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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

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.


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

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

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

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: 

For Georgia Citizens for Integrity in Science Education, visit: 

For Firenze's column, visit: 

For Schafersman's column, visit: 

For Texas Citizens for Science, visit: 


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: 

For Petto and Mead's article, visit: 


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: 

For Edward J. Larson's essay, 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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