NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2010/10/08
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, In Israel, the chief scientist in the Ministry of Education is finally sacked over his denial of evolution and global warming, while in Florida, a problematic sidebar will be removed from a marine science textbook. And NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott discussed the continuing relevance of Inherit the Wind with the Los Angeles Times.
GAVRIEL AVITAL SACKED IN ISRAEL Gavriel Avital was dismissed from his position as chief scientist in Israel's ministry of education due to his denial of evolution and global warming, according to Haaretz (October 5, 2010). In February 2010, Avital's views sparked a furor; Haaretz (February 21, 2010) quoted him as saying, "If textbooks state explicitly that human beings' origins are to be found with monkeys, I would want students to pursue and grapple with other opinions. ... Part of my responsibility, in light of my position with the Education Ministry, is to examine textbooks and curricula." Sa'ar distanced the ministry from Avital's remarks, telling a session of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, that Avital's remarks "are not in line with Education Ministry policy, and are unacceptable to me," as reported in Haaretz (March 4, 2010). But after Avital promised to follow the ministry's policy on evolution and the environment, the controversy seemed to have subsided. Avital's dismissal now appears to be connected to the expiration of what Ynetnews (October 4, 2010) described as "a scandal-filled trial period of less than a year." Avital told Ynetnews that he was fired "because of an interview I gave to the press, not because I didn't do my job well." He added, "In the interview I expressed my opinion on evolution, science and literature -- there was no negative response to the interview, only good feedback." Yet the responses to his interview included a protest from ten recipients of the Israel Prize -- the country's highest civilian honor -- protesting that his remarks "undermine the standing and importance of science and take us centuries backward," as Haaretz (February 26, 2010) reported. For the stories in Haaretz, visit: http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/sa-ar-dismisses-chief-scientist-for-questioning-evolution-1.317201 http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/scientists-irate-after-top-education-official-questions-evolution-1.263673 http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/head-scientist-vows-to-toe-the-line-on-darwin-and-global-warming-1.264091 http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/oust-head-scientist-for-challenging-evolution-1.263779 For the story on Ynetnews, visit: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3964117,00.html MARINE SCIENCE TEXTBOOK TO BE CORRECTED The antievolution sidebar in a marine science textbook recommended for approval in Florida will be removed. The textbook in question, Life on an Ocean Planet (Current Publishing, 2011), was under fire after the grassroots pro-evolution-education organization Florida Citizens for Science charged that its sidebar on "Questions about the Origin and Development of Life" was "simultaneously actively misinforming, at odds with state standards, and ultimately irrelevant to marine science." The Orlando Sentinel (September 23, 2010) reported that state education officials stated that the publisher agreed to remove the sidebar, and a week later, the newspaper's education blog (September 30, 2010) quoted excerpts from e-mail correspondence from the publisher to the state department of education confirming that the sidebar would be removed: "We will also review all of the curriculum components and remove any content that refers to the information on these pages." Eileen Roy, a member of the Alachua County School Board who was on the committee and voted against the textbook's approval, told the Sentinel's blog that she feared that the "very, very egregious ... discussion of evolution" might be reflected in the rest of the textbook. She also said that she worried that, if the textbook were approved, it would be adopted by the Florida county school boards that in 2008 adopted resolutions opposing the proposed improvements to the treatment of evolution in Florida's state science standards. Subsequently, Dean Allen, the vice president and general manager of Current Publishing, told the Sentinel's education blog (October 4, 2010) that the sidebar was intended to provide a "critical thinking exercise for students" and not to undermine the teaching of evolution. "Everywhere else in the book we teach evolution," he said, "and we teach it to the Sunshine State standards." He confirmed that the sidebar would be removed from both the printed and the electronic version of the textbook. For FCFS's story, visit: http://www.flascience.org/wp/?p=1227 For the sidebar, visit: http://ncse.com/news/2010/09/antievolutionism-marine-science-textbook-006197 For the Orlando Sentinel's story, visit: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/education/os-science-book-creationism-20100923,0,5239590.story For the posts on the Orlando Sentinel's blog, visit: http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_education_edblog/2010/09/marine-science-book-will-lose-passages-that-prompted-criticism.html http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_education_edblog/2010/10/textbook-company-official-we-teach-evolution-and-we-teach-it-to-the-sunshine-state-standards.html And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Florida, visit: http://ncse.com/news/florida NCSE'S SCOTT ON INHERIT THE WIND As the fiftieth anniversary of the film adaptation of Inherit the Wind approached, NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott discussed its enduring relevance with the Los Angeles Times (October 2, 2010). Scott, Edward J. Larson (who won a Pulitzer Prize for his book on the Scopes trial, Summer for the Gods), and Karen Kramer and Kat Kramer (the widow and daughter of Stanley Kramer, who directed the film adaptation) participated in a panel discussion on Inherit the Wind at the Malibu Film Society on October 3, 2010. Karen Kramer, Larson, and Scott all emphasized that Inherit the Wind was not intended as a documentary, with Kramer saying, "It is not about the Scopes trial. It's about freedom of thought, freedom of speech," Scott explaining, "I always tell people, 'Don't look at it as a movie reporting on the Scopes trial,'" and Larson adding, "In the 1950s, everybody realized that. ... What happens was that they set up the Creationists as strawmen for McCarthy and they didn't think there were any Creationists left. But the strawmen outlived the McCarthyites." Nevertheless, Scott contended, Inherit the Wind "does capture a very important mood that reflects the anti-evolution movement ... That theme is particularly strong in the movie and is central to the Creationist message today: Evolution leads to evil, and evolution means that you can't believe in God and you have no moral rudder." In addition, she suggested that the film retains its appeal simply "because it's a great story. It engages your interest and deals with serious issues. The Scopes character … he does what is right." For the story in the Los Angeles Times, visit: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-inherit-20101002,0,1595945.story 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