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.
EVOLUTION IN SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN "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 Creationism." 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 World." 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: http://www.sciam.com/sciammag/ For Branch and Scott's article, visit: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=the-latest-face-of-creationism UPDATE ON ISLAMIC CREATIONISM Salman Hameed of Hampshire College addressed the challenge of Islamic creationism in the December 12, 2008, issue of Science (322 : 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: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/322/5908/1637 For NCSE's story about Miller, Scott, and Okamoto's article, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/news/2006/08/public-acceptance-evolution-science-00991 For the Inter-Academy Panel statement and Voices for Evolution, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/media/voices/interacademy-panel http://www.ncseweb.org/media/voices For Hameed's interview with New Scientist, visit: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16258-how-to-stop-creationism-gaining-a -hold-in-islam.html For Hameed's blog post at the Guardian, visit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2008/dec/12/islamic-creationism-evolut ion-muslim For Taner Edis's article from Reports of the NCSE, visit: http://ncseweb.org/rncse/19/6/cloning-creationism-turkey QUAMMEN ON WALLACE 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 podcast. 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: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/12/wallace/quammen-text For the podcast of Quammen's lecture, visit: http://www.montana.edu/lettersandscience/quammen_audio_03.html For Quammen's "Was Darwin Wrong?" visit: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0411/feature1/ To buy The Reluctant Mr. Darwin from Amazon.com (and benefit NCSE), visit: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/asin/039332995X/nationalcenter02 NOTICE Evolution Education Update is going on vacation, and will return in early January 2009. REMINDER If you wish to unsubscribe to these evolution education updates, please send: unsubscribe ncse-news firstname.lastname@example.org in the body of an e-mail to email@example.com. If you wish to subscribe, please send: subscribe ncse-news firstname.lastname@example.org again in the body of an e-mail to email@example.com. Thanks for reading! And as always, be sure to consult NCSE's web site: http://www.ncseweb.org 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 800-290-6006 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.ncseweb.org Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools http://www.ncseweb.org/nioc Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism http://www.ncseweb.org/evc NCSE's work is supported by its members. 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