NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2009/01/09
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, The first antievolution bill of the year appears in Oklahoma. Meanwhile, Kevin Padian and Nicholas Matzke discuss Darwin and Dover in the Biochemical Journal, and a reviewer for The New York Times addresses "Four Stakes in the Heart of Intelligent Design."
ANTIEVOLUTION LEGISLATION IN OKLAHOMA Senate Bill 320, prefiled in the Oklahoma Senate and scheduled for a first reading on February 2, 2009, is apparently the first antievolution bill of 2009. Entitled the "Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act," SB 320 would, if enacted, require state and local educational authorities to "assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies" and permit teachers to "help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught." The only topics specifically mentioned as controversial are "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." Unsurprisingly, SB 320 is a further instance of the "academic freedom" strategy for undermining the teaching of evolution; as NCSE's Glenn Branch and Eugenie C. Scott recently wrote in their article "The Latest Face of Creationism," published in the January 2009 issue of Scientific American, "'Academic freedom' was the creationist catchphrase of choice in 2008: the Louisiana Science Education Act was in fact born as the Louisiana Academic Freedom Act, and bills invoking the idea were introduced in Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Missouri and South Carolina ..." Of these, only the Louisiana bill was passed and enacted, over protests from the scientific, educational, and civil liberties communities. The sponsor of the Oklahoma bill is Randy Brogdon (R-District 34), who was a cosponsor in 2006 of House Concurrent Resolution 1034. If enacted, HCR 1034 would have encouraged "the State Board of Education and local boards of education to revise the recommended academic curriculum content standards in science to ensure that, upon graduation, all students can accomplish the following: 1. Use of [sic] the scientific method to critically evaluate scientific theories including, but not limited to, the theory of evolution; and 2. Use relevant scientific data to assess the validity of those theories and to formulate arguments for and against those theories." HCR 1034 died in committee in May 2006. Oklahomans concerned about SB 320 are encouraged to get in touch with Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, a non-profit educational organization that promotes the education of the public about the methods and values of science and advocates excellence in the science curriculum. As OESE explains on its website, "The formation of OESE was prompted by the attempts in the Oklahoma State Textbook Committee in 1999 to diminish the teaching of evolution by the introduction of creationist textbook disclaimers to be inserted into any textbook used in public schools that discussed evolution. There have been bills introduced almost every year since 1999 for legislation that would allow teaching creationism in science courses; OESE has opposed all such attempts." For the text of SB 320 (document), visit: http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/2009-10bills/SB/sb320_int.rtf For Branch and Scott's article in Scientific American, visit: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=the-latest-face-of-creationism For Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education's website, visit: http://www.oklascience.org/ And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Oklahoma, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/oklahoma PADIAN AND MATZKE ON DARWIN AND DOVER The Biochemical Journal inaugurated its series of review articles to commemorate the bicentennial of Darwin's birth by publishing Kevin Padian and Nicholas Matzke's "Darwin, Dover, 'Intelligent Design' and textbooks" (209; 417; 29-42). In it, Padian and Matzke explain, "we review very briefly the history of the 'evolution versus creation' controversy in American jurisprudence, focusing on the Dover trial as a watershed in the latest iteration of American creationism, namely 'intelligent design'. We review what ID is and what it claims to be, and how it differs from classical ID theology. We discuss the fallout from the Dover trial decision and what the antievolution forces are doing in its wake. And finally, we suggest what scientists -- whether evolutionists, biochemists, geologists or physicists -- can do about the collective societal inertia that continues to impede an integrative understanding of science among the American public." 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. Now a graduate student in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, Matzke worked for NCSE from 2004 to 2007. Seed magazine profiled him in 2006 as one of its nine "Revolutionary Minds." He was the lead NCSE staffer working on the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, providing a wealth of scientific expertise and practical advice to the legal team representing the ultimately victorious plaintiffs. For Padian and Matzke's article (PDF), visit: http://www.biochemj.org/bj/417/0029/4170029.pdf For Padian's testimony and slides from the Kitzmiller case, visit: http://ncseweb.org/creationism/legal/padians-expert-testimony For NCSE's collection of information about the Kitzmiller case, visit: http://ncseweb.org/creationism/legal/intelligent-design-trial-kitzmiller-v-dover FOUR STAKES IN THE HEART OF INTELLIGENT DESIGN Writing in The New York Times (January 4, 2009), Charles McGrath reviewed a quartet of books relevant to the creationism/evolution controversy, described in the headline as "Four Stakes in the Heart of Intelligent Design." Beginning with Why Evolution is True (Viking, 2009), McGrath writes, "The author, Jerry A. Coyne, is not as eloquent as Richard Dawkins or Stephen Jay Gould, probably the two most famous defenders of evolutionary theory, but in some ways he's more informative about the basics, and he makes an unassailable case." Even though the scientific case for evolution is unassailable, controversies over the teaching of evolution continue; Lauri Lebo's The Devil in Dover (The New Press, 2008) relates the story of the Kitzmiller v. Dover case. McGrath writes, "her account is both well informed and at times deeply ... personal: the whole time she was reporting the story, she was struggling with her own beliefs and also locked in argument with her father, who owned a fundamentalist Christian radio station." Testifying on behalf of the plaintiffs in the Kitzmiller case was NCSE Supporter Kenneth R. Miller, whose Only a Theory (Viking, 2008) "pretty much dismantles all the claims, such as they are, for the intelligent design movement. ... Miller also adds an impassioned argument for why the rest of us shouldn't just turn our heads and let a few benighted school systems teach whatever they want." Finally, Peter J. Bowler's Monkey Trials and Gorilla Sermons (Harvard University Press, 2007) provides a historical background to the controversy: "Bowler thinks that if we understand the history of the debate better we might be able to depolarize it," McGrath ruefully concludes, "but that may be too much to hope." For McGrath's review in The New York Times, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/04/education/edlife/books-t.html To buy the reviewed books from Amazon.com (and benefit NCSE in the process), visit: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/asin/0670020532/nationalcenter02/ http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/asin/1595582088/nationalcenter02/ http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/asin/067001883X/nationalcenter02/ REMINDER If you wish to unsubscribe to these evolution education updates, please send: unsubscribe ncse-news email@example.com in the body of an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you wish to subscribe, please send: subscribe ncse-news email@example.com again in the body of an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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. Sincerely, 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 email@example.com 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. Join today! http://www.ncseweb.org/membership