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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2008/10/24

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Both the AAAS and the advisory committee of the 21st Century Science
Coalition are expressing their concern over Texas's state science
standards.  NCSE Supporter Francisco Ayala is profiled in the pages of
Scientific American. And NCSE's new website is up and running.


Writing in the Houston Chronicle (October 22, 2008), the chief executive
officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Alan I. 
Leshner, deplores the recent appointment of three antievolutionists to a
committee charged with reviewing a draft of Texas's state science
standards.  "The new standards will shape how science education is taught
in Texas for the next decade, and it would be a terrible mistake to water
down the teaching of evolution in any way," he writes, adding, "At a time
when most educators are working to prepare students for 21st century jobs,
the board members' action threatens to confuse students, divide communities
and tarnish Texas' reputation as an international science and technology

Leshner's op-ed emphasizes the strength of the scientific consensus on
evolution ("Mainstream science and medical organizations in the United
States and worldwide, representing tens of millions of scientists, accept
evolution as the best explanation for how life developed on Earth"), the
fact that many people of faith, including scientists and clergy alike,
regard evolution as no threat to their faith, and the importance of
preserving the integrity of science education.  But what he hammers home is
the economic importance of a quality science education:  "To maintain the
state's strength as an engine of U.S. research and innovation, Texas
education leaders should stick to the basics.  Students need a solid
science foundation to thrive in the 21st century."

In supporting a scientifically appropriate and pedagogically responsible
treatment of evolution in the Texas state science standards, Leshner joins
the 21st Century Science Coalition, the Texas Freedom Network, and Texas
Citizens for Science, as well as the editorial boards of the Waco Tribune
(October 3, 2008) and the Austin American-Statesman (October 6, 2008).  As
the world's largest general interest scientific organization, the AAAS
regularly defends the teaching of evolution in the public schools, and
presents a useful collection of relevant statements, publications,
resources, and links in a section of its on-line press room.

For Leshner's op-ed, visit:

For the pro-science organizations in Texas, visit:

For the cited editorials, visit:

For the AAAS's evolution resources, visit:

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit:


"The State Board of Education's decisions in the coming months will affect
both the college preparation and future job qualifications of our
children.  Our students deserve a sound education that includes the latest
findings of scientific research and excludes ideas that have failed to
stand up to scientific scrutiny."  That was the message of the 21st Century
Science Coalition's advisory committee -- Daniel I. Bolnick, R. E.
Duhrkopf, David M. Hillis, Ben Pierce, and Sahotra Sarkar -- delivered in
twin op-eds recently published in two Texas newspapers, the Waco Tribune
(October 19, 2008), and the Austin American-Statesman (October 21, 2008).

In their op-eds, after describing the vast amount of scientific research
that supports evolution, and the absence of any compelling evidence against
it, Bolnick and his colleagues respond to the charge of
censorship:  "Evolution opponents who promote such phony 'weaknesses' claim
we are trying to censor them, suppressing free speech.  But the entire
point of education is to provide students with the best information
available, without wasting time on bogus arguments.  We don't teach alchemy
alongside chemistry, for example, or astrology alongside physics.  We don't
ask students to decide for themselves whether Earth revolves around the Sun
or vice versa.  Is that 'censorship'?"

They also emphasize the increasing economic importance of evolution
education, writing, "We can't expect future citizens of Texas to be
successful in a 21st-century world with a 19th-century science
education.  Once our children enter the work force, they will find that
understanding evolution is central to many innovations in medicine,
agriculture, engineering and biotechnology.  Undermining biology education
risks driving away biotechnology and other industries from our state."  The
Austin American-Statesman (October 6, 2008) already editorially agreed,
noting that biomedical industries "have not looked favorably on communities
that water down science studies with vague and unproven ideas."

The 21st Century Science Coalition was organized to resist attempts of
creationists to maintain the "strengths and weaknesses" language in the
Texas state science standards, which are currently undergoing
revisions.  Already over 1300 Texas scientists with or working towards
advanced degrees in life, physical, and mathematical science have signed
the coalition's statement calling on the state board of education 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 21st Century Science Coalition's op-eds, visit:

For the Austin American-Statesman's editorial, visit:

For further information about the Coalition, visit:

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit:


NCSE Supporter Francisco Ayala was profiled in the November 2008 issue of
Scientific American.  "After some 30 years of proselytizing about evolution
to Christian believers, the esteemed evolutionary biologist at the
University of California, Irvine, has honed his arguments to a fine point,"
Sally Lehrman writes.  "The 74-year-old Ayala is preparing for an
exceptionally busy 2009.  The year marks the bicentennial of Charles
Darwin's birthday and the sesquicentennial of the publication of On the
Origin of Species, and the battle over the teaching of evolution is sure to
heat up.  Ayala says the need is especially great for scientists to engage
religious people in dialogue."

Regarding it as counterproductive for scientists to attack religion in
promoting the understanding of evolution, Ayala prefers to "help believers
see evolution as an ally" -- as not only compatible with their faith,
contrary to the typical creationist claim, but also as enriching it.  In
particular, Lehrman explains, "Drawing on five years of study in
preparation for ordination as a Dominican priest, Ayala uses evolution to
help answer a central paradox of Christianity -- namely, how can a loving,
all-knowing God allow evil and suffering ... Natural selection can explain
the ruthlessness of nature, Ayala argues, and remove the 'evil' --
requiring an intentional act of free will -- from the living world."

Ayala's efforts to address religious resistance to evolution have not
always been welcomed by the scientific community; he told Lehrman that when
he proposed to quote theologians in the National Academy of Science's
Science and Creationism, second edition (National Academies Press, 1999),
"I was almost eaten alive."  But its successor, Science, Evolution, and
Creationism (National Academies Press, 2008), quotes both leading
scientists of faith (including Francis Collins and NCSE Supporter Kenneth
R. Miller) and religious leaders and groups (including the late Pope John
Paul II and the now over 11,000 signatories of the Clergy Letter Project),
who see no conflict between their faith and science.

A Supporter of NCSE since its founding, Ayala is University Professor, the
Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, and Professor of Philosophy
at the University of California, Irvine; he received the National Medal for
Science, the nation's highest award for lifetime achievement in scientific
research, in 2002.  Among his contributions to the defense of the integrity
of science education was his testimony for the plaintiffs in the challenge
to Arkansas's 1981 "Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and
Evolution-Science Act" (McLean v. Arkansas).  His latest book is Darwin's
Gift: To Science and Religion (Joseph Henry Press, 2007).

For the profile of Ayala, visit:

For information about Science, Evolution, and Creationism, visit:

For information about the Clergy Letter Project, visit:

For information about Darwin's Gift, visit:


On October 18, 2008, NCSE proudly unveiled its new website.  With its
modern look and feel, and its highly improved functionality, it will make
it easier for people to find information about the creationism/evolution
controversy -- and resources for defending the teaching of evolution in the
public schools.

NCSE is grateful to the designer, David Board of Stage 2 Studios, and the
various NCSE staff and friends who helped to put the new website together,
especially NCSE's Susan Spath, who indefatigably led the effort.

For the convenience of those who wish to refer to the old website, NCSE
will be maintaining it at a new domain,, but it will not be
updated.  Those who subscribe to our RSS feed will want to use our new RSS

There are doubtless a few broken links and the like remaining on both the
old and new websites; we are working to fix a number of bugs still, so
please bear with us.  Problems with the websites may be reported to

For NCSE's new website, visit:

For NCSE's legacy website, visit:
For NCSE's legacy website, visit:

For NCSE's new RSS feed, visit:


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Thanks for reading! And as always, be sure to consult NCSE's web site:

where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and
threats to it.


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x305
fax: 510-601-7204

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