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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

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."


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:

For Branch and Scott's article in Scientific American, visit:

For Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education's website, visit:

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


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:

For Padian's testimony and slides from the Kitzmiller case, visit:

For NCSE's collection of information about the Kitzmiller case, visit:


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:

To buy the reviewed books from (and benefit NCSE in the
process), 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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