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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2009/11/27

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Celebrations galore for the sesquicentennial anniversary of the
publication of On the Origin of Species. Plus Kenneth R. Miller
replies to Ray Comfort's "special introduction" to the Origin.


Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species was published on November
24, 1859, and the sesquicentennial festivities are everywhere! In
addition to Steve Jones's summary of the Origin for New Scientist, the
British Council and the Open University's webcast on "Darwin, the
Origin, and the Future of Biology," and the National Science
Foundation's new website on Evolution of Evolution: 150 Years of
Darwin's On the Origin of Species (described below), here is a
sampling of further articles and resources about the anniversary and
its significance.

E. O. Wilson contributed a selection from his speech for the "Darwin,
the Origin, and the Future of Biology" event to the Independent
(November 24, 2009), writing, "Great scientific discoveries are like
sunrises. ... In fact, nothing in science as a whole has been more
firmly established by interwoven factual information, or more
illuminating[,] than the universal occurrence of biological evolution.
Further, few natural processes have been more convincingly explained
than evolution by the theory of natural selection, or as it has been
popularly called, Darwinism."

Lauri Lebo, the author of The Devil in Dover: An Insider's Story of
Dogma v. Darwin in Small-Town America (New Press, 2008) contributed
"Single Greatest Idea Ever: On the 150th Anniversary of Darwin’s
Origin of Species" to Religion Dispatches (November 24, 2009). "A
century and a half after the publication of Darwin’s foundational
work, attacks on his ideas continue -- including evangelicals
distributing a newly altered version. But it will take more than
banana-wielding fundamentalism to undermine the validity of
evolutionary theory."

Also at Religion Dispatches (November 24, 2009), Edward J. Larson, the
Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial
and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion (Basic
Books, 1997) contributed "'I Had No Intention to Write Atheistically':
Darwin, God, and the 2500-Year History of the Debate." "The argument
between science and theology is as old as ancient Greece, where
scientific rationalism first flourished, but it was revived with the
advent of Darwinism." Look for Larson's pastiche of Aristophanes' The
Clouds toward the end!

In the Washington Post's On Faith column (November 24, 2009), Deborah
Heiligman, the author of Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith
(Henry Holt, 2008), a 2009 National Book Award finalist, offers "A
dozen reasons to celebrate Darwin" -- noting both that "Charles Darwin
was a genius. He had a great idea -- evolution by natural selection --
that has withstood the test of time" and also that "Charles Darwin was
a hard worker... He took years and years to perfect his theory so that
it would be as airtight as possible." She concludes, "We should teach
our children about Charles Darwin."

In Newsweek (November 23, 2009), Mary Carmichael argues in "Nature's
Little Scientists" for teaching evolution to young children, writing,
"Without evolution, biology isn't really science -- it's just
memorization -- and our kids, even the littlest ones, deserve a more
interesting introduction to the natural world than that. It's time we
gave it to them." Among the innovative resources mentioned are the
Charlie’s Playhouse line of evolution-focused educational toys and the
Concord Consortium's interactive, technology-driven fourth-grade
curriculum called Evolution Readiness.

NCSE Supporter Sean B. Carroll inaugurated his new Remarkable
Creatures column in The New York Times with "In snails and snakes,
features to delight Darwin" (November 24, 2009). "Darwin's genius was
in finding great general truths among the details of humble, often
obscure creatures," he observed. Be sure also to visit the Times's
interactive version of the Origin: "As with many original sources, it
is known mostly by reputation but Darwin's writing can still offer
surprises, insights and pleasures. It can be sampled here, with
selections by prominent scientists of their favorite passages."

And the Darwin Manuscripts Project at the American Museum of National
History is celebrating the anniversary by uploading thousands high
quality images of Darwin's scientific manuscripts and notes to its
website. David Kohn, director and general editor of the Darwin
Manuscripts Project, told Live Science (November 23, 2009), "These
rare manuscript leaves from Origin are the crown jewels of our project
and show Darwin in the process of writing. ... I've sat in the
Cambridge University Library since 1974, touching these documents, but
this is the first time that anyone can do this -- online in this
quantity and with this quality."

For E. O. Wilson's reflections on the Origin, visit: 

For Lauri Lebo's essay, visit: 

For Edward J. Larson's essay, visit: 

For Deborah Heiligman's essay, visit: 

For Mary Carmichael's story, visit: 

For Charlie's Playhouse, visit: 

For the Concord Consortium's Evolution Readiness, visit: 

For Sean B. Carroll's column, visit: 

For the Times's interactive Origin, visit: 

For the AMNH's Darwin Manuscripts Project, visit: 

For the Live Science story, visit: 


Evolution of Evolution: 150 Years of Darwin's On the Origin of Species
-- a new on-line resource from the National Science Foundation --
debuts in celebration of the sesquicentennial anniversary of the
publication of Darwin's seminal work. According to a November 23,
2009, press release from the NSF, the website explains how the Origin
"cut an intellectual swath through anthropology, biology, the
geosciences, polar sciences and even astronomy, and why it likely will
continue to serve as the organizing framework for the sciences into

The website offers "a multi-disciplinary one-stop-shop of resources on
evolution and Darwin himself that are available nowhere else --
including eye-catching graphics; captivating interviews and essays by
a team of international evolutionary experts [including NCSE Supporter
Tim White of the University of California, Berkeley, discussing "Human
Evolution's Winding Path" and concluding that "Darwin got it mostly
right"]; fast-read texts; a timeline that neatly summarizes major
intellectual and technological achievements that advanced our
understanding of evolution; and downloadable documents."

For the Evolution of Evolution website, visit: 

For the NSF's press release, visit: 


"Darwin, the Origin, and the Future of Biology" was a celebration,
sponsored by the British Council and the Open University, of the 150th
anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species — and it is
available to watch on-line! In his keynote address -- recorded
beforehand, due to illness -- E. O. Wilson offered his assessment of
the achievement of Darwin as a naturalist and the importance of his
big idea as well as his own vision for a new system of biology
equipped to tackle the threats to our natural world; a panel
discussion featuring Peter Bowler, Randal Keynes, Sandy Knapp, Armand
Leroi, and Ian McEwan followed.

For "Darwin, the Origin, and the Future of Biology," visit: 


Kenneth R. Miller appeared on a news segment on CNN (November 20,
2009), challenging the misleading claims about Darwin offered in Ray
Comfort's "special introduction" to the Origin of Species. "It's
something I would ... want my students to get hold off and tear
apart," he told CNN -- not literally, as the CNN reporter observed,
but intellectually. "One of the most scurrilous things about this
introduction is to imply that Darwin was a racist and a sexist, that
he was responsible ... for the Nazi ideology that led to the Holocaust
-- this is absolute nonsense," he added.

Miller also prepared his own flyer debunking Comfort's introduction,
available on NCSE's Don't Diss Darwin website. A Supporter of NCSE,
Miller is Professor of Biology at Brown University, coauthor (with
Joseph Levine) of one of the most widely used high school biology
textbooks in the country, and author of Finding Darwin's God (Cliff
Street Books, 1999) and Only a Theory (Viking, 2009). He testified for
the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the 2005 case establishing the
unconstitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" creationism.

For the segment on CNN, visit: 

For Miller's flyer (PDF), visit: 

For the Don't Diss Darwin website, 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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