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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2008/11/21

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch:)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

No shortage of news from Texas, where the state board of education heard
testimony about the proposed revisions to the state science standards from
over ninety citizens, just two days after a survey of the state's biology
professors revealed overwhelming rejection of the arguments advanced by the
antievolutionists seeking to undermine the treatment of evolution in those
standards.  And Judgment Day -- the documentary about the Kitzmiller v.
Dover case -- receives new kudos from the AAAS.


The Texas state board of education heard testimony about the proposed new
set of state science standards during its meeting on November 19, 2008 --
and plenty of the testimony concerned the treatment of evolution in the
standards.  As the Dallas Morning News (November 20, 2008) explained, the
standards "will dictate what is taught in science classes in elementary and
secondary schools and provide the material for state tests and
textbooks.  The standards will remain in place for a decade after their
approval by the state board."

The standards under consideration were not the version released in
September 2008, but a revised version drafted in November 2008 and not
posted on the Texas Education Agency's website until November 17, 2008.  A
significant difference is that the September version omitted the "strengths
and weaknesses" language of the old standards, which was selectively
applied in 2003 by members of the board seeking to dilute the treatment of
evolution in biology textbooks, while the November version includes a
variant of it: "strengths and limitations."

Texas Citizens for Science's Steven Schafersman told the board that the
"strengths and weaknesses" language was unscientific and pedagogically
inappropriate, according to the Austin American-Statesman (November 20,
2008).  He was not alone in his view:  according to a report issued by the
Texas Freedom Network Education Fund just two days before the hearing, 94%
of Texas biology professors regard the "weaknesses" of evolution cited by
creationists as not representing valid scientific objections to evolution.

Nor was Schafersman alone in defending the teaching of evolution at the
meeting.  In a story significantly headlined "Evolution proponents descend
on state education panel," the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (November 20, 2008)
observed, "With few exceptions, the speakers -- scientists, teachers,
clergy and grassroots activists -- took the side of evolution," a situation
that evidently vexed the chair of the board, avowed creationist Don
McLeroy, who complained, "This is all being ginned up by the evolution side."

Reflecting on the spectacle, the Corpus Christi Call-Times (November 20,
2008) editorially commented, "Members of the state Board of Education, as
they prepare to establish a new science curriculum, should certainly heed
the advice of the state's top science teachers:  Teaching the 'weaknesses'
of the theory of evolution raises questions about its validity, questions
that are not shared by established science.  Public schools should teach
evolution.  Period.  Texas students will have to compete in the real world,
not the flat earth of the past."

In addition to the newspaper reports, detailed running commmentary on the
meeting was posted on their blogs by representatives of two of the groups
defending the integrity of science education in Texas:  Texas Citizens for
Science, on the Houston Chronicle's Evo.Sphere blog, and the Texas Freedom
Network, on its own blog.  Both groups are going to continue to monitor the
standards, which are expected first to return to the writing committee for
revisions in December 2008, and then return to the board for consideration
in January 2009.

For the story in the Dallas Morning News, visit:

For the TEA's information about the standards, visit:

For the story in the Austin American-Statesman, visit:

For the report from the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund (PDF), visit:

For the story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, visit:

For the editorial in the Corpus Christi Call-Times, visit:

For Texas Citizens for Science and its blog, visit:

For the Texas Freedom Network and its blog, visit:

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

Scientists at public and private universities in Texas overwhelmingly
reject the arguments advanced by the antievolutionists seeking to undermine
the treatment of evolution in Texas's state science standards, according to
a report just released by the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund.  "This
survey leaves no doubt that the political crusade against evolution and
other attempts to dumb down our public school science curriculum are deeply
misguided," TFN Education Fund President Kathy Miller said in a press
release.  "Texas scientists are clearly worried that failing to provide a
21st-century science education in our public schools will harm our
children's chances to succeed in college and the jobs of the future."

The report, entitled Evolution, Creationism, and Public
Education:  Surveying What Texas Scientists Think about Educating Our Kids
in the 21st Century, details a survey conducted by the TFN Education Fund
in conjunction with Raymond Eve, a sociology professor at the University of
Texas, Arlington, who is the coauthor with Francis B. Harrold of The
Creationist Movement in Modern America (Twayne, 1990).  The survey was sent
to the 1019 biologists and biological anthropologists on the faculty of all
35 public and the 15 largest private colleges and universities in
Texas.  The response rate was high -- 45% of those surveyed
responded.  "Their responses should send parents a clear message that those
who want to play politics with science education are putting our kids at
risk," Eve commented.

The TFN Education Fund's press release summarizes five key findings from
the survey:  "1. Texas scientists (97.7 percent) overwhelmingly reject
'intelligent design' as valid science.  2. Texas science faculty (95
percent) want only evolution taught in science classrooms.  3. Scientists
reject teaching the so-called 'weaknesses' of evolution, with 94 percent
saying that those arguments are not valid scientific objections to
evolution.  4. Science faculty believe that emphasizing 'weaknesses' of
evolution would substantially harm students' college readiness (79.6
percent) and ability to compete for 21st-century jobs (72 percent).  5.
Scientists (91 percent) strongly believe that support for evolution is
compatible with religious faith."

Evolution, Creationism, and Public Education was released just as the Texas
state board of education was preparing to consider a new draft set of state
science standards from November 19 to November 21, hearing testimony from
the public on November 19.  The Dallas Morning News (November 17, 2008)
reported that "a majority of members have voiced support for retaining the
current mandate to cover both strengths and weaknesses of major scientific
theories, notably evolution, in science courses."  But the TFN Education
Fund's Kathy Miller told the newspaper that it would be a mistake for the
board not to heed the clear consensus of Texas science professors:  "This
survey leaves no doubt that the political crusade against evolution and
other attempts to dumb down our public school science curriculum are deeply

For the TFN Education Fund's press release, visit:

For Education, Creationism, and Public Education (PDF), visit:

For tthe story in the Dallas Morning News, visit:

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


Judgment Day:  Intelligent Design on Trial, the NOVA documentary about
Kitzmiller v. Dover, was among the winners of the 2008 Science Journalism
Awards presented by the American Association for the Advancement of Science
to honor excellence in science reporting.  According to a November 12,
2008, press release:


The judges praised the two-hour NOVA broadcast for its careful, balanced
presentation on the landmark Dover, Pennsylvania, court case that weighed
the merits of discussing "intelligent design" in the science
classroom.  Through interviews with participants in the 2005 case, use of
trial transcripts and reenactments of key courtroom moments, the broadcast
captured the community turmoil surrounding the case, described the modern
science of evolution, and explained why U.S District Court Judge John E.
Jones III ruled that intelligent design is a religious idea that should not
be taught in public school science classrooms . Frank Roylance, a science
writer for The Baltimore Sun who was on the judging panel, said the NOVA
broadcast was "a very careful, methodical and sensitive presentation of a
vital scientific question, with enormous social and political import."  He
added:  "The filmmakers managed to be both clear and accurate with the
science, and fair and sensitive to the beliefs of the ID proponents."  Tina
Hesman Saey of Science News said the program "brought to life the
scientific process and really shows how we know what we know about the
evolution of life on Earth."


NCSE congratulates the producers of the documentary -- NOVA/WGBH
Educational Foundation, Vulcan Productions Inc., and The Big Table Film
Company -- on the honor, which includes a $3000 award and a
plaque.  Judgment Day was also the recipient of a Peabody Award and a
finalist for the Communication Award presented by the National Academies.

For information about Judgment Day, visit:

For information about Kitzmiller v. Dover, visit:

For the AAAS's press release, visit:

For information about Judgment Day's other awards, visit:


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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

Not in Our Classrooms:  Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism

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