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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2010/01/22

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

The Creation "Museum" reaches the pages of Vanity Fair, while the
Freshwater case reaches the pages of The New York Times. Meanwhile,
Darwin Day 2010 is approaching, and the movie Creation is making its


A. A. Gill reports on his visit to Answers in Genesis's Creation
"Museum" in the February 2010 issue of Vanity Fair -- "a
breathtakingly literal march through Genesis, without any hint of
soul." "The Creation Museum isn't really a museum at all," Gill
writes. "It's an argument. It's not even an argument. It's the
ammunition for an argument. It is the Word made into bullets. An
armory of righteous revisionism. ... This place doesn't just take on
evolution -- it squares off with geology, anthropology, paleontology,
history, chemistry, astronomy, zoology, biology, and good taste. It
directly and boldly contradicts most -onomies and all -ologies,
including most theology."

Accompanying Gill was the actor Paul Bettany, who plays Charles Darwin
in the film Creation. (Creation premieres in the United States on
January 22, 2010, in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington
DC, and Boston. Remember, a strong opening weekend improves the
chances that the film will subsequently appear in further cities, so
NCSE encourages its members and friends to show up in force!) A number
of Bettany's photographs from their visit to the Creation "Museum"
appear on Vanity Fair's website, although he seems to have missed the
ceratopsian accoutered with a saddle (photographed by Daniel Phelps).

NCSE's previous coverage of the Creation "Museum" includes Daniel
Phelps's review and overview and Timothy H. Heaton's account of his
visit. NCSE also sponsored a statement signed by over 1200 scientists
in the three states surrounding the museum -- Kentucky, Ohio, and
Indiana -- expressing their concern about the effect of the
scientifically inaccurate materials displayed there: "Students who
accept this material as scientifically valid are unlikely to succeed
in science courses at the college level. These students will need
remedial instruction in the nature of science, as well as in the
specific areas of science misrepresented by Answers in Genesis."

For Gill's article, visit: 

For Bettany's photographs, visit: 

For information about Creation, visit: 

For Phelps's and Heaton's reports, visit: 

And for the NCSE-sponsored statement of concern, visit: 


The controversy over John Freshwater, a Mount Vernon, Ohio, middle
school science teacher accused of inappropriate religious activity in
the classroom, reached the pages of The New York Times (January 19,
2010), just as the lengthy administrative hearing on his termination
is finally nearing its end. In June 2008, a complaint filed in federal
court, Doe v. Mount Vernon, accused Freshwater of inappropriately
bringing his religion into school -- including by posting posters with
the Ten Commandments and Bible verses in his classroom, branding
crosses into the arms of his students with a high-voltage electrical
device, and teaching creationism. Shortly thereafter, the Mount Vernon
City School District Board of Education unanimously voted to begin
proceedings to terminate his employment in the district.

As the Times reported, Freshwater, who is currently suspended without
pay from his job, "asked for a pre-termination hearing, which has
lasted more than a year and has cost the school board more than a half
million dollars." Creationism, while not the only issue at the
hearing, was conspicuous throughout. "Freshwater's supporters want to
make this into a new and reverse version of the Scopes trial," David
Millstone, the lawyer for the Mount Vernon Board of Education, told
the Times, adding, "We see this as a basic issue about students having
a constitutional right to be free from religious indoctrination in the
public schools." Detailed reports on the hearings by Richard B. Hoppe
are available on The Panda’s Thumb blog (search for "Freshwater").

In August 2009, a partial settlement in Doe v. Mount Vernon was
reached, in which, according to The Mount Vernon News (August 27,
2009), "the board's insurance company has agreed to pay $115,500
toward the plaintiffs' legal fees, $5,500 to one of the plaintiffs as
compensation and the sum of $1 each to two other individuals." Not
covered by the settlement agreement was Freshwater himself, so the
case remains open. Complicating the legal situation, Freshwater filed
a counterclaim in Doe v. Mount Vernon in 2008 and his own lawsuit,
Freshwater v. Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education et
al., against the board and a number of district administrators in
2009, alleging religious discrimination, defamation, conspiracy, and
breach of contract.

For the story in The New York Times, visit: 

For Hoppe's reports at The Panda's Thumb, visit: 

For documents from the two cases, visit: 

For the story in The Mount Vernon News, visit: 

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


Are you recovered from 2009's celebrations of the bicentennial of
Darwin's birth and the sesquicentennial of the publication of On the
Origin of Species? Good, because less than a month remains before
Darwin Day 2010! Colleges and universities, schools, libraries,
museums, churches, civic groups, and just plain folks across the
country -- and the world -- are preparing to celebrate Darwin Day, on
or around February 12, in honor of the life and work of Charles
Darwin. These events provide a marvelous opportunity not only to
celebrate Darwin's birthday but also to engage in public outreach
about science, evolution, and the importance of evolution education.
NCSE encourages its members and friends to attend, participate in, and
even organize Darwin Day events in their own communities. To find a
local event, check the websites of local universities and museums and
the registry of Darwin Day events maintained by the Darwin Day
Celebration website. (And don't forget to register your own event with
the Darwin Day Celebration website!)

And with Darwin Day comes the return of Evolution Weekend! Hundreds of
congregations all over the country and around the world are taking
part in Evolution Weekend, February 12-14, 2010, by presenting sermons
and discussion groups on the compatibility of faith and science.
Michael Zimmerman, the initiator of the project, writes, "Evolution
Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the
relationship between religion and science. One important goal is to
elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic -- to
move beyond sound bites. A second critical goal is to demonstrate that
religious people from many faiths and locations understand that
evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith.
Finally, as with The Clergy Letter itself, Evolution Weekend makes it
clear that those claiming that people must choose between religion and
science are creating a false dichotomy." At last count, 710
congregations in all fifty states (and ten foreign countries) were
scheduled to hold Evolution Weekend events.

In a January 27, 2009, story at Religion Dispatches, Lauri Lebo -- the
author of The Devil in Dover (The New Press, 2008), the latest book
about the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial -- discusses the genesis of
Evolution Weekend and the Clergy Letter Project. Michael Zimmerman
told her that after organizing a number of letters in Wisconsin to
counteract a local attempt to undermine the teaching of evolution, it
struck him: "All of a sudden, here it was ... I realized, OK, I have
this letter signed by 200 people in one state. I did the calculations,
and figured I could come up with 10,000 signatures nationwide. I
thought if I could get the signatures, I could put an end to this
silliness." He added, "It never crossed my mind how big 10,000 is."
(There are presently 12,307 signatories.) Lebo continues, "Despite its
success, Zimmerman is under no delusion that the Clergy Letter Project
will end the attacks on evolutionary education by those of
fundamentalist faiths. ... Instead, he’s trying to reach out to people
of more mainstream faiths, who are open-minded but scientifically

Writing on the Beacon Broadside blog in February 2008, NCSE's deputy
director Glenn Branch asked, "Why make such a point of celebrating
Darwin Day, as opposed to, say, Einstein Day on March 14?" He
answered, "A crucial reason, particularly in the United States, is to
counteract the public climate of ignorance of, skepticism about, and
hostility toward evolution," citing a number of current attempts to
undermine the teaching of evolution in the public schools. The
onslaught continues in 2010, with struggles in Texas, Louisiana,
Mississippi, Missouri, and elsewhere. "So that’s a fine reason," as
Branch recommended in 2008, "for you to devote a day -- at the museum
or in a pew, at a lecture hall or in a movie theater, out in the park
or indoors on a badminton court -- to learn about, discuss, and
celebrate Darwin and his contributions to science, and to demonstrate
your support of teaching evolution in the public schools."

For the Darwin Day registry, visit: 

For information about Evolution Weekend, visit: 

For Lebo's story and Branch's post, visit: 


A reminder: Creation, the new film about Darwin featuring Paul Bettany
and Jennifer Connelly, premieres in the United States on January 22,
2010, in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington DC, and
Boston. In her review of Creation at The Panda's Thumb blog, NCSE's
executive director Eugenie C. Scott described it as "a thoughtful,
well-made film that will change many views of Darwin held by the
public -- for the good." Scott, the film's director Jon Amiel, and
Kevin Padian, president of NCSE's board of directors, will participate
in a discussion panel at the San Francisco premiere, and similar
events are planned for the premieres elsewhere. A strong opening
weekend improves the chances that the film will subsequently appear in
further cities, so NCSE encourages its members and friends to show up
in force. For updates, visit NCSE's "Darwin on the Big Screen" and
Creation's website.

For Scott's review, visit: 

For "Darwin on the Big Screen," visit: 

For Creation's 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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