NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2010/04/30
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, Chris Comer's appeal was heard by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Eugenie C. Scott received the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences. Plus a variety of new articles and videos from NCSE staff.
COMER APPEAL HEARD A three-judge panel from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in Comer v. Scott on April 26, 2010. Chris Comer was forced to resign her post as director of science at the Texas Education Agency in November 2007 after she forwarded a note announcing a talk by Barbara Forrest; according to a memorandum recommending her dismissal, "the TEA requires, as agency policy, neutrality when talking about evolution and creationism." She filed suit in June 2008, arguing that the policy violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The case was dismissed on March 31, 2009, but Comer appealed the decision to the Fifth Circuit. In a report from the Associated Press (April 26, 2010), Douglas Mishkin, one of Comer's lawyers, explained that the policy violates the Establishment Clause by in effect endorsing a religious belief: "It takes something that's not science and treats it as if it is." Fortunato Benavides, one of the judges on the Fifth Circuit panel, seemed skeptical, however, commenting, "I can see a free speech claim ... This looks like to me a First Amendment claim in the robe of an establishment claim." It is not known when the panel will issue its ruling. Documents from the case are available on NCSE's website, and a brief video about the case is available on NCSE's YouTube channel. For the Associated Press story, visit: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/26/AR2010042603703.html For documents from the case, visit: http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/chris-comer-docs For NCSE's YouTube channel, visit: http://www.youtube.com/user/NatCen4ScienceEd NCSE'S SCOTT RECEIVES PUBLIC WELFARE MEDAL NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott received the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences in a ceremony on April 25, 2010, in Washington DC. According to a January 11, 2010, press release, "the medal is presented annually to honor extraordinary use of science for the public good"; Scott was chosen "for championing the teaching of evolution in the United States and for providing leadership to the National Center for Science Education." Accepting the medal, Scott said, "That an organization comprised of the finest scientists in the nation would bestow this award on a small, underfunded, understaffed, nonprofit laboring to defend the teaching of evolution is both humbling and inspiring. On behalf of all the people who have worked at NCSE over the last 22 years to make it an effective organization, I thank you from the bottom of my heart." (A transcript of her remarks is available on NCSE's website.) Previous recipients include Neal Lane, Norman Borlaug, Maxine F. Singer, C. Everett Koop, and Carl Sagan. The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by election to membership, and provides science, technology, and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations. For the January 11, 2010, press release, visit: http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=01112010 For the full text of Scott's remarks, visit: http://ncse.com/news/2010/04/ncses-scott-receives-public-welfare-medal-005459 NCSE'S ROSENAU IN THE WASHINGTON POST NCSE's Joshua Rosenau was asked by the Washington Post to comment on a chapter about evolution in a new book accusing "the liberal media" of attacking Christianity. The author's "handling of science and religion misrepresents the nature of evolution, obscures the science of biology and dismisses the deeply held religious views of most Christians outside of the fundamentalist subculture," Rosenau explained. A short version of his response appeared in the April 25, 2010, issue of the newspaper, with a long version appearing on the Post's Political Bookworm blog on April 21, 2010. For the short version, visit: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/23/AR2010042304712.html For the long version, visit: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/political-bookworm/2010/04/cupp_skips_the_facts_in_arguin.html?hpid=news-col-blog NCSE'S SCOTT IN BIOESSAYS "Dobzhansky was right: Let's tell the students." That's NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott's advice, as just published in the journal BioEssays (2010; 32 : 372-374). "University instructors are responsible for a good part of the general public's ignorance about evolution," she argues: "it is they who teach the university students who become the science teachers in our schools, as well as the students who become members of the educated public. University scientists therefore have a special responsibility -- and opportunity -- to help to cope with the antievolution problem in the United States." First and foremost, she recommends that university scientists "think about how they teach evolution. Is evolution as central, integrated, and pervasive in their syllabus as it is in biologic research? Will their students realize that -- in the words of Theodosius Dobzhansky's famous 1973 article for high school biology teachers ... -- nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution?" She adds, "If university instructors do not make explicit the centrality of evolution to biology, we should not be surprised when students complete their courses ignorant of evolution." Beyond the classroom, she urges, "scientists need to speak up when evolution is under attack in their schools. And more generally, scientists have a special responsibility to work to ensure a scientifically literate citizenry, which includes educating them in the importance of evolution to science, and in science education. In a nation where the majority of financial and institutional support for science predominantly depends on the public, it is in the best interests of neither science nor our nation that the public understanding of a major principle of science continues in its dismally low state." For Scott's essay, visit: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/fulltext/123370200/HTMLSTART THREE NEW VIDEOS FEATURING NCSE'S SCOTT Three videos featuring NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott have recently been added to NCSE's YouTube channel. First, a mini-documentary on Scott's life and work, produced in 2008 by the University of California, San Francisco, to complement the ceremony in which she received the UCSF Medal, the university's highest honor. Second, a talk on "Evolution versus Creationism" that she delivered at a course on "Darwin's Legacy" at Stanford University in 2008. And third, "In the Beginning," a discussion among Scott, Francisco Ayala, and Denis Lamoureux, hosted by NPR's Neal Conan, in Columbus, Ohio, in 2009. Tune in and enjoy! For NCSE's YouTube channel, visit: http://www.youtube.com/user/NatCen4ScienceEd 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