NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2009/12/04
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, Three members of NCSE celebrated Origin Day in columns for their local newspapers. And a new issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach is now available.
NCSE MEMBERS CELEBRATING ORIGIN DAY Adding to the recent celebrations of the sesquicentennial anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species on November 24, 1859, were three members of NCSE, writing for their local newspapers. Mark Farmer, writing in the Athens Banner-Herald (November 24, 2009), compared Darwin to Copernicus, concluding, "Rather than challenging mankind's place in the universe, these two ideas liberate and enable us to move on to an ever greater understanding of the universe and our place in it. Through our genes we are connected to every living thing. Through our chemistry we are connected to the Earth. Through our very atoms we are connected to the stars and the universe. Big ideas indeed, and ones that challenge us to consider our place in the cosmos. These are ideas that should be embraced, not rejected. Ideas that should fill us with wonder and joy, not fear." Professor of Cellular Biology at the University of Georgia, Farmer also serves on the media advisory panel of Georgia Citizens for Integrity in Science Education. Richard Firenze, writing in the Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin (November 24, 2009), discussed the theological impact of the Origin, which he described as arguably "the most influential non-fiction work ever written in the English language." He explained, "What Darwin offered, much to the chagrin of many, was a way to explain this apparent design without a designer. It should be noted that Darwin did not say there was no designer, only that one was not necessary to scientifically explain life's complexity." Lamenting the "controversy that distracts from our collective appreciation of the splendor of the mysteries of our natural world that so inspired Darwin throughout his life," Firenze urged that "we ... put aside our differences and make this a day of celebration." A recipient of NCSE's Friend of Darwin award, Firenze is Professor of Biology at Broome Community College. Steven Schafersman, posting on the Houston Chronicle's Evo.Sphere blog (November 24, 2009), reviewed the scientific reception of the Origin. "Darwin's book presented evidence that the diversity of life arose through a branching pattern of evolution across millions of years of time, and that all living organism[s], including humans, were the product of this long history of genetic and morphological change," and the scientific community was swiftly convinced. Darwin's proposed mechanism for evolution, natural selection, was not as fortunate, of course, but today "Darwin's concept of evolutionary adaptation through natural selection became central to modern evolutionary theory and is now the unifying concept of the life sciences." A recipient of NCSE's Friend of Darwin award, Schafersman is president of Texas Citizens for Science. If you're a member of NCSE and you celebrated Origin Day -- by writing a newspaper column, holding a party, or just rereading the Origin -- let the NCSE office know! And if you're not a member of NCSE, you can fix that -- by joining today. For Farmer's column, visit: http://www.onlineathens.com/stories/112409/opi_528191950.shtml For Georgia Citizens for Integrity in Science Education, visit: http://www.georgiascience.org/ For Firenze's column, visit: http://www.pressconnects.com/article/20091124/VIEWPOINTS02/911240303/1120/Darwin-s-legacy-lives-on For Schafersman's column, visit: http://www.chron.com/commons/readerblogs/evosphere.html For Texas Citizens for Science, visit: http://www.texscience.org/ THE LATEST ISSUE OF EVOLUTION: EDUCATION AND OUTREACH The latest issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach -- the new journal aspiring to promote accurate understanding and comprehensive teaching of evolutionary theory for a wide audience -- is now available on-line. Among the highlights are Ian Tattersall's "Becoming Modern Homo sapiens," a trio of papers expounding the evolution of morality and arguing for its place in the curriculum by Douglas Allchin, T. Ryan Gregory's "The Argument from Design: A Guided Tour of William Paley’s Natural Theology (1802)," Shelley L. Smith and Raymond A. Eve's "Texas Biology and Biological Anthropology Faculty Express Their Views on Teaching Evolution," and Ulrich Kutschera's "Darwin’s Philosophical Imperative and the Furor Theologicus." And there is a flock of reviews, too: Andrew J. Petto, a member of NCSE's board of directors, reviews Louis I. Held Jr.'s Quirks of Human Anatomy, Stephen W. Paddock reviews Evolution: The First Four Billion Years, edited by NCSE Supporter Michael Ruse and Joseph Travis, Paula Ann Spaeth reviews Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True, and Adam M. Goldstein reviews Richard Milner's Darwin's Universe. Also included is NCSE's regular column for Evolution: Education and Outreach, Overcoming Obstacles to Evolution Education. In "Homology: Why We know a Whale is not a Fish," Andrew J. Petto and NCSE's Louise S. Mead argue, "Homology is a fundamental concept in comparative and evolutionary biology and yet often the focus of antievolution challenges. In describing structural similarity that is the result of common ancestry, hypotheses about homology require rigorous testing and form the basis for making predictions about anatomy and physiology as well as the fossil record. Communicating the basics of homology to students is essential for a high school biology curriculum." They conclude, "textbooks could stand to be clearer on the definition of homology versus diagnosis, the descriptive and predictive nature of hypotheses, and the fact that hypotheses of homology are not just a matter of overall similarity of gross morphology, but emerge from development, biochemistry, genetics, and ecology. ... Organisms are never classified biologically by a single criterion or a single feature, but on the basis of mutually reinforcing and concordant patterns at multiple levels of analysis -- and this is the essential concept for teaching homology in biology classes." For Evolution: Education and Outreach, visit: http://www.springerlink.com/content/120878/ For Petto and Mead's article, visit: http://www.springerlink.com/content/vk42500164654181/fulltext.html CORRECTION The links to the Religion Dispatches essays by Lauri Lebo and Edward J. Larson in the November 27, 2009, Evolution Education Update were accidentally interchanged. For Lauri Lebo's essay, visit: http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/scienceenvironment/2059 For Edward J. Larson's essay, visit: http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/scienceenvironment/1813 Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://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 x310 fax: 510-601-7204 800-290-6006 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncseweb.org Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter: http://groups.google.com/group/ncse-news NCSE is on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter: http://www.facebook.com/evolution.ncse http://www.youtube.com/NatCen4ScienceEd http://twitter.com/ncse NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today! http://ncseweb.org/membership