide substitute assignments for students who object to assignments on evolution and whether schools and the state will be prohibited from testing such students from their understanding of the material covered in such assignments.

"It's a recipe for disaster," commented NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott. "With the new amendment in place, Missouri's biology teachers are bound to receive a flurry of requests -- or demands -- for students to be excused from learning about evolution. And that's going to create trouble, since nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." Citing a 2008 article she and NCSE's Glenn Branch published in Evolution: Education and Outreach 1(2), she argued that if teachers are forced to accommodate such requests, the result would be disruptive for the classroom, burdensome for teachers, and problematic for administrators, as well as harmful to the scientific literacy of the students excused.

For the proposal that was approved (PDF), visit: http://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/2012ballot/fulltext_1.pdf
For the Science Insider story, visit: http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2012/08/missouri-right-to-pray-law-could.html For the St. Louis Post-Dispatch story, visit: http://www.stltoday.com/lifestyles/faith-and-values/missouri-s-proposed-amendment-on-prayer-gets-mixed-reviews/article_8b188463-9973-532c-92d9-223235cad84a.html
For the editorial in The New York Times, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/07/opinion/prayer-in-missouri.html
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Missouri, visit: http://ncse.com/news/missouri

KENTUCKY LEGISLATORS ASSAILING EVOLUTION

Legislators in the Kentucky state senate are concerned about the presence of evolution in the state science standards and associated end-of-course testing. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader (August 14, 2012), "Several GOP lawmakers questioned new proposed student standards and tests that delve deeply into biological evolution during a Monday meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Education. In an exchange with officials from ACT, the company that prepares Kentucky's new state testing program, those lawmakers discussed whether evolution was a fact and whether the biblical account of creationism also should be taught in Kentucky classrooms."

State senator David Givens (R-District 9) told the Herald-Leader, "I would hope that creationism is presented as a theory in the classroom, in a science classroom, alongside evolution," while state representative Ben Waite (R-District 10) went so far as to dispute the inclusion of evolution. "The theory of evolution is a theory, and essentially the theory of evolution is not science -- Darwin made it up," Waide was quoted as saying. "My objection is they should ensure whatever scientific material is being put forth as a standard should at least stand up to scientific method. Under the most rudimentary, basic scientific examination, the theory of evolution has never stood up to scientific scrutiny."

But Vincent Cassone, chair of the University of Kentucky's biology department, told the Herald-Leader, "The theory of evolution is the fundamental backbone of all biological research. ... There is more evidence for evolution than there is for the theory of gravity, than the idea that things are made up of atoms, or Einstein's theory of relativity. It is the finest scientific theory ever devised." David Helm, president of the Kentucky Science Teachers Association, declined to comment, but referred the newspaper to the National Science Teachers Association's statement on evolution, which "strongly supports the position that evolution is a major unifying concept in science and should be included in the K-12 science education frameworks and curricula."

In a subsequent editorial headlined "Keep religious beliefs out of science class if we want Ky. kids to compete," the Herald-Leader (August 16, 2012) observed, "It is unlikely that the pleas by Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, and others that creationism or other unscientific, faith-based beliefs about the origins of the universe and its species should be taught along with evolution will gain enough traction to change Kentucky's standards," adding, "Parents will always be free to teach their children as they see fit in their homes. But religious beliefs cannot be substituted for, or equated with, scientific understanding in public schools. At least, not if we want our children to compete on a national level."

Previous legislative activity aimed at undermining the teaching of evolution in Kentucky's public schools includes House Bill 169 in 2011 and House Bill 397 in 2010, both based on the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act; both bills died in committee. Kentucky is apparently unique in having a statute (Kentucky Revised Statutes 158.177) on the books that authorizes teachers to teach "the theory of creation as presented in the Bible" and to "read such passages in the Bible as are deemed necessary for instruction on the theory of creation." Yet the Louisville Courier-Journal (January 11, 2006) reported that in a November 2005 survey of the state's 176 school districts, none was teaching or discussing "intelligent design."

For the Lexington Herald-Leader's article, visit: http://www.kentucky.com/2012/08/14/2298914/gop-lawmakers-question-standards.html
For the NSTA's statement on evolution, visit: http://www.nsta.org/about/positions/evolution.aspx
For the Lexington Herald-Leader's editorial, visit: http://www.kentucky.com/2012/08/16/2300725/keep-religious-beliefs-out-of.html
For the Biblical creation statute (PDF), visit: http://www.lrc.ky.gov/KRS/158-00/177.PDF
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Kentucky, visit: http://ncse.com/news/kentucky

Evolution and climate education update: August 3, 2012

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A change of mind for a scientist who doubted climate change. And sad news of the death of former NCSE employee Skip Evans.

"A CONVERTED SKEPTIC"

A climate scientist who was formerly dismissive of climate change now describes himself as "a converted skeptic." Richard Muller, a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and cofounder of the Berkeley Earth project, wrote in a column in The New York Times (July 28, 2012), "Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I'm now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause."

Muller's volte-face was based on the project's analysis of "a collection of 14.4m land temperature observations from 44,455 sites across the world dating back to 1753," according to the Guardian (July 29, 2012); Muller wrote in the Times, "Our results show that the average temperature of the earth's land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases." The analysis from the project is not yet been published; it is presently undergoing peer review at the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Michael Mann of Penn State University told the Guardian that he welcomed the Berkeley Earth project's results as "demonstrat[ing] once again what scientists have known with some degree of certainty for nearly two decades." He added, "I applaud Muller and his colleagues for acting as any good scientists would, following where their analyses led them, without regard for the possible political repercussions. They are certain to be attacked by the professional climate change denial crowd for their findings." (A minor irony is that the project is partly funded by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, which is connected to various efforts to promote climate change denial.)

For Muller's column in The New York Times, visit:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/30/opinion/the-conversion-of-a-climate-change-skeptic.html

For information about the Berkeley Earth project, visit:
http://berkeleyearth.org/

And for the article in the Guardian, visit:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/jul/29/climate-change-sceptics-change-mind

SKIP EVANS DIES

Skip Evans, a former employee of NCSE, died on July 26, 2012, at the age of 49, according to a post at The Panda's Thumb blog (July 26, 2012). Born in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, on June 4, 1963, Evans earned a B.S. in computer science from the University of Central Florida in 1987, and thereafter worked as a programmer for a variety of companies in Orlando, Atlanta, and New York City. A man of varied interests, he was active in motorcycle racing, community theater (as actor, director, and playwright), improvisational comedy, and, increasingly, activism on behalf of church/state separation, serving as the secretary of Central Floridians Against Censorship and the president of the Atlanta chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He worked for NCSE as Network Project Director, succeeding Molleen Matsumura, from August 2001 to April 2004. Afterward, he returned to programming, operating his own company from Kalispell and Helena, Montana, and then relocating to Madison, Wisconsin. He remained active in opposing creationism and promoting evolution education, blogging at The Panda’s Thumb and helping to found Wisconsin Citizens for Science and the Madison Science Pub. At the time of his death, he was a senior programmer for SoLoMo Technology.

Even before coming to NCSE, Evans was already a stalwart defender of teaching evolution in the public schools. A dogged critic of the flamboyant young-earth creationist Kent Hovind, he requested a copy of Hovind's "dissertation" from Patriot University, only to receive the original document, complete with a taped-in clipping from a magazine, to his surprise and delight. Among his publications in RNCSE were a report of his visit to a "seminar" run by Answers in Genesis and a review of a bizarre creationist novel. During his nearly-three-year stay at NCSE, Evans worked closely with activists in California, Georgia, Montana, Ohio, and Texas, who found his level of commitment impressive and his trademark sense of humor infectious. He produced effective critiques of the "intelligent design" movement's propaganda, such as "Doubting Darwinism through creative license" and "The Discovery Institute pioneers the misinfomercial." His delight in NCSE's Project Steve, which he helped to conceive and implement, was heightened by the fact that his given name, which he rarely used, was Stephen. And as a self-described refugee from the dot-coms, Evans also brought his expertise with information technology to bear, substantially improving NCSE's ability to communicate with, and to facilitate communication among, activists.

For the post at The Panda's Thumb blog, visit:
http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2012/07/a-death-in-the.html

For Evans's publications in RNCSE, visit:
http://ncse.com/rncse/18/2/creationism-trip-to-dark-side
http://ncse.com/rncse//20/3/ride-to-glory

For Evans's critiques of "intelligent design" propaganda, visit:
http://ncse.com/creationism/general/doubting-darwinism-creative-license
http://ncse.com/news/2002/05/discovery-institute-pioneers-mis-infomercial-00298

And for Project Steve (now with 1223 Steves), visit:
http://ncse.com/taking-action/project-steve

Evolution and climate education update: July 27, 2012

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Louisiana is about to fund the teaching of creationism to the tune of 11.6 million dollars, according to a young activist. Plus a reminder that NCSE speakers are ready, willing, and able to discuss evolution and climate education.

VOUCHERS FOR CREATIONISM IN LOUISIANA?

Louisiana is about to spend almost twelve million dollars to fund the teaching of creationism, charges Zack Kopplin, famous for organizing the effort to repeal the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act. In Kopplin's sights now is a controversial new voucher program in the state that uses public school funds to pay for tuition and certain fees at private schools for students who attend low-performing public schools and whose family income is below 250% of the federal poverty level. When the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education considered a set of accountability guidelines for such private schools at its July 24, 2012, meeting, Kopplin testified that of the roughly 6600 spaces available for students under the program, 1350 will be filled, as the Lafayette Independent Weekly (July 26, 2012) described it, "at private Christian schools that teach creationism and peg evolution as 'false science.'”

According to the Alexandria Town Talk (July 25, 2012), "A number of the schools on the voucher list teach creationism, a doctrine that holds that God created all life out of nothing, and either don’t mention the theory of evolution or teach that it is false science. State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education policy on teaching science requires that public schools teach what is in textbooks but they can supplement with BESE-approved material to promote 'critical thinking' on alternatives to evolution." Superintendent of Education John C. White told the newspaper that BESE had approved the curriculum for all of the schools. "Not teaching evolution could show up in the required state testing for students receiving vouchers, he said, and there could be repercussions 'if a school shows a fundamental disregard' for conducting the test."

Writing earlier in the New Orleans Times-Picayune (July 18, 2012) about Kopplin's research on the private schools expected to receive new students through the voucher program, columnist James Gill commented, "It is impossible to prepare fully for such a massive reform as going voucher, and some undeserving private schools are bound to receive an OK from harried state officials. But a religious takeover on this scale cannot be accidental. Of the schools on Zack Kopplin's list, one believes that scientists are 'sinful men,' and declares its view 'on the age of the earth and other issues is that any theory that goes against God's word is in error.' Another avers that evolution is 'extremely damaging to children individually and to society as a whole.' A third tells students to write an essay explaining how 'the complexity of a cell shows it must be purposefully designed.' And so it goes."

The creationist instructional material used by such schools include textbooks from Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Books -- which were described by the University of California system in the ACSI v. Stearns case as "inappropriate for use as primary texts in college preparatory science courses due to their characterizations of religious doctrine as scientific evidence, scientific inaccuracies, failure to encourage critical thinking, and overall un-scientific approach" -- and Accelerated Christian Education. A textbook from ACE that argued against evolution on the grounds that the Loch Ness monster not only exists but also is a living plesiosaur (incorrectly described as a dinosaur) understandably attracted the attention of The Scotsman (June 25, 2012) and was widely ridiculed nationally and internationally.

The voucher program is presently under legal challenge from the Louisiana Association of Educators and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers along with a number of local school boards. But the issue of the state's funding the teaching of creationism is not part of the challenge. Rather, as the New Orleans Times-Picayune (July 10, 2012) explained, "Two key issues are at play in the voucher suit: whether providing private schools with money from the Minimum Foundation Program violates the [Louisiana state] constitution by redirecting those funds from public schools, and whether a last-minute vote setting the new MFP formula in place received enough support in the state House to carry the force of law." The state will be allowed to implement the voucher program while the challenge works its way through the court system, the newspaper reported.

For the article in the Lafayette Independent Weekly, visit: http://www.theind.com/news/11055-kopplin-state-paying-116m-to-schools-teaching-creationism
For the article in the Alexandria Town Talk, visit: http://www.thetowntalk.com/article/20120725/NEWS01/120725003/Louisiana-vouchers-going-mainly-church-affiliated-schools
For James Gill's column in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, visit: http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2012/07/vouchers_are_a_creationists_be.html
For NCSE's collection of material from ACSI v. Stearns, visit: http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/acsi-v-stearns
For the article in The Scotsman, visit: http://www.scotsman.com/news/odd/loch-ness-monster-cited-by-us-schools-as-evidence-that-evolution-is-myth-1-2373903
For the article on the challenge to the voucher program in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, visit: http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/07/judge_denies_injunction_in_vou.html
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit: http://ncse.com/news/louisiana

Evolution education update: March 12, 2010

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A free preview of Evidence of Evolution and the latest from Reports of the NCSE, plus a resolution to the recent furor over evolution in Israel.

A GLIMPSE OF EVIDENCE OF EVOLUTION

NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of Evidence of Evolution (Abrams, 2009), featuring the photography of Susan Middleton and the text of Mary Ellen Hannibal. The publisher writes, "Published to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, Evidence of Evolution uses exquisite images by distinguished photographer Susan Middleton to reveal beautiful and surprising patterns of evolutionary development in animals and plants. These photographs, of rare and remarkable specimens from the collections of the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, are accompanied by a clear, accessible overview of the key evolutionary concepts that explain life on Earth, by science writer Mary Ellen Hannibal. Virtually a natural history museum in a book, Evidence of Evolution expresses the power of Darwin's vision in images and words that bridge art and science."

For the preview (PDF), visit: http://ncse.com/files/pub/evolution/Evidence_combined.pdf
For the publisher's description, visit: http://www.abramsbooks.com/Books/Evidence_of_Evolution-9780810949249.html

CATCHING UP WITH RNCSE

Selected content from volume 29, number 5, of Reports of the National Center for Science Education is now available on NCSE's website. Featured are NCSE's Joshua Rosenau's discussion of how a Nobel laureate's views on evolution were misrepresented by a member of the Texas state board of education and Julie Duncan's discussion of "Credibility, Profitability, and Irrefutability: Why Creationists are Building Museums." And Charles Israel reviews Marcel Chotkowski LaFollette's Reframing Scopes, Sander Gliboff reviews Benjamin Wiker's The Darwin Myth, and NCSE's Steven Newton reviews Davis A. Young and Ralph F. Stearley's The Bible, Rocks and Time.

If you like what you see, why not subscribe to RNCSE today? The next issue (volume 30, numbers 1-2) revisits the distribution of copies of the Origin of Species disfigured by a creationist introduction, with a summary by NCSE's Steven Newton and a commentary by Brian Regal. Plus it's a book review extravaganza, with reviews of Keith Thomson's The Young Charles Darwin, Robert T. Pennock and Michael Ruse's anthology But Is It Science?, Peter J. Bowler's Monkey Trials and Gorilla Sermons, Robert J. Richards's The Tragic Sense of Life, John H. Walton's The Lost World of Genesis One, and a host of further books. Don't miss out -- subscribe now!

For the selected content from RNCSE 29:5, visit: http://ncse.com/rncse/29/5
For subscription information, visit: http://ncse.com/membership

CONTROVERSY OVER EVOLUTION OVER IN ISRAEL?

In a letter released by Israel's ministry of education on March 3, 2010, Gavriel Avital promised to follow the ministry's policy on evolution and the environment, Haaretz (March 4, 2010) reported. Avital, the recently appointed chief scientist in the ministry, sparked a furor by questioning the reliabilty of evolution and global warming, eliciting a chorus of condemnation from Israel's scientific establishment as well as a disavowal from the minister of education, Gideon Sa'ar, who told Israel's parliament, the Knesset, "Avital's statements regarding evolution and the environment are not consistent with the Education Ministry's policy and are not acceptable to me."

In his letter, Avital wrote, "Following statements that were published which related to quotes from statements that I made before I assumed [m]y position, and following my conversations with the two of you, I wish to make it clear that the ministry's policy as presented by the education minister at the Knesset is acceptable to me without reservation and I will act accordingly in the context of my position as chief scientist of the Education Ministry." Haaretz noted, however, that not all of Avital's controversial statements were made before he assumed his position in December 2009. A source in the ministry told the newspaper, "the case ended with the release of Avital's letter."

For the article in Haaretz, visit: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1153813.html

Evolution education update: November 20, 2009

NCSE was busy conducting a campaign to counteract the distribution of copies of the Origin of Species with a creationist introduction. Plus a chance to hear a panel of scientists discuss the frontiers of evolution on-line.

DON'T DISS DARWIN!

Does Darwin's On the Origin of Species need a special introduction? Creationist Ray Comfort thinks so. During the week of November 16, 2009, Comfort and his allies distributed free copies of the Origin on college campuses across the United States -- including a "special introduction" by Comfort which claims, among other things, that evolution is scientifically false and that Darwin was a misogynist racist whose ideas inspired Hitler.

To put Comfort's claims in perspective -- and to aid scientists, teachers, students, and other concerned citizens in protesting Comfort's distortions -- NCSE created a special site, Don't Diss Darwin, chock-full of advice, analysis, background information, flyers and signs, a Safety Bookmark (a tongue-in-cheek tool for separating Comfort's introduction from the rest of the Origin), and even a not-quite-serious public service announcement video.

Reporters across the country (and a few from abroad) asked NCSE to comment on the distribution, with quotes from NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott, Robert Luhn, and Steve Newton appearing in the Los Angeles Daily News (November 18, 2009), the Gainesville (Florida) Sun (November 19, 2009), the Santa Barbara (California) Independent (November 18, 2009), and even the Sheaf, the student paper of the University of Saskatchewan (November 18, 2009).

NCSE worked with a number of individuals and organizations in responding to the distribution, including the Center for Inquiry and the Secular Student Alliance. Also noteworthy are the filmmaker Randy Olson's video poking fun at the creationist campaign ("The Kirk Cameron Action Kit"; the former child star is a partner of Ray Comfort) and Scientific American's podcast (November 17, 2009) with Steve Mirsky describing the situation as "Darwin in Battle of Wits against Unarmed Man."

For Don't Diss Darwin, visit: http://www.dontdissdarwin.com
For the US News & World Report debate between Comfort and Scott, visit:
http://www.usnews.com/blogs/god-and-country/2009/10/29/exclusive-ray-comfort-defends-his-creationist-edition-of-on-the-origin-of-species.html
http://www.usnews.com/blogs/god-and-country/2009/10/30/how-creationist-origin-distorts-darwin.html
http://www.usnews.com/blogs/god-and-country/2009/11/02/ray-comfort-responds-to-genie-scott-on-creationist-origin-of-species.html
http://www.usnews.com/blogs/god-and-country/2009/11/03/scientist-genie-scotts-last-word-to-creationist-ray-comfort-there-you-go-again.html
For the cited newspaper articles, visit:
http://www.dailynews.com/search/ci_13818898
http://www.gainesville.com/article/20091119/ARTICLES/911191059/1109/
http://www.independent.com/news/2009/nov/18/darwins-descendant/
http://thesheaf.com/2009/11/creationist-intro-to-darwin-book/
For the Secular Student Alliance's response, visit: http://www.secularstudents.org/originintoschools
For the Center for Inquiry's response, visit: http://www.centerforinquiry.net/oncampus/combating_creationism
For Randy Olson's video and the Scientific American podcast, visit:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2z-OLG0KyR4
http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=darwin-in-battle-of-wits-against-un-09-11-17

WEBCAST: FRONTIERS OF EVOLUTION

Hear E. O. Wilson and Everett Mendelsohn discuss "Frontiers of Evolution" on-line! Starting at 1:00 p.m. (Eastern) on November 24, 2009, a panel of scientists led by Wilson and Mendelsohn will discuss Darwin's legacy and the frontiers of evolutionary biology, as part of the 150th anniversary Origin of Species lecture series, hosted by The Reading Odyssey and the Darwin 150 project -- and the whole event will be webcast live.

Sponsors of the lecture series include the National Center for Science Education, National Geographic, Citrix Online and its HiDef Conferencing Division, Campaign Monitor, the Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology, SquareSpace, the movie Creation, and the New York Academy of Sciences. Previous speakers in the series included Mendelsohn, Jonathan Weiner, and NCSE Supporter Sean B. Carroll.

For information on the webcast, visit: http://darwinlecture4.eventbrite.com/
For information about the hosts, visit:
http://www.readingodyssey.com/
http://www.darwin150.com/

Evolution education update: November 13, 2009

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A host of interesting reading and watching, as the sesquicentennial of the Origin approaches, the third episode of Becoming Human is aired, EvoS Journal makes its debut, five videos expounding "Evolution in Two Minutes or Less" are posted at Discover magazine's website, and a symposium on "Evolution in Extreme Environments" is webcast.

THE ORIGIN SESQUICENTENNIAL APPROACHES

As November 24, 2009, the sesquicentennial anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, approaches, celebrations are continuing around the country and around the world, as well as in the literature and on the internet. As NCSE previously reported, Science is allocating a special section of its website to "a variety of news features, scientific reviews and other special content." Similarly, Nature is providing "continuously updated news, research and analysis on Darwin's life, his science and his legacy." Herewith a sampling of further celebrations in the literature -- and let NCSE know of any worthwhile contributions to add!

To celebrate the anniversary, the journal BioScience is making James T. Costa's article "The Darwinian Revelation: Tracing the Origin and Evolution of an Idea," from its November 2009 issue (59 [10]), available on-line free of charge. "The idea of evolution by natural selection formulated by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace is a cornerstone of modern biology, yet few biology students or professionals are familiar with the processes of discovery behind the idea," Costa writes. "I suggest that in teaching evolution today, educators could profitably draw on both Darwin's personal intellectual journey in coming to his ideas, and the compelling argument structure he devised in presenting his theory."

"Darwinian Revolutions" -- written, directed, and narrated by Allen MacNeill of Cornell University -- is a new series of six on-line videos that together provide a brief introduction to Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection and its implications. On his blog, MacNeill observes, "the theory of evolution is more dynamic, more exciting, more widely accepted, and more widely applied than at any time in the past century and a half. With the accelerating pace of discoveries in evolutionary biology and their applications in biology, medicine, psychology, economics, and even literature and art, the 21st century shows all indications of being what the founders of the 'modern synthesis' called it back in 1959: the 'century of Darwin' and his theory of evolution by natural selection."

A special issue of the journal Naturwissenschaften (2009; 96 [11]) commemorates the anniversary with papers by Ulrich Kutschera on "Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, directional selection, and the evolutionary sciences today"; Hartmut Follmann and Carol Brownson on "Darwin's warm little pond revisited: From molecules to the origin of life"; Rolf G. Beutel, Frank Friedrich and Richard A. B. Leschen on "Charles Darwin, beetles and phylogenetics"; Simon Conway Morris on "The predictability of evolution: Glimpses into a post-Darwinian world"; and Ulrich Kutschera and Karl J. Niklas on "Evolutionary plant physiology: Charles Darwin’s forgotten synthesis." All articles in the special issue will be freely available on-line until December 30, 2009.

For the special on-line features from Science and Nature, visit:
http://www.sciencemag.org/darwin/

For Costa's article in BioScience, visit:
http://caliber.ucpress.net/doi/full/10.1525/bio.2009.59.10.10
For "Darwinian Revolutions" and MacNeill's blog post about it, visit:
http://cybertower.cornell.edu/lodetails.cfm?id=421
http://evolutionlist.blogspot.com/2009/11/darwinian-revolutions-video-series.html
For the special issue of Naturwissenschaften, visit: http://www.springerlink.com/content/ph5w541k7876/?p=00811e89e36d4b6aa8d52fd0aa783d79&pi=1

BECOMING HUMAN, PART 3

The third episode of Becoming Human -- a three-part NOVA documentary on what the latest scientific research reveals about our hominid relatives -- will air on November 17, 2009, on public broadcasting stations around the country. According to NOVA:

How did modern humans take over the world? New evidence suggests that they left Africa and colonized the rest of the globe far earlier, and for different reasons, than previously thought. As for Homo sapiens, we have planet Earth to ourselves today, but that's a very recent and unusual situation. For millions of years, many kinds of hominids co-existed. At one time Homo sapiens shared the planet with Neanderthals, Homo erectus, and the mysterious "Hobbits" -- three-foot-high humans who thrived on the Indonesian island of Flores until as recently as 12,000 years ago.

"Last Human Standing" examines why "we" survived while those other ancestral cousins died out. And it explores the provocative question: In what ways are we still evolving today?

Further information about the film, including a preview, interviews, and interactive features, is available at NOVA's website. Information on finding local public broadcasting stations is available via PBS's website.

For further information, visit: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/beta/evolution/becoming-human-part-3.html
For information on local stations, visit: http://www.pbs.org/stationfinder/index.html

EVOS JOURNAL DEBUTS

The first issue of EvoS Journal: The Journal of the Evolutionary Studies Consortium -- a new open-access on-line peer-reviewed journal designed to promote the education of evolutionary theory in colleges and universities -- is now available. The journal is published by the Evolutionary Studies Consortium, of which NCSE is a member institution. The consortium seeks to "facilitate the development and implementation of Evolutionary Studies Programs at colleges and universities across the United States"; the original model for such programs is David Sloan Wilson's Evolutionary Studies Program at Binghamton University.

Correspondingly, EvoS Journal seeks to "publish peer-reviewed articles related to evolutionary theory in higher education" as well as to "publish undergraduate peer-reviewed publications that have arisen from courses offered through Evolutionary Studies Programs." In their editorial introduction to the first issue, Rosemarie Sokol Chang, Glenn Geher, Jennifer Waldo, and David Sloan Wilson write, "The contents of EvoS Journal will be doubly exhilarating. First, there is the exhilaration of expanding evolutionary theory throughout and beyond the biological sciences, including all aspects of humanity. Second, there is the exhilaration of incorporating this expansion into higher education and public life. We look forward to your participation, as readers and contributors."

For EvoS Journal, visit: http://evostudies.org/journal.html
For information about the Evolutionary Studies Consortium, visit: http://evostudies.org/
For information about the Evolutionary Studies Program at Binghamton University, visit: http://evolution.binghamton.edu/evos/
For the editorial introduction to the first issue (PDF), visit: http://evostudies.org/pdf/EvoS1-1Editorial.pdf

EVOLUTION IN TWO MINUTES OR LESS

NCSE congratulates Scott Hatfield on winning Discover magazine's "Evolution in Two Minutes or Less" video contest, for "Evolution: The Song." The contest's judge, biologist and blogger P. Z. Myers, explained, "He turned evolution into a rock anthem. And it's a very catchy one, too. ... Scott jumps out in your face and grabs your attention with a musical version of the big concepts. It's great stuff." Also winning honors were Stephen Anderson's "Evolution in 120 Seconds" (the viewer's choice winner); Maggie Tse, Tony Cheng, and Stella Chung's "Where Do We Come From? Where Are We Going?" (the runner-up); Benjamin's "It's ... EVOLUTION"; and Whitney Gray's "Why Elephants Do Not Have Wings." A member of NCSE, Hatfield is a high school biology teacher in Fresno, California.

For all five of the videos and further information, visit: http://discovermagazine.com/contests/evolution-in-two-minutes-or-less/

WEBCAST: EVOLUTION IN EXTREME ENVIRONMENTS

A live webcast of "Evolution in Extreme Environments" -- a symposium cosponsored by the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center and held at the National Association of Biology Teachers conference -- will be available on-line from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (Mountain Time) on November 13, 2009.

Cynthia M. Beall will speak on "Human Evolution and Adaptation to High-altitude"; Steven Haddock will speak on "Life in the Deep Sea: Only the Fragile Survive"; William R. Jeffrey will speak on "Cavefish: Evolution in the Dark"; Jody W. Deming will speak on "Arctic Winter Sea Ice: A Biological Museum or Evolutionary Playground?"; and Kirsten Fisher, Kristen Jenkins, and Anna Thanukos will lead a teacher workshop on "Plant Desiccation Tolerance."

Classrooms all over the world will even be able to submit their questions on-line and have the speakers respond in real time! For those who aren't able to view the webcast live, all of the talks will be recorded and placed on NESCent's website for free access after the conference. The website also will contain supplemental resources, videos, and links so students and teachers can learn more about evolution in extreme environments.

For information about the webcast, visit:
http://www.aibs.org/events/special-symposia/evolution_in_extreme_environments.html
http://www.nescent.org/NABT09Webcast.php

Evolution education update: October 30, 2009

Dear Friends of NCSE,

The first part of a documentary on hominid evolution is about to debut. Norman Levitt, a fierce critic of pseudoscience, is dead. NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott joined Scientific American's board of advisers. And a chance to hear Sean B. Carroll on-line.

BECOMING HUMAN, PART 1

The first episode of Becoming Human -- a three-part NOVA documentary on what the latest scientific research reveals about our hominid relatives -- will air on November 3, 2009, on public broadcasting stations around the country. According to NOVA:

Part 1, "First Steps," examines the factors that caused us to split from the other great apes. The program explores the fossil of "Selam," also known as "Lucy's Child." Paleoanthropologist Zeray Alemseged spent five years carefully excavating the sandstone-embedded fossil. NOVA's cameras are there to capture the unveiling of the face, spine, and shoulder blades of this 3.3 million-year-old fossil child. And NOVA takes viewers "inside the skull" to show how our ancestors' brains had begun to change from those of the apes. Why did leaps in human evolution take place? "First Steps" explores a provocative "big idea" that sharp swings of climate were a key factor.

Further information about the film, including a preview, interviews, and interactive features, is available at NOVA's website. Information on finding local public broadcasting stations is available via PBS's website.

For further information, visit: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/beta/evolution/becoming-human-part-1.html
For information on local stations, visit: http://www.pbs.org/stationfinder/index.html

NORMAN LEVITT DIES

Norman Levitt, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Rutgers University and a fierce critic of pseudoscience, died on October 23, 2009, in New York City, according to the obituary in eSkeptic (October 26, 2009). Born on August 27, 1943, in New York City, Levitt received his B.A. from Harvard University in 1963 and his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1967. After a brief stint at New York University, he spent the rest of his career at Rutgers University, with visiting professorships at Arhus University, Stanford University, and the University of British Columbia; he retired from Rutgers in 2007. A specialist in topology, he authored Grassmannians and Gauss Maps in Piecewise-Linear Topology (Springer-Verlag, 1987), but he was better known to the general public for his critiques of pseudoscience and obscurantism, including Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994), coauthored with Paul R. Gross, and Prometheus Bedeviled: Science and the Contradictions of Contemporary Culture (Rutgers University Press, 1999).

While creationism was hardly Levitt's only target, he was certainly concerned about it, especially in its recent manifestation of "intelligent design," which he described -- in a press release announcing SciPolicy's amicus curiae brief for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover -- as "not new science, fringe science, nor even junk science. It is merely window-dressing for a movement that is social, political, and, above all, theological down to its core, and which never had the least intention of doing disinterested science." In the wake of the Kitzmiller verdict, he castigated the sociologist Steve Fuller's testimony on behalf of "intelligent design" in a review of Fuller's Science vs. Religion? Intelligent Design and the Problem of Evolution (Polity Press, 2007) for Skeptic and reviewed Michael Shermer's Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design (Times Books, 2006) for Reports of the NCSE. His widow Renee Greene Levitt asks for memorial contributions to be sent to NCSE in lieu of flowers.

For the eSkeptic obituary, visit: http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/09-10-26
For the SciPolicy press release and brief (both PDF), visit:
http://ncseweb.org/webfm_send/379/1
http://ncseweb.org/webfm_send/383
For the two reviews mentioned, visit:
http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/07-12-19#feature
http://ncseweb.org/rncse/26/6/review-why-darwin-matters

GENIE GRANTS SCIAM'S WISHES

NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott is on the revamped and expanded Board of Advisers of Scientific American, announced in the magazine's November 2009 issue. Acting editor-in-chief Mariette DiChristina explained that the advisers "have agreed, as friends of the magazine, to assist in our mission of being for you, our readers, the best source for information about science and technology advances and how they will affect our lives. The advisers give us feedback on story proposals and manuscripts from time to time."

Other members of the board include Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas, Austin; Lawrence Lessig of Harvard Law School and the Center for Internet and Society; Lawrence M. Krauss of Arizona State University; John P. Moore of Cornell University; Jeffrey Sachs of the Earth Institute; Arthur Caplan of the University of Pennsylvania; Nobel laureate David Gross of the University of California, Santa Barbara; Leslie C. Aiello of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research; and Martin Rees of Cambridge University.

Scott's previous involvement with Scientific American includes reviewing Robert T. Pennock's Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the New Creationism for its August 1999 issue and contributing "The Latest Face of Creationism," coauthored with NCSE's Glenn Branch, to its January 2009 issue on "The Evolution of Evolution." She was also honored as one of the Scientific American 10 for 2009 for her "outstanding commitment to assuring that the benefits of new technologies and knowledge will accrue to humanity."

For Scientific American's announcement, visit: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=from-the-sources
For NCSE's previous coverage of Scott and Scientific American, visit:
http://ncseweb.org/news/2008/12/evolution-scientific-american-003309
http://ncseweb.org/news/2009/05/eugenie-c-scott-among-scientific-american-10-004783

WEBCAST: THE MAKING OF THE FITTEST

Hear NCSE Supporter Sean B. Carroll discuss "The Making of the Fittest: Natural Selection and the DNA Record of Evolution" on-line! From 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. (Eastern) on November 4, 2009, Carroll will deliver the third lecture of the 150th anniversary Origin of Species lecture series, hosted by The Reading Odyssey and the Darwin 150 project -- and the whole lecture will be webcast live.

Sponsors of the lecture series include the National Center for Science Education, National Geographic, Citrix Online and its HiDef Conferencing Division, Campaign Monitor, the Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology, SquareSpace, the movie Creation, and the New York Academy of Sciences. Future speakers in the series include E. O. Wilson.

For information on the webcast, visit: http://darwinlecture3.eventbrite.com/
For information about the hosts, visit:
http://www.readingodyssey.com/
http://www.darwin150.com/

Evolution education update: October 23, 2009

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Kevin Padian discusses "Ten Myths about Charles Darwin" and Understanding Evolution is recruiting college instructors of introductory biology to serve on a teacher advisory board.

TEN MYTHS ABOUT CHARLES DARWIN

Kevin Padian discusses -- and debunks -- "Ten Myths about Charles Darwin" in the October 2009 issue of BioScience. "Charles Darwin is one of the most revered (and at times reviled) figures in Western history. A great many 'facts' about him and his ideas are the stuff of textbook myths, others are inaccuracies spread by antievolutionists, and still others are conventional historical mistakes long corrected but still repeated," he writes. "I present 10 such misconceptions, and some quick and necessarily incomplete rebuttals. New scholarship is rapidly clearing away some of these myths." Addressed are:

* As a boy Darwin was good only for "shooting, dogs, and rat-catching"
* Darwin was a "mere companion" to Captain Robert FitzRoy on the HMS Beagle
* Darwin's epiphany about natural selection came while visiting the Gal?pagos Islands
* Darwin stole the credit for natural selection from Alfred Russel Wallace
* Population thinking
* Dual criteria for classification: Genealogy and similarity
* Gradual change is slow and steady
* Human evolution was shaped mainly by natural selection
* Sexual selection is all about how many offspring you leave
* Darwin was a confirmed atheist who had a deathbed conversion to Christianity

Padian concludes, "Myths will always arise and abound ... It is hoped that this myth-busting scholarship will soon filter down to revisions of textbooks that discuss Darwin and to public discourse about his life and work." President of NCSE's board of directors, Padian is Professor of Integrative Biology at the University of California at Berkeley and also Curator of Paleontology at the University of California Museum of Paleontology. (Thanks to BioScience for graciously making Padian's article freely available on-line.)

For "Ten Myths about Charles Darwin" in BioScience, visit: http://caliber.ucpress.net/doi/full/10.1525/bio.2009.59.9.10

COLLEGE INSTRUCTORS WANTED TO HELP UNDERSTANDING EVOLUTION

The University of California Museum of Paleontology (UCMP), in partnership with the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) and the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent), has received NSF funding to expand the highly successful Understanding Evolution website (UE) with the aim of improving evolution education at the college level -- and college instructors of introductory biology are needed to serve on a teacher advisory board for the project.

UE's Undergraduate Library would target college instructors of introductory biology to help them clarify evolutionary concepts in pedagogically sound ways, integrate evolution throughout their teaching, and relate evolution to current research and issues that matter in students' everyday lives. Functionalities built into the site would also encourage community building within this population of instructors. The Library will also include the Evo Lab, an area targeting undergraduate students directly which would aim to provide student-centered, media-enhanced experiences that portray evolutionary biology as useful and a cornerstone of modern biological research. The Undergraduate Library will serve as a one-stop-shop for evolution educators and students at the college level -- an approach that has proven successful for UE's K-12 site.

In order to best serve its audience, UCMP is forming a UE Teacher Advisory Board for this three-year project. It is seeking college instructors of introductory biology from a range of institutions (community colleges, four-year colleges, large universities, private and public schools) to serve on this board. Board members will attend two two-day meetings in Berkeley, California, and will receive a stipend for their service, as well as travel reimbursement. If you are interested in serving, visit UE for details and an application form.

For the application form, visit: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/tab_application.php
For Understanding Evolution, visit: http://evolution.berkeley.edu

Evolution education update: September 18, 2009

Dear Friends of NCSE,

The leading exponent of Islamic creationism is unflatteringly profiled in New Humanist, while the new film about Darwin, Creation, is favorably reviewed by NCSE's executive director.

HARUN YAHYA EXPOSED IN NEW HUMANIST

A long, and occasionally lurid, story about Harun Yahya and the resurgence of Islamic creationism appears in the September/October 2009 issue of New Humanist. "Inspired by the high profile of its Christian American counterpart, Muslim creationism is becoming increasingly visible and confident," writes Halil Arda. "The patron saint of this new movement, the ubiquitous 'expert' cited and referenced by those eager to demonstrate the superiority of 'Koranic science' over 'the evolution lie', is the larger-than-life figure of Harun Yahya," the pseudonymous leader of the Science Research Foundation, headquartered in Istanbul, Turkey.

Although Islamic creationism is often regarded as a curiosity in the West, it is "treated far more seriously across the Muslim world," Arda warns. "From daily newspapers in Egypt and Bosnia to influential satellite TV stations like al-Jazeera and (the Iran-funded) Press TV, to small Muslim broadcasters in the West like Radio Ummah and Radio Ramadan, Harun Yahya's argument, with its appearance of scientific credibility, its crowd-pleasing critique of Western materialism and its promise of the imminent collapse of the 'Darwinist Dictatorship', is enthusiastically welcomed by a new audience hungry for compensatory narratives of Islamic superiority."

But how did a young interior design student named Adnan Oktar transform himself into the undisputed leader of the Islamic creationist movement? According to Arda, "Combining his undoubted charisma (something even his most ardent opponents concede) with a gift for manipulation, Oktar set out to build a cult around himself ... targeting disaffected but affluent and educated young people, insisting they turn their worldly goods over to the cult, and vigorously enforcing rigid hierarchies and punitive rules." As the group coalesced, "discipline was maintained through humiliation, the threat of expulsion and physical violence."

With a cadre of dedicated followers and their resources at his disposal, Oktar was able to gain political and economic influence with Turkey's Islamist Welfare Party in the mid-1990s. After the party was disbanded in 1997, however, Oktar turned to antievolutionism. In 1998, Arda writes, the Science Research Foundation, founded by Oktar in 1990, "launched its campaign against Darwinism, distributing tens of thousands of free copies of his book The Evolution Deceit in Turkey, paving the way for the Atlas of Creation and Oktar's new role as the spokesman for Muslim creationism."

The form of creationism adopted by Harun Yahya's group is not constant. The Science Research Foundation originally adopted its antievolution arguments from young-earth creationist organizations in the United States, but discarded claims about a young earth and a global flood flood not vouched for by the Qur'an or Islamic tradition. Subsequently, it evinced a degree of sympathy for "intelligent design" creationism instead, employing catchphrases like "irreducible complexity" and using the phrase "intelligent design" as equivalent with "creation." Later, however, Harun Yahya denounced "intelligent design" as insufficiently Islamic.

Arda comments, "Oktar's ideological and political promiscuity seem to support the claim that he has no genuine beliefs at all, and merely opportunistically jumps on issues which will further his notoriety, following the lead of smarter followers. As one former follower told me, 'We had something to please everybody: Ataturk, namaz (prayer), creationism and, if need be, cocaine.'" But his influence may be waning: in 2008, Oktar was sentenced to three years in prison for "creating an illegal organization for personal gain," and Arda reports that he is expected to lose his final appeal to Turkey's Supreme Court, with a decision expected in October 2009.

Contemplating the rise of Harun Yahya, Arda concludes, "Thanks to the 'War on Terror', Oktar could paint himself as a credible alternative to radical Islam; thanks to our timidity and incompetence around issues of faith he can gain credibility as a representative of Muslim sentiment and a champion of 'inter-faith dialogue'. And, most of all, for many disoriented Muslims, he provides a compelling vision of a superior Islamic science. He is a deluded megalomaniac who has artfully exploited the global resurgence of religious sentiment to cheat us all. A ludicrous man for ludicrous times."

For the article in New Humanist, visit: http://newhumanist.org.uk/2131
For NCSE's previous coverage of Islamic creationism, visit:
http://ncseweb.org/rncse/19/6/cloning-creationism-turkey
http://ncseweb.org/rncse/19/6/islamic-scientific-creationism
http://ncseweb.org/rncse/26/5/turkish-creationist-movement-tours-american-college-campuses

EUGENIE C. SCOTT REVIEWS CREATION

In a guest post at The Panda's Thumb blog, NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott reviewed the new film about Darwin, Creation, describing it as "a thoughtful, well-made film that will change many views of Darwin held by the public -- for the good." She described the science as accurate if limited and the history as satisfactory if not wholly accurate, explaining, "This isn't a documentary about Darwin, it's a movie about Darwin. And there's a difference. With the latter, you don't expect absolute fealty to the historical record -- though you don't have to -- and shouldn't -- accept wholesale violations."

Most important, Scott insisted, is the film's sympathetic and detailed portrayal of Darwin (played by Paul Bettany) as flesh and blood, as "a passionate, loving human being" as well as a dedicated investigator of the natural world. "By telling an interesting story, and making Darwin human," she wrote, "Creation will I think encourage some viewers to find out more about the historical Darwin and his ideas. From my standpoint as director of NCSE, that's useful, indeed. The more people know about evolution and its most famous proponent, the less they will fear it."

It is not yet clear whether Creation will find a distributor in the United States. The producer, Jeremy Thomas, told the Telegraph (September 11, 2009), "It has got a deal everywhere else in the world but in the US, and it's because of what the film is about. ... It is unbelievable to us that this is still a really hot potato in America." A few days thereafter, however, NBC Bay Area (September 15, 2009) reported that a distribution deal was imminent, quoting a spokesperson for the film as saying, "There is now a bidding war for the film in the US. A US deal will be in place by the end of the week."

For Scott's review, visit: http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2009/09/eugenie-scott-r.html
For information about Creation, visit: http://creationthemovie.com/
For the article in the Telegraph, visit: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/6173399/Charles-Darwin-film-too-controversial-for-religious-America.html
For the article from NBC Bay Area, visit: http://www.nbcbayarea.com/entertainment/movies/Creation-May-Cause-Big-Bang-in-US-59246832.html

Evolution education update: August 28, 2009

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A partial settlement in a legal case involving a teacher accused of inappropriate religious activity in the classroom, including teaching creationism. The HHMI Bulletin discusses ways for teachers to introduce evolution in a non-threatening way. And there are now over 1100 signatories to NCSE's Project Steve.

PARTIAL SETTLEMENT IN FRESHWATER CASE

A partial settlement was reportedly reached in Doe v. Mount Vernon Board of Education et al., the case in which a Mount Vernon, Ohio, teacher, was accused of inappropriate religious activity in the classroom -- including displaying posters with the Ten Commandments and Bible verses, branding crosses into the arms of his students with a high-voltage electrical device, and teaching creationism. The Mount Vernon News (August 27, 2009) reported that "the board’s insurance company has agreed to pay $115,500 toward the plaintiffs’ legal fees, $5,500 to one of the plaintiffs as compensation and the sum of $1 each to two other individuals." The board, superintendent, and principal of the middle school admit no liability in the agreement, which will have to be approved by a court.

Not covered by the settlement agreement is the teacher himself, John Freshwater. Shortly after the filing of the case, the board voted to initiate proceedings to terminate Freshwater's employment in the district. Freshwater appealed the decision, and administrative hearings have been proceeding intermittently since October 2008. Detailed reports on the hearings by Richard B. Hoppe are available on The Panda’s Thumb blog (search for "Freshwater"). Complicating the legal situation, Freshwater filed a counterclaim in Doe v. Mount Vernon in 2008 and his own lawsuit, Freshwater v. Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education et al., against the board and a number of district administrators in 2009, alleging religious discrimination, defamation, conspiracy, and breach of contract.

According to the Mount Vernon News, the school board also agreed to "[p]rohibit staff from discussing the John Freshwater case with or in the presence of students during the school day and at school activities; [p]rovide training to board members and administrators concerning religion and the school, and provide training to teachers on the same topic ... [and] [m]ake a public statement at the conclusion of the Freshwater administrative hearing." A statement released by the board explained, "The resolution of the lawsuit against the board, superintendent and middle school principal has no impact or bearing on the pending administrative hearing with respect to the middle school teacher’s employment. Due to pending litigation, the board will not be commenting further."

For the story in the Mount Vernon News, visit: http://www.mountvernonnews.com/local/09/08/27/school-board-resolves-federal-lawsuit
For NCSE's collection of documents from Doe v. Mount Vernon, visit: http://ncseweb.org/creationism/legal/doe-v-freshwater-mv
For Richard B. Hoppe's reports on the hearings, visit: http://pandasthumb.org
For NCSE's collection of documents from Freshwater v. Mount Vernon, visit: http://ncseweb.org/creationism/legal/freshwater-v-mount-vernon
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Ohio, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/ohio

THE E WORD IN THE HHMI BULLETIN

How can teachers introduce evolution in a non-threatening way? Nancy Volker's article "The E World," published in the August 2009 issue of the HHMI Bulletin, discusses a number of strategies for introducing evolution gradually and without fanfare. "It's like adding shredded zucchini to a homemade chocolate cake," she explains. "No one knows it's there, and once it's pointed out, people realize it's not at all what they thought."

Among the resources on teaching evolution suggested in the article are NCSE's website, the University of California Museum of Paleontology's Understanding Evolution website, and the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine's booklet Science, Evolution, and Creationism. The web version of the article also includes audio interviews with Kelly Smith and Margaret Ptacek, both of Clemson University.

For the article in the HHMI Bulletin, visit: http://www.hhmi.org/bulletin/aug2009/upfront/word.html
For the cited resources, visit:
http://ncseweb.org
http://evolution.berkeley.edu
http://www.nap.edu/sec

PROJECT STEVE: N > 1100

With the addition of Stephen D. Kinrade on August 25, 2009, NCSE's Project Steve attained its 1100th signatory. A tongue-in-cheek parody of the long-standing creationist tradition of amassing lists of "scientists who doubt evolution" or "scientists who dissent from Darwinism," Project Steve mocks such lists by restricting its signatories to scientists whose first name is Steve. (Cognates are also accepted, such as Stephanie, Esteban, Istvan, Stefano, or even Tapani -- the Finnish equivalent.) About 1% of the United States population possesses such a first name, so each signatory represents about 100 potential signatories. ("Steve" was selected in honor of the late Stephen Jay Gould, a Supporter of NCSE and a dauntless defender of evolution education.)

Although the idea of Project Steve is frivolous, the statement is serious. It reads, "Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to 'intelligent design,' to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools."

Among the 1101 current signatories to Project Steve are 100% of eligible Nobel laureates (Steven Weinberg and Steven Chu), 100% of eligible members of President Obama's Cabinet (Steven Chu, the Secretary of Energy), at least ten members of the National Academy of Sciences, the authors of widely used textbooks such as Molecular Biology of the Gene, Psychology: An Evolutionary Approach, and Introduction to Organic Geochemistry, and the authors of popular science books such as A Brief History of Time, Why We Age, and Darwin's Ghost. When last surveyed in February 2006, 54% of the signatories work in the biological sciences proper; 61% work in related fields in the life sciences.

For information about Project Steve, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/2009/08/taking-action/project-steve

Evolution education update: August 14, 2009

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Chris Comer is appealing the dismissal of her case against the Texas Education Agency. A new study conducted by NCSE's Louise S. Mead and Anton Mates reveals progress in the treatment of evolution in state science standards -- but there's still plenty of room for improvement. And NCSE's Glenn Branch reviews the updated edition of But Is It Science? for Skeptic.

CHRIS COMER APPEALS

Chris Comer, whose lawsuit challenging the Texas Education Agency's policy of requiring neutrality about evolution and creationism was dismissed on March 31, 2009, is now appealing the decision. Formerly the director of science at the TEA, Comer was forced to resign in November 2007 after she forwarded a note announcing a talk by Barbara Forrest in Austin; according to a memorandum recommending her dismissal, "the TEA requires, as agency policy, neutrality when talking about evolution and creationism."

In June 2008, Comer filed suit in federal court in the Western District of Texas, arguing that the policy violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment: "By professing 'neutrality,' the Agency credits creationism as a valid scientific theory." The judge ruled otherwise, however, writing, "As a matter of law, the Agency's neutrality policy, if it advances religion at all, only does so incidentally. Further, a reasonable observer of the neutrality policy would not believe the Agency endorses religion through the policy."

In her appellate brief, submitted to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Comer asked the court to "review the record de novo and reverse and vacate the district court's decision. Specifically, it should grant Comer's motion for summary judgment, and vacate the grant of summary judgment for defendants, as well as the dismissal of plaintiff's complaint. At a minimum, this Court should vacate the grant of summary judgment to defendants, plus the order dismissing the complaint, and remand for further proceedings."

For Comer's appellate brief (PDF), visit: http://ncseweb.org/webfm_send/1170
For NCSE's collection of information about the case, visit: http://ncseweb.org/creationism/legal/chris-comer-docs
For NCSE's video about the case, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpCdQ2Tbf6s

EVOLVING STANDARDS

How is evolution faring in state science education standards? NCSE's Louise S. Mead and Anton Mates pored over the latest standards in all fifty states. In a new study forthcoming in the journal Evolution: Education and Outreach, they report, "The treatment of biological evolution in state science standards has improved dramatically over the last ten years." Forty states received satisfactory grades for the treatment of evolution in their state science standards in Mead and Mates's study, as opposed to only thirty-one in Lawrence S. Lerner's 2000 study Good Science, Bad Science, conducted for the Fordham Foundation.

But the news is not all rosy. Five states -- Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia -- received the grade of F, and a further six states -- Alaska, Connecticut, Kentucky, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Wyoming -- receive the grade of D. Moreover, the "treatment of human evolution is abysmal," Mead and Mates lament, with only seven states (and the District of Columbia) providing a comprehensive treatment. Many states "do not reference the Big Bang as the current scientific theory for the origin of the universe," they add, and only 17 states provide a comprehensive treatment of the connections among biological, geological, and cosmological systems.

Mead and Mates also consider a few states that furnish "excellent examples of the successes and failures of the standards-setting process." The grades for Florida and Kansas have vaulted from F to A, although not without controversy: "the Kansas standards have seesawed between abysmal and excellent no fewer than four times in the last decade." In Louisiana, however, the passage of the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act undermined the treatment of evolution in the standards, which now receive the grade of F. And in Texas, the state board of education's revisions in March 2009 served to undermine the treatment of evolution in the standards to the point where they, too, receive a failing grade.

In a companion article introducing the study, NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott commented, "On the basis of Mead and Mates's results, there is reason to be pleased by the progress over the last ten years in the inclusion of evolution in state science education standards. That the treatment of evolution is inadequate in almost one in five states still suggests that there is considerable room for improvement, but we should be optimistic that teachers, scientists, and others who care about science education will continue -- as science standards continue to be periodically revised -- to work for the appropriate inclusion of evolution in state science education standards."

For Mead and Mates's article, visit: http://www.springerlink.com/content/9u0610162rn51432/fulltext.html
For Lerner's study, visit: http://www.fordhamfoundation.org/detail/news.cfm?news_id=42
For Scott's article, visit: http://www.springerlink.com/content/e41527271423814p/fulltext.html

PHILOSOPHERS, CREATIONISTS, AND SERIOUS BRAINIACS

NCSE's deputy director Glenn Branch's review of the updated edition of But Is It Science? The Philosophical Question in the Creation/Evolution Controversy (Prometheus Books, 2009) appeared in eSkeptic for August 12, 2009. The review concluded:

But Is It Science? is evidently intended as a sourcebook for university classes in philosophy, the history of science, science and religion, and so forth, and as such it succeeds admirably. But it is, or ought to be, appealing to the general public at large. The creationism/evolution controversy is a perennial feature of life in the United States, with attempts to remove, balance, or compromise the teaching of evolution recurring from the Scopes era to the present day. Even if public interest in intelligent design dwindles after Kitzmiller, as public interest in creation science dwindled after McLean and Edwards, the profound yet misguided discomfort with evolution that actuates such assaults on evolution is bound to remain. Also bound to remain are philosophical controversies over creationism, which -- as the Kitzmiller case illustrated so vividly -- have the potential to affect the quality of science education across the country and indeed around the world. Pennock and Ruse conclude their preface by writing, "We hope that you enjoy this collection and learn from it." I think that you will. And they add, "We hope sincerely that in twenty years it will not be necessary to bring out a third edition." I do, too. But if so, it will be due, despite Mencken's jab, in large part to the philosophers -- Pennock, Ruse, and Forrest, to be sure, but also Philip Kitcher, Sahotra Sarkar, Elliott Sober, and a host of their colleagues -- who have worked tirelessly to expose the philosophical flaws of creationism.

The editors of the book, philosophers Michael Ruse and Robert T. Pennock, testified in McLean and Kitzmiller, respectively, and Ruse is additionally a Supporter of NCSE. Branch's review will be published in a forthcoming issue of Skeptic.

For Branch's review, visit: http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/09-08-12#feature
To buy the book from Amazon.com (and benefit NCSE in the process), visit: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/asin/1591025826/nationalcenter02/
For information about Skeptic, visit: http://www.skeptic.com/

Evolution education update: August 7, 2009

Dear Friends of NCSE,

The way is clear for the government to seize a creationist theme park in Florida. And the complete run of Creation/Evolution is now available on-line.

DINOSAUR ADVENTURE LAND TO BE SEIZED?

Dinosaur Adventure Land, Kent Hovind's creationist theme park in Pensacola, Florida, is to be seized by the federal government, the Pensacola News Journal (July 31, 2009) reported. In November 2006, a federal jury found Hovind guilty of fifty-eight charges, including failing to pay payroll taxes for his employees, structuring financial transactions to avoid reporting requirements, and "corruptly endeavor[ing] to obstruct and impede the due administration of the internal revenue laws." Hovind was subsequently sentenced to ten years in prison and to pay over $600,000 in restitution.

After the judge presiding over the case ordered that two bank accounts and ten real properties located in Pensacola be forfeited to satisfy the financial judgment against Hovind, two claimants filed separate objections. Eric Hovind -- who is running Creation Science Evangelism while his father is incarcerated -- claimed ownership of a single property, in which he lives, while Glen Stoll -- who was hired by Hovind to restructure his ministry so its assets would be managed through supposedly tax-exempt trusts -- claimed ownership of the remaining nine as well as one of the bank accounts.

Eric Hovind's claim was upheld by the court in its July 29, 2009, order, which noted that the conveyance of the title to his home was not part of Stoll's scheme for restructuring the ministry. But Stoll's claim was not: the court held that "Stoll has not shown he played anything more than a titular role in the trusts he created, and the court finds he was a nominee title holder for Kent and Jo Hovind. ... As such, Stoll has no legal interest in any forfeited substitute property and lacks standing to challenge the court's June 28, 2007, and October 8, 2008, forfeiture orders."

Among the properties forfeited appears to be Dinosaur Adventure Land, which describes itself as "a theme park and science museum that gives God the glory for His creation." Reporting on his visit there in the November 2004 Skeptical Inquirer, Greg Martinez concluded, "Dinosaur Adventure Land is just a playground tricked out with dinosaur dressage to attract an audience that can then be enticed, seduced, and eventually duped into accepting superstitions, pseudoscience, and plain nonsense passed off with a patina of both scientific and religious authority."

For the story in the Pensacola News-Journal, visit: http://www.pnj.com/article/20090731/NEWS01/90731016/1006
For the court's order (PDF), visit: http://ncseweb.org/webfm_send/1130
For Greg Martinez's account of his visit to Dinosaur Adventure Land, visit: http://www.csicop.org/si/2004-11/hovind.html

CREATION/EVOLUTION NOW AVAILABLE ON-LINE

NCSE is pleased to announce that the complete run of Creation/Evolution is now available in PDF form on the NCSE website. Published from 1980 to 1996, Creation/Evolution was the leading source of information about and criticism of the creationist movement through that momentous period, which saw the rise and fall of attempts to require the teaching of "creation science" in the public schools as well as the beginnings of the "intelligent design" movement. Creation/Evolution was originally published by the American Humanist Association, under the editorship of Frederick Edwords; in 1991, it was acquired by NCSE, and John R. Cole became its editor. In 1997, Creation/Evolution was merged with NCSE Reports to produce NCSE's current journal, Reports of the NCSE, edited by Andrew J. Petto.

Highlights of Creation/Evolution include Frank Awbrey's "Yes, Virginia, There is a Creation Model" (issue 1), Laurie R. Godfrey's analysis of the creationist movie Footprints in Stone (issue 6), Robert A. Moore's "The Impossible Voyage of Noah's Ark" (issue 11), Conrad Hyers's "Genesis Knows Nothing of Scientific Creationism" (issue 12), a special issue on the Paluxy footprints (issue 15), Thomas McIver's report on his field study in the Grand Canyon with a group of creationists (issue 20), John A. Moore's "Is 'Creation Science' Scientific?" (issue 28), Bernard Ortiz de Montellano's "Afrocentric Creationism" (issue 29), Eugenie C. Scott's review of Phillip Johnson's Darwin on Trial (issue 33), Taner Edis's "Islamic Creationism in Turkey" (issue 34), and Robert T. Pennock's "Naturalism, Creationism, and the Meaning of Life" (issue 39).

For the complete run of Creation/Evolution, visit: http://ncseweb.org/media/cej
For information about subscribing to Reports of the NCSE, visit: http://ncseweb.org/membership

Evolution education update: July 10, 2009

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A new report on attitudes toward evolution among scientists and the public. Plus new selected content from the Expelled Exposed issue of RNCSE.

VIEWS ON EVOLUTION AMONG THE PUBLIC AND SCIENTISTS

"Nearly all scientists (97%) say humans and other living things have evolved over time," while only 61% of the public agrees, according to a new report (p. 37) from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Asked which comes closer to their view, "Humans and other living things have evolved over time" or "Humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time," 97% of scientists responding chose the former option, as opposed to only 2% choosing the latter option; 61% of the public responding chose the former option, as opposed to 31% choosing the latter option.

Those who chose the former option were also asked whether they preferred "Humans and other living things have evolved due to natural processes such as natural selection" or "A supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating humans and other life in the form it exists today." Among scientists, 87% preferred the former option and 8% preferred the latter option; among the public, 32% preferred the former option and 22% preferred the latter option. Members of the public were also asked whether scientists generally agree that humans evolved over time; 60% said yes, 28% said no.

"Views on evolution vary substantially within the general public," the report observed (p. 38), "particularly by religion and attendance at religious services." For example, among white evangelical Protestants responding, a majority, 57%, agreed that humans existed in their present form since the beginning of time, and among those respondents attending religious services weekly or more often, a near-majority, 49%, agreed. In contrast, among the religiously unaffiliated responding, 60% agreed that humans evolved due to natural processes. Also correlated with acceptance of evolution were youth and education.

The questions about evolution were part of a larger project, conducted by the Pew Research Center and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, investigating the public's attitude toward science and comparing it to the attitude of scientists. The report relied on three surveys, two conducted by telephone among members of the general public in the United States in April, May, and June 2009, and one conducted on-line among members of the AAAS in May and June 2009. The broader significance of the project's results are summarized in the Pew Research Center's overview report, issued on July 9, 2009.

For the full report (PDF), visit: http://people-press.org/reports/pdf/528.pdf
For the overview report, visit: http://people-press.org/report/528/

CATCHING UP WITH RNCSE

Selected content from volume 28, numbers 5-6, of Reports of the National Center for Science Education is now available on NCSE's website. RNCSE 28:5-6 was a special Expelled Exposed issue, with a comprehensive debunking of the recent creationist propaganda movie Expelled. Featured are Eugenie C. Scott's recounting of her rude introduction to Expelled, Gary S. Hurd's discussion of the movie's misrepresentations of scientific research on the origin of life, and reports on the reaction from critics and from organizations with stakes in the creationism/evolution controversy, the controversies over alleged misuses of copyrighted material, and, of course, the box office.

If you like what you see, why not subscribe to RNCSE today? The next issue (volume 29, number 3) features dispatches from Texas by Steven Schafersman of Texas Citizens for Science, NCSE's Joshua Rosenau, and Jeremy Mohn, who revealed Don McLeroy's penchant for quote-mining. There's also a story about the crowning of the kilosteve -- Steve #1000 in NCSE's Project Steve -- and a host of reviews, including Peter Dodson on Donald R. Prothero's Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters, Andrea Bottaro on Kenneth R. Miller's Only a Theory, and Donald R. Prothero on Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True. Don't miss out -- subscribe now!

For the selected content from RNCSE 28:5-6, visit: http://ncseweb.org/rncse/28/5-6
For NCSE's compendium of information about Expelled, visit: http://www.expelledexposed.com
For subscription information, visit: http://ncseweb.org/membership

Evolution education update: July 3, 2009

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A survey of opinions on evolution from ten countries was released. And paleontologists took a trip to the Creation "Museum" and were dismayed by what they saw.

OPINIONS ON EVOLUTION FROM TEN COUNTRIES

A recent international survey conducted by the British Council investigated awareness of Darwin, acceptance of evolution, and attitudes toward evolution and faith. In a June 30, 2009, press release, Fern Elsdon-Baker, the head of the British Council's Darwin Now program, commented, "The international Darwin survey has thrown up some very interesting results, especially as it includes data from countries not previously covered before. The most encouraging aspect of the survey shows that whilst there are diverse views on Darwin’s theory of evolution, there appears to a broad acceptance that science and faith do not have to be in conflict. Whilst the results show that there is some way to go in communicating the evidence of evolutionary theory to wider audiences, it is evident that there is clear space for dialogue on this sometimes complex area of debate."

The survey was conducted in April and May 2009 in ten countries: Argentina, China, Egypt, Great Britain, India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Spain, and the United States. For the question "Have you heard of Charles Darwin?" Russia led the list with 93% of respondents saying yes, with Great Britain and Mexico tied for second at 90%, and China a close third at 90%; the United States was fifth at 84%. For the question "To what extent do you agree or disagree that it is possible to believe in a God and still hold the view that life on earth, including human life, evolved over time as a result of natural selection?" India led the list with 85% of respondents agreeing, with Mexico second at 65% and Argentina third at 62%; the United States was fifth at 53%, just behind Great Britain, Russia, and South Africa, which tied for fourth at 54%.

For the question "To what extent do you agree or disagree that enough scientific evidence exists to support Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution [sic]?" -- posed to respondents who had heard of Charles Darwin and knew something about the theory of evolution -- India led the list with 77% of respondents agreeing, with China second at 72% and Mexico second at 65%. The United States was ninth at 41%, just behind South Africa at 42% and well ahead of Egypt at 25%. In keeping with reports on previous international surveys on public attitudes toward evolution, such as Miller, Scott, and Okamoto's article in Science in 2006, the United States was also conspicuous for the level of disagreement with the theory of evolution: 30%, second only to Egypt's 63%. Only 29% of respondents in the United States indicated that they neither agreed nor disagreed or didn't know.

Respondents were also asked which of the following was closest to their own view: "life on earth, including human life, evolved over time as a result of natural selection, in which no God played a part"; "life on earth, including human life, evolved over time in a process guided by a God"; and "life on earth, including human life, was created by a God and has always existed in its current form." (Respondents were also offered the response, "I have another view on the origins of species and development of life on earth, which is not included in this list.") The first view was preferred in China by 67% of the respondents, in Mexico, Great Britain, and Spain by 38%, in Argentina by 37%, and in Russia by 32%; the third was preferred in Egypt by 50% of the respondents, and in India, South Africa, and the United States by 43%. In no country was the second view held by a plurality of respondents.

For the press release (PDF), visit: http://www.britishcouncil.org/darwinnow-survey-global.pdf
For information about Darwin Now, visit: http://www.britishcouncil.org/darwin-homepage.htm
For NCSE's report on the 2006 Science article, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/2006/08/public-acceptance-evolution-science-00991

PALEONTOLOGISTS DISMAYED BY CREATION "MUSEUM"

Paleontologists took a trip to Answers in Genesis's Creation "Museum" -- and were dismayed, unsurprisingly, by what they saw. The Ninth North American Paleontological Convention was held June 21-26, 2009, at the University of Cincinnati, attracting several hundred paleontologists from around the world to present their latest research, as well as to attend a plenary session on evolution and society featuring NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott. The organizers of the convention also offered a side trip to the nearby Creation "Museum," explaining that "it is essential for professional paleontologists to become better aware of how their work and their roles in society are portrayed by creationists, themes that are conveyed vividly at the museum."

Reporters accompanied the bemused paleontologists on their excursion, with stories subsequently appearing in the Cincinnati Enquirer (June 24, 2009), The New York Times (June 30, 2009), and Agence France-Presse (June 30, 2009). A few representative reactions from those stories: "I'm not offended, just annoyed" (Julia Sankey of California State University, Stanislaus); "I think they should rename the museum -- not the Creation Museum, but the Confusion Museum" (Lisa Park of the University of Akron); "This bothers me as a scientist and as a Christian, because it's just as much a distortion and misrepresentation of Christianity as it is of science" (Daryl Domning of Howard University).

Scientific criticism of the Creation "Museum" is nothing new. When it opened in 2007, over 800 scientists in the three states surrounding it -- Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio -- signed a statement sponsored by NCSE expressing concern about the effect of the scientific inaccuracies of its exhibits on local students. Shortly thereafter, the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology issued a press release contending that "the museum presents visitors with a view of earth history that has been scientifically disproven for over a century" and accusing it of "undermining the basic principles of science, eroding the public's confidence in science, and causing a general weakening of science education in the country."

For the announcement of the trip, visit: http://www.napc2009.org/creationmuseum
For the stories, visit:
http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20090624/NEWS01/306240055/Scientists+tour+Creation+Museum
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/30/science/30muse.html
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jiVuN2BMp6tmuGBGOedALIY4_FaA
For the NCSE-sponsored statement, visit: http://ncseweb.org/taking-action/aig-creation-museum
For the SVP press release, visit: http://vertpaleo.org/news/index.cfm?mode=viewEntry&id=09647CC3-A12B-5FD2-C6DA5855160D5FFC

Evolution education update: June 12, 2009

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A new resource on NCSE's website provides the details on seventeen key legal cases in the creationism/evolution controversy. A new issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach is available. And the text of Science's recent interview of Eugenie C. Scott is now posted in NCSE's website.

"CREATIONISM AND THE LAW"

Looking for the legal skinny on the court cases that shaped the landscape of the creationism/evolution controversy? NCSE's new Creationism and the Law resource provides the details on seventeen key cases, from Scopes to Selman, that made a difference. Simply click on the name of a case to get a thorough summary; a list of source documents (typically PDFs, arranged in chronological order); and to relevant NCSE news stories, timelines, and presentations; and a selection of links to third-party sources. This new NCSE resource is free and aimed at journalists, lawyers, school administrators, school boards, and anyone interested in the legal history of evolution, creationism, and public school science education.

For "Creationism and the Law," visit: http://ncseweb.org/creationism/legal/creationism-law

THE LATEST ISSUE OF EVOLUTION: EDUCATION AND OUTREACH

The latest issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach -- the new journal aspiring to promote accurate understanding and comprehensive teaching of evolutionary theory for a wide audience -- is now available on-line. Taking transitional forms as its theme, the issue positively teems with exciting paleontology. Among the authors are Jennifer A. Clack writing on "The Fish-Tetrapod Transition: New Fossils and Interpretations," Luis M. Chiappe writing on "Downsized Dinosaurs: The Evolutionary Transition to Modern Birds," Kenneth D. Angielczyk writing on "Dimetrodon Is Not a Dinosaur: Using Tree Thinking to Understand the Ancient Relatives of Mammals and their Evolution," J. G. M. Thewissen, Lisa Noelle Cooper, John C. George, and Sunil Bajpai writing on "From Land to Water: the Origin of Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises," and Donald R. Prothero writing on "Evolutionary Transitions in the Fossil Record of Terrestrial Hoofed Mammals."

Also included is the latest installment of NCSE's regular column for Evolution: Education and Outreach, Overcoming Obstacles to Evolution Education. In "Transforming Our Thinking about Transitional Forms," NCSE's Education Project Director Louise S. Mead explains, "A common misconception of evolutionary biology is that it involves a search for 'missing links' in the history of life. Relying on this misconception, antievolutionists present the supposed absence of transitional forms from the fossil record as evidence against evolution. Students of biology need to understand that evolution is a branching process, paleontologists do not expect to find 'missing links,' and evolutionary research uses independent lines of evidence to test hypotheses and make conclusions about the history of life. Teachers can facilitate such learning by incorporating cladistics and tree-thinking into the curriculum and using evograms to focus on important evolutionary transitions."

For the latest issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach, visit: http://www.springerlink.com/content/120878/
For Mead's article, visit: http://www.springerlink.com/content/501371w1h0h58385/fulltext.html

EUGENIE C. SCOTT INTERVIEWED IN SCIENCE (NOW WITH FULL TEXT)

Last week's Evolution Education Update summarized Science's interview with NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott. Now, with the kind permission of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the complete text of the interview is available on NCSE's website.

For the interview, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/2009/06/eugenie-c-scott-interviewed-science-004823

Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://ncseweb.org -- where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it.

Evolution education update: April 3, 2009

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Plenty of news in Texas again: the Texas state board of education voted to adopt a flawed set of state science standards, and Chris Comer's suit against the Texas Education Agency was dismissed. In Florida, the Florida Academy of Sciences denounced the antievolution bill still in the state senate. A few seats remain aboard NCSE's next excursion to the Grand Canyon.

A SETBACK FOR SCIENCE EDUCATION IN TEXAS

At its March 25-27, 2009, meeting, the Texas state board of education voted to adopt a flawed set of state science standards, which will dictate what is taught in science classes in elementary and secondary schools, as well as provide the material for state tests and textbooks, for the next decade. Although creationists on the board were unsuccessful in inserting the controversial "strengths and weaknesses" language from the old set of standards, they proposed a flurry of synonyms -- such as "sufficiency or insufficiency" and "supportive and not supportive" -- and eventually prevailed with a requirement that students examine "all sides of scientific evidence." Additionally, the board voted to add or amend various standards in a way that encourages the presentation of creationist claims about the complexity of the cell, the completeness of the fossil record, and the age of the universe.

The proceedings were confusing and contentious, and it is understandable that journalists differed in their initial assessments of the significance of the vote: for example, the Dallas Morning News (March 28, 2009) headlined its article as "Conservatives lose another battle over evolution," while the Wall Street Journal (March 27, 2009) headlined its article as "Texas Opens Classroom Door for Evolution Doubts," and the Austin-American-Statesman (March 28, 2009) played it safe with "State education board approves science standards." As the dust settled, though, NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott -- who was invited to testify before the board at its meeting -- commented, in a March 30, 2009, press release, "The final vote was a triumph of ideology and politics over science."

"The board majority chose to satisfy creationist constituents and ignore the expertise of highly qualified Texas scientists and scientists across the country," Scott added. Among the organizations calling upon the board to adopt the standards as originally drafted by a panel of Texas scientists and educators were the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the Paleontological Society, the National Association of Biology Teachers, and the Texas Association of Biology Teachers, as well as fifty-four scientific and education societies that endorsed a statement circulated by NCSE. The board's chair, avowed creationist Don McLeroy, responded by crying (video is available on NCSE's YouTube channel), during the meeting, "Somebody's got to stand up to experts!"

Writing in Salon (March 29, 2009), Gordy Slack -- the author of The Battle Over the Meaning of Everything: Evolution, Intelligent Design, and a School Board in Dover, PA (Jossey-Bass 2007) -- explained that after Kitzmiller v. Dover, "advocates of teaching neo-creationism have been forced to seek other ways into public science classrooms. Enter the 'strengths and weaknesses' strategy." After the creationist faction on the board failed to reinsert the "strengths and weaknesses" language, NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott commented, "they had a fallback position, which was to continue amending the standards to achieve through the back door what they couldn't achieve upfront." Slack added, "Each of the amendments singles out an old creationist argument, strips it of its overtly ideological language, and requires teachers and textbook publishers to adopt it."

Rachel Courtland, a blogger for New Scientist (March 31, 2009), examined a case in point: the deletion of a reference in the standards to the age of the universe ("about 14 billion years ago"). As revised, the standards require students to learn "current theories of the evolution of the universe including estimates for the age of the universe," with the actual age absent. "Is the new standard an invitation for young-Earth proponents to teach students that the Earth and the universe beyond it is just a few thousand years old?" asked Courtland, adding, "Some teachers could conceivably see it as an opening. According to a 2008 study ["Evolution and Creationism in America's Classrooms: A National Portrait" from PLoS Biology 2008; 6 (5)], 16% of US science teachers believe humans were created by God in the last 10,000 years."

Texas groups defending the integrity of science education were dismayed at the result. Kathy Miller, the president of the Texas Freedom Network, Kathy Miller, said in a March 27, 2009, statement, "The word 'weaknesses' no longer appears in the science standards. But the document still has plenty of potential footholds for creationist attacks on evolution to make their way into Texas classrooms. Through a series of contradictory and convoluted amendments, the board crafted a road map that creationists will use to pressure publishers into putting phony arguments attacking established science into textbooks." There is a historical precedent in the textbook adoption process from 2003, when creationists selectively applied the "strengths and weaknesses" language to try to dilute the treatment of evolution in the textbooks under consideration.

On his blog for the Houston Chronicle (March 27, 2009), Steven Schafersman of Texas Citizens for Science optimistically commented, "I think we can work around the few flawed standards," but lamented, "But the point is that there shouldn't be ANY flawed standards. The science standards as submitted by the science writing teams were excellent and flaw-free. All the flaws were added by politically unscrupulous SBOE members with an extreme right-wing religious agenda to support Creationism." Having attended (and blogged from) all three days of the meeting and observed the confusion and contention among the members of the board, he ruefully added, "this is not the way to develop educational policy in one of the most wealthy and powerful states in the most wealthy and powerful country in the world in the 21st century."

Even The New York Times (March 30, 2009) took notice of the plight of science education in Texas, editorially commenting, "This was not a straightforward battle over whether to include creationism or its close cousin, intelligent design, in the science curriculum. Rather, this was a struggle to insert into the state science standards various phrases and code words that may seem innocuous or meaningless at first glance but could open the door to doubts about evolution. ... At the end of a tense, confusing three-day meeting, Darwin's critics claimed that this and other compromise language amounted to a huge victory that would still allow their critiques into textbooks and classrooms. One can only hope that teachers in Texas will use common sense and teach evolution as scientists understand it."

The Austin American-Statesman (April 1, 2009) editorially complained, "Chairman Don McLeroy, Dunbar and others have turned the education board into a national joke. But when it comes to teaching Texas children, what they have done is not funny. Last week's discussion about shaping the teaching of science to allow doubts about evolution was surreal. Biology texts now must include 'all sides' of scientific theories ... The underlying point is that a board majority wants creationism to be part of the scientific discussion. And they got enough of a foot in the door with their language about teaching 'all sides' of scientific theories that publishers will have to include criticism of evolution if they want to sell science textbooks to Texas schools."

Detailed, candid, and often uninhibited running commentary on the proceedings is available on a number of blogs: Texas Citizens for Science's Steven Schafersman was blogging and posting photographs on the Houston Chronicle's Evo.Sphere blog, the Texas Freedom Network was blogging on its TFN Insider blog, and NCSE's Joshua Rosenau was blogging on his personal blog, Thoughts from Kansas (hosted by ScienceBlogs). For those wanting to get their information from the horse's mouth, minutes and audio recordings of the board meeting will be available on the Texas Education Agency's website as well as on Tony Whitson's Curricublog. NCSE's previous reports on events in Texas are available on-line, and of course NCSE will continue to monitor the situation as well as to assist those defending the teaching of evolution in the Lone Star State.

For the story in the Dallas Morning News, visit: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/texassouthwest/stories/DN-evolution_28tex.ART.State.Edition1.4a87415.html
For the story in the Wall Street Journal, visit: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123819751472561761.html
For the story in the Austin American-Statesman, visit: http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/03/28/0328sboe.html
For NCSE's press release, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/2009/03/science-setback-texas-schools-004708
For NCSE's story about the societies supporting the standards, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/2009/03/texas-needs-to-get-it-right-004695
For NCSE's YouTube channel, visit: http://www.youtube.com/user/NatCen4ScienceEd
For Gordy Slack's column in Salon, visit: http://www.salon.com/env/feature/2009/03/28/texas_evolution_case/
For the New Scientist blog post, visit: http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2009/03/universes-age-erased-from-texa.html
For "Evolution and Creationism in America's Classrooms: A National Portrait," visit: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0060124
For TFN's statement, visit: http://www.tfn.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5745
For Steven Schafersman's comments, visit: http://www.chron.com/commons/readerblogs/evosphere.html
For the editorial in The New York Times, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/31/opinion/31tue3.html
For the editorial in the Austin American-Statesman, visit: http://www.statesman.com/opinion/content/editorial/stories/04/01/0401sboe_edit.html
For the blog coverage of the hearings, visit:
http://www.chron.com/commons/readerblogs/evosphere.html
http://tfnblog.wordpress.com/
http://www.scienceblogs.com/tfk/
For the minutes and records from the TEA, visit:
http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/minutes_archived.html
http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/audio_archived.html
http://curricublog.wordpress.com/
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/texas

COMER CASE DISMISSED

In a March 31, 2009, decision, Chris Comer's lawsuit against the Texas Education Agency, challenging the agency's policy of requiring neutrality about evolution and creationism, was dismissed. The Austin American-Statesman (April 1, 2009) reported, "The state's attorneys argued in court filings that the agency is allowed to bar its employees from giving the appearance that the agency is taking positions on issues that the State Board of Education must decide, such as the content of the science curriculum." The newspaper quoted Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott as saying, "We are sorry that this situation resulted in a lawsuit but we were confident we would prevail," and John Oberdorfer, one of Comer's lawyers, as saying of the dismissal, "We'll look at it and decide what we'll do next."

Comer, the former director of science at the Texas Education Agency, was forced to resign in November 2007 after she forwarded a note announcing a talk by Barbara Forrest in Austin. As NCSE's Glenn Branch -- who sent the offending e-mail -- explained in a post at the Beacon Broadside blog (December 19, 2007), "Less than two hours after sending the e-mail, she was called on the carpet and instructed to send a disclaimer. And then she was forced to resign. Although a memorandum recommending her dismissal referred to various instances of alleged 'misconduct and insubordination' on her part, it was clear what her real offense was: 'the TEA requires, as agency policy, neutrality when talking about evolution and creationism.'" The TEA was widely criticized in editorials and by scientific and educational societies.

In June 2008, Comer filed suit in federal court in the Western District of Texas, arguing, "the Agency's firing of its Director of Science for not remaining 'neutral' on the subject violates the Establishment Clause, because it employs the symbolic and financial support of the State of Texas to achieve a religious purpose, and so has the purpose or effect of endorsing religion. By professing 'neutrality,' the Agency credits creationism as a valid scientific theory. Finally, the Agency fired Director Comer without according her due process as required by the 14th Amendment -- a protection especially important here because Director Comer was fired for contravening an unconstitutional policy." The judge ruled, however, that the TEA's neutrality policy is not a violation of the Establishment Clause. (Additional legal documentation for this case is archived on NCSE's website.)

Although Comer's lawsuit was dismissed, her plight (discussed in a brief video commissioned by NCSE) is still a disquieting indication of the condition of science education in Texas. Shortly after her forced resignation was in the headlines, the Houston Chronicle (December 4, 2007) editorially commented, "With a State Board of Education review of the science portion of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills scheduled early next year, Comer's ouster could portend a renewed effort to establish creationism and intelligent design as science class fare." In light of the recent adoption of a set of state science standards that encourages the presentation of creationist arguments, the TEA's "neutrality when talking about evolution and creationism" is likely to be under scrutiny again.

For the story in the Austin American-Statesman, visit: http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/04/01/0401comer.html
For Glenn Branch's post on Beacon Broadside, visit: http://www.beaconbroadside.com/broadside/2007/12/muzzling-dissen.html
For a sampling of the criticism leveled at the TEA, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/2007/12/latest-comer-controversy-001154
For Comer's lawsuit (PDF), visit: http://ncseweb.org/webfm_send/750
For the dismissal of the case (PDF), visit: http://ncseweb.org/webfm_send/798
For NCSE's archives of documents in Comer v. Scott, visit: http://ncseweb.org/creationism/legal/chris-comer-docs
For the video about Comer's plight, visit: http://ncseweb.org/multimedia/chris-comer-expelled-real
For the Houston Chronicle's editorial, visit: http://www.chron.com/CDA/archives/archive.mpl?id=2007_4472569
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/texas

CRITICISM FOR FLORIDA'S ANTIEVOLUTION BILL

Florida's Senate Bill 2396, which would, if enacted, amend a section of Florida law to require "[a] thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution," was in the headlines after the Florida Academy of Sciences denounced it. In its March 20, 2009, statement, the academy described SB 2396 as "a deliberate attempt to undermine the adopted science standards," adding, "SB 2396, in effect, leaves the door open for the introduction in the public school curriculum of nonscientific and covertly religious doctrines. The proposed bill would be damaging to the quality of science education of Florida's children and the scientific literacy of our citizens. It would further undermine the reputation of our state and adversely affect our economic future as we try to attract new high-tech and biomedical jobs to Florida."

David Karlen, a Tampa biologist and a member of the Florida Academy of Sciences, told the Tampa Tribune (March 28, 2009), "'Critical analysis' is the latest buzzword in the creationist movement to sneak intelligent design or creationism into the curriculum," and noted that it is typically only evolution for which "critical analysis" is applied. Observing that the bill has yet to receive a hearing in committee -- the bill was referred to the Education Pre-K-12 and the Education Pre-K-12 Appropriations committees in the Senate -- or a counterpart in the Florida House of Representatives, the Tribune reported that the bill "apparently is going nowhere this year," especially because the legislature is presently busy with budgetary issues. May 1, 2009, is the last day of the current legislative session.

For the academy's statement (PDF), visit: http://www.flascience.org/fas_statement.pdf
For the story in the Tampa Tribune, visit: http://www2.tbo.com/content/2009/mar/28/na-anti-evolution-bill-still-a-fruitless-exercise/
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Florida, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/florida

VISIT THE GRAND CANYON WITH SCOTT AND GISH!

A few seats remain aboard NCSE's next excursion to the Grand Canyon -- as featured in The New York Times (October 6, 2005). From July 3 to 10, 2009, NCSE will again explore the wonders of creation and evolution on a Grand Canyon river run conducted by NCSE's Genie Scott and Alan ("Gish") Gishlick. Call or write now: seats are limited. Because this is an NCSE trip, we offer more than just the typically grand float down the Canyon, the spectacular scenery, fascinating natural history, brilliant night skies, exciting rapids, delicious meals, and good company. It is, in fact, a unique "two-model" raft trip, on which we provide both the creationist view of the Grand Canyon and the evolutionist view -- and let you make up your own mind. The cost is $2480; a deposit of $500 will hold your spot.

For information on the excursion, visit: http://ncseweb.org/about/excursions/gcfaq
For NCSE's story about the article in The New York Times, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/2005/10/seeing-creation-evolution-grand-canyon-00771

Evolution education update: March 27, 2009

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Plenty of news in Texas, as the state board of education prepares to conduct its final vote on the state science standards. New Mexico's antievolution bill is dead. And NCSE Supporter Stephen G. Brush is to receive the 2009 Abraham Pais Prize for the History of Physics.

"STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES" NIXED IN TEXAS AGAIN

The Texas state board of education again narrowly voted against a proposal to restore the controversial "strengths and weaknesses" language to the set of state science standards now under review. As the Dallas Morning News (March 26, 2009) reported, "Board members deadlocked 7-7 on a motion to restore a long-time curriculum rule that 'strengths and weaknesses' of all scientific theories -- notably Charles Darwin's theory of evolution -- be taught in science classes and covered in textbooks for those subjects. Voting for the requirement were the seven Republican board members aligned with social conservative groups. Against the proposal were three other Republicans and four Democrats." A final vote is expected on March 27, 2009, but the outcome is not likely to change . It remains to be seen whether the board will vote to rescind the flawed amendments undermining the teaching of evolution proposed at the board's January 2009 meeting.

The debate is attracting national attention, with the Wall Street Journal (March 23, 2009) quoting NCSE's Steven Newton as saying, "This is the most specific assault I've seen against evolution and modern science," and the Washington Post (March 24, 2009) editorially urging, "The Texas State Board of Education must hold firm to its decision to strip the 'strengths and weaknesses' language from the state's science standard. Texans, like everyone else, are free to believe what they want, but in science class, they should teach science." Closer to home, the Dallas Morning News (March 25, 2009) editorially commented, "Doubting evolution shouldn't be Texas' legacy. More importantly, our students should not be subject to an erroneous line of teaching," and reminded its readers that because Texas is such a huge market for textbooks, "what happens in Texas doesn't stay here."

Writing in the Guardian (March 26, 2009), Jerry Coyne echoed the sentiment: "What happens in Texas doesn't stay in Texas. That state is a sizeable consumer of public school textbooks, and it's likely that if it waters down its science standards, textbook publishers all over the country will follow suit. This makes every American school hostage to the caprices of a few benighted Texas legislators." (House Bill 4224, introduced in the Texas House of Representatives on March 13, 2009, would, if enacted, require the Texas state board of education to restore the "strengths and weaknesses" language in the Texas state science standards.) A professor of the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, Coyne is the author of Why Evolution is True (Viking, 2009), which NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott recently praised in Nature as "a good choice to give to the neighbour or teacher who wants to know more about evolutionary biology."

NCSE's Joshua Rosenau and Eugenie C. Scott are in Austin for the meeting; both testified on March 25, 2009. Detailed, candid, and often uninhibited running commentary on the proceedings is available on a number of blogs: Texas Citizens for Science's Steven Schafersman is blogging and posting photographs on the Houston Chronicle's Evo.Sphere blog, the Texas Freedom Network is blogging on its TFN Insider blog, and NCSE's Joshua Rosenau is blogging on his personal blog, Thoughts from Kansas (hosted by ScienceBlogs). For those wanting to get their information from the horse's mouth, minutes and audio recordings of the board meeting will be available on the Texas Education Agency's website. NCSE's previous reports on events in Texas are available on-line, and of course NCSE will continue to monitor the situation as well as to assist those defending the teaching of evolution in the Lone Star State.

For the story in the Dallas Morning News, visit: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/032609dntexevolution.72be216f.html
For the story in the Wall Street Journal, visit: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123777413372910705.html
For the editorial in the Washington Post, visit: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/24/AR2009032403356.html
For the editorial in the Dallas Morning News, visit: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/opinion/editorials/stories/DN-science_0326edi.State.Edition1.212982b.html
For Jerry Coyne's op-ed in the Guardian, visit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/mar/26/evolution-science-texas-school-board
To purchase Why Evolution is True from Amazon.com (and benefit NCSE in the process), visit: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/asin/0670020532/nationalcenter02/
For Eugenie C. Scott's review in Nature (subscription required), visit: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v458/n7234/full/458034a.html
For the blog coverage of the hearings, visit:
http://www.chron.com/commons/readerblogs/evosphere.html
http://tfnblog.wordpress.com/
http://www.scienceblogs.com/tfk/
For the minutes and records from the TEA, visit:
http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/minutes_archived.html
http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/audio_archived.html
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/texas

TEXAS NEEDS TO GET IT RIGHT

As the Texas state board of education prepares for its final vote on a new set of state science standards, no fewer than fifty-four scientific and educational societies are calling for the approval of the standards as originally submitted -- without misleading language about "strengths and weaknesses" and without the flawed amendments undermining the teaching of evolution proposed at the board's January 2009 meeting. In their statement, organized by the National Center for Science Education, the societies write, "Evolution is the foundation of modern biology, and is also crucial in fields as diverse as agriculture, computer science, engineering, geology, and medicine. We oppose any efforts to undermine the teaching of biological evolution and related topics in the earth and space sciences, whether by misrepresenting those subjects, or by inaccurately and misleadingly describing them as controversial and in need of special scrutiny." (The full statement is reproduced below.)

Independently, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the Paleontological Society, the National Association of Biology Teachers, and the Texas Association of Biology Teachers have issued their own statements, collected by Texas Citizens for Science, with advice for the Texas state board of education as it considers its final vote on the standards. And the AAAS's president Peter Agre (a Nobel laureate) and chief executive officer Alan I. Leshner contributed a commentary to the San Antonio Express-News (March 23, 2009), concluding, "Leveraging science and technology to create new jobs will require properly educating all potential innovators. It's time for the Texas State Board of Education to reject misleading amendments to science education standards, once and for all. As Texas science education standards go, so goes the nation. Texas needs to get it right."

***
A Message to the Texas State Board of Education

The undersigned scientific and educational societies call on the Texas State Board of Education to support accurate science education for all students by adopting the science standards (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills or TEKS) as recommended to you by the scientists and educators on your writing committees.

Evolution is the foundation of modern biology, and is also crucial in fields as diverse as agriculture, computer science, engineering, geology, and medicine. We oppose any efforts to undermine the teaching of biological evolution and related topics in the earth and space sciences, whether by misrepresenting those subjects, or by inaccurately and misleadingly describing them as controversial and in need of special scrutiny.

At its January 2009 meeting, the Texas Board of Education rightly rejected attempts to add language to the TEKS about "strengths and weaknesses" -- used in past efforts to undermine the teaching of evolution in Texas. We urge the Board to stand firm in rejecting any such attempts to compromise the teaching of evolution.

At its January 2009 meeting, the Board also adopted a series of amendments to the TEKS that misrepresent biological evolution and related topics in the earth and space sciences. We urge the Board to heed the advice of the scientific community and the experienced scientists and educators who drafted the TEKS: reject these and any other amendments which single out evolution for scrutiny beyond that applied to other scientific theories.

By adopting the TEKS crafted by your expert writing committees, the Board will serve the best educational interests of students in Texas's public schools.

American Anthropological Association
American Association of Physical Anthropologists
American Association of Physicists in Medicine
American Association of Physics Teachers
American Astronomical Society
American Geological Institute
American Institute for Biological Sciences
American Institute of Physics
American Physiological Society
American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
American Society for Cell Biology
American Society for Investigative Pathology
American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
American Society of Human Genetics
American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
American Society of Naturalists
American Society of Plant Biologists
American Society of Plant Taxonomists
Association for Women Geoscientists
Association of American Geographers
Association of Anatomy, Cell Biology, and Neurobiology Chairs
Association of College & University Biology Educators
Association of Earth Science Editors
Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists
Biological Sciences Curriculum Study
Biotechnology Institute
Botanical Society of America
Clay Minerals Society
Council on Undergraduate Research
Ecological Society of America
Federation for American Societies for Experimental Biology
Federation of American Scientists
Human Biology Association
Institute of Human Origins
National Association of Biology Teachers
National Association of Geoscience Teachers
National Earth Science Teachers Association
National Science Teachers Association
Natural Science Collection Alliance
Paleontological Society
Scientists and Engineers for America
Society for American Archaeology
Society for Developmental Biology
Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology
Society for Sedimentary Geology
Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles
Society for the Study of Evolution
Society of Economic Geologists
Society of Systematic Biologists
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
Southwestern Association of Naturalists
The Biophysical Society
The Helminthological Society of Washington
The Herpetologists' League
For the statement (PDF), visit: http://ncseweb.org/webfm_send/797
For Texas Citizens for Science's collection of statements, visit: http://www.texscience.org/
For Agre and Leshner's op-ed in the San Antonio Express-News, visit: http://www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/Texas_case_threatens_education_and_competitiveness_nationally.html
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/texas

ANTIEVOLUTION BILL DEAD IN NEW MEXICO

New Mexico's Senate Bill 433 died in committee when the legislature adjourned sine die on March 21, 2009. The bill, if enacted, would have required schools to allow teachers to inform students "about relevant scientific information regarding either the scientific strengths or scientific weaknesses pertaining to biological evolution or chemical evolution," protecting teachers who choose to do so from "reassignment, termination, discipline or other discrimination." SB 433 joins Iowa's House File 183 and Oklahoma's Senate Bill 320 as proposed "academic freedom" antievolution bills that failed in 2009; Alabama's House Bill 300 and Missouri's House Bill 656 are still active.

The bill mentioned only "biological evolution or chemical evolution," but its sponsor, Kent Cravens (R-District 27), described it as having wider applicability, telling the Santa Fe New Mexican (March 3, 2009), that it "just asks that if there's a controversial scientific theory being presented, that a teacher can't be reprimanded or fired or downgraded or any way harmed if the teacher happens to mention that there are other theories of controversial scientific nature, to include biological evolution, human cloning, global warming, you name a dozen different things." In a post at The Panda's Thumb blog (March 21, 2009), Dave Thomas suggested that Cravens may have intended to revise his bill accordingly.

Analyses of the bill performed by various state agencies were not enthusiastic. According to the Legislative Education Study Committee's summary analysis, the Public Education Department was worried that the bill would allow the teaching of creationism, thereby inviting litigation; the Higher Education Department observed that the New Mexico state science standards already require students to understand the evidential basis for evolution; and the Office of Education Accountability questioned the bill's premises "that the theory of evolution lacks scientific validity ... and that teachers and students need protection when addressing 'relevant scientific strengths or scientific weakness pertaining to biological evolution or chemical evolution.'"

For New Mexico's SB 433 as introduced, visit: http://www.nmlegis.gov/Sessions/09%20Regular/bills/senate/SB0433.html
For the article in the Santa Fe New Mexican, visit: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/Bill-protects--controversial-science--teaching
For Dave Thomas's post at The Panda's Thumb, visit: http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2009/03/another-discove.html
For the LESC's analysis (PDF), visit: http://www.nmlegis.gov/Sessions/09%20Regular/LESCAnalysis/SB0433.pdf
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in New Mexico, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/new-mexico

BRUSH AWARDED THE 2009 PAIS PRIZE

NCSE Supporter Stephen G. Brush was selected by the American Physical Society and the American Institute of Physics to receive the 2009 Abraham Pais Prize for the History of Physics "for his pioneering, in-depth studies in the history of nineteenth and twentieth-century physics," according to a story in the spring 2009 History of Physics Newsletter. Beginning his career as a physicist, Brush turned to the history of physics, publishing a number of historical monographs, including The Kind of Motion We Call Heat: A History of the Kinetic Theory of Gases in the 19th Century (North-Holland, 1976), which won the History of Science Society's Pfizer Award. He also coauthored the popular textbook Physics, the Human Adventure: From Copernicus to Einstein and Beyond (Rutgers University Press, 2001) with Gerald Holton. On retiring from the University of Maryland in 2006, he was named Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of the History of Science. Among his writings relevant to the creationism/evolution controversy are "Creationism versus physical science" and two refutations of creationist misuse of the history of science -- "Kelvin was not a creationist" and "Popper and evolution" -- for NCSE's journals. He is also Steve #71 in NCSE's Project Steve (now with over 1075 Steves).
For the story in the History of Physics Newsletter, visit: http://www.aps.org/units/fhp/newsletters/spring2009/pais.cfm
For the cited articles by Brush, visit:
http://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/200011/back-page.cfm
http://ncseweb.org/cej/3/2/kelvin-was-not-creationist
http://ncseweb.org/ncser/13/4/popper-evolution > > For information about Project Steve, visit: > http://ncseweb.org/taking-action/project-steve

Evolution education update: March 13, 2009

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Texas is in the headlines again, with a new bill that appears to be intended to exempt the Institute for Creation Research's graduate school from state regulation as well as a profile of Don McLeroy, the avowed creationist who chairs the state board of education, in the Austin American-Statesman. Meanwhile, a legislator in Oklahoma, outraged by the prospect of Richard Dawkins visiting the University of Oklahoma, introduced two antievolution resolutions -- and Dawkins responded.

LEGISLATIVE SALVATION FOR THE ICR?

House Bill 2800, introduced in the Texas House of Representatives on March 9, 2009, would, if enacted, in effect exempt institutions such as the Institute for Creation Research's graduate school from Texas's regulations governing degree-granting institutions. The bill's sole sponsor is Leo Berman (R-District 6), a member of the House Higher Education Committee. A member of NCSE called Berman's office to ask whether the bill would apply to the ICR's graduate school; a staffer answered that he thought that it would, adding that he believed that the bill's objective was to aid institutions that want to teach creation science or intelligent design. Berman himself seems not to have offered any public statement about HB 2800 so far.

As NCSE's Glenn Branch recounted in Reports of the NCSE, "When the Institute for Creation Research moved its headquarters from Santee, California, to Dallas, Texas, in June 2007, it expected to be able to continue offering a master's degree in science education from its graduate school. ... But the state's scientific and educational leaders voiced their opposition, and at its April 24, 2008, meeting, the Texas Higher Education Coordination Board unanimously voted to deny the ICR's request for a state certificate of authority to offer the degree." Following the Texas Higher Education Coordination Board's decision, the ICR appealed the decision, while also taking its case to the court of public opinion with a series of press releases and advertisements in Texas newspapers.

Now, however, it seems that HB 2800 would take the matter out of the board's hands altogether. Subchapter G of Chapter 61 of Texas's Education Code serves to regulate "the use of academic terminology in naming or otherwise designating educational institutions, the advertising, solicitation or representation by educational institutions or their agents, and the maintenance and preservation of essential academic records"; it provides, inter alia, "A person may not grant or award a degree or offer to grant or award a degree on behalf of a private postsecondary educational institution unless the institution has been issued a certificate of authority to grant the degree by the board [that is, the Texas Higher Education Coordination Board] in accordance with the provisions of this subchapter."

HB 2800 would amend subchapter G by providing, "The provisions of this subchapter do not apply to a private educational institution, including a separate degree-granting program, unit, or school operated by the institution, that: (1) does not accept state funding of any kind to support its educational programs; (2) does not accept state-administered federal funding to support its educational programs; (3) was formed as or is affiliated with or controlled by a nonprofit corporation or nonprofit unincorporated organization; and (4) offers bona fide degree programs that require students to complete substantive course work in order to receive a degree from the institution." Presumably the ICR would argue that its graduate school satisfies all four requirements.

For Texas's HB 2800 as introduced (PDF), visit: http://www.legis.state.tx.us/tlodocs/81R/billtext/pdf/HB02800I.pdf
For the story in Reports of the NCSE, visit: http://ncseweb.org/rncse/28/2/setback-icr-texas
For chapter 61 of Texas's Education Code, visit: http://tlo2.tlc.state.tx.us/statutes/docs/ED/content/htm/ed.003.00.000061.00.htm
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/texas

CREATIONIST BOARD CHAIR PROFILED

As the final vote on the proposed revision of the Texas state science standards approaches, the Austin American-Statesman (March 8, 2009) offers a profile of the chair of the Texas state board of education, avowed creationist Don McLeroy. Describing his conversion to fundamentalism as a dental student, the profile explained, "He is now a young earth creationist, meaning that he believes God created Earth between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago," quoting him as saying, "When I became a Christian, it was whole-hearted ... I was totally convinced the biblical principles were right, and I was totally convinced that it could be accurate scientifically." Particularly important to McLeroy is the biblical tenet that humans were created in the image of God -- although Sid Hall, a Methodist pastor in Austin, told the newspaper, "I would never want to discount those works, but to take [the passage that humans were made in the image of God] to mean something about how the universe is created is a stretch to me ... That's code to me for 'I'm going to take my particular myth of creationism and make it part of the science curriculum.' That's scary to me."

At the board's January 21-23, 2009, meeting, McLeroy successfully proposed a revision to section 7 of the draft of the high school biology standards to require that students "analyze and evaluate the sufficiency or insufficiency of common ancestry to explain the sudden appearance, stasis and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record." As NCSE explains in its call to Texas scientists, the requirement is not only unworkable and confusing, but also evidently intended to promote the idea that living things were specially created in their current forms. Moreover, a detailed analysis by the Stand Up for Real Science blog strongly suggests that the documentation that McLeroy provided in support of his revision at the January meeting was in fact taken wholesale from creationist sources. Undaunted, McLeroy told the American-Statesman that at the board's March 25-27, 2009, meeting, he plans to "pitch another idea that he says should be taught in public schools: the insufficiency of natural selection to explain the complexity of cells" -- apparently a reference to the "intelligent design" notion of "irreducible complexity" due to Michael Behe.

David Hillis of the University of Texas, Austin, told the newspaper, "McLeroy's amendments are not even intelligible. I wonder if perhaps he wants the standards to be confusing so that he can open the door to attacking mainstream biology textbooks and arguing for the addition of creationist and other religious literature into the science classroom." He added, "If Chairman McLeroy is successful in adding his amendments, it will be a huge embarrassment to Texas, a setback for science education and a terrible precedent for the state boards overriding academic experts in order to further their personal religious or political agendas. The victims will be the schoolchildren of Texas, who represent the future of our state." Hillis is also a member of the Advisory Committee of the 21st Century Science Coalition, which has recruited over 1400 Texas scientists to endorse its call for the Texas state board of education to adopt state science standards that "acknowledge that instruction on evolution is vital to understanding all the biological sciences" and omit "all references to 'strengths and weaknesses,' which politicians have used to introduce supernatural explanations into science courses."

Preparing for the March 25-27 board meeting at which the final vote on the standards is expected, McLeroy is arming himself with "a large binder that is adorned on the front with a picture of Albert Einstein" and contains "numerous passages from books -- such as [Kenneth R.] Miller's and others on evolutionary theory -- and articles that he plans to use as ammunition in the fight this month over what should be in the state's science standards." One page from his binder, the American-Statesman reports, shows a diagram of the fossil record from a book by Miller, with McLeroy's gloss, "What do we see?" 'Sudden appearance' of species." Miller -- a professor of biology at Brown University and a Supporter of NCSE, who recently received the Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in recognition of "his sustained efforts and excellence in communicating evolutionary science" -- told the newspaper, "That diagram shows evolution. If he thinks it says evolution does not occur, he is dead wrong. It's really quite the opposite."

For the profile of McLeroy, visit: http://www.statesman.com/news/content/region/legislature/stories/03/08/0308mcleroy.html
For NCSE's call to Texas scientists, visit: http://ncseweb.org/creationism/analysis/analysis-proposed-texas-educational-knowledge-skills-teks-am
For the Stand Up for Real Science blog's analysis, visit: http://www.anevolvingcreation.net/collapse/index.htm
For the 21st Century Science Coalition, visit: http://www.texasscientists.org/
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/texas

ANTIEVOLUTION RESOLUTIONS INTRODUCED IN OKLAHOMA

Two bills in the Oklahoma House of Representatives -- House Resolution 1014 and House Resolution 1015, introduced on March 3, 2009 - attack Richard Dawkins's visit to the University of Oklahoma. The sole sponsor of both bills is Todd Thomsen (R-District 25), a member of the House Education Committee and the chair of the House Higher Education and Career Tech Committee. Both measures, if adopted, would express the strong opposition of the Oklahoma House of Representatives to "the invitation to speak on the campus of the University of Oklahoma to Richard Dawkins of Oxford University, whose published statements on the theory of evolution and opinion about those who do not believe in the theory are contrary and offensive to the views and opinions of most citizens of Oklahoma." Dawkins spoke at the University of Oklahoma on March 6, 2009, as part of the university's celebrations of the Darwin anniversaries.

While HR 1015 ends with a plea for civility -- "the Oklahoma House of Representatives encourages the University of Oklahoma to engage in an open, dignified, and fair discussion of the Darwinian theory of evolution and all other scientific theories which is the approach that a public institution should be engaged in and which represents the desire and interest of the citizens of Oklahoma" -- HR 1014 attacks the University of Oklahoma's Department of Zoology for "framing the Darwinian theory of evolution as doctrinal dogmatism rather than a hypothetical construction within the disciplines of the sciences" and engaging in "one-sided indoctrination of an unproven and unpopular theory" while branding "all thinking in dissent of this theory as anti-intellectual and backward rather than nurturing such free thinking and allowing a free discussion of all ideas which is the primary purpose of a university."

At the beginning of his talk, which was repeatedly interrupted by cheers and applause, Dawkins opened by saying, "I don't want to blow my own trumpet, but it isn't everybody who's the subject of legislation ..." Quoting HR 1014's complaint of his alleged "intolerance for cultural diversity and diversity of thinking," he presented the stork theory of human reproduction -- illustrated with a parody of the creationist propaganda film Expelled -- as a view comparable to creationism. "They've lost in the courts of law; they've long ago lost in the halls of science; and they continue to lose with every new piece of evidence in support of evolution. Taking offense is all they've got left. And the one thing you can be sure of is that they don't actually know anything about what it is that they reject," he added. He also announced that the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science would be donating $5000 to Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, which fights against attempts to undermine evolution education in Oklahoma.

For the text of Oklahoma's HR 1014 and 1015 as introduced (documents), visit:
http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/2009-10HB/HR1014_int.rtf
http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/2009-10HB/HR1015_int.rtf
For information about the University of Oklahoma's celebrations, visit: http://www.ou.edu/darwin/Site/Home.html
For videos of the beginning of Dawkins's talk, visit: http://richarddawkins.net/article,3646,Richard-Dawkins-at-the-University-of-Oklahoma---Introduction,Richard-Dawkins
For information about the Dawkins Foundation, visit: http://richarddawkinsfoundation.org/
For Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, visit: http://www.oklascience.org/
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Oklahoma, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/oklahoma

Evolution education update: February 27, 2009

Dear Friends of NCSE,

The thousandth signatory to NCSE's Project Steve arrived -- just in time for the Darwin anniversary celebrations! Plus NCSE is making a sample chapter from the second edition of Eugenie C. Scott's acclaimed Evolution vs. Creationism available. And a journal is calling for papers for a special issue on the teaching of evolution in a university setting.

PROJECT STEVE: N > 1000

With the addition of Steve #1000 on September 5, 2008, NCSE's Project Steve attained the kilosteve mark. A tongue-in-cheek parody of the long-standing creationist tradition of amassing lists of "scientists who doubt evolution" or "scientists who dissent from Darwinism," Project Steve mocks such lists by restricting its signatories to scientists whose first name is Steve. (Cognates are also accepted, such as Stephanie, Esteban, Istvan, Stefano, or even Tapani -- the Finnish equivalent.) About 1% of the United States population possesses such a first name, so each signatory represents about 100 potential signatories. ("Steve" was selected in honor of the late Stephen Jay Gould, a Supporter of NCSE and a dauntless defender of evolution education.)

Steve #1000 was announced at the Improbable Research press conference and crowned at the Improbable Research show, both held on February 13, 2008, as part of the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott and Steve Mirsky, long-time writer, columnist, and podcaster for Scientific American presented a commemorative plaque to -- of all people -- Steven P. Darwin, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and director of the herbarium at Tulane University. In a February 14, 2009, press release, Darwin commented, "This is the first time that being a Darwin - or a Steve - has paid off!" Videos of the press conference and the award ceremony, and a Scientific American podcast, are available on-line.

The fact that Steve #1000 hails from Louisiana is particularly ironic, since the state recently enacted a law that threatens to open the door for creationism and scientifically unwarranted critiques of evolution to be taught in public school science classes. When a policy implementing the law was drafted, a provision that prohibited the use of materials that teach creationism in the public schools was deleted. Recently, the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology announced that, due to the antievolution law, it would not hold its 2011 conference in New Orleans; a spokesperson for the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau told the weekly New Orleans City Business (February 23, 2009) that the city would lose about $2.7 million as a result of SICB's decision.

Although the idea of Project Steve is frivolous, the statement is serious. It reads, "Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to 'intelligent design,' to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools."

Highlights from the history of Project Steve include the original press release, Glenn Branch and Skip Evans's description of the project for Geotimes, the announcement that Steven W. Hawking was Steve #300, the announcement (on St. Stephen's Day!) of Steve #400, and the announcements of Steves #600, #700, #800, and #900. And, of course, Project Steve proved to be scientifically fruitful in its own right. "The Morphology of Steve," by Eugenie C. Scott, Glenn Branch, Nick Matzke, and several hundred Steves, appeared in the prestigious Annals of Improbable Research; the paper provided "the first scientific analysis of the sex, geographic location, and body size of scientists named Steve."

Currently, there are 1046 signatories to Project Steve, including 100% of eligible Nobel laureates (Steven Weinberg and Steven Chu), 100% of eligible members of President Obama's Cabinet (Steven Chu, the Secretary of Energy), at least ten members of the National Academy of Sciences, the authors of widely used textbooks such as Molecular Biology of the Gene, Psychology: An Evolutionary Approach, and Introduction to Organic Geochemistry, and the authors of popular science books such as A Brief History of Time, Why We Age, and Darwin's Ghost. When last surveyed in February 2006, 54% of the signatories work in the biological sciences proper; 61% work in related fields in the life sciences.

Additionally, Project Steve appeared in Steven Pinker's recent book, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature (Viking, 2007). Pinker, himself a single-digit Steve, described it as "the most formidable weapon in the fight against neo-creationism today," adding, "Part satire, part memorial to Stephen Jay Gould, the project maintains a Steve-O-Meter (now pointing past 800) and has spun off a T-shirt, a song, a mascot (Professor Steve Steve, a panda puppet), and a paper in the respected scientific journal Annals of Improbable Research called 'The Morphology of Steve' (based on the T-shirt sizes ordered by the signatories)."

For the 2009 press release, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/2009/02/steve-darwin-is-steve-1000-004308
For the videos and podcast, visit:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXEGfi9t7yU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgZTrdZL2Go
http://www.sciam.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=count-on-steves-to-defend-darwin-09-02-20
For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/louisiana
For the story in New Orleans City Business, visit: http://www.neworleanscitybusiness.com/viewStory.cfm?recID=32768
For the 2003 press release, visit: http://ncseweb.org/taking-action/project-steve-press-release
For Branch and Evans's report in Geotimes, visit: http://www.geotimes.org/may03/column.html
And for "The Morphology of Steve" (PDF), visit: http://improbable.com/pages/airchives/paperair/volume10/v10i4/morph-steve-10-4.pdf

NEW BOOK, FREE CHAPTER

NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott's book Evolution vs. Creationism is now available in a second edition, updated to include the seminal case Kitzmiller v. Dover -- in which a federal court found that it was unconstitutional to teach "intelligent design" creationism in the public schools -- as well as a new chapter on public opinion and media coverage and a new foreword by Judge John E. Jones III, who presided over the Kitzmiller trial.

The first edition of the book was praised by reviewers in The New York Times Book Review, Science Education, Choice (which named it a 2005 Outstanding Academic Title), the Journal of the History of Biology, Science Books & Films, Perspectives in Science and Christian Faith, Theology and Science, the Toronto Globe & Mail, and even the Institute for Creation Research's Back to Genesis.

Want to see for yourself? Now's your chance. For a limited time, we've posted a sample chapter -- chapter 1, on "Science: Truth without Certainty" from the book. It's yours to download, read, print out, and share with others. See for yourself why the reviewer for NSTA Recommends concluded, "Evolution vs. Creationism would be an excellent resource for any science teacher, especially those who teach biology or the nature of science."

For the sample chapter (PDF), visit: http://ncseweb.org/files/pub/creationism/Evo%20vs.%20Creationism--2nd%20edition--Chapter%201.pdf
For further information about Evolution vs. Creationism, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/evc

CALL FOR PAPERS: TEACHING EVOLUTION IN THE CLASSROOM

The Journal of Effective Teaching, a peer-reviewed electronic journal devoted to the discussion of teaching excellence in colleges and universities, is calling for papers for a special issue on the teaching of evolution in a university setting. Topics may include Darwinism in the history and philosophy of science, politics, and religion; evolution and the nature of science; barriers in the understanding of evolution; strategies for teaching controversial issues related to evolution and/or Darwinism; educational research in the teaching of evolution; challenging preconceptions in the classroom, and engaging students who have strong religious views in scientific investigations as part of a liberal arts degree. Articles will be accepted until May 1, 2009.

For the call for papers (PDF), visit: http://www.uncw.edu/cte/ET/documents%5CCallForPapersSpecial.pdf
For information about the Journal of Effective Teaching, visit: http://www.uncw.edu/cte/ET/

Evolution education update: January 2, 2009

Dear Friends of NCSE,

The journal Nature provides a new resource summarizing fifteen lines of evidence for evolution by natural selection. Meanwhile, Expelled makes a brief and inglorious appearance in newspapers again, and the Geological Society of Australia reaffirms its stance against creationism.

EVOLUTIONARY GEMS FROM NATURE

"15 Evolutionary Gems" is a new resource summarizing fifteen lines of evidence for evolution by natural selection, provided by the journal Nature. The editors explain, "About a year ago, an Editorial in these pages urged scientists and their institutions to 'spread the word' and highlight reasons why scientists can treat evolution by natural selection as, in effect, an established fact ... This week we are following our own prescription. In a year in which Darwin is being celebrated amid uncertainty and hostility about his ideas among citizens, being aware of the cumulatively incontrovertible evidence for those ideas is all the more important. We trust that this document will help."

The fifteen evolutionary gems, as Nature describes them, are in three categories: gems from the fossil record (land-living ancestors of whales, from water to land, the origin of feathers, the evolutionary history of teeth, and the origin of the vertebrate skeleton), gems from habitats (natural selection in speciation, natural selection in lizards, a case of co-evolution, differential dispersal in wild birds, selective survival in wild guppies, and evolutionary history matters), and gems from molecular processes (Darwin's Galapagos finches, microevolution meets macroevolution, toxin resistance in snakes and clams, and variation versus stability). References and links to relevant resources are provided.

For "15 Evolutionary Gems" (PDF), visit: http://www.nature.com/nature/newspdf/evolutiongems.pdf
For the editorial introduction, visit: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v457/n7225/full/457008b.html

GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS FOR EXPELLED

As 2008 drew to a close, the good news for the producers of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed was that their creationist propaganda movie was getting a bit of press again. The bad news is that it was in the lists of the worst movies of 2008. The Onion's A.V. Club (December 16, 2008), was quickest out of the gate, commenting, "There are terrible movies, and then there are terrible movies that cause harm to society by feeding into its ignorance. Nathan Frankowski's odious anti-evolution documentary belongs in the latter category. ... Few moments in cinema in 2008 were as shameless and disgusting as the Expelled sequence where Stein solemnly visits a Nazi death camp and unsubtly links 'survival of the fittest' theory to the Holocaust."

John Serba of the Grand Rapids Press (December 26, 2008) wrote, "Ben Stein hosts this pro-Intelligent Design documentary that forgets to include a compelling argument for this viewpoint, and instead chooses to equate Darwinism and its legions of rational scientist followers with Nazis and the Holocaust. Facts rooted in reality are at a premium in this insidious, crassly manipulative dreck." Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel (December 26, 2008) commented, "Ben Stein's documentary was a cynical attempt to sucker Christian conservatives into thinking they're losing the 'intelligent design' debate because of academic 'prejudice.'" Stephen Whitty of the Newark Star-Ledger (December 27, 2008) described Expelled as lifting "its nonsensical knowledge of early man from an Alley Oop comic and its sense of honest inquiry from a snake-handling preacher." In the LA City Beat (December 30, 2008), Andy Klein wrote, "Stein's 'intelligent design' documentary has all the red flags -- inadequate or misleading identification of interviewees, aggressively manipulative editing, extraordinary claims without extraordinary evidence, and extreme leaps of logic ... particularly suggesting guilt by association, even to the point of laying blame for the Holocaust on Darwin." And Ken Hanke of the Ashville, North Carolina, Mountain Xpress (December 31, 2008) said that Expelled was "as corrupt a piece of work as you'll ever encounter."

Expelled fared no better north of the border. Jay Stone of the Canwest News Service (December 26, 2008) described Expelled as "a masterwork of intellectual dishonesty." And Richard Crouse of Canada AM (December 30, 2008) commented, "Wrapping his thesis in good old American jingoistic rhetoric -- remember this guy used to write speeches for Nixon -- Stein repeatedly compares Darwinist scientists to communists by the suggestion that the only way they can get funding for research is to be good Darwinist 'comrades' and even makes the outrageous connection between Darwin's theory and Nazism." Crouse added, "Perhaps it isn't just a coincidence that the host's initials are B.S."

For the various lists and articles, visit:
http://www.avclub.com/content/feature/there_appears_to_be_an_event/2
http://www.mlive.com/entertainment/grpress/index.ssf?/base/entertainment-1/1230300922187990.xml&coll=6
http://www.orlandosentinel.com/entertainment/orl-toptenmovies08dec26,0,5012155.story
http://www.nj.com/entertainment/tv/index.ssf/2008/12/worst_films_0f_2008_ten_films.html
http://www.lacitybeat.com/cms/story/detail/the_bottom_08/7903/
http://www.mountainx.com/movies/articles/123108cranky_hanke_and_justin_southers_best_and_worst_picks_for_2008
http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20081230/crouse_2008_list_081230
http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/story.html?id=608915a7-383c-4afa-b97b-1036f1db2afb
For NCSE's Expelled Exposed website, visit: http://www.expelledexposed.com/

AUSTRALIAN GEOLOGISTS STILL OPPOSE CREATIONISM

The Geological Society of Australia recently updated its policy statement on science education and creationism. A previous version of the statement (reprinted in the third edition of NCSE's Voices for Evolution) from 1995 read, in part, "The Geological Society of Australia considers that notions such as Fundamental Creationism, including so called 'Flood Geology', which disregard scientific evidence such as that based on repeatable observations in the natural world and the geological record, are not science and cannot be taught as science ... The Society states unequivocally that the dogmatic teaching of notions such as Creationism within a science curriculum stifles the development of critical thinking patterns in the developing mind and seriously compromises the best interests of objective public education. ... the Society dissociates itself from Creationist statements made by any member." The 2008 update differs from the 1995 version only in specifying that the statement applies to "intelligent design" and in bearing the endorsements of all of the presidents of the society from 1994 onward. Established in 1952, the Geological Society of Australia is a non-profit organization that seeks to promote, advance and support the earth sciences in Australia.

For the GSA's statement (PDF), visit: http://gsa.org.au/pdfdocuments/management/POL_intel%20design_2008.pdf
For information about Voices for Evolution, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/media/voices

Evolution education update: December 12, 2008

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Judge Jones, who presided over Kitzmiller v. Dover, is interviewed in PLoS Genetics. The fourth issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach is now available. And Roger Ebert offers his opinion about Expelled.

JUDGE JONES IN PLOS GENETICS

Judge John E. Jones III, who presided over the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, was interviewed by Jane Gitschier for PLoS Genetics. After recounting his legal career and sketching the legal history of the creationism/evolution controversy, Jones talked about the trial itself. Describing the expert testimony he heard, Jones commented, "I will always remember Ken Miller's testimony in the sense that he did A-Z evolution. And then got into intelligent design. And having laid the foundation with the description of evolution, got into why intelligent design doesn't work as science, to the point where it is predominantly a religious concept." He added, "But Ken Miller went into the immune system, the blood clotting cascade, and the bacterial flagellum -- all three are held out by intelligent design proponents as irreducibly complex, and in effect, having no precursors. He [Miller] knocked that down, I thought, quite effectively -- so comprehensively and so well. By the time Miller was done testifying, over the span of a couple of days, the defendants were really already in the hole."

The expert witnesses for the defense were less impressive to Jones: "Another remarkable moment on the science side was Michael Behe, who was the lead witness for the defendants, and a very amiable fellow, as was Ken Miller, but unlike Miller, in my view, Professor Behe did not distinguish himself. He did not hold up well on cross-examination." And the school board witnesses for the defense, whom Jones lambasted in his decision, he described as "dreadful witnesses ... hence the description 'breathtaking inanity' and 'mendacity.' In my view, they clearly lied under oath. They made a very poor account of themselves. They could not explain why they did what they did. They really didn't even know what intelligent design was. It was quite clear to me that they viewed intelligent design as a method to get creationism into the public school classroom. They were unfortunate and troublesome witnesses. Simply remarkable, in that sense."

Noting that the plaintiffs and defendants both asked for a ruling on the question of whether "intelligent design" constitutes science, Jones said, "if you're going to measure the effect of a particular policy, in this case juxtaposing intelligent design with evolution, on the intended recipients, you have to delve into what the policy is about. What was it about? It was about intelligent design. And to try to determine the effect on the recipients you have to determine what does that concept or phrase stand for? Hence, we got into a search and examination of what exactly does ID say, what is its basis, what are its scientific bona fides or lack thereof. That opens the door for a determination of whether ID is in fact science. And that is what that part of the opinion was. ... I wrote about whether ID, as presented to me, in that courtroom from September to November of 2005, was science, and I said it was not. That it was the progeny, the successor to creationism and creation science. That it was dressed-up creationism."

Looking forward, Jones expressed uncertainty about the long-term effect of the Kitzmiller decision, commenting, "This is speculation on my part -- I don't think that the concept of ID itself has a lot of vitality going forward. The Dover trial discredited that thing that is ID. To the extent that I follow it -- I'm curious about it, but it doesn't go any further than that -- the likely tack going forward is something like teach the controversy, talk about the alleged flaws and gaps in the theory of evolution and go to that place first." He noted that creationists in both Texas and Louisiana seem to be taking such a tack. And, he noted, there is no prospect of the creationism/evolution controversy subsiding any time soon: "They gave me the last word in 'Judgment Day' [a NOVA program on the trial] and I said this is not something that will be settled in my time or even in my grandchildren's lifetimes. It's an enduring, quintessentially American, dispute."

For the interview, visit: http://www.plosgenetics.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pgen.1000297
For information about Kitzmiller v. Dover, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/creationism/legal/intelligent-design-trial-kitzmiller-v-dover
For the decisionin the case (PDF), visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/webfm_send/73
For NCSE's coverage of events in Texas and Louisiana, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/news/texas
http://www.ncseweb.org/news/louisiana
For information about Judgment Day, visit: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/id/

THE FOURTH ISSUE OF EVOLUTION: EDUCATION AND OUTREACH

The fourth issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach -- the new journal aspiring to promote accurate understanding and comprehensive teaching of evolutionary theory for a wide audience -- is now available on-line. The theme of the issue is the evolution of the eye. Featured, accordingly, are original scientific articles "A Genetic Perspective on Eye Evolution: Gene Sharing, Convergence and Parallelism," "Charting Evolutions Trajectory: Using Molluscan Eye Diversity to Understand Parallel and Convergent Evolution," "Early Evolution of the Vertebrate Eye -- Fossil Evidence," "Evolution of Insect Eyes: Tales of Ancient Heritage, Deconstruction, Reconstruction, Remodeling, and Recycling," "Exceptional Variation on a Common Theme: The Evolution of Crustacean Compound Eyes," "Opening the 'Black Box': The Genetic and Biochemical Basis of Eye Evolution," "Suboptimal Optics: Vision Problems as Scars of Evolutionary History," "The Causes and Consequences of Color Vision," "The Evolution of Complex Organs," "The Evolution of Extraordinary Eyes: The Cases of Flatfishes and Stalk-eyed Flies," and "The Origin of the Vertebrate Eye." And there are resources for teachers and reviews of books, too, including -- consistently with the issue's theme -- a discussion of teaching about evolution with the example of blind cave fish and a review of Jay Hosler's comic Optical Allusions.

Also included is the fourth installment of NCSE's regular column for Evolution: Education and Outreach, Overcoming Obstacles to Evolution Education. In their article "Misconceptions About the Evolution of Complexity," Andrew J. Petto (a member of NCSE's board of directors) and NCSE's Louise S. Mead take the vertebrate eye as their example, since "the complexity of vertebrate eyes is a common antievolution argument." In the abstract, they summarize, "Despite data and theory from comparative anatomy, embryology, molecular biology, genomics, and evolutionary developmental biology, antievolutionists continue to present the eye as an example of a structure too complex to have evolved. They stress what we have yet to explain about the development and evolution of eyes and present incomplete information as evidence that evolution is a 'theory in crisis.' An examination of the evidence, however, particularly evidence that has accumulated in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, refutes antievolutionists' claims. The distribution of eyes in extant organisms, combined with what we now know about the control of eye development across diverse groups of organisms, provides significant evidence for the evolution of all major components of the eye, from molecular to morphological, and provides an excellent test of predictions based on common ancestry."

For the contents of the issue, visit: http://www.springerlink.com/content/120878/
For Petto and Mead's article, visit: http://www.springerlink.com/content/a7v3307m37236637/fulltext.html

ROGER EBERT ON EXPELLED

The popular film critic Roger Ebert reviewed the creationist propaganda movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed in a December 3, 2008, post entitled "Win Ben Stein's mind" on his blog on the Chicago Sun-Times website -- and he pulled no punches. "The more you know about evolution, or simple logic, the more you are likely to be appalled by the film. No one with an ability for critical thinking could watch more than three minutes without becoming aware of its tactics," he wrote.

"This film is cheerfully ignorant, manipulative, slanted, cherry-picks quotations, draws unwarranted conclusions, makes outrageous juxtapositions (Soviet marching troops representing opponents of ID), pussy-foots around religion (not a single identified believer among the ID people), segues between quotes that are not about the same thing, tells bald-faced lies, and makes a completely baseless association between freedom of speech and freedom to teach religion in a university class that is not about religion," he added.

"And there is worse, much worse," Ebert continued, taking especial offense at Expelled's claim that the acceptance of evolution resulted in the Holocaust -- "It fills me with contempt." Previously, the Anti-Defamation League said that the movie's claim "is outrageous and trivializes the complex factors that led to the mass extermination of European Jewry." Expelled's lead, Ben Stein, responded, "It's none of their f---ing business," according to Peter McKnight, writing in the Vancouver Sun (June 21, 2008).

For a thorough critique of Expelled, including a collection of links to reviews of the movie, visit NCSE's Expelled Exposed website. Additionally, the next issue of Reports of the NCSE (volume 28, numbers 5-6) is a special issue devoted to debunking Expelled, containing reports on its reception, a summary of the ways in which organizations with a stake in the creationism/evolution controversy reacted, a summary of the various controversies over its use of copyrighted material, and a detailed explanation of its unsuitability for the classroom.

For Ebert's blog post, visit: http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2008/12/win_ben_steins_mind.html
For the ADL's statement, visit: http://www.adl.org/PresRele/HolNa_52/5277_52.htm
For Peter McKnight's column, visit: http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=f022096b-6832-4ec1-929 d-92e8bc337364
For Expelled Exposed, visit: http://www.expelledexposed.com
For subscription information for Reports of the NCSE, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/membership

ERRATUM

Although Kevin Padian discussed evolution and religion with Alan Jones, the dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, on November 22, 2008, the link provided in the December 5, 2008, evolution education update was to a video of a previous discussion between the two, filmed on November 4, 2007. The later discussion was not filmed.

For the video of Padian's talk with Jones, visit: http://fora.tv/2007/11/04/Kevin_Padian_Investigating_Evolution

Evolution education update: December 5, 2008

Dear Friends of NCSE,

The Cincinnati Zoo distances itself from a widely criticized promotion involving Answers in Genesis's Creation Museum. Plus Kevin Padian, who serves as president of NCSE's board of directors, is continuing to speak and write in enthusiastic defense of the teaching of evolution. And a new batch of selected content from NCSE's journal is now available on-line.

CREATION "MUSEUM" REBUFFED BY CINCINNATI ZOO

"A promotional deal between the Cincinnati Zoo and the Creation Museum was scuttled Monday after the zoo received dozens of angry calls and emails about the partnership," reported the Cincinnati Enquirer (December 1, 2008). The promotion involved a package deal for tickets to the zoo's annual Festival of Lights and to a Christmas-themed event at Answers in Genesis's Creation Museum. The museum, which opened its doors in northern Kentucky during Memorial Day weekend 2007, aims to illuminate "the effects of biblical history on our present and future world" -- that is, to evangelize for Answers in Genesis's particular brand of young-earth creationism.

On November 30, 2008, biologist and blogger P. Z. Myers complained about the promotion at his blog Pharyngula, writing, "the Cincinnati Zoo has betrayed its mission and its trust in a disgraceful way, by aligning themselves with a creationist institution that is a laughing stock to the rest of the world, and a mark of shame to the United States," and urging his readers to write to the zoo to "point out the conflict between what they are doing and what their goal as an educational and research institution ought to be." Other bloggers echoed his call, and the zoo was evidently flooded with calls and e-mails, prompting it to cancel the promotion because of the uproar. No refunds will be necessary, since no packages of tickets had been sold.

NCSE's previous coverage of the Creation "Museum" includes Daniel Phelps's review and overview and Timothy H. Heaton's account of his visit. NCSE also sponsored a statement, signed by almost one thousand scientists in the three states surrounding the museum -- Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana -- expressing their concern about the effect of the scientifically inaccurate materials displayed there: "Students who accept this material as scientifically valid are unlikely to succeed in science courses at the college level. These students will need remedial instruction in the nature of science, as well as in the specific areas of science misrepresented by Answers in Genesis."

For the story in the Cincinnati Enquirer, visit: http://news.cincinnati.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081201/NEWS01/312010040
For P. Z. Myers's blog post, visit: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/11/shame_on_the_cincinnati_zoo.php
For Phelps's and Heaton's articles, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/creationism/general/anti-museum-overview-review-answers-genesis-creation-museum
http://www.ncseweb.org/rncse/27/1-2/visit-to-new-creation-museum
For the NCSE-sponsored statement of concern, visit: http://sciohost.org/states/?p=3

THE LATEST FROM KEVIN PADIAN

Kevin Padian, who serves as president of NCSE's board of directors, is continuing to speak and write in enthusiastic defense of the teaching of evolution. To inaugurate Evolution '09, San Francisco's celebration of the bicentennial of Darwin's birth and the sesquicentennial of the publication of the Origin of Species, Padian spent about sixty minutes in a spirited and lively discussion of evolution and religion with Alan Jones, the dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, on November 22, 2008. Now video of the event is available on-line from Fora.tv. Discussing the challenge of educating the public about evolution, Padian suggested that scientists need to talk about the major transitions in evolution -- his specialty as a vertebrate paleontologist -- "faster, harder, and more often." For specifics, see his commentary in the February 2008 issue of Geotimes and his article in Integrative and Comparative Biology 2008; 48 (2): 175-188.

Additionally, Padian discusses "The evolution of creationists in the United States: Where are they now, and where are they going?" in a forthcoming paper in Comptes Rendus Biologies, the proceedings of the French Academy of Sciences for life sciences. There he writes, "As evolutionary biology in all its forms continues to bring forth amazing new insights from the origin of whales to the evolution of microbial resistance, one would think that the anti-evolutionists would have less to cling to each year, and that they would give up their arguments as disproven misapprehensions. They will not, despite recent victories against ID as science and the lunacy of 'creation science'. Creationists reject the notion of a rational universe because they believe that evolution depends upon the dominance of 'random processes' that allow no divine direction or teleological goal. This is the core of the resistance to evolution in America, and it will not go away anytime soon."

In addition to serving as president of NCSE's board of directors, Padian is Professor of Integrative Biology at the University of California at Berkeley and also Curator of Paleontology at the University of California's Museum of Paleontology. He recently received the 2008 Western Evolutionary Biologist of the Year award from the Network for Experimental Research on Evolution. He testified for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the 2005 case establishing the unconstitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools. In his decision, Judge John E. Jones III wrote, "Padian's demonstrative slides, prepared on the basis of peer-review[ed] scientific literature, illustrate how Pandas systematically distorts and misrepresents established, important evolutionary principles." He also noted that "Padian bluntly and effectively stated that in confusing students about science generally and evolution in particular, the disclaimer makes students 'stupid.'"

For the video of Padian's talk with Jones, visit: http://fora.tv/2007/11/04/Kevin_Padian_Investigating_Evolution
For Padian's commentary in Geotimes, visit: http://www.geotimes.org/feb08/article.html?id=comment.html
For Padian's article in Integrative and Comparative Biology (subscription required), visit: http://icb.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/48/2/175
For Padian's paper in Comptes Rendus Biologies (subscription required), visit: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.crvi.2008.07.004
For information about Padian's Webby award, visit: http://nere.bio.uci.edu/
For Padian's testimony in Kitzmiller, with the slides he used, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/creationism/legal/padians-expert-testimony
For the Kitzmiller decision (PDF), visit: http://www.pamd.uscourts.gov/kitzmiller/kitzmiller_342.pdf

CATCHING UP WITH RNCSE

Selected content from volume 28, number 2, of Reports of the National Center for Science Education is now available on NCSE's website. Featured are NCSE's Josh Rosenau's account of how the e-word -- evolution -- was finally included in Florida's state science standards and NCSE's Glenn Branch's report on the Texas Higher Education Coordination Board's decision to deny the Institute for Creation Research authority to offer a graduate degree in science education. And there are reviews, too: NCSE Supporter G. Brent Dalrymple discusses Pascal Richet's A Natural History of Time, Ken Feder reviews David Standish's Hollow Earth, and Kevin C. Armitage assesses Michael Lienesch's In the Beginning: Fundamentalism, The Scopes Trial, and the Making of the Antievolution Movement.

If you like what you see, why not subscribe to RNCSE today? The next issue (volume 28, numbers 5-6) is a special issue devoted to debunking the recent creationist propaganda film, Expelled, containing not only the material already to be found at Expelled Exposed, but also reports on the reception of Expelled at the box office, among critics, and in Canada; a summary of the ways in which organizations with a stake in the creationism/evolution controversy reacted to the film; a summary of the various controversies over Expelled's use of copyrighted material; and a detailed explanation of Expelled's unsuitability for the classroom. Don't miss out -- subscribe now!

For selected content from RNCSE 28:2, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/rncse/28/2
For Expelled Exposed, visit: http://www.expelledexposed.com/
For subscription information for RNCSE, visit: http://www.sncseweb.org/membership

Evolution education update: November 28, 2008

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Video and audio of Barbara Forrest's recent talk in Texas is now available. Plus NCSE Supporter Philip Kitcher wins a Lannan Literary Award for his Living with Darwin. And a new batch of selected content from NCSE's journal is now available on-line.

BARBARA FORREST IN TEXAS

Barbara Forrest explained "Why Texans Shouldn't Let Creationists Mess with Science Education" on November 11, 2008, at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Now video and audio of her talk is available on-line. The talk was sponsored by the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, and the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, the Center for Teaching Excellence, the Department of Anthropology, the Department of Biological Sciences, and the Department of Philosophy in the Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences at Southern Methodist University.

Forrest is a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University; she is also a member of NCSE's board of directors. She coauthored (with Paul R. Gross) Creationism's Trojan Horse (rev. ed., Oxford U.P. 2007). She also testified for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover, and Judge Jones wrote in his ruling, "Barbara Forrest ... has thoroughly and exhaustively chronicled the history of ID in her book and other writings for her testimony in this case. Her testimony, and the exhibits ... admitted with it, provide a wealth of statements by ID leaders that reveal ID's religious, philosophical, and cultural content."

For video and audio of Forrest's talk, visit:
http://smu.edu/flashvideo/?id=248
http://smu.edu/newsinfo/audio/barbara-forrest-11nov2008.mp3
For information about Creationism's Trojan Horse, visit: http://www.creationismstrojanhorse.com/

CONGRATULATIONS TO PHILIP KITCHER

Philip Kitcher's Living with Darwin: Evolution, Design, and the Future of Faith (Oxford U.P., 2006) was the recipient of a Lannan Literary Award for Notable Book for 2008 from the Lannan Foundation, which "hopes to stimulate the creation of literature written originally in the English language and to develop a wider audience for contemporary prose and poetry." The award includes a $75,000 prize. A Supporter of NCSE, Kitcher is the John Dewey Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University.

Discussing Living with Darwin in BioScience, NCSE deputy director Glenn Branch wrote that Kitcher's aim was "not only to debunk intelligent design and expound the case for evolution but also 'to respond to the concerns of the thoughtful people who are beguiled by the advertisements for intelligent design, to expose just what it is that is threatening about Darwinism, and to point to the deeper issues that underlie this recurrent conflict' ... He succeeds brilliantly."

For information about Living with Darwin, visit: http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Philosophy/?view=usa&ci=9780195314441
For information about the award, visit: http://www.lannan.org/lf/lit/awards-list/by-last-name/P80/12583
For Glenn Branch's comments in BioScience (PDF), visit: http://www.bioone.org/archive/0006-3568/57/3/pdf/i0006-3568-57-3-278.pdf

CATCHING UP WITH RNCSE

Selected content from volume 28, number 1, of Reports of the National Center for Science Education is now available on NCSE's website. Featured are Barbara Forrest's commentary on the forced resignation of Chris Comer from the Texas Education Agency, NCSE's Louise S. Mead's report at a symposium aimed at training teachers how to use the latest creationist textbook, Explore Evolution, in the classroom, and Ulrich Kutschera's latest report on creationism in Germany. And there are reviews, too: David Morrison discusses the late Robert Schadewald's Worlds of Their Own and Rebecca J. Flietstra assesses Deborah B. Haarsma and Loren D. Haarsma's Origins: A Reformed Look at Creation, Design, & Evolution.

If you like what you see, why not subscribe to RNCSE today? The next issue (volume 28, numbers 5-6) is a special issue devoted to debunking the recent creationist propaganda film, Expelled, containing not only the material already to be found at Expelled Exposed, but also reports on the reception of Expelled at the box office, among critics, and in Canada; a summary of the ways in which organizations with a stake in the creationism/evolution controversy reacted to the film; a summary of the various controversies over Expelled's use of copyrighted material; and a detailed explanation of Expelled's unsuitability for the classroom. Don't miss out -- subscribe now!

For selected content from RNCSE 28:1, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/rncse/28/1
For Expelled Exposed, visit: http://www.expelledexposed.com/
For subscription information for RNCSE, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/membership

Evolution education update: November 7, 2008

Dear Friends of NCSE,

In Florida, the new state science standards may have to be reconsidered, while the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, will be hosting a multidisciplinary student conference on "Darwin's Legacy: Evolution's Impact on Science and Culture."

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD IN FLORIDA?

After a long and contentious wrangle, the Florida state board of education voted 4-3 at its February 19, 2008, meeting to adopt a new set of state science standards in which evolution is presented as a "fundamental concept underlying all of biology." But now there are concerns that, due to a recent state law, the standards will have to be approved again. The St. Petersburg Times (November 6, 2008) explains, "The new law requires the state Board of Education to adopt new academic standards by the end of 2011. That may include a new set of science standards, because the Board of Education adopted the latest standards a few months before the bill passed and was signed into law by Gov. Charlie Crist."

It is not yet clear whether the standards will indeed have to be approved again, but Brian Moore, a staff attorney, with the state legislature's Joint Administrative Procedures Committee (which reviews the rules proposed by state agencies to ensure that they are in compliance with state law), told the department of education that he thought so. According to Education Week's curriculum blog (November 5, 2008), "It's possible, Moore explained, that Florida's commissioner of education could seek to have various experts certify that the recently approved science standards comply with the Next Generation law. But it appears likely that new standards would have to be re-approved in some form by the state board of education."

If so, the prospect of a renewed fight over the treatment of evolution in the standards looms. "Hallelujah" was the response of Terry Kemple, who opposed the treatment of evolution in the new standards. "This is an opportunity for both sides to step back and let this be a fairer endeavor," he said. Brandon Haught of the grassroots organization Florida Citizens for Science told the Times, "Maybe the legislators simply overlooked this and there's a simple solution," adding that the group would "hope for the best but plan for the worst." For now, the situation remains uncertain. A spokesperson for the department of education told the Times, "We are currently researching the matter so there are no specifics to offer at this point."

For the story in the St. Petersburg Times, visit: Evolution education update: March 27, 2009

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Plenty of news in Texas, as the state board of education prepares to conduct its final vote on the state science standards. New Mexico's antievolution bill is dead. And NCSE Supporter Stephen G. Brush is to receive the 2009 Abraham Pais Prize for the History of Physics.

"STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES" NIXED IN TEXAS AGAIN

The Texas state board of education again narrowly voted against a proposal to restore the controversial "strengths and weaknesses" language to the set of state science standards now under review. As the Dallas Morning News (March 26, 2009) reported, "Board members deadlocked 7-7 on a motion to restore a long-time curriculum rule that 'strengths and weaknesses' of all scientific theories -- notably Charles Darwin's theory of evolution -- be taught in science classes and covered in textbooks for those subjects. Voting for the requirement were the seven Republican board members aligned with social conservative groups. Against the proposal were three other Republicans and four Democrats." A final vote is expected on March 27, 2009, but the outcome is not likely to change . It remains to be seen whether the board will vote to rescind the flawed amendments undermining the teaching of evolution proposed at the board's January 2009 meeting.

The debate is attracting national attention, with the Wall Street Journal (March 23, 2009) quoting NCSE's Steven Newton as saying, "This is the most specific assault I've seen against evolution and modern science," and the Washington Post (March 24, 2009) editorially urging, "The Texas State Board of Education must hold firm to its decision to strip the 'strengths and weaknesses' language from the state's science standard. Texans, like everyone else, are free to believe what they want, but in science class, they should teach science." Closer to home, the Dallas Morning News (March 25, 2009) editorially commented, "Doubting evolution shouldn't be Texas' legacy. More importantly, our students should not be subject to an erroneous line of teaching," and reminded its readers that because Texas is such a huge market for textbooks, "what happens in Texas doesn't stay here."

Writing in the Guardian (March 26, 2009), Jerry Coyne echoed the sentiment: "What happens in Texas doesn't stay in Texas. That state is a sizeable consumer of public school textbooks, and it's likely that if it waters down its science standards, textbook publishers all over the country will follow suit. This makes every American school hostage to the caprices of a few benighted Texas legislators." (House Bill 4224, introduced in the Texas House of Representatives on March 13, 2009, would, if enacted, require the Texas state board of education to restore the "strengths and weaknesses" language in the Texas state science standards.) A professor of the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, Coyne is the author of Why Evolution is True (Viking, 2009), which NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott recently praised in Nature as "a good choice to give to the neighbour or teacher who wants to know more about evolutionary biology."

NCSE's Joshua Rosenau and Eugenie C. Scott are in Austin for the meeting; both testified on March 25, 2009. Detailed, candid, and often uninhibited running commentary on the proceedings is available on a number of blogs: Texas Citizens for Science's Steven Schafersman is blogging and posting photographs on the Houston Chronicle's Evo.Sphere blog, the Texas Freedom Network is blogging on its TFN Insider blog, and NCSE's Joshua Rosenau is blogging on his personal blog, Thoughts from Kansas (hosted by ScienceBlogs). For those wanting to get their information from the horse's mouth, minutes and audio recordings of the board meeting will be available on the Texas Education Agency's website. NCSE's previous reports on events in Texas are available on-line, and of course NCSE will continue to monitor the situation as well as to assist those defending the teaching of evolution in the Lone Star State.

For the story in the Dallas Morning News, visit: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/032609dntexevolution.72be216f.html
For the story in the Wall Street Journal, visit: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123777413372910705.html
For the editorial in the Washington Post, visit: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/24/AR2009032403356.html
For the editorial in the Dallas Morning News, visit: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/opinion/editorials/stories/DN-science_0326edi.State.Edition1.212982b.html
For Jerry Coyne's op-ed in the Guardian, visit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/mar/26/evolution-science-texas-school-board
To purchase Why Evolution is True from Amazon.com (and benefit NCSE in the process), visit: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/asin/0670020532/nationalcenter02/
For Eugenie C. Scott's review in Nature (subscription required), visit: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v458/n7234/full/458034a.html
For the blog coverage of the hearings, visit:
http://www.chron.com/commons/readerblogs/evosphere.html
http://tfnblog.wordpress.com/
http://www.scienceblogs.com/tfk/
For the minutes and records from the TEA, visit:
http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/minutes_archived.html
http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/audio_archived.html
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/texas

TEXAS NEEDS TO GET IT RIGHT

As the Texas state board of education prepares for its final vote on a new set of state science standards, no fewer than fifty-four scientific and educational societies are calling for the approval of the standards as originally submitted -- without misleading language about "strengths and weaknesses" and without the flawed amendments undermining the teaching of evolution proposed at the board's January 2009 meeting. In their statement, organized by the National Center for Science Education, the societies write, "Evolution is the foundation of modern biology, and is also crucial in fields as diverse as agriculture, computer science, engineering, geology, and medicine. We oppose any efforts to undermine the teaching of biological evolution and related topics in the earth and space sciences, whether by misrepresenting those subjects, or by inaccurately and misleadingly describing them as controversial and in need of special scrutiny." (The full statement is reproduced below.)

Independently, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the Paleontological Society, the National Association of Biology Teachers, and the Texas Association of Biology Teachers have issued their own statements, collected by Texas Citizens for Science, with advice for the Texas state board of education as it considers its final vote on the standards. And the AAAS's president Peter Agre (a Nobel laureate) and chief executive officer Alan I. Leshner contributed a commentary to the San Antonio Express-News (March 23, 2009), concluding, "Leveraging science and technology to create new jobs will require properly educating all potential innovators. It's time for the Texas State Board of Education to reject misleading amendments to science education standards, once and for all. As Texas science education standards go, so goes the nation. Texas needs to get it right."

***
A Message to the Texas State Board of Education

The undersigned scientific and educational societies call on the Texas State Board of Education to support accurate science education for all students by adopting the science standards (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills or TEKS) as recommended to you by the scientists and educators on your writing committees.

Evolution is the foundation of modern biology, and is also crucial in fields as diverse as agriculture, computer science, engineering, geology, and medicine. We oppose any efforts to undermine the teaching of biological evolution and related topics in the earth and space sciences, whether by misrepresenting those subjects, or by inaccurately and misleadingly describing them as controversial and in need of special scrutiny.

At its January 2009 meeting, the Texas Board of Education rightly rejected attempts to add language to the TEKS about "strengths and weaknesses" -- used in past efforts to undermine the teaching of evolution in Texas. We urge the Board to stand firm in rejecting any such attempts to compromise the teaching of evolution.

At its January 2009 meeting, the Board also adopted a series of amendments to the TEKS that misrepresent biological evolution and related topics in the earth and space sciences. We urge the Board to heed the advice of the scientific community and the experienced scientists and educators who drafted the TEKS: reject these and any other amendments which single out evolution for scrutiny beyond that applied to other scientific theories.

By adopting the TEKS crafted by your expert writing committees, the Board will serve the best educational interests of students in Texas's public schools.

American Anthropological Association
American Association of Physical Anthropologists
American Association of Physicists in Medicine
American Association of Physics Teachers
American Astronomical Society
American Geological Institute
American Institute for Biological Sciences
American Institute of Physics
American Physiological Society
American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
American Society for Cell Biology
American Society for Investigative Pathology
American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
American Society of Human Genetics
American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
American Society of Naturalists
American Society of Plant Biologists
American Society of Plant Taxonomists
Association for Women Geoscientists
Association of American Geographers
Association of Anatomy, Cell Biology, and Neurobiology Chairs
Association of College & University Biology Educators
Association of Earth Science Editors
Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists
Biological Sciences Curriculum Study
Biotechnology Institute
Botanical Society of America
Clay Minerals Society
Council on Undergraduate Research
Ecological Society of America
Federation for American Societies for Experimental Biology
Federation of American Scientists
Human Biology Association
Institute of Human Origins
National Association of Biology Teachers
National Association of Geoscience Teachers
National Earth Science Teachers Association
National Science Teachers Association
Natural Science Collection Alliance
Paleontological Society
Scientists and Engineers for America
Society for American Archaeology
Society for Developmental Biology
Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology
Society for Sedimentary Geology
Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles
Society for the Study of Evolution
Society of Economic Geologists
Society of Systematic Biologists
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
Southwestern Association of Naturalists
The Biophysical Society
The Helminthological Society of Washington
The Herpetologists' League
For the statement (PDF), visit: http://ncseweb.org/webfm_send/797
For Texas Citizens for Science's collection of statements, visit: http://www.texscience.org/
For Agre and Leshner's op-ed in the San Antonio Express-News, visit: http://www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/Texas_case_threatens_education_and_competitiveness_nationally.html
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/texas

ANTIEVOLUTION BILL DEAD IN NEW MEXICO

New Mexico's Senate Bill 433 died in committee when the legislature adjourned sine die on March 21, 2009. The bill, if enacted, would have required schools to allow teachers to inform students "about relevant scientific information regarding either the scientific strengths or scientific weaknesses pertaining to biological evolution or chemical evolution," protecting teachers who choose to do so from "reassignment, termination, discipline or other discrimination." SB 433 joins Iowa's House File 183 and Oklahoma's Senate Bill 320 as proposed "academic freedom" antievolution bills that failed in 2009; Alabama's House Bill 300 and Missouri's House Bill 656 are still active.

The bill mentioned only "biological evolution or chemical evolution," but its sponsor, Kent Cravens (R-District 27), described it as having wider applicability, telling the Santa Fe New Mexican (March 3, 2009), that it "just asks that if there's a controversial scientific theory being presented, that a teacher can't be reprimanded or fired or downgraded or any way harmed if the teacher happens to mention that there are other theories of controversial scientific nature, to include biological evolution, human cloning, global warming, you name a dozen different things." In a post at The Panda's Thumb blog (March 21, 2009), Dave Thomas suggested that Cravens may have intended to revise his bill accordingly.

Analyses of the bill performed by various state agencies were not enthusiastic. According to the Legislative Education Study Committee's summary analysis, the Public Education Department was worried that the bill would allow the teaching of creationism, thereby inviting litigation; the Higher Education Department observed that the New Mexico state science standards already require students to understand the evidential basis for evolution; and the Office of Education Accountability questioned the bill's premises "that the theory of evolution lacks scientific validity ... and that teachers and students need protection when addressing 'relevant scientific strengths or scientific weakness pertaining to biological evolution or chemical evolution.'"

For New Mexico's SB 433 as introduced, visit: http://www.nmlegis.gov/Sessions/09%20Regular/bills/senate/SB0433.html
For the article in the Santa Fe New Mexican, visit: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/Bill-protects--controversial-science--teaching
For Dave Thomas's post at The Panda's Thumb, visit: http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2009/03/another-discove.html
For the LESC's analysis (PDF), visit: http://www.nmlegis.gov/Sessions/09%20Regular/LESCAnalysis/SB0433.pdf
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in New Mexico, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/new-mexico

BRUSH AWARDED THE 2009 PAIS PRIZE

NCSE Supporter Stephen G. Brush was selected by the American Physical Society and the American Institute of Physics to receive the 2009 Abraham Pais Prize for the History of Physics "for his pioneering, in-depth studies in the history of nineteenth and twentieth-century physics," according to a story in the spring 2009 History of Physics Newsletter. Beginning his career as a physicist, Brush turned to the history of physics, publishing a number of historical monographs, including The Kind of Motion We Call Heat: A History of the Kinetic Theory of Gases in the 19th Century (North-Holland, 1976), which won the History of Science Society's Pfizer Award. He also coauthored the popular textbook Physics, the Human Adventure: From Copernicus to Einstein and Beyond (Rutgers University Press, 2001) with Gerald Holton. On retiring from the University of Maryland in 2006, he was named Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of the History of Science. Among his writings relevant to the creationism/evolution controversy are "Creationism versus physical science" and two refutations of creationist misuse of the history of science -- "Kelvin was not a creationist" and "Popper and evolution" -- for NCSE's journals. He is also Steve #71 in NCSE's Project Steve (now with over 1075 Steves).
For the story in the History of Physics Newsletter, visit: http://www.aps.org/units/fhp/newsletters/spring2009/pais.cfm
For the cited articles by Brush, visit:
http://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/200011/back-page.cfm
http://ncseweb.org/cej/3/2/kelvin-was-not-creationist
http://ncseweb.org/ncser/13/4/popper-evolution > > For information about Project Steve, visit: > http://ncseweb.org/taking-action/project-steve

Evolution education update: March 13, 2009

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Texas is in the headlines again, with a new bill that appears to be intended to exempt the Institute for Creation Research's graduate school from state regulation as well as a profile of Don McLeroy, the avowed creationist who chairs the state board of education, in the Austin American-Statesman. Meanwhile, a legislator in Oklahoma, outraged by the prospect of Richard Dawkins visiting the University of Oklahoma, introduced two antievolution resolutions -- and Dawkins responded.

LEGISLATIVE SALVATION FOR THE ICR?

House Bill 2800, introduced in the Texas House of Representatives on March 9, 2009, would, if enacted, in effect exempt institutions such as the Institute for Creation Research's graduate school from Texas's regulations governing degree-granting institutions. The bill's sole sponsor is Leo Berman (R-District 6), a member of the House Higher Education Committee. A member of NCSE called Berman's office to ask whether the bill would apply to the ICR's graduate school; a staffer answered that he thought that it would, adding that he believed that the bill's objective was to aid institutions that want to teach creation science or intelligent design. Berman himself seems not to have offered any public statement about HB 2800 so far.

As NCSE's Glenn Branch recounted in Reports of the NCSE, "When the Institute for Creation Research moved its headquarters from Santee, California, to Dallas, Texas, in June 2007, it expected to be able to continue offering a master's degree in science education from its graduate school. ... But the state's scientific and educational leaders voiced their opposition, and at its April 24, 2008, meeting, the Texas Higher Education Coordination Board unanimously voted to deny the ICR's request for a state certificate of authority to offer the degree." Following the Texas Higher Education Coordination Board's decision, the ICR appealed the decision, while also taking its case to the court of public opinion with a series of press releases and advertisements in Texas newspapers.

Now, however, it seems that HB 2800 would take the matter out of the board's hands altogether. Subchapter G of Chapter 61 of Texas's Education Code serves to regulate "the use of academic terminology in naming or otherwise designating educational institutions, the advertising, solicitation or representation by educational institutions or their agents, and the maintenance and preservation of essential academic records"; it provides, inter alia, "A person may not grant or award a degree or offer to grant or award a degree on behalf of a private postsecondary educational institution unless the institution has been issued a certificate of authority to grant the degree by the board [that is, the Texas Higher Education Coordination Board] in accordance with the provisions of this subchapter."

HB 2800 would amend subchapter G by providing, "The provisions of this subchapter do not apply to a private educational institution, including a separate degree-granting program, unit, or school operated by the institution, that: (1) does not accept state funding of any kind to support its educational programs; (2) does not accept state-administered federal funding to support its educational programs; (3) was formed as or is affiliated with or controlled by a nonprofit corporation or nonprofit unincorporated organization; and (4) offers bona fide degree programs that require students to complete substantive course work in order to receive a degree from the institution." Presumably the ICR would argue that its graduate school satisfies all four requirements.

For Texas's HB 2800 as introduced (PDF), visit: http://www.legis.state.tx.us/tlodocs/81R/billtext/pdf/HB02800I.pdf
For the story in Reports of the NCSE, visit: http://ncseweb.org/rncse/28/2/setback-icr-texas
For chapter 61 of Texas's Education Code, visit: http://tlo2.tlc.state.tx.us/statutes/docs/ED/content/htm/ed.003.00.000061.00.htm
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/texas

CREATIONIST BOARD CHAIR PROFILED

As the final vote on the proposed revision of the Texas state science standards approaches, the Austin American-Statesman (March 8, 2009) offers a profile of the chair of the Texas state board of education, avowed creationist Don McLeroy. Describing his conversion to fundamentalism as a dental student, the profile explained, "He is now a young earth creationist, meaning that he believes God created Earth between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago," quoting him as saying, "When I became a Christian, it was whole-hearted ... I was totally convinced the biblical principles were right, and I was totally convinced that it could be accurate scientifically." Particularly important to McLeroy is the biblical tenet that humans were created in the image of God -- although Sid Hall, a Methodist pastor in Austin, told the newspaper, "I would never want to discount those works, but to take [the passage that humans were made in the image of God] to mean something about how the universe is created is a stretch to me ... That's code to me for 'I'm going to take my particular myth of creationism and make it part of the science curriculum.' That's scary to me."

At the board's January 21-23, 2009, meeting, McLeroy successfully proposed a revision to section 7 of the draft of the high school biology standards to require that students "analyze and evaluate the sufficiency or insufficiency of common ancestry to explain the sudden appearance, stasis and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record." As NCSE explains in its call to Texas scientists, the requirement is not only unworkable and confusing, but also evidently intended to promote the idea that living things were specially created in their current forms. Moreover, a detailed analysis by the Stand Up for Real Science blog strongly suggests that the documentation that McLeroy provided in support of his revision at the January meeting was in fact taken wholesale from creationist sources. Undaunted, McLeroy told the American-Statesman that at the board's March 25-27, 2009, meeting, he plans to "pitch another idea that he says should be taught in public schools: the insufficiency of natural selection to explain the complexity of cells" -- apparently a reference to the "intelligent design" notion of "irreducible complexity" due to Michael Behe.

David Hillis of the University of Texas, Austin, told the newspaper, "McLeroy's amendments are not even intelligible. I wonder if perhaps he wants the standards to be confusing so that he can open the door to attacking mainstream biology textbooks and arguing for the addition of creationist and other religious literature into the science classroom." He added, "If Chairman McLeroy is successful in adding his amendments, it will be a huge embarrassment to Texas, a setback for science education and a terrible precedent for the state boards overriding academic experts in order to further their personal religious or political agendas. The victims will be the schoolchildren of Texas, who represent the future of our state." Hillis is also a member of the Advisory Committee of the 21st Century Science Coalition, which has recruited over 1400 Texas scientists to endorse its call for the Texas state board of education to adopt state science standards that "acknowledge that instruction on evolution is vital to understanding all the biological sciences" and omit "all references to 'strengths and weaknesses,' which politicians have used to introduce supernatural explanations into science courses."

Preparing for the March 25-27 board meeting at which the final vote on the standards is expected, McLeroy is arming himself with "a large binder that is adorned on the front with a picture of Albert Einstein" and contains "numerous passages from books -- such as [Kenneth R.] Miller's and others on evolutionary theory -- and articles that he plans to use as ammunition in the fight this month over what should be in the state's science standards." One page from his binder, the American-Statesman reports, shows a diagram of the fossil record from a book by Miller, with McLeroy's gloss, "What do we see?" 'Sudden appearance' of species." Miller -- a professor of biology at Brown University and a Supporter of NCSE, who recently received the Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in recognition of "his sustained efforts and excellence in communicating evolutionary science" -- told the newspaper, "That diagram shows evolution. If he thinks it says evolution does not occur, he is dead wrong. It's really quite the opposite."

For the profile of McLeroy, visit: http://www.statesman.com/news/content/region/legislature/stories/03/08/0308mcleroy.html
For NCSE's call to Texas scientists, visit: http://ncseweb.org/creationism/analysis/analysis-proposed-texas-educational-knowledge-skills-teks-am
For the Stand Up for Real Science blog's analysis, visit: http://www.anevolvingcreation.net/collapse/index.htm
For the 21st Century Science Coalition, visit: http://www.texasscientists.org/
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/texas

ANTIEVOLUTION RESOLUTIONS INTRODUCED IN OKLAHOMA

Two bills in the Oklahoma House of Representatives -- House Resolution 1014 and House Resolution 1015, introduced on March 3, 2009 - attack Richard Dawkins's visit to the University of Oklahoma. The sole sponsor of both bills is Todd Thomsen (R-District 25), a member of the House Education Committee and the chair of the House Higher Education and Career Tech Committee. Both measures, if adopted, would express the strong opposition of the Oklahoma House of Representatives to "the invitation to speak on the campus of the University of Oklahoma to Richard Dawkins of Oxford University, whose published statements on the theory of evolution and opinion about those who do not believe in the theory are contrary and offensive to the views and opinions of most citizens of Oklahoma." Dawkins spoke at the University of Oklahoma on March 6, 2009, as part of the university's celebrations of the Darwin anniversaries.

While HR 1015 ends with a plea for civility -- "the Oklahoma House of Representatives encourages the University of Oklahoma to engage in an open, dignified, and fair discussion of the Darwinian theory of evolution and all other scientific theories which is the approach that a public institution should be engaged in and which represents the desire and interest of the citizens of Oklahoma" -- HR 1014 attacks the University of Oklahoma's Department of Zoology for "framing the Darwinian theory of evolution as doctrinal dogmatism rather than a hypothetical construction within the disciplines of the sciences" and engaging in "one-sided indoctrination of an unproven and unpopular theory" while branding "all thinking in dissent of this theory as anti-intellectual and backward rather than nurturing such free thinking and allowing a free discussion of all ideas which is the primary purpose of a university."

At the beginning of his talk, which was repeatedly interrupted by cheers and applause, Dawkins opened by saying, "I don't want to blow my own trumpet, but it isn't everybody who's the subject of legislation ..." Quoting HR 1014's complaint of his alleged "intolerance for cultural diversity and diversity of thinking," he presented the stork theory of human reproduction -- illustrated with a parody of the creationist propaganda film Expelled -- as a view comparable to creationism. "They've lost in the courts of law; they've long ago lost in the halls of science; and they continue to lose with every new piece of evidence in support of evolution. Taking offense is all they've got left. And the one thing you can be sure of is that they don't actually know anything about what it is that they reject," he added. He also announced that the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science would be donating $5000 to Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, which fights against attempts to undermine evolution education in Oklahoma.

For the text of Oklahoma's HR 1014 and 1015 as introduced (documents), visit:
http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/2009-10HB/HR1014_int.rtf
http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/2009-10HB/HR1015_int.rtf
For information about the University of Oklahoma's celebrations, visit: http://www.ou.edu/darwin/Site/Home.html
For videos of the beginning of Dawkins's talk, visit: http://richarddawkins.net/article,3646,Richard-Dawkins-at-the-University-of-Oklahoma---Introduction,Richard-Dawkins
For information about the Dawkins Foundation, visit: http://richarddawkinsfoundation.org/
For Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, visit: http://www.oklascience.org/
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Oklahoma, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/oklahoma

Evolution education update: February 27, 2009

Dear Friends of NCSE,

The thousandth signatory to NCSE's Project Steve arrived -- just in time for the Darwin anniversary celebrations! Plus NCSE is making a sample chapter from the second edition of Eugenie C. Scott's acclaimed Evolution vs. Creationism available. And a journal is calling for papers for a special issue on the teaching of evolution in a university setting.

PROJECT STEVE: N > 1000

With the addition of Steve #1000 on September 5, 2008, NCSE's Project Steve attained the kilosteve mark. A tongue-in-cheek parody of the long-standing creationist tradition of amassing lists of "scientists who doubt evolution" or "scientists who dissent from Darwinism," Project Steve mocks such lists by restricting its signatories to scientists whose first name is Steve. (Cognates are also accepted, such as Stephanie, Esteban, Istvan, Stefano, or even Tapani -- the Finnish equivalent.) About 1% of the United States population possesses such a first name, so each signatory represents about 100 potential signatories. ("Steve" was selected in honor of the late Stephen Jay Gould, a Supporter of NCSE and a dauntless defender of evolution education.)

Steve #1000 was announced at the Improbable Research press conference and crowned at the Improbable Research show, both held on February 13, 2008, as part of the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott and Steve Mirsky, long-time writer, columnist, and podcaster for Scientific American presented a commemorative plaque to -- of all people -- Steven P. Darwin, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and director of the herbarium at Tulane University. In a February 14, 2009, press release, Darwin commented, "This is the first time that being a Darwin - or a Steve - has paid off!" Videos of the press conference and the award ceremony, and a Scientific American podcast, are available on-line.

The fact that Steve #1000 hails from Louisiana is particularly ironic, since the state recently enacted a law that threatens to open the door for creationism and scientifically unwarranted critiques of evolution to be taught in public school science classes. When a policy implementing the law was drafted, a provision that prohibited the use of materials that teach creationism in the public schools was deleted. Recently, the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology announced that, due to the antievolution law, it would not hold its 2011 conference in New Orleans; a spokesperson for the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau told the weekly New Orleans City Business (February 23, 2009) that the city would lose about $2.7 million as a result of SICB's decision.

Although the idea of Project Steve is frivolous, the statement is serious. It reads, "Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to 'intelligent design,' to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools."

Highlights from the history of Project Steve include the original press release, Glenn Branch and Skip Evans's description of the project for Geotimes, the announcement that Steven W. Hawking was Steve #300, the announcement (on St. Stephen's Day!) of Steve #400, and the announcements of Steves #600, #700, #800, and #900. And, of course, Project Steve proved to be scientifically fruitful in its own right. "The Morphology of Steve," by Eugenie C. Scott, Glenn Branch, Nick Matzke, and several hundred Steves, appeared in the prestigious Annals of Improbable Research; the paper provided "the first scientific analysis of the sex, geographic location, and body size of scientists named Steve."

Currently, there are 1046 signatories to Project Steve, including 100% of eligible Nobel laureates (Steven Weinberg and Steven Chu), 100% of eligible members of President Obama's Cabinet (Steven Chu, the Secretary of Energy), at least ten members of the National Academy of Sciences, the authors of widely used textbooks such as Molecular Biology of the Gene, Psychology: An Evolutionary Approach, and Introduction to Organic Geochemistry, and the authors of popular science books such as A Brief History of Time, Why We Age, and Darwin's Ghost. When last surveyed in February 2006, 54% of the signatories work in the biological sciences proper; 61% work in related fields in the life sciences.

Additionally, Project Steve appeared in Steven Pinker's recent book, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature (Viking, 2007). Pinker, himself a single-digit Steve, described it as "the most formidable weapon in the fight against neo-creationism today," adding, "Part satire, part memorial to Stephen Jay Gould, the project maintains a Steve-O-Meter (now pointing past 800) and has spun off a T-shirt, a song, a mascot (Professor Steve Steve, a panda puppet), and a paper in the respected scientific journal Annals of Improbable Research called 'The Morphology of Steve' (based on the T-shirt sizes ordered by the signatories)."

For the 2009 press release, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/2009/02/steve-darwin-is-steve-1000-004308
For the videos and podcast, visit:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXEGfi9t7yU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgZTrdZL2Go
http://www.sciam.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=count-on-steves-to-defend-darwin-09-02-20
For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/louisiana
For the story in New Orleans City Business, visit: http://www.neworleanscitybusiness.com/viewStory.cfm?recID=32768
For the 2003 press release, visit: http://ncseweb.org/taking-action/project-steve-press-release
For Branch and Evans's report in Geotimes, visit: http://www.geotimes.org/may03/column.html
And for "The Morphology of Steve" (PDF), visit: http://improbable.com/pages/airchives/paperair/volume10/v10i4/morph-steve-10-4.pdf

NEW BOOK, FREE CHAPTER

NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott's book Evolution vs. Creationism is now available in a second edition, updated to include the seminal case Kitzmiller v. Dover -- in which a federal court found that it was unconstitutional to teach "intelligent design" creationism in the public schools -- as well as a new chapter on public opinion and media coverage and a new foreword by Judge John E. Jones III, who presided over the Kitzmiller trial.

The first edition of the book was praised by reviewers in The New York Times Book Review, Science Education, Choice (which named it a 2005 Outstanding Academic Title), the Journal of the History of Biology, Science Books & Films, Perspectives in Science and Christian Faith, Theology and Science, the Toronto Globe & Mail, and even the Institute for Creation Research's Back to Genesis.

Want to see for yourself? Now's your chance. For a limited time, we've posted a sample chapter -- chapter 1, on "Science: Truth without Certainty" from the book. It's yours to download, read, print out, and share with others. See for yourself why the reviewer for NSTA Recommends concluded, "Evolution vs. Creationism would be an excellent resource for any science teacher, especially those who teach biology or the nature of science."

For the sample chapter (PDF), visit: http://ncseweb.org/files/pub/creationism/Evo%20vs.%20Creationism--2nd%20edition--Chapter%201.pdf
For further information about Evolution vs. Creationism, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/evc

CALL FOR PAPERS: TEACHING EVOLUTION IN THE CLASSROOM

The Journal of Effective Teaching, a peer-reviewed electronic journal devoted to the discussion of teaching excellence in colleges and universities, is calling for papers for a special issue on the teaching of evolution in a university setting. Topics may include Darwinism in the history and philosophy of science, politics, and religion; evolution and the nature of science; barriers in the understanding of evolution; strategies for teaching controversial issues related to evolution and/or Darwinism; educational research in the teaching of evolution; challenging preconceptions in the classroom, and engaging students who have strong religious views in scientific investigations as part of a liberal arts degree. Articles will be accepted until May 1, 2009.

For the call for papers (PDF), visit: http://www.uncw.edu/cte/ET/documents%5CCallForPapersSpecial.pdf
For information about the Journal of Effective Teaching, visit: http://www.uncw.edu/cte/ET/

Evolution education update: January 2, 2009

Dear Friends of NCSE,

The journal Nature provides a new resource summarizing fifteen lines of evidence for evolution by natural selection. Meanwhile, Expelled makes a brief and inglorious appearance in newspapers again, and the Geological Society of Australia reaffirms its stance against creationism.

EVOLUTIONARY GEMS FROM NATURE

"15 Evolutionary Gems" is a new resource summarizing fifteen lines of evidence for evolution by natural selection, provided by the journal Nature. The editors explain, "About a year ago, an Editorial in these pages urged scientists and their institutions to 'spread the word' and highlight reasons why scientists can treat evolution by natural selection as, in effect, an established fact ... This week we are following our own prescription. In a year in which Darwin is being celebrated amid uncertainty and hostility about his ideas among citizens, being aware of the cumulatively incontrovertible evidence for those ideas is all the more important. We trust that this document will help."

The fifteen evolutionary gems, as Nature describes them, are in three categories: gems from the fossil record (land-living ancestors of whales, from water to land, the origin of feathers, the evolutionary history of teeth, and the origin of the vertebrate skeleton), gems from habitats (natural selection in speciation, natural selection in lizards, a case of co-evolution, differential dispersal in wild birds, selective survival in wild guppies, and evolutionary history matters), and gems from molecular processes (Darwin's Galapagos finches, microevolution meets macroevolution, toxin resistance in snakes and clams, and variation versus stability). References and links to relevant resources are provided.

For "15 Evolutionary Gems" (PDF), visit: http://www.nature.com/nature/newspdf/evolutiongems.pdf
For the editorial introduction, visit: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v457/n7225/full/457008b.html

GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS FOR EXPELLED

As 2008 drew to a close, the good news for the producers of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed was that their creationist propaganda movie was getting a bit of press again. The bad news is that it was in the lists of the worst movies of 2008. The Onion's A.V. Club (December 16, 2008), was quickest out of the gate, commenting, "There are terrible movies, and then there are terrible movies that cause harm to society by feeding into its ignorance. Nathan Frankowski's odious anti-evolution documentary belongs in the latter category. ... Few moments in cinema in 2008 were as shameless and disgusting as the Expelled sequence where Stein solemnly visits a Nazi death camp and unsubtly links 'survival of the fittest' theory to the Holocaust."

John Serba of the Grand Rapids Press (December 26, 2008) wrote, "Ben Stein hosts this pro-Intelligent Design documentary that forgets to include a compelling argument for this viewpoint, and instead chooses to equate Darwinism and its legions of rational scientist followers with Nazis and the Holocaust. Facts rooted in reality are at a premium in this insidious, crassly manipulative dreck." Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel (December 26, 2008) commented, "Ben Stein's documentary was a cynical attempt to sucker Christian conservatives into thinking they're losing the 'intelligent design' debate because of academic 'prejudice.'" Stephen Whitty of the Newark Star-Ledger (December 27, 2008) described Expelled as lifting "its nonsensical knowledge of early man from an Alley Oop comic and its sense of honest inquiry from a snake-handling preacher." In the LA City Beat (December 30, 2008), Andy Klein wrote, "Stein's 'intelligent design' documentary has all the red flags -- inadequate or misleading identification of interviewees, aggressively manipulative editing, extraordinary claims without extraordinary evidence, and extreme leaps of logic ... particularly suggesting guilt by association, even to the point of laying blame for the Holocaust on Darwin." And Ken Hanke of the Ashville, North Carolina, Mountain Xpress (December 31, 2008) said that Expelled was "as corrupt a piece of work as you'll ever encounter."

Expelled fared no better north of the border. Jay Stone of the Canwest News Service (December 26, 2008) described Expelled as "a masterwork of intellectual dishonesty." And Richard Crouse of Canada AM (December 30, 2008) commented, "Wrapping his thesis in good old American jingoistic rhetoric -- remember this guy used to write speeches for Nixon -- Stein repeatedly compares Darwinist scientists to communists by the suggestion that the only way they can get funding for research is to be good Darwinist 'comrades' and even makes the outrageous connection between Darwin's theory and Nazism." Crouse added, "Perhaps it isn't just a coincidence that the host's initials are B.S."

For the various lists and articles, visit:
http://www.avclub.com/content/feature/there_appears_to_be_an_event/2
http://www.mlive.com/entertainment/grpress/index.ssf?/base/entertainment-1/1230300922187990.xml&coll=6
http://www.orlandosentinel.com/entertainment/orl-toptenmovies08dec26,0,5012155.story
http://www.nj.com/entertainment/tv/index.ssf/2008/12/worst_films_0f_2008_ten_films.html
http://www.lacitybeat.com/cms/story/detail/the_bottom_08/7903/
http://www.mountainx.com/movies/articles/123108cranky_hanke_and_justin_southers_best_and_worst_picks_for_2008
http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20081230/crouse_2008_list_081230
http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/story.html?id=608915a7-383c-4afa-b97b-1036f1db2afb
For NCSE's Expelled Exposed website, visit: http://www.expelledexposed.com/

AUSTRALIAN GEOLOGISTS STILL OPPOSE CREATIONISM

The Geological Society of Australia recently updated its policy statement on science education and creationism. A previous version of the statement (reprinted in the third edition of NCSE's Voices for Evolution) from 1995 read, in part, "The Geological Society of Australia considers that notions such as Fundamental Creationism, including so called 'Flood Geology', which disregard scientific evidence such as that based on repeatable observations in the natural world and the geological record, are not science and cannot be taught as science ... The Society states unequivocally that the dogmatic teaching of notions such as Creationism within a science curriculum stifles the development of critical thinking patterns in the developing mind and seriously compromises the best interests of objective public education. ... the Society dissociates itself from Creationist statements made by any member." The 2008 update differs from the 1995 version only in specifying that the statement applies to "intelligent design" and in bearing the endorsements of all of the presidents of the society from 1994 onward. Established in 1952, the Geological Society of Australia is a non-profit organization that seeks to promote, advance and support the earth sciences in Australia.

For the GSA's statement (PDF), visit: http://gsa.org.au/pdfdocuments/management/POL_intel%20design_2008.pdf
For information about Voices for Evolution, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/media/voices

Evolution education update: December 12, 2008

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Judge Jones, who presided over Kitzmiller v. Dover, is interviewed in PLoS Genetics. The fourth issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach is now available. And Roger Ebert offers his opinion about Expelled.

JUDGE JONES IN PLOS GENETICS

Judge John E. Jones III, who presided over the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, was interviewed by Jane Gitschier for PLoS Genetics. After recounting his legal career and sketching the legal history of the creationism/evolution controversy, Jones talked about the trial itself. Describing the expert testimony he heard, Jones commented, "I will always remember Ken Miller's testimony in the sense that he did A-Z evolution. And then got into intelligent design. And having laid the foundation with the description of evolution, got into why intelligent design doesn't work as science, to the point where it is predominantly a religious concept." He added, "But Ken Miller went into the immune system, the blood clotting cascade, and the bacterial flagellum -- all three are held out by intelligent design proponents as irreducibly complex, and in effect, having no precursors. He [Miller] knocked that down, I thought, quite effectively -- so comprehensively and so well. By the time Miller was done testifying, over the span of a couple of days, the defendants were really already in the hole."

The expert witnesses for the defense were less impressive to Jones: "Another remarkable moment on the science side was Michael Behe, who was the lead witness for the defendants, and a very amiable fellow, as was Ken Miller, but unlike Miller, in my view, Professor Behe did not distinguish himself. He did not hold up well on cross-examination." And the school board witnesses for the defense, whom Jones lambasted in his decision, he described as "dreadful witnesses ... hence the description 'breathtaking inanity' and 'mendacity.' In my view, they clearly lied under oath. They made a very poor account of themselves. They could not explain why they did what they did. They really didn't even know what intelligent design was. It was quite clear to me that they viewed intelligent design as a method to get creationism into the public school classroom. They were unfortunate and troublesome witnesses. Simply remarkable, in that sense."

Noting that the plaintiffs and defendants both asked for a ruling on the question of whether "intelligent design" constitutes science, Jones said, "if you're going to measure the effect of a particular policy, in this case juxtaposing intelligent design with evolution, on the intended recipients, you have to delve into what the policy is about. What was it about? It was about intelligent design. And to try to determine the effect on the recipients you have to determine what does that concept or phrase stand for? Hence, we got into a search and examination of what exactly does ID say, what is its basis, what are its scientific bona fides or lack thereof. That opens the door for a determination of whether ID is in fact science. And that is what that part of the opinion was. ... I wrote about whether ID, as presented to me, in that courtroom from September to November of 2005, was science, and I said it was not. That it was the progeny, the successor to creationism and creation science. That it was dressed-up creationism."

Looking forward, Jones expressed uncertainty about the long-term effect of the Kitzmiller decision, commenting, "This is speculation on my part -- I don't think that the concept of ID itself has a lot of vitality going forward. The Dover trial discredited that thing that is ID. To the extent that I follow it -- I'm curious about it, but it doesn't go any further than that -- the likely tack going forward is something like teach the controversy, talk about the alleged flaws and gaps in the theory of evolution and go to that place first." He noted that creationists in both Texas and Louisiana seem to be taking such a tack. And, he noted, there is no prospect of the creationism/evolution controversy subsiding any time soon: "They gave me the last word in 'Judgment Day' [a NOVA program on the trial] and I said this is not something that will be settled in my time or even in my grandchildren's lifetimes. It's an enduring, quintessentially American, dispute."

For the interview, visit: http://www.plosgenetics.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pgen.1000297
For information about Kitzmiller v. Dover, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/creationism/legal/intelligent-design-trial-kitzmiller-v-dover
For the decisionin the case (PDF), visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/webfm_send/73
For NCSE's coverage of events in Texas and Louisiana, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/news/texas
http://www.ncseweb.org/news/louisiana
For information about Judgment Day, visit: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/id/

THE FOURTH ISSUE OF EVOLUTION: EDUCATION AND OUTREACH

The fourth issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach -- the new journal aspiring to promote accurate understanding and comprehensive teaching of evolutionary theory for a wide audience -- is now available on-line. The theme of the issue is the evolution of the eye. Featured, accordingly, are original scientific articles "A Genetic Perspective on Eye Evolution: Gene Sharing, Convergence and Parallelism," "Charting Evolutions Trajectory: Using Molluscan Eye Diversity to Understand Parallel and Convergent Evolution," "Early Evolution of the Vertebrate Eye -- Fossil Evidence," "Evolution of Insect Eyes: Tales of Ancient Heritage, Deconstruction, Reconstruction, Remodeling, and Recycling," "Exceptional Variation on a Common Theme: The Evolution of Crustacean Compound Eyes," "Opening the 'Black Box': The Genetic and Biochemical Basis of Eye Evolution," "Suboptimal Optics: Vision Problems as Scars of Evolutionary History," "The Causes and Consequences of Color Vision," "The Evolution of Complex Organs," "The Evolution of Extraordinary Eyes: The Cases of Flatfishes and Stalk-eyed Flies," and "The Origin of the Vertebrate Eye." And there are resources for teachers and reviews of books, too, including -- consistently with the issue's theme -- a discussion of teaching about evolution with the example of blind cave fish and a review of Jay Hosler's comic Optical Allusions.

Also included is the fourth installment of NCSE's regular column for Evolution: Education and Outreach, Overcoming Obstacles to Evolution Education. In their article "Misconceptions About the Evolution of Complexity," Andrew J. Petto (a member of NCSE's board of directors) and NCSE's Louise S. Mead take the vertebrate eye as their example, since "the complexity of vertebrate eyes is a common antievolution argument." In the abstract, they summarize, "Despite data and theory from comparative anatomy, embryology, molecular biology, genomics, and evolutionary developmental biology, antievolutionists continue to present the eye as an example of a structure too complex to have evolved. They stress what we have yet to explain about the development and evolution of eyes and present incomplete information as evidence that evolution is a 'theory in crisis.' An examination of the evidence, however, particularly evidence that has accumulated in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, refutes antievolutionists' claims. The distribution of eyes in extant organisms, combined with what we now know about the control of eye development across diverse groups of organisms, provides significant evidence for the evolution of all major components of the eye, from molecular to morphological, and provides an excellent test of predictions based on common ancestry."

For the contents of the issue, visit: http://www.springerlink.com/content/120878/
For Petto and Mead's article, visit: http://www.springerlink.com/content/a7v3307m37236637/fulltext.html

ROGER EBERT ON EXPELLED

The popular film critic Roger Ebert reviewed the creationist propaganda movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed in a December 3, 2008, post entitled "Win Ben Stein's mind" on his blog on the Chicago Sun-Times website -- and he pulled no punches. "The more you know about evolution, or simple logic, the more you are likely to be appalled by the film. No one with an ability for critical thinking could watch more than three minutes without becoming aware of its tactics," he wrote.

"This film is cheerfully ignorant, manipulative, slanted, cherry-picks quotations, draws unwarranted conclusions, makes outrageous juxtapositions (Soviet marching troops representing opponents of ID), pussy-foots around religion (not a single identified believer among the ID people), segues between quotes that are not about the same thing, tells bald-faced lies, and makes a completely baseless association between freedom of speech and freedom to teach religion in a university class that is not about religion," he added.

"And there is worse, much worse," Ebert continued, taking especial offense at Expelled's claim that the acceptance of evolution resulted in the Holocaust -- "It fills me with contempt." Previously, the Anti-Defamation League said that the movie's claim "is outrageous and trivializes the complex factors that led to the mass extermination of European Jewry." Expelled's lead, Ben Stein, responded, "It's none of their f---ing business," according to Peter McKnight, writing in the Vancouver Sun (June 21, 2008).

For a thorough critique of Expelled, including a collection of links to reviews of the movie, visit NCSE's Expelled Exposed website. Additionally, the next issue of Reports of the NCSE (volume 28, numbers 5-6) is a special issue devoted to debunking Expelled, containing reports on its reception, a summary of the ways in which organizations with a stake in the creationism/evolution controversy reacted, a summary of the various controversies over its use of copyrighted material, and a detailed explanation of its unsuitability for the classroom.

For Ebert's blog post, visit: http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2008/12/win_ben_steins_mind.html
For the ADL's statement, visit: http://www.adl.org/PresRele/HolNa_52/5277_52.htm
For Peter McKnight's column, visit: http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=f022096b-6832-4ec1-929 d-92e8bc337364
For Expelled Exposed, visit: http://www.expelledexposed.com
For subscription information for Reports of the NCSE, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/membership

ERRATUM

Although Kevin Padian discussed evolution and religion with Alan Jones, the dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, on November 22, 2008, the link provided in the December 5, 2008, evolution education update was to a video of a previous discussion between the two, filmed on November 4, 2007. The later discussion was not filmed.

For the video of Padian's talk with Jones, visit: http://fora.tv/2007/11/04/Kevin_Padian_Investigating_Evolution

Evolution education update: December 5, 2008

Dear Friends of NCSE,

The Cincinnati Zoo distances itself from a widely criticized promotion involving Answers in Genesis's Creation Museum. Plus Kevin Padian, who serves as president of NCSE's board of directors, is continuing to speak and write in enthusiastic defense of the teaching of evolution. And a new batch of selected content from NCSE's journal is now available on-line.

CREATION "MUSEUM" REBUFFED BY CINCINNATI ZOO

"A promotional deal between the Cincinnati Zoo and the Creation Museum was scuttled Monday after the zoo received dozens of angry calls and emails about the partnership," reported the Cincinnati Enquirer (December 1, 2008). The promotion involved a package deal for tickets to the zoo's annual Festival of Lights and to a Christmas-themed event at Answers in Genesis's Creation Museum. The museum, which opened its doors in northern Kentucky during Memorial Day weekend 2007, aims to illuminate "the effects of biblical history on our present and future world" -- that is, to evangelize for Answers in Genesis's particular brand of young-earth creationism.

On November 30, 2008, biologist and blogger P. Z. Myers complained about the promotion at his blog Pharyngula, writing, "the Cincinnati Zoo has betrayed its mission and its trust in a disgraceful way, by aligning themselves with a creationist institution that is a laughing stock to the rest of the world, and a mark of shame to the United States," and urging his readers to write to the zoo to "point out the conflict between what they are doing and what their goal as an educational and research institution ought to be." Other bloggers echoed his call, and the zoo was evidently flooded with calls and e-mails, prompting it to cancel the promotion because of the uproar. No refunds will be necessary, since no packages of tickets had been sold.

NCSE's previous coverage of the Creation "Museum" includes Daniel Phelps's review and overview and Timothy H. Heaton's account of his visit. NCSE also sponsored a statement, signed by almost one thousand scientists in the three states surrounding the museum -- Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana -- expressing their concern about the effect of the scientifically inaccurate materials displayed there: "Students who accept this material as scientifically valid are unlikely to succeed in science courses at the college level. These students will need remedial instruction in the nature of science, as well as in the specific areas of science misrepresented by Answers in Genesis."

For the story in the Cincinnati Enquirer, visit: http://news.cincinnati.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081201/NEWS01/312010040
For P. Z. Myers's blog post, visit: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/11/shame_on_the_cincinnati_zoo.php
For Phelps's and Heaton's articles, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/creationism/general/anti-museum-overview-review-answers-genesis-creation-museum
http://www.ncseweb.org/rncse/27/1-2/visit-to-new-creation-museum
For the NCSE-sponsored statement of concern, visit: http://sciohost.org/states/?p=3

THE LATEST FROM KEVIN PADIAN

Kevin Padian, who serves as president of NCSE's board of directors, is continuing to speak and write in enthusiastic defense of the teaching of evolution. To inaugurate Evolution '09, San Francisco's celebration of the bicentennial of Darwin's birth and the sesquicentennial of the publication of the Origin of Species, Padian spent about sixty minutes in a spirited and lively discussion of evolution and religion with Alan Jones, the dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, on November 22, 2008. Now video of the event is available on-line from Fora.tv. Discussing the challenge of educating the public about evolution, Padian suggested that scientists need to talk about the major transitions in evolution -- his specialty as a vertebrate paleontologist -- "faster, harder, and more often." For specifics, see his commentary in the February 2008 issue of Geotimes and his article in Integrative and Comparative Biology 2008; 48 (2): 175-188.

Additionally, Padian discusses "The evolution of creationists in the United States: Where are they now, and where are they going?" in a forthcoming paper in Comptes Rendus Biologies, the proceedings of the French Academy of Sciences for life sciences. There he writes, "As evolutionary biology in all its forms continues to bring forth amazing new insights from the origin of whales to the evolution of microbial resistance, one would think that the anti-evolutionists would have less to cling to each year, and that they would give up their arguments as disproven misapprehensions. They will not, despite recent victories against ID as science and the lunacy of 'creation science'. Creationists reject the notion of a rational universe because they believe that evolution depends upon the dominance of 'random processes' that allow no divine direction or teleological goal. This is the core of the resistance to evolution in America, and it will not go away anytime soon."

In addition to serving as president of NCSE's board of directors, Padian is Professor of Integrative Biology at the University of California at Berkeley and also Curator of Paleontology at the University of California's Museum of Paleontology. He recently received the 2008 Western Evolutionary Biologist of the Year award from the Network for Experimental Research on Evolution. He testified for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the 2005 case establishing the unconstitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools. In his decision, Judge John E. Jones III wrote, "Padian's demonstrative slides, prepared on the basis of peer-review[ed] scientific literature, illustrate how Pandas systematically distorts and misrepresents established, important evolutionary principles." He also noted that "Padian bluntly and effectively stated that in confusing students about science generally and evolution in particular, the disclaimer makes students 'stupid.'"

For the video of Padian's talk with Jones, visit: http://fora.tv/2007/11/04/Kevin_Padian_Investigating_Evolution
For Padian's commentary in Geotimes, visit: http://www.geotimes.org/feb08/article.html?id=comment.html
For Padian's article in Integrative and Comparative Biology (subscription required), visit: http://icb.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/48/2/175
For Padian's paper in Comptes Rendus Biologies (subscription required), visit: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.crvi.2008.07.004
For information about Padian's Webby award, visit: http://nere.bio.uci.edu/
For Padian's testimony in Kitzmiller, with the slides he used, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/creationism/legal/padians-expert-testimony
For the Kitzmiller decision (PDF), visit: http://www.pamd.uscourts.gov/kitzmiller/kitzmiller_342.pdf

CATCHING UP WITH RNCSE

Selected content from volume 28, number 2, of Reports of the National Center for Science Education is now available on NCSE's website. Featured are NCSE's Josh Rosenau's account of how the e-word -- evolution -- was finally included in Florida's state science standards and NCSE's Glenn Branch's report on the Texas Higher Education Coordination Board's decision to deny the Institute for Creation Research authority to offer a graduate degree in science education. And there are reviews, too: NCSE Supporter G. Brent Dalrymple discusses Pascal Richet's A Natural History of Time, Ken Feder reviews David Standish's Hollow Earth, and Kevin C. Armitage assesses Michael Lienesch's In the Beginning: Fundamentalism, The Scopes Trial, and the Making of the Antievolution Movement.

If you like what you see, why not subscribe to RNCSE today? The next issue (volume 28, numbers 5-6) is a special issue devoted to debunking the recent creationist propaganda film, Expelled, containing not only the material already to be found at Expelled Exposed, but also reports on the reception of Expelled at the box office, among critics, and in Canada; a summary of the ways in which organizations with a stake in the creationism/evolution controversy reacted to the film; a summary of the various controversies over Expelled's use of copyrighted material; and a detailed explanation of Expelled's unsuitability for the classroom. Don't miss out -- subscribe now!

For selected content from RNCSE 28:2, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/rncse/28/2
For Expelled Exposed, visit: http://www.expelledexposed.com/
For subscription information for RNCSE, visit: http://www.sncseweb.org/membership

Evolution education update: November 28, 2008

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Video and audio of Barbara Forrest's recent talk in Texas is now available. Plus NCSE Supporter Philip Kitcher wins a Lannan Literary Award for his Living with Darwin. And a new batch of selected content from NCSE's journal is now available on-line.

BARBARA FORREST IN TEXAS

Barbara Forrest explained "Why Texans Shouldn't Let Creationists Mess with Science Education" on November 11, 2008, at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Now video and audio of her talk is available on-line. The talk was sponsored by the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, and the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, the Center for Teaching Excellence, the Department of Anthropology, the Department of Biological Sciences, and the Department of Philosophy in the Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences at Southern Methodist University.

Forrest is a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University; she is also a member of NCSE's board of directors. She coauthored (with Paul R. Gross) Creationism's Trojan Horse (rev. ed., Oxford U.P. 2007). She also testified for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover, and Judge Jones wrote in his ruling, "Barbara Forrest ... has thoroughly and exhaustively chronicled the history of ID in her book and other writings for her testimony in this case. Her testimony, and the exhibits ... admitted with it, provide a wealth of statements by ID leaders that reveal ID's religious, philosophical, and cultural content."

For video and audio of Forrest's talk, visit:
http://smu.edu/flashvideo/?id=248
http://smu.edu/newsinfo/audio/barbara-forrest-11nov2008.mp3
For information about Creationism's Trojan Horse, visit: http://www.creationismstrojanhorse.com/

CONGRATULATIONS TO PHILIP KITCHER

Philip Kitcher's Living with Darwin: Evolution, Design, and the Future of Faith (Oxford U.P., 2006) was the recipient of a Lannan Literary Award for Notable Book for 2008 from the Lannan Foundation, which "hopes to stimulate the creation of literature written originally in the English language and to develop a wider audience for contemporary prose and poetry." The award includes a $75,000 prize. A Supporter of NCSE, Kitcher is the John Dewey Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University.

Discussing Living with Darwin in BioScience, NCSE deputy director Glenn Branch wrote that Kitcher's aim was "not only to debunk intelligent design and expound the case for evolution but also 'to respond to the concerns of the thoughtful people who are beguiled by the advertisements for intelligent design, to expose just what it is that is threatening about Darwinism, and to point to the deeper issues that underlie this recurrent conflict' ... He succeeds brilliantly."

For information about Living with Darwin, visit: http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Philosophy/?view=usa&ci=9780195314441
For information about the award, visit: http://www.lannan.org/lf/lit/awards-list/by-last-name/P80/12583
For Glenn Branch's comments in BioScience (PDF), visit: http://www.bioone.org/archive/0006-3568/57/3/pdf/i0006-3568-57-3-278.pdf

CATCHING UP WITH RNCSE

Selected content from volume 28, number 1, of Reports of the National Center for Science Education is now available on NCSE's website. Featured are Barbara Forrest's commentary on the forced resignation of Chris Comer from the Texas Education Agency, NCSE's Louise S. Mead's report at a symposium aimed at training teachers how to use the latest creationist textbook, Explore Evolution, in the classroom, and Ulrich Kutschera's latest report on creationism in Germany. And there are reviews, too: David Morrison discusses the late Robert Schadewald's Worlds of Their Own and Rebecca J. Flietstra assesses Deborah B. Haarsma and Loren D. Haarsma's Origins: A Reformed Look at Creation, Design, & Evolution.

If you like what you see, why not subscribe to RNCSE today? The next issue (volume 28, numbers 5-6) is a special issue devoted to debunking the recent creationist propaganda film, Expelled, containing not only the material already to be found at Expelled Exposed, but also reports on the reception of Expelled at the box office, among critics, and in Canada; a summary of the ways in which organizations with a stake in the creationism/evolution controversy reacted to the film; a summary of the various controversies over Expelled's use of copyrighted material; and a detailed explanation of Expelled's unsuitability for the classroom. Don't miss out -- subscribe now!

For selected content from RNCSE 28:1, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/rncse/28/1
For Expelled Exposed, visit: http://www.expelledexposed.com/
For subscription information for RNCSE, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/membership

Evolution education update: November 7, 2008

Dear Friends of NCSE,

In Florida, the new state science standards may have to be reconsidered, while the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, will be hosting a multidisciplinary student conference on "Darwin's Legacy: Evolution's Impact on Science and Culture."

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD IN FLORIDA?

After a long and contentious wrangle, the Florida state board of education voted 4-3 at its February 19, 2008, meeting to adopt a new set of state science standards in which evolution is presented as a "fundamental concept underlying all of biology." But now there are concerns that, due to a recent state law, the standards will have to be approved again. The St. Petersburg Times (November 6, 2008) explains, "The new law requires the state Board of Education to adopt new academic standards by the end of 2011. That may include a new set of science standards, because the Board of Education adopted the latest standards a few months before the bill passed and was signed into law by Gov. Charlie Crist."

It is not yet clear whether the standards will indeed have to be approved again, but Brian Moore, a staff attorney, with the state legislature's Joint Administrative Procedures Committee (which reviews the rules proposed by state agencies to ensure that they are in compliance with state law), told the department of education that he thought so. According to Education Week's curriculum blog (November 5, 2008), "It's possible, Moore explained, that Florida's commissioner of education could seek to have various experts certify that the recently approved science standards comply with the Next Generation law. But it appears likely that new standards would have to be re-approved in some form by the state board of education."

If so, the prospect of a renewed fight over the treatment of evolution in the standards looms. "Hallelujah" was the response of Terry Kemple, who opposed the treatment of evolution in the new standards. "This is an opportunity for both sides to step back and let this be a fairer endeavor," he said. Brandon Haught of the grassroots organization Florida Citizens for Science told the Times, "Maybe the legislators simply overlooked this and there's a simple solution," adding that the group would "hope for the best but plan for the worst." For now, the situation remains uncertain. A spokesperson for the department of education told the Times, "We are currently researching the matter so there are no specifics to offer at this point."

For the story in the St. Petersburg Times, visit: http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/article892815.ece
For the story in Education Week's curriculum blog, visit: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2008/11/about_those_new_florida_scienc.html
For Florida Citizens for Science's website and blog, visit:
http://www.flascience.org
http://www.flascience.org/wp/
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Florida, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/news/florida

CALL FOR PAPERS: DARWIN'S LEGACY

The Evolution Learning Community at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, will be hosting "Darwin's Legacy: Evolution's Impact on Science and Culture" -- a multidisciplinary student conference to be held March 19-21, 2009. The conference will be a unique opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students in the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and arts who are conducting research or creative endeavors related to evolution to present their research, investigate graduate study opportunities, network, enhance their CVs, and enrich the body of knowledge surrounding evolution. Abstracts are due on January 30, 2009; authors will be notified of acceptance by February 12, 2009.

Abstracts may be submitted to any of the following theme sessions: evolution and the social sciences; evolution and religion; evolution and human uniqueness; economics of evolution and its consequences; the biodiversity crisis and conservation; Darwin's impact on art, music, and literature; sex and evolution; genomes, race, and medicine; evolution and ethics; the future of humanity; species in space and time; speciation and the species problem. Note that papers need not be submitted to a theme session; presentations on any topic related to evolution are welcome. In addition to the student presentations, there will be addresses by keynote speakers, including Kevin Padian, David Mindell, David Buss, and Peter Carruthers.

For information about the conference, visit: http://library.uncw.edu/web/outreach/evolution/conference.html

Evolution education update: October 10, 2008

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Texas newspapers are editorially supporting the treatment of evolution in the recently released draft set of science standards, while a lawsuit alleging that the Understanding Evolution website violates the First Amendment failed on appeal.

EDITORIAL SUPPORT FOR SCIENCE STANDARDS IN TEXAS

Texas's newspapers are beginning to express their editorial support of the draft set of science standards, released by the Texas Education Agency on September 22, 2008, and applauded for their treatment of evolution by the Texas Freedom Network, Texas Citizens for Science, and the newly formed 21st Century Science Coalition. Referring to the absence of the "strengths and weaknesses" language from the draft standards, the Waco Tribune (October 3, 2008) commented, "Explaining and investigating 'strengths and weaknesses' of any theory is inherent in scientific inquiry. But having such language in state standards, as has been the case for several years, is code for those who want religion to have a foot in the door when Darwin comes up," and added, "acknowledging the shortcomings of scientific theories, no matter what they are, is one of the essences of science. But when the objective is to inject matters spiritual, we are not talking about science. We are talking about religion that wants a seat at the table."

The Austin American-Statesman (October 6, 2008) urged the board of education to "defer to scientists and its own advisory committee when it comes to determining what should be taught in biology classes. The six-member advisory committee, which includes science teachers and curriculum experts, recommended eliminating ideas 'based upon purported forces outside of nature' from high school biology courses. In other words, get rid of creationism and intelligent design, which teach that the universe was created by God or some other higher power." Invoking the increasing economic importance of evolutionary biology, the editorial added, "McLeroy and other board members should be strengthening science standards to accommodate a big push to attract world-class biomedical researchers, companies and grants to Texas. Those are growth industries that have not looked favorably on communities that water down science studies with vague and unproven ideas."

For the Waco Tribune's editorial, visit: http://www.wacotrib.com/opin/content/news/opinion/stories/2008/10/03/10032008waceditorial.html
For the Austin American-Statesman's editorial, visit: http://www.statesman.com/opinion/content/editorial/stories/10/06/1006science_edit.html
For the pro-science organizations in Texas, visit:
http://www.tfn.org
http://www.texscience.org
http://www.texasscientists.org/
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=TX

APPEAL OF UNDERSTANDING EVOLUTION LAWSUIT DISMISSED

After her lawsuit challenging the Understanding Evolution website on constitutional grounds was dismissed for lack of standing on March 13, 2006, Jeanne Caldwell appealed the decision to the United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit. In a ruling dated October 3, 2008, the appeals court rejected her appeal, affirming the lower court's decision.

Understanding Evolution, a collaborative project of the University of California Museum of Paleontology (with funding from the National Science Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute) and the National Center for Science Education, was originally intended as a resource for teachers; it subsequently expanded to appeal to everyone interested in learning about evolution.

Among the resources for teachers is a brief discussion of the idea, labeled as a misconception, that evolution and religion are incompatible. The website notes, "Of course, some religious beliefs explicitly contradict science (e.g., the belief that the world and all life on it was created in six literal days); however, most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings," and provides a link to NCSE's publication Voices for Evolution.

Arguing that Understanding Evolution thereby endorses particular religious doctrines in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, Caldwell filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. But her suit was dismissed because she failed to allege that she had federal taxpayer standing, failed to sufficiently allege state taxpayer standing, and failed to establish that she suffered a concrete "injury in fact."

Upholding the lower court's decision in Caldwell v. Caldwell et alia (the first defendant was Roy Caldwell, the director of UCMP), the appeals court's decision concluded, "Accordingly, we believe there is too slight a connection between Caldwell's generalized grievance, and the government conduct about which she complains, to sustain her standing to proceed."

Jeanne Caldwell was represented by Kevin T. Snider of the Pacific Justice Institute and her husband Larry Caldwell. It was a further legal defeat for Larry Caldwell, who previously sued his local school district, alleging that his civil rights were violated, after it declined to implement his proposals for evolution education; on September 7, 2007, the defendants won a motion for summary judgment in that case.

For the appeals court's decision (PDF), visit: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data2/circs/9th/0615771p.pdf
For Understanding Evolution, visit: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in California, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=CA

Evolution education update: October 3, 2008

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A new coalition of scientists is defending the teaching of evolution in Texas, and the International Planetarium Society affirms the scientifically ascertained ages of the earth and of the universe.

TEXAS SCIENTISTS SUPPORT TEACHING EVOLUTION

A new coalition of Texas scientists voiced its opposition to attempts to dilute the treatment of evolution in Texas's state science standards, which are presently undergoing revision. At a news conference in Austin on September 30, 2008, representatives of the 21st Century Science Coalition challenged the idea that students should be told that there are "weaknesses" in evolution. Armed with a stack of scientific journals, Dan Bolnick, who teaches biology at the University of Texas, Austin, explained, "Not a single one [of the articles in these journals] gives us reason to believe evolution did not occur," the Austin American-Statesman (October 1, 2008) reported. "So where are the weaknesses? Simple: They don't exist. They are not based on scientific research or data and have been refuted countless times."

The Texas Education Agency released proposed drafts of the state's science standards on September 22, 2008. A requirement in the current standards for high school biology that reads "The student is expected to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information" was replaced with "The student is expected to analyze and evaluate scientific explanations using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing." The change is significant because in 2003, the "strengths and weaknesses" language in the Texas state science standards was selectively applied by members of the state board of education attempting to dilute the treatment of evolution in the biology textbooks then under consideration.

The chair of the state board of education, avowed creationist Don McLeroy, favors the "strengths and weaknesses" language, telling the Austin American-Statesman (September 23, 2008), "I'd argue it doesn't make sense scientifically to take it out." The 21st Century Science Coalition organized and mobilized in response. Already over 800 Texas scientists with or working towards advanced degrees in life, physical, and mathematical science have signed the coalition's statement calling on the board to approve science standards that "acknowledge that instruction on evolution is vital to understanding all the biological sciences" and that "encourage valid critical thinking and scientific reasoning by leaving out all references to 'strengths and weaknesses,' which politicians have used to introduce supernatural explanations into science courses."

For the story in the Austin American-Stateman, visit: http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/10/01/1001evolution.html
For the 21st Century Science Coalition's website, visit: http://www.texasscientists.org/
For the previous story in the Austin American-Statesman, visit: http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/09/24/0924science.html
For the full text of the coalition's statement, visit: http://www.texasscientists.org/sign.html
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=TX

IPS STATEMENT ON THE AGE OF THE EARTH AND UNIVERSE

The International Planetarium Society recently issued a statement on the ancient age of the earth and universe, noting that "Many independent lines of scientific evidence show that the Earth and Universe are billions of years old. Current measurements yield an age of about 4.6 billion years for the Earth and about 14 billion years for the Universe." The statement adds, "These measurements of age are accepted by nearly all astronomers, including both research astronomers and planetarium educators. These astronomers come from nations and cultures around the world and from a very wide spectrum of religious beliefs."

The statement also explained the need for the society to take a stand: "Planetariums are based on science and education and as such reflect the ideals and principles of these disciplines. Planetarium educators seek to present both scientific results and an understanding of how these discoveries are made." The International Planetarium Society describes itself as "the global association of planetarium professionals. Its nearly 700 members come from 35 countries around the world. They represent schools, colleges and universities, museums, and public facilities of all sizes including both fixed and portable planetariums." Its primary goal is "to encourage the sharing of ideas among its members through conferences, publications, and networking."

For the IPS's statement, visit: http://www.ips-planetarium.org/pubs/age-of-universe.html
For the IPS's website, visit: http://www.ips-planetarium.org/

Evolution education update: September 26, 2008

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Newly released drafts of the Texas science education standards are being praised for their treatment of evolution. Rabbis in the United States are expressing their support of teaching evolution, while the Church of England is devoting a new section of its website to Darwin. And Canadian geologists have voiced their opposition to teaching creationism in Canada's classrooms.

DRAFT SCIENCE STANDARDS IN TEXAS

The Texas Education Agency released proposed drafts of the state's science education standards on September 22, 2008. Not surprisingly in light of the ongoing controversies over teaching evolution in Texas, reporters focused on the place of evolution in the draft standards, with the Dallas Morning News (September 23, 2008) reporting, "Proposed curriculum standards for science courses in Texas schools would boost the teaching of evolution by dropping the current requirement that students be exposed to 'weaknesses' in Charles Darwin's theory of how humans and other life forms evolved. Science standards drafted by review committees of teachers and academics also would put up roadblocks for teachers who want to discuss creationism or 'intelligent design' in biology classes when covering the subject of evolution."

In particular, a requirement in the current standards for high school biology that reads "The student is expected to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information" would be replaced with "The student is expected to analyze and evaluate scientific explanations using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing," and a description of the limits of science (adapted from the recent National Academy of Sciences publication Science, Evolution, and Creationism) -- "Science uses observational evidence to make predictions of natural phenomena and to construct testable explanations. If ideas are based upon purported forces outside of nature, they cannot be tested using scientific methods" -- would be added.

Such revisions may seem small and unimportant, but in 2003, the "strengths and weaknesses" language in the Texas state science standards was selectively applied by members of the board attempting to dilute the treatment of evolution in the biology textbooks then under consideration. At the time, board member Patricia Hardy observed that it was invidious to apply the language only to a single topic; while if it were applied across the board, "we'd need a crane to carry the books to the schools." In the end, all of the textbooks were adopted without substantial changes, but it was clear that the "strengths and weaknesses" language would be a matter of contention when the standards were next revised. As Kathy Miller of the Texas Freedom Network told The New York Times (June 4, 2008), "'Strengths and weaknesses' are regular words that have now been drafted into the rhetorical arsenal of creationists."

Groups supporting the integrity of science education therefore applauded the changes. In a September 23, 2008, press release, the Texas Freedom Network's Kathy Miller was quoted as saying, "These work groups have crafted solid standards that provide a clear road map to a 21st-century science education for Texas students ... These common-sense standards respect the right of families to pass on their own religious beliefs to their children while ensuring that public schools give students a sound science education that prepares them to succeed in college and the jobs of the future." "It's time for state board members to listen to classroom teachers and true experts instead of promoting their own personal agendas," she added. "Our students can't succeed with a 19th-century science education in their 21st-century classrooms. We applaud the science work groups for recognizing that fact."

In a September 23, 2008, blog post for the Houston Chronicle, Texas Citizens for Science's Steven Schafersman also welcomed the the addition of the description of the limits of science and the removal of the "strengths and weaknesses" language, which he described as "the primary weapon that Creationists have to attempt to damage and corrupt science textbooks." He expressed regret, however, that those revisions were not emulated in all of the standards. Schafersman also lamented the omission from the biology standards of any requirement to learn about human evolution in particular, commenting, "I'm sure the competent teachers on the biology panel discussed a requirement for human evolution, but they ultimately decided against it. They should have included it and forced the [state board of education] members to remove it by majority vote rather than by giving their prior permission to continue censorship."

The chair of the state board of education, avowed creationist Don McLeroy, defended the "strengths and weaknesses" language, telling the Austin American-Statesman (September 23, 2008), "I'd argue it doesn't make sense scientifically to take it out ... Evolution shouldn't have anything to worry about -- if there's no weaknesses, there's no weaknesses. But if there's scientifically testable explanations out there to refute it, shouldn't those be included too?" The newspaper added, "he prefers the 'strengths and weaknesses' language because it allows the board to reject a textbook that doesn't cover the weaknesses of evolution." But Kevin Fisher, who helped to write the draft biology standards, told the American-Statesman, "Something doesn't become a theory if it's got weaknesses. There may be some questions that may yet to be answered, but nothing that's to the level of a weakness."

What's next? The Texas Education Agency is expected shortly to solicit public comment on and expert review of the draft standards. The draft standards will then be revised in light of that input, and submitted to the state board of education for its approval. Their fate is uncertain, since, as the American-Statesman reported, "In previous public discussions, seven of 15 board members appeared to support, on some level, the teaching of the weaknesses of evolution in science classrooms. Six have been opposed, and two -- Geraldine Miller, R-Dallas, and Rick Agosto, D-San Antonio -- are considered swing votes." And, as Schafersman commented, "Since there are no scientists on the SBOE and since seven members are Young Earth Creationists -- most of whom have publicly stated their intention to distort evolution standards and damage science instruction -- it is likely that the public debate and approval will be contentious."

For the drafts of the standards, visit: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/teks/scienceTEKS.html
For the story in the Dallas Morning News, visit: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/texassouthwest/stories/092408dntexevolution.13ec04c.html
For information about Science, Evolution, and Creationism, visit: http://www.nap.edu/sec
For the story in The New York Times, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/04/us/04evolution.html
For the Texas Freedom Network's press release, visit: http://www.tfn.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5453
For information about the Texas Freedom Network, visit: http://www.tfn.org/
For Steven Schafersman's blog at the Houston Chronicle, visit: http://www.chron.com/commons/readerblogs/evosphere.html
For information about Texas Citizens for Science, visit: http://www.texscience.org/
For the story in the Austin American-Statesman, visit: http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/09/24/0924science.html
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=TX

RABBIS IN SUPPORT OF TEACHING EVOLUTION

The Clergy Letter Project's "Open Letter Concerning Religion and Science From American Rabbis" was the topic of a story in the Chicago Tribune (September 19, 2008), beginning, "For Rabbi Gary Gerson of the Oak Park Temple B'nai Abraham Zion, evolution does not oppose religious belief but strengthens it. ... Seeing evidence of the divine in the theories of Charles Darwin meant that Gerson did not hesitate to sign an open letter drafted by a suburban Chicago rabbi this summer supporting the teaching of evolution in public schools."

The letter, which urges public school boards to affirm their commitment to teaching evolution, was written by Rabbi David Oler of Congregation Beth Or in Deerfield, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. It follows in the footsteps of the Clergy Letter Project's similar open letter for Christian clergy, formulated in 2004 and currently endorsed by over 11,000 members of the clergy across the country and around the world. The Clergy Letter Project also sponsors Evolution Weekend, on or about Darwin's birthday, in which religious leaders are encouraged to discuss the compatibility of faith and science.

Rabbi Oler told the Tribune, "I would say that as Jews, being a minority, we're particularly sensitive to not having the views of others imposed on us ... Creationism and intelligent design are particularly religious matters that don't belong in [the] public school system." Michael Zimmerman, the founder of the Clergy Letter Project, added, "the goal of both letters is to say that religious leaders, both Jewish and Christian, can come together and be secure in their faith without having their faith impact and pervert modern science."

For the story in the Chicago Tribune, visit: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-relig-evolution-19-sep19,0,4695850.story
For the rabbis' letter, visit: http://www.butler.edu/clergyproject/JewishClergy/RabbiLetter.htm
For further information about the Clergy Letter Project and Evolution Weekend, visit:
http://www.butler.edu/clergyproject/religion_science_collaboration.htm
http://www.butler.edu/clergyproject/rel_evolution_weekend_2009.htm

APOLOGIES TO DARWIN?

Anticipating the bicentennial of Darwin's birth and the sesquicentennial of the publication of On the Origin of Species, the Church of England unveiled a new section of its website entitled "On the origin of Darwin," discussing Darwin's relationship to the church and the development of his own views on faith, and including a brief historical sketch, bibliography, and listing of celebrations of the Darwin anniversaries. Attracting the most attention, however, was "Good religion needs good science" -- a short essay by the Church's director of mission and public affairs, the Rev. Malcolm Brown -- owing to its call for the Church of England to apologize to Darwin.

Addressing Darwin, Brown wrote, "200 years from your birth, the Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still. We try to practice the old virtues of 'faith seeking understanding' and hope that makes some amends. But the struggle for your reputation is not over yet, and the problem is not just your religious opponents but those who falsely claim you in support of their own interests." As the Associated Press (September 15, 2008) reported, however, Brown's statement was not an official apology on behalf of the church.

Reaction to Brown's call for the church to apologize for misunderstanding Darwin was mixed among his descendants. Andrew Darwin, a great-great-grandson of Darwin, told the Daily Mail (September 13, 2008) that the apology was pointless: "'Why bother?' he said. 'When an apology is made after 200 years, it's not so much to right a wrong, but to make the person or organisation making the apology feel better.'" But Horace Barlow, a great-grandson of Darwin, thought that Darwin would have been pleased to hear the church's apology; he noted also, "They buried him in Westminster Abbey, which I suppose was an apology of sorts."

Reaction was also mixed in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, the Church of England's sister church. Episcopal News Service (September 17, 2008) quoted the Rev. Norman Faramelli of Episcopal Divinity School and Boston University as concurring with Brown's apology, with the caveat that "it's not just the Church of England that owes him an apology." The Rev. Canon Ed Rodman, a member of the Episcopal Church's Executive Council and the council's Committee on Science, Faith and Technology, however, felt that it didn't go far enough, saying that it was time for the church to "fully acknowledge its culpability in discrediting Darwin's work."

The question of apologizing to Darwin arose in the Catholic Church as well, according to Reuters (September 16, 2008). In discussing "Biological Evolution: Facts and Theories" -- a conference of scientists, theologians, and philosophers addressing the Origin, to take place in Rome in March 2009 -- Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, the Vatican's culture minister, indicated that the church was not planning to issue a posthumous apology to Darwin. "Maybe we should abandon the idea of issuing apologies as if history was a court eternally in session," he said, while adding that Darwin's theories were "never condemned by the Catholic Church nor was his book ever banned."

For the "On the origin of Darwin" website, visit: http://www.cofe.anglican.org/darwin
For the Associated Press story (via the International Herald-Tribune), visit: http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/09/15/europe/EU-REL-Britain-Church-Darwin.php
For the Daily Mail story, visit: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1055597/Church-makes--8216-ludicrous-8217-apology-Charles-Darwin--126-years-death.html
For the Episcopal News Service story, visit: http://www.episcopal-life.org/79901_100750_ENG_HTM.htm
For the Reuters story, visit: http://www.reuters.com/article/scienceNews/idUSLG62672220080916
For information about the "Biological Evolution: Facts and Theories" conference, visit: http://www.evolution-rome2009.net/

CANADIAN GEOLOGISTS ADD THEIR VOICE FOR EVOLUTION

The Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences recently issued a statement on creationism, beginning, "Canadian media report growing public pressure to introduce Creationism and its equivalent Intelligent Design (ID) in school curricula, hinting that Creationism/ID is a 'theory', thus suggesting that it shares common ground with science-based theories. Such reporting ignores the fundamental difference between faith and measurable facts. CFES-FCST is extremely concerned about this trend, and not only because of the demonstrated importance of science to Canadian society."

"Creationism and ID do not qualify as science, because the scientific method is not deployed and these ideas are therefore not theories or hypotheses in universally accepted scientific sense," the statement continues. "Hence, Creationism and ID do not belong in any K-12 science curriculum." The Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences describes itself as "the unified voice of more than 15 Canadian learned and professional earth science societies"; it represents more than 15,000 practicing earth scientists in Canada.

For the CFES statement, visit: http://www.geoscience.ca/creationism.html
For information about CFES, visit: http://www.geoscience.ca
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Canada, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=CN

Evolution education update: September 12, 2008

Dear Friends of NCSE,

The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology is the latest organization to denounce the antievolution law in Louisiana. Meanwhile, the United Church Observer reviews the state of the creationism/evolution controversy in Canada, and NCSE's Project Steve attains its 900th signatory -- and by now its 930th.

PALEONTOLOGISTS DECRY LOUISIANA'S ANTIEVOLUTION LAW

In a September 4, 2008, press release, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology urged Louisiana citizens and legislators to repeal the recently enacted "Science Education Act" in their state, writing, "The Act was drafted under the guise of 'academic freedom' and appeals to cherished values of fairness and free speech. However, SVP says the Act intends to garner support and legal protection for the introduction of religious, creationist concepts, including intelligent design, in public school science curricula. By permitting instructional materials that are not reviewed by the state's science standards committees, the Louisiana Act and those like it encourage teachers and administrators to work outside these standards. This makes it possible for local school boards to define science and science education to suit their own agendas, thereby compromising the quality of science education for students, and allowing religious discrimination in America's public school science classrooms."

Founded in 1940, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology is the leading North American scientific and educational organization concerned with vertebrate paleontology. According to its position statement on evolution education, "Evolution is fundamental to the teaching of good biology and geology ... The record of vertebrate evolution is exciting, inspirational, instructive, and enjoyable, and it is our view that everyone should have the opportunity and the privilege to understand it as paleontologists do." In decrying the Louisiana law, the Society joins a host of scientific organizations, including the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute of Biological Sciences and seven of its member societies, and (together) the Society for the Study of Evolution and the Society of Systematic Biologists.

For the SVP's press release, visit: http://www.vertpaleo.org/news/permalinks/2008/09/04/
For the SVP's position statement on evolution education, visit: http://www.vertpaleo.org/education/index.cfm
For the protests from the ASBMB, AAAS (PDF), AIBS, and SSE and SSB (PDF), visit:
http://www.asbmb.org/News.aspx?id=1054
http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2008/media/0620-la-gov-jindal-veto.pdf
http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20080620_joint_statement.html
http://www.evolutionsociety.org/download/SSElettertoJindal.pdf
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=LA

UPDATE FROM CANADA

Writing in the September 2008 issue of the United Church Observer, Drew Halfnight discusses the public understanding of evolution in Canada. With the evolution wars constantly raging to the south, "Canadians see themselves as spectators to someone else's battle," he writes, adding, "Though it may not have the profile or scope here that it has in the U.S., the tension between a Bible-based understanding of the origins of creation and the science of evolution evidently does not stop at the border."

As NCSE previously reported, according to the latest poll of Canadian public opinion, 58 percent accept evolution, while 22 percent think that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years, and 20 percent are unsure. (In the United States, 50% of respondents preferred the pro-evolution responses, with 44 percent preferring "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so," and with only 5 percent volunteering a different response or declining to answer.)

The article devotes several paragraphs to the episode in which Brian Alters's project to study the effects of the popularization of "intelligent design" on Canadian students, teachers, parents, administrators, and policymakers was denied funding by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, in part on the grounds that the proposal lacked adequate "justification for the assumption in the proposal that the theory of evolution, and not intelligent-design theory, was correct."

Halfnight writes, "The problem, of course, is that evolution is a scientific theory, while ID theory is not. Evolutionary biology is based on mountains of observable evidence, while ID cannot be tested at all. In short, ID has nothing to do with science, and everything to do with belief." Jason Wiles, who manages the Evolution Education Research Centre at McGill University, commented that the SSHRC "put evolution and ID on the same footing, then said, 'Our position is to have no position.'"

Evolution is neglected in Canada's public school curricula, too: "In all but one provincial science curriculum, evolution is relegated to a single unit in a Grade 11 or 12 elective course taken by a sliver of each graduating class. It would not be a stretch to say the majority of Canadian high school students graduate without ever encountering Darwin's theory of natural selection." Additionally, private religious schools are allowed to teach creationism alongside evolution.

As in the United States, there is plenty of opposition to the teaching of evolution in Canadian schools. Leesa Blake, vice-president of the Science Teachers' Association of Ontario, told Halfnight that teachers often experience pressure from parents or students to teach creationism. And as with their counterparts in the United States, Canadian teachers often feel unprepared to teach evolution: "A lot of the people who are teaching biology don't actually have the training" to teach evolution, Blake told Halfnight.

The article ends with a plea for keeping religious views out of science classes, quoting Denis Lamoureux, described as "a devout evangelical Christian and confirmed evolutionist who teaches science and religion at St. Joseph's College in the University of Alberta." (He is also the author of Evolutionary Creationism [Wipf & Stock, 2008].) "'So how are we going to teach biology?' he asks. 'Teach the science as metaphysically free as possible. In other words, keep God out of it, keep the atheistic world view out of it.'"

For the story in the United Church Observer, visit: http://www.ucobserver.org/ethics/2008/09/wheres_darwin/
To buy Evolutionary Creationism from Amazon.com (and benefit NCSE in the process), visit: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/asin/1556355815/nationalcenter02
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Canada, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=CN

PROJECT STEVE: N = 900

With the addition of Steven K. Nordeen on September 5, 2008, NCSE's Project Steve attained its 900th signatory -- and the Steveometer is now at 930. A tongue-in-cheek parody of a long-standing creationist tradition of amassing lists of "scientists who doubt evolution" or "scientists who dissent from Darwinism," Project Steve mocks such lists by restricting its signatories to scientists whose first name is Steve (or a cognate, such as Stephanie, Esteban, Istvan, Stefano, or even Tapani -- the Finnish equivalent). About 1% of the United States population possesses such a first name, so each signatory represents about 100 potential signatories. ("Steve" was selected in honor of the late Stephen Jay Gould, a Supporter of NCSE and a dauntless defender of evolution education.)

Although the idea of Project Steve is frivolous, the statement is serious. It reads, "Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to 'intelligent design,' to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools."

Highlights from the history of Project Steve include the original press release, Glenn Branch and Skip Evans's description of the project for Geotimes, the announcement that Steven W. Hawking was Steve #300, the announcement (on St. Stephen's Day!) of Steve #400, the publication of a front-page story on Project Steve in a leading Canadian newspaper, and the announcements of Steves #600, #700, and #800. And, of course, Project Steve proved to be scientifically fruitful in its own right. "The Morphology of Steve," by Eugenie C. Scott, Glenn Branch, Nick Matzke, and several hundred Steves, appeared in the prestigious Annals of Improbable Research; the paper provided "the first scientific analysis of the sex, geographic location, and body size of scientists named Steve."

Additionally, Project Steve appeared in Steven Pinker's recent book, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature (Viking 2007). Pinker, himself a single-digit Steve, described it as "the most formidable weapon in the fight against neo-creationism today," adding, "Part satire, part memorial to Stephen Jay Gould, the project maintains a Steve-O-Meter (now pointing past 800) and has spun off a T-shirt, a song, a mascot (Professor Steve Steve, a panda puppet), and a paper in the respected scientific journal Annals of Improbable Research called 'The Morphology of Steve' (based on the T-shirt sizes ordered by the signatories)."

For information about Project Steve, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/articles/3541_project_steve_2_16_2003.asp
For "The Morphology of Steve" (PDF), visit: http://improbable.com/pages/airchives/paperair/volume10/v10i4/morph-steve-10-4.pdf

Evolution education update: August 29, 2008

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A brave teacher in Florida is featured on the front page of The New York Times, while Church and State examines the latest antievolution law from Louisiana.

"A TEACHER ON THE FRONT LINE"

"A Teacher on the Front Line as Faith and Science Clash" -- a story on the front page of The New York Times (August 24, 2008) -- examines the creationism/evolution controversy as it plays out in the classroom of David Campbell, a biology teacher in Orange Park, Florida. The Times's reporter Amy Harmon writes, "in a nation where evangelical Protestantism and other religious traditions stress a literal reading of the biblical description of God's individually creating each species, students often arrive at school fearing that evolution, and perhaps science itself, is hostile to their faith." Campbell's students are a case in point, and "their abiding mistrust in evolution, he feared, jeopardized their belief in the basic power of science to explain the natural world -- and their ability to make sense of it themselves."

In addition to helping his own students, Campbell also helped to improve the treatment of evolution throughout Florida by co-founding the grassroots organization Florida Citizens for Science and by serving on the committee that revised Florida's state science standards in 2007. The new standards describe evolution as a "fundamental concept underlying all of biology" -- a far cry from their predecessors, which sedulously avoided even using the e-word. Harmon writes, "Campbell defended his fellow writers against complaints that they had not included alternative explanations for life's diversity, like intelligent design. His attempt at humor came with an edge: 'We also failed to include astrology, alchemy and the concept of the moon being made of green cheese,' he said. 'Because those aren't science, either.'"

As well as explaining the scientific evidence for common descent and natural selection, Campbell discusses the limits of science, telling his students, "Faith is not based on science ... And science is not based on faith. I don't expect you to 'believe' the scientific explanation of evolution that we're going to talk about over the next few weeks. But I do ... expect you to understand it." The approach seems to be helpful, to judge from a case recounted in the article. One student who earlier refused to answer a test question that asked for two forms of evidence supporting evolutionary change and natural selection, writing, "I refuse to answer ... I don't believe in this," later relented. Grading the student's retest, Campbell found that "the question that asked for evidence of evolutionary change had been answered."

Accompanying the article is a sidebar discussing the treatment of evolution in state science standards, comparing the ratings assigned by Lawrence S. Lerner in his 2000 study Good Science, Bad Science with NCSE's assessment, using Lerner's criteria, of the standards currently used. The standards "have improved in many states since 2000 ... [b]ut most states' standards do not explicity require teachers to explain that humans evolved from earlier life forms." There is also a historical timeline illustrating "A Fading Resistance to Evolution Education," furnished by NCSE, and, apparently only on the newspaper's website, a version of NCSE's answers to Jonathan Wells's "Ten questions to ask your biology teacher about evolution." For a more extensive rebuttal of Wells's claims about evolution, see Alan D. Gishlick's "Icons of Evolution?"

For the article in the Times, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/24/education/24evolution.html
For Florida Citizens for Science's website and blog, visit:
http://www.flascience.org/
http://www.flascience.org/wp
For the sidebar and timeline in the Times, visit:
http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2008/08/24/education/24evolutiongr1.ready.html
http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2008/08/24/education/24evolutionGR2.ready.html
For Good Science, Bad Science, visit: http://www.edexcellence.net/detail/news.cfm?news_id=42
For NCSE's answers to Jonathan Wells, visit:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/24/us/WEB-tenquestions.html
http://www.ncseweb.org/icons/
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Florida, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=FL

"ERODING EVOLUTION" IN LOUISIANA

"Eroding Evolution," a new article in the July/August 2008 issue of Church and State, addresses the recently enacted "Science Education Act" in Louisiana, which threatens to open the door for creationism and scientifically unwarranted critiques of evolution to be taught in public school science classes. Veteran science teacher Patsye Peebles told Church and State that she worries about the scientific literacy of Louisiana's students: "Now this muddies the waters and keeps students from having a really good education," she said. "When they go to college, they will be at a disadvantage because they will not have a good understanding of science."

As New Scientist (July 9, 2008) reported, "Supporters of the new law clearly hope that teachers and administrators who wish to raise alternatives to evolution in science classes will feel protected if they do so. The law expressly permits the use of 'supplemental' classroom materials in addition to state-approved textbooks." Creationists have historically often tried to undermine evolution education by proposing supplementary materials: Of Pandas and People is a notorious example. NCSE's Joshua Rosenau told Church and State, "They may not be saying 'Noah's flood' or 'Adam and Eve' anymore, but it is the same creationist argument they are making."

Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University, a member of NCSE's board of directors, co-author of Creationism's Trojan Horse (Oxford University Press, 2007), and a leader in the pro-science grassroots group Louisiana Coalition for Science, put the law in historical context. Referring to the radical religious right organization that engineered the bill, the Louisiana Family Forum, she explained, "The LFF has been lobbying the legislature for nine years laying this groundwork. They have been waiting for a number of factors to come together -- now the legislature as a whole is conservative and we have a governor who favors creationism."

After observing that a previous antievolution law in Louisiana occasioned the Supreme Court's decision in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) that it is unconstitutional to teach creationism in the public schools, the article observes, "It looks like Louisiana is repeating history, despite concerns from teachers, scientists and legal scholars." And, returning to the perspective of the science teacher, it concludes by quoting Peebles again: "They just aren't even paying attention to what teachers are telling them ... We don't need this, we don't want it." Church and State is a publication of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a non-profit organization that protects separation of church and state.

For "Eroding Evolution," visit: http://www.au.org/site/News2?abbr=cs_&page=NewsArticle&id=9947
For New Scientist's report, visit: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19926643.300-new-legal-threat-to-school-science-in-the-us.html
For information about Of Pandas and People, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/article.asp?category=21
For information about Creationism's Trojan Horse, visit: http://www.creationismstrojanhorse.com/
For Louisiana Coalition for Science's website, visit: http://lasciencecoalition.org/
For American United's website, visit: http://www.au.org/
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=LA