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 debut.
THE CREATION "MUSEUM" IN VANITY FAIR 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: http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2010/02/creation-museum-201002 For Bettany's photographs, visit: http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2010/02/creation-museum-slideshow-201002 For information about Creation, visit: http://www.creationthemovie.com/ For Phelps's and Heaton's reports, visit: http://ncse.com/creationism/general/anti-museum-overview-review-answers-genesis-creation-museum http://ncse.com/rncse/27/1-2/visit-to-new-creation-museum And for the NCSE-sponsored statement of concern, visit: http://ncse.com/taking-action/aig-creation-museum FRESHWATER CASE IN THE NEW YORK TIMES 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: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/20/education/20teacher.html For Hoppe's reports at The Panda's Thumb, visit: http://pandasthumb.org For documents from the two cases, visit: http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/doe-v-freshwater-mv http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/freshwater-v-mount-vernon For the story in The Mount Vernon News, visit: http://www.mountvernonnews.com/local/09/08/27/school-board-resolves-federal-lawsuit And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Ohio, visit: http://ncse.com/news/ohio DARWIN DAY APPROACHES 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 illiterate." 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: http://www.darwinday.org/events/ http://www.darwinday.org/events/register.php For information about Evolution Weekend, visit: http://www.evolutionweekend.org/ For Lebo's story and Branch's post, visit: http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/scienceenvironment/963 http://www.beaconbroadside.com/broadside/2008/02/dust-off-your-d.html CREATION PREMIERES IN THE UNITED STATES 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: http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2009/09/eugenie-scott-r.html For "Darwin on the Big Screen," visit: http://ncse.com/evolution/darwin-gets-hollywood-treatment For Creation's website, visit: http://www.creationthemovie.com/ Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://ncse.com -- 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://ncse.com 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://ncse.com/membership