NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2010/08/06
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, A new survey reveals what Australians think about evolution. Plus: sneak peeks of three reviews forthcoming in Reports of the NCSE, the latest from Livingston Parish, and the return of Florida Citizens for Science's Stick Science contest.
POLLING EVOLUTION DOWN UNDER A national survey reveals that one in ten Australians do not believe in evolution -- and three in ten think that humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs. The survey, conducted by Auspoll for the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies and the Australian Academy of Science, was intended to assess the level of science literacy in Australia. Asked "[d]o you think that evolution is occurring?" 71% of the respondents preferred "Yes, I think evolution is currently occurring," 8% preferred, "No, I do not think evolution is currently occurring," and 10% preferred "No, I do not believe in evolution at all"; 11% were not sure. Men, people aged 18-24 years, and people with higher levels of education were more likely to select the yes response. Also among the questions was "Is the following statement true or false? The earliest humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs." Of the respondents, 70% deemed the statement false, 30% true, and none were unsure. People aged 45-64 years and people with less education were the most likely to think that humans lived during the time of the dinosaurs. Jenny Graves of the Australian Academy of Science told The Age (August 1, 2010), "None of us are all that surprised because we have been aware for a few years that Australia is losing ground in science and maths but it's a real wake-up call that ... we have a very sizeable number of people who really don't understand some of the absolute basics of our lives." The survey was conducted on-line July 20-22, 2010. According to the report, "Respondents were drawn from a professional social and market research panel. The overall sample size was 1515, segmented and weighted to be nationally representative of Australia's population by gender, age and residential location." The accuracy of the results is +/- 2.5% at the 95% confidence level. For the article in The Age, visit: http://www.theage.com.au/national/education/in-science-were-back-with-the-dinosaurs-20100730-10zl8.html For the report of the survey (PDF), visit: http://www.fasts.org/images/News2010/science%20literacy%20report%20final%20270710.pdf For NCSE's collection of information on polls and surveys, visit: http://ncse.com/creationism/polls-surveys THREE REVIEWS FOR THE SUMMER To help you plan your summer reading, NCSE is pleased to offer a preview of three reviews forthcoming in Reports of the NCSE. Explore the roots of the creationism/evolution controversy in classical antiquity, enjoy a compelling poetic treatment of Darwinian themes, or just peruse a collection of recent articles on creationism by leading scholars. First, James G. Lennox reviews David Sedley's Creationism and Its Critics in Antiquity (University of California Press, 2007). "Sedley's is a controversial book that reaches well beyond the world of classical scholarship. It is a study of defenders and critics of the idea that the cosmos, the orderly world around us, is the product of a divine, extra-natural designer," Lennox explains. "I urge everyone concerned about the revival of 'intelligent design' to read this compelling story of its origins in Ancient Greece." Second, Cleo Fellers Kocol reviews Philip Appleman's book of poetry, Darwin's Ark (Indiana University Press, 2009; originally published in 1984). "All of the poems delineate, describe, or elaborate on Darwin's theory. The connections between us and them, humanity and the 'lesser' animals, slide effortlessly into place, and the very earth we stand on oozes into our consciousness as we read these poems. Appleman blends the past with the present in an elegant fashion," Kocol writes. Third, Glenn Sanford reviews The Panda's Black Box: Opening up the Intelligent Design Controversy (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007), a collection of articles edited by Nathaniel C. Comfort. The book is "an accessible reader that quickly and deftly surveys the current evolution-['intelligent design'] debates from a range of philosophical and historical angles," Sanford concludes, adding, "It provides a useful synopsis of considerable scholarship on the issues involved." If you like what you see, why not subscribe to Reports of the NCSE today? The next issue (volume 30, number 4) features Phil Senter discussing how creationists think about vestigiality as well as reviews of a host of books on paleontology, and the latest dispatches from the front lines of the evolution wars. Don't miss out -- subscribe (or renew) now! For the reviews, visit: http://ncse.com/rncse/advance For information about subscribing and renewing, visit: http://ncse.com/membership THE LATEST FROM LIVINGSTON PARISH Creationism won't be taught in the public schools of Livingston Parish, Louisiana -- at least not yet. The Baton Rouge Advocate (August 1, 2010) reports that "The Livingston Parish School Board won't try to include the teaching of creationism in this year's curriculum, but has asked the School Board staff to look at the issue for possible future action." At a July meeting, inspired by the Louisiana Science Education Act, the board formed a committee to explore the possibilities of incorporating creationism in the parish's science classes. The committee is not expected to report its findings in time for the board to take any action for the 2010-2011 school year; the board's president Keith Martin explained, "We have decided not to try to hurry up and rush something in for this year." Marjorie Esman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, told the Advocate that the decision to teach creationism would be not only doomed to failure but expensive. "If they were to do it, they could anticipate that any litigation would result in them not only losing, but having to pay enormous legal fees," she said. "They would be wasting a huge amount of taxpayer money on a battle they can't win." The board's attorney confirmed that it would be unconstitutional for the schools to teach creationism. Meanwhile, board member David Tate, who broached the possibility of teaching creationism at the previous board meeting, commented, "We don't want litigation, but why not take a stand for Jesus and risk litigation." For the story in the Baton Rouge Advocate, visit: http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/99705064.html For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit: http://ncse.com/news/louisiana THE RETURN OF STICK SCIENCE Stick Science -- the science cartoon contest sponsored by Florida Citizens for Science, a grassroots organization defending and promoting the integrity of science education in Florida -- is back! At the FCFS blog (August 1, 2010), Brandon Haught explains, "The basic concept here is to draw a cartoon that educates the public about misconceptions the average person has about science." And lack of artistic ability isn't a problem: "all entries must be drawn using stick figures. This is about creative ideas, not artistic ability." Entries are due (by e-mail or post) by August 31, 2010. Prizes include various books and t-shirts, and even a telescope kit. Judges are NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott, Carl Zimmer, the author of The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution, Jorge Cham, the writer and artist of the Piled Higher and Deeper on-line comic strip, and Jay Hosler, the author and illustrator of The Sandwalk Adventures and Optical Allusions. Full details of the contest are available on FCFS's website. For the announcement on FCFS's blog, visit: http://www.flascience.org/wp/?p=1210 For information about Stick Science, visit: http://www.flascience.org/sshome.html 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 email@example.com 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