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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2009/10/30

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

The first part of a documentary on hominid evolution is about to
debut. Norman Levitt, a fierce critic of pseudoscience, is dead.
NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott joined Scientific
American's board of advisers. And a chance to hear Sean B. Carroll


The first episode of Becoming Human -- a three-part NOVA documentary
on what the latest scientific research reveals about our hominid
relatives -- will air on November 3, 2009, on public broadcasting
stations around the country. According to NOVA:


Part 1, "First Steps," examines the factors that caused us to split
from the other great apes. The program explores the fossil of "Selam,"
also known as "Lucy's Child." Paleoanthropologist Zeray Alemseged
spent five years carefully excavating the sandstone-embedded fossil.
NOVA's cameras are there to capture the unveiling of the face, spine,
and shoulder blades of this 3.3 million-year-old fossil child. And
NOVA takes viewers "inside the skull" to show how our ancestors'
brains had begun to change from those of the apes. Why did leaps in
human evolution take place? "First Steps" explores a provocative "big
idea" that sharp swings of climate were a key factor.


Further information about the film, including a preview, interviews,
and interactive features, is available at NOVA's website. Information
on finding local public broadcasting stations is available via PBS's

For further information, visit: 

For information on local stations, visit: 


Norman Levitt, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Rutgers University
and a fierce critic of pseudoscience, died on October 23, 2009, in New
York City, according to the obituary in eSkeptic (October 26, 2009).
Born on August 27, 1943, in New York City, Levitt received his B.A.
from Harvard University in 1963 and his Ph.D. from Princeton
University in 1967. After a brief stint at New York University, he
spent the rest of his career at Rutgers University, with visiting
professorships at Arhus University, Stanford University, and the
University of British Columbia; he retired from Rutgers in 2007. A
specialist in topology, he authored Grassmannians and Gauss Maps in
Piecewise-Linear Topology (Springer-Verlag, 1987), but he was better
known to the general public for his critiques of pseudoscience and
obscurantism, including Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its
Quarrels with Science (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994),
coauthored with Paul R. Gross, and Prometheus Bedeviled: Science and
the Contradictions of Contemporary Culture (Rutgers University Press,

While creationism was hardly Levitt's only target, he was certainly
concerned about it, especially in its recent manifestation of
"intelligent design," which he described -- in a press release
announcing SciPolicy's amicus curiae brief for the plaintiffs in
Kitzmiller v. Dover -- as "not new science, fringe science, nor even
junk science. It is merely window-dressing for a movement that is
social, political, and, above all, theological down to its core, and
which never had the least intention of doing disinterested science."
In the wake of the Kitzmiller verdict, he castigated the sociologist
Steve Fuller's testimony on behalf of "intelligent design" in a review
of Fuller's Science vs. Religion? Intelligent Design and the Problem
of Evolution (Polity Press, 2007) for Skeptic and reviewed Michael
Shermer's Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design
(Times Books, 2006) for Reports of the NCSE. His widow Renee Greene
Levitt asks for memorial contributions to be sent to NCSE in lieu of

For the eSkeptic obituary, visit: 

For the SciPolicy press release and brief (both PDF), visit: 

For the two reviews mentioned, visit: 


NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott is on the revamped and
expanded Board of Advisers of Scientific American, announced in the
magazine's November 2009 issue. Acting editor-in-chief Mariette
DiChristina explained that the advisers "have agreed, as friends of
the magazine, to assist in our mission of being for you, our readers,
the best source for information about science and technology advances
and how they will affect our lives. The advisers give us feedback on
story proposals and manuscripts from time to time."

Other members of the board include Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg of
the University of Texas, Austin; Lawrence Lessig of Harvard Law School
and the Center for Internet and Society; Lawrence M. Krauss of Arizona
State University; John P. Moore of Cornell University; Jeffrey Sachs
of the Earth Institute; Arthur Caplan of the University of
Pennsylvania; Nobel laureate David Gross of the University of
California, Santa Barbara; Leslie C. Aiello of the Wenner-Gren
Foundation for Anthropological Research; and Martin Rees of Cambridge

Scott's previous involvement with Scientific American includes
reviewing Robert T. Pennock's Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the
New Creationism for its August 1999 issue and contributing "The Latest
Face of Creationism," coauthored with NCSE's Glenn Branch, to its
January 2009 issue on "The Evolution of Evolution." She was also
honored as one of the Scientific American 10 for 2009 for her
"outstanding commitment to assuring that the benefits of new
technologies and knowledge will accrue to humanity."

For Scientific American's announcement, visit: 

For NCSE's previous coverage of Scott and Scientific American, visit: 


Hear NCSE Supporter Sean B. Carroll discuss "The Making of the
Fittest: Natural Selection and the DNA Record of Evolution" on-line!
From 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. (Eastern) on November 4, 2009, Carroll will
deliver the third lecture of the 150th anniversary Origin of Species
lecture series, hosted by The Reading Odyssey and the Darwin 150
project -- and the whole lecture will be webcast live.

Sponsors of the lecture series include the National Center for Science
Education, National Geographic, Citrix Online and its HiDef
Conferencing Division, Campaign Monitor, the Harvard University Museum
of Comparative Zoology, SquareSpace, the movie Creation, and the New
York Academy of Sciences. Future speakers in the series include E. O.

For information on the webcast, visit: 

For information about the hosts, visit: 

Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- -- 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 x310
fax: 510-601-7204

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