NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2010/09/17
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, A new format for NCSE's journal is in the works. In Ireland, a government official decides not to attend a launch party for a self-published antievolutionist book. And the eminent evolutionary biologist George C. Williams is dead.
ANNOUNCING A TRANSFORMATION OF RNCSE Reports of the National Center for Science Education will undergo a transformation in 2011. Starting with vol. 31, no. 1, articles, features, and reviews will appear on-line -- and only on-line -- at NCSE's website, http://ncse.com. These materials will be available on-line to the public free of charge, helping to expand access to the contents of RNCSE to those defending the teaching of evolution across the country and around the world. The printed version of RNCSE will shrink -- to about sixteen pages -- and contain abstracts of those materials as well as special members-only items, such as the regular "News from the Membership" column and stories from the front lines by NCSE staff. The printed version will be sent only to members of NCSE, who will also be entitled to free delivery of any articles from the on-line version of RNCSE they wish to have in print. As Andrew J. Petto, the editor of RNCSE, explained, "this change will allow NCSE to make a more efficient use of your financial contributions. Printing and mailing costs continue to increase, and the publication of RNCSE takes up an increasing proportion of our budget. This change ... will allow us to devote more of our resources to our primary mission of promoting good science education and evolution education everywhere." For the announcement from RNCSE's editor, visit: http://ncse.com/rncse/30/4/coming-soon-new-rncse ANTIEVOLUTION BLARNEY IN THE IRISH HEADLINES The Irish minister of state for science was to appear at a launch party for a self-published antievolutionist book, according to the Irish Times (September 13, 2010). Conor Lenihan, who represents Dublin South West for Fianna Fáil in Dáil Éireann (the lower house of the Irish parliament) and serves as Minister of State for Science, Technology, Innovation, and Natural Resources, was billed as launching John J. May's The Origin of Specious Nonsense (Dublin: Original Writing, 2010) at a September 15, 2010, event in Dublin. In a sample provided on the book's promotional website, May writes, "It is sacrificing reason on the altar of treason to accept that the greatest construction of all time -- a human being with a brain [--] is the result of chance, random selection and destructive mutations. It is the irrational 3-legged chair of hopeless speculation that bears no resemblance whatsoever to reality and observable functioning perfect order. ... We are free to believe what we want, but I have chosen reason." The website also contends that "Thousands of reputable non[-]religious Scientists reject evolution as an unscientific hoax." According to the Times, "Michael Nugent of Atheist Ireland said the Minister's appearance at the launch is an abuse of his position and an attack by the Government on both scientists and science education." Lenihan, for his part, told the newspaper that he was appearing not in his capacity as minister for science but because May is a constituent of his. Neither Lenihan (who previously worked as a journalist and as a telecommunications executive) nor May (who describes himself on his website as a self-educated polymath) appears to have a significant level of scientific education. Later, however, the Irish Times (September 14, 2010) reported, "Lenihan will not now launch a book in Dublin which describes evolution as a fantasy and a hoax, after the author asked him to withdraw in the wake of controversy on the web." May told the newspaper that he asked Lenihan not to participate in the event "because I am so embarrassed that the Minister for Science has been so insulted" by those critical of his involvement in the event. "He doesn’t even believe in my central argument," May remarked, and indeed Lenihan said that he "remained to be convinced" by May's arguments -- while insisting that "diversity of opinion is a good thing." For the articles in the Irish Times, visit: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2010/0913/breaking61.html http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/frontpage/2010/0914/1224278831472.html For the book's website, visit: http://www.theoriginofspeciousnonsense.com/ GEORGE C. WILLIAMS DIES The eminent evolutionary biologist George C. Williams died on September 8, 2010, at the age of 84, according to the Evolution & Medicine Review blog (September 10, 2010). Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, on May 12, 1926, Williams served in the U.S. Army from 1944 to 1946, and then studied at the University of California, Berkeley, where he received his A.B. in zoology in 1949, and the University of California, Los Angeles, where he received his Ph.D. in biology in 1955. During his academic career, mostly at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, he published a string of important work, including the books Adaptation and Natural Selection (1966), Sex and Evolution (1975), Natural Selection (1992), Why We Get Sick (coauthored with Randolph M. Nesse, 1994), and Plan and Purpose in Nature (1996). His honors include induction in the National Academy of Sciences (1993) and the Crafoord Prize in Biosciences (1999). A long-time member of NCSE, Williams was concerned about creationism. In a brief 1996 article in Biology and Philosophy, he defended his treatment of genetic information in Natural Selection against "intelligent design" advocate Phillip Johnson's misrepresentations of it: "Johnson's argument is based on some obvious fallacies," he explained, "such as information requiring an intelligent author." In 1999, he reviewed the early "intelligent design" anthology Mere Creation for the Quarterly Review of Biology, writing that the contributors "reject the idea that a strictly trial-and-error process of natural selection can account for the functional design of organisms, and propose that a creator's wisdom has been directing evolution. They make no attempt to deal with the many examples of egregious unwisdom seen in functionally arbitrary and sometimes maladaptive historical legacies, which suggest a creator with no understanding or concern with what he was imposing on organisms." For the obituary at the Evolution & Medicine Review blog, visit: http://evmedreview.com/?p=420 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