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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2008/12/19

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Evolution is the theme of the current issue of Scientific American, and
NCSE is represented.  Meanwhile, the threat of creationism in the Muslim
world is discussed in the journal Science, and "The Man Who Wasn't Darwin"
-- Alfred Russel Wallace -- is profiled in National Geographic.


"The Evolution of Evolution:  How Darwin's Theory Survives, Thrives and
Reshapes the World" is the theme of the latest issue of Scientific American
(January 2009), commemorating the bicentennial of Darwin's birth and the
sesquicentennial of the publication of the Origin of Species -- and NCSE is
represented, with Glenn Branch and Eugenie C. Scott's discussion of the
newest mutations of the antievolutionist movement in "The Latest Face of

Branch and Scott explain that "creationists are increasingly retreating to
their standard fallback strategy for undermining the teaching of
evolution:  misrepresenting evolution as scientifically controversial while
remaining silent about what they regard as the alternative. ...
Creationism's latest face is just like its earlier face, only now thinly
disguised with a fake mustache."  But the effects of their efforts are as
pernicious as ever:  "Telling students that evolution is a theory in crisis
is -- to be blunt -- a lie."

Also featured are David J. Buller on "Evolution of the Mind," H. Allen Orr
on "Testing Natural Selection with Genetics," David M. Kingsley on
"Diversity Revealed:  From Atoms to Traits," Ed Regis on "The Science of
Spore," Neil H. Shubin on "The Evolutionary Origins of Hiccups and
Hernias," Peter Ward on "The Future of Man -- How Will Evolution Change
Humans?" and David P. Mindell on "Putting Evolution to Use in the Everyday

The staff of Scientific American contributed to the issue as well, with
Gary Stix introducing "Darwin's Living Legacy -- Evolutionary Theory 150
Years Later," Kate Wong reviewing "The Human Pedigree," and the editors
explaining "Why Everyone Should Learn the Theory of Evolution" -- "Darwin's
legacy has a direct bearing on how society makes public policy and even, at
times, on how we choose to run our lives," they comment.

For the January 2009 issue of Scientific American, visit:

For Branch and Scott's article, visit:


Salman Hameed of Hampshire College addressed the challenge of Islamic
creationism in the December 12, 2008, issue of Science (322 [5908]:
1637-1638), warning that "although the last couple of decades have seen an
increasing confrontation over the teaching of evolution in the United
States, the next major battle over evolution is likely to take place in the
Muslim world (i.e., predominantly Islamic countries, as well as in
countries where there are large Muslim populations)."  He added,
"Relatively poor education standards, in combination with frequent
misinformation about evolutionary ideas, make the Muslim world a fertile
ground for rejection of the theory."

"We do not know much about general views about science in Muslim countries,
let alone on the specific question of evolution," Hameed observed, although
he discusses a recent survey asking, "Do you agree or disagree with
Darwins theory of evolution?"  He reported, "Only 16% of Indonesians, 14%
of Pakistanis, 8% of Egyptians, 11% of Malaysians, and 22% of Turks agree
that Darwins theory is probably or most certainly true," he reports --
although 37% of Kazakhs agreed, which is comparable to the 40% of Americans
who regard "Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species
of animals" as probably or definitely true, as reported by Jon D. Miller,
NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott, and Shinji Okamoto in 2006.

Similarly, not much is known about the state of evolution education in
Muslim countries.  The national academies of science of fourteen Muslim
countries are signatories to the Inter-Academy Panel statement in support
of evolution education (included in the third edition of Voices for
Evolution), but what is actually presented about evolution in those
classrooms is unclear.  Citing work by Anila Asghar and Brian Alters (a
member of NCSE's board of directors) surveying Pakistani textbooks and
teachers as well as a recent study of Muslim university students studying
in the Netherlands, Hameed tentatively suggested that in the Muslim world
it is the idea of human evolution that elicits the most resistance.

Also contributing to the rejection of evolution in the Muslim world,
unsurprisingly, is the view that evolution is tantamount to atheism.  In a
December 11, 2008, interview posted on New Scientist's website, Hameed
commented, "If evolution is presented as a choice between evolution and
religion, people are going to pick religion.  No question."  Similarly, in
the Science article, he explained, "Evolutionary ideas about human origins
may face serious obstacles, but a peaceful religious accommodation is also
possible.  However, efforts that link evolution with atheism will cut short
the dialogue, and a vast majority of Muslims will reject evolution."

There is already a substantial creationist movement in the Muslim world,
Hameed observed, writing in a December 12, 2008, essay posted on the
Guardian's science blog that "the dominant voice shaping the
evolution-creation debate in the Muslim world is that of Turkish
creationist Adnan Oktar, who uses the pen name Harun Yahya."  (For
background, see Taner Edis's "Cloning Creationism in Turkey" published in
Reports of the NCSE in 1999.)  Both in his Guardian essay and in his
Science article, Hameed urged the scientific community to take
action:  "Scientists, especially biologists, should write for newspapers
and magazines read by a Muslim audience and seize back the initiative from
creationists like Yahya."

For Hameed's article (subscription required), visit:

For NCSE's story about Miller, Scott, and Okamoto's article, visit:

For the Inter-Academy Panel statement and Voices for Evolution, visit:

For Hameed's interview with New Scientist, visit:

For Hameed's blog post at the Guardian, visit:

For Taner Edis's article from Reports of the NCSE, visit:


Amid the hoopla as the bicentennial of Darwin's birth and the
sesquicentennial of the publication of the Origin of Species approach, it
is good to be reminded of the contributions of Alfred Russel Wallace, who
also formulated the idea of evolution by natural selection.  "Wallace's
story is complicated, heroic, and perplexing," as David Quammen writes in
"The Man Who Wasn't Darwin" (published in the December 2008 issue of
National Geographic).  "[M]ost people who know of Alfred Russel Wallace
know him only as Charles Darwin's secret sharer, the man who co-discovered
the theory of evolution by natural selection but failed to get an equal
share of the credit," Quammen explains.

But Wallace is worthy of attention in his own right:  "Besides being one of
the greatest field biologists of the 19th century, he was a man of
crotchety independence and lurching enthusiasms, a restless soul never
quite satisfied with the place in which he lived," Quammen adds.  In
addition to the article, Quammen recently discussed Wallace in a November
5, 2008, lecture at Montana State University, which is now available as a

A prolific science writer, Quammen's previous work includes "Was Darwin
Wrong?" (the cover story of the November 2004 issue of National Geographic
-- the answer was a resounding no) and The Reluctant Mr. Darwin (W. W.
Norton, 2006), which Kevin Padian, president of NCSE's board of directors,
described as "a fresh and original look at one of history's greatest
scientists, written by one of our very best science writers."

For Quammen's article, visit:

For the podcast of Quammen's lecture, visit:

For Quammen's "Was Darwin Wrong?" visit:

To buy The Reluctant Mr. Darwin from (and benefit NCSE), visit:


Evolution Education Update is going on vacation, and will return in early
January 2009.


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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.

With best wishes for the holiday season,

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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