NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2010/10/22
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, Five years on, New Scientist addresses the aftermath of Kitzmiller v. Dover. The Supreme Court declines to review ACSI v. Stearns. NCSE's Glenn Branch, Eugenie C. Scott, and Joshua Rosenau's "Dispatches from the Evolution Wars" is published in Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics. No fewer than three international organizations of museums and science centers add their voices for evolution. And NCSE offers a free excerpt from Edward J. Larson's Summer for the Gods.
NEW SCIENTIST ON THE DOVER ANNIVERSARY Five years after Kitzmiller v. Dover, the case establishing the unconstitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools, New Scientist (October 20, 2010) reports on the continuing aftermath, in Dover, Pennsylvania, and beyond. Plaintiff Cyndi Sneath, now a member of the Dover Area School Board, said, "My interest in public education and civil liberties was certainly sparked by the trial," and fellow plaintiff Robert Eschbach, a teacher, commented that the trial "forced me to be a better educator ... I went back and read more of the history around Darwin and how he came to his conclusions." In the meantime, the "intelligent design" movement was not idle, with its greatest success the passage and enactment of Louisiana's so-called Science Education Act in 2008. Barbara Forrest -- a philosophy professor at Southeastern Louisiana University, a member of NCSE's board of directors, and a witness for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller -- told New Scientist, "Louisiana is the only state to pass a state education bill based on the Discovery Institute's template." (A list of attempts to pass "academic freedom" antievolution bills is given in Branch, Scott, and Rosenau's "Dispatches from the Evolution Wars.") After reviewing the continuing efforts to undermine the teaching of evolution in Louisiana -- including a policy governing supplementary materials in the state's classrooms that would enable the promotion of creationism as well as a proposal to teach creationism in Livingston Parish -- the article concludes, "Five years after the landmark case, the battle for science education continues. But for the plaintiffs and their representatives this does not detract from the achievement. Their lead attorney, Eric Rothschild [of Pepper Hamilton LLP], sums it up: 'If we'd lost, intelligent design would be all over the place now'." For the article in New Scientist, visit: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20827833.000-creationism-lives-on-in-us-public-schools.html For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit: http://ncse.com/news/louisiana For "Dispatches from the Evolution Wars," visit: http://ncse.com/news/2010/10/dispatches-from-evolution-wars-006257 And for NCSE's collection of information about Kitzmiller v. Dover, visit: http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/intelligent-design-trial-kitzmiller-v-dover THE END OF ACSI V. STEARNS On October 12, 2010, the Supreme Court declined to review Association of Christian Schools International et al. v. Roman Stearns et al., thus bringing the case to a definitive end. The case, originally filed in federal court in Los Angeles on August 25, 2005, centered on the University of California system's policies and statements relevant to evaluating the qualifications of applicants for admission. The plaintiffs -- the Association of Christian Schools International, the Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, California, and a handful of students at the school -- charged that the university system violated the constitutional rights of applicants from Christian schools whose high school coursework is deemed inadequate preparation for college. Creationism was prominent in the case. The plaintiffs objected to the university system's policy of rejecting high school biology courses that use creationist textbooks as "inconsistent with the viewpoints and knowledge generally accepted in the scientific community." Michael Behe, a proponent of "intelligent design" creationism, served as a scientific expert witness for the plaintiffs, although his defense of the creationist biology textbooks was unavailing. Wendell Bird, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, is a former employee of the Institute for Creation Research; he defended Louisiana's 1981 "equal time" act all the way to the Supreme Court, where it was ruled to violate the Establishment Clause in the decision in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987). Relying in part on the view of defendants' expert witnesses Donald Kennedy and Francisco J. Ayala (a Supporter of NCSE) that the creationist textbooks were not appropriate for use in a college preparatory biology course, the trial judge in ACSI v. Stearns granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment on August 8, 2008. The plaintiffs appealed the decision, but in a January 12, 2010, ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision, which is now reaffirmed by the Supreme Court's decision not to review the case. Documents from the case are available on NCSE's website, in a special section devoted to ACSI v. Stearns. For the Supreme Court's order (PDF, p. 12), visit: http://www.supremecourt.gov/orders/courtorders/101210zor.pdf For NCSE's collection of documents from the case, visit: http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/acsi-v-stearns "DISPATCHES FROM THE EVOLUTION WARS" "Dispatches from the Evolution Wars: Shifting Tactics and Expanding Battlefields," a review article by NCSE's Glenn Branch, Eugenie C. Scott, and Joshua Rosenau, was published in Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics (2010; 11: 317-338). The abstract: Creationism continues to present a challenge to the teaching of evolution in the United States. With attempts to ban evolution education and to "balance" the teaching of evolution with creationism unavailing, creationists are increasingly favoring the approach of misrepresenting evolution as scientifically controversial. To understand the ongoing challenges facing evolution education in the United States, it is necessary to appreciate creationist actions at the different levels of educational governance -- state legislatures, state boards of education, local boards of education, and finally the individual classroom -- that serve as the battlegrounds for the evolution education wars. Scientists are in a unique position to defend the teaching of evolution, both by resisting creationist incursions as they occur and by helping to improve the teaching of evolution at both the precollege and college levels. Complimentary access to a PDF version of the article for personal use is available from Annual Reviews via NCSE's website, but further/multiple distribution, publication, and commercial usage requires permission from the Annual Reviews Permission Department. Published annually since 2000, the Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics covers significant developments in the field of genomics as they apply to human genetics and the human genome; it is widely considered to be a leading journal in genetics and heredity. For the link to the PDF version of the article, visit: http://ncse.com/news/2010/10/dispatches-from-evolution-wars-006257 THREE MUSEUM ORGANIZATIONS ADD THEIR VOICE FOR EVOLUTION The chorus of support for the teaching of evolution continues, with statements from the Association of Science-Technology Centers; Ecsite, the European Network of Science Centres and Museums; and NATHIST, the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Natural History. The statement from the Association of Science-Technology Centers affirms, "ASTC and its members -- science centers and museums around the world -- present information based on scientific evidence. ASTC's members are committed to advancing the public understanding of science and contributing to the development of a scientifically literate society." With regard to evolution, it states, "Evolutionary theory is central to modern science." ASTC's members include nearly 600 members in forty-five countries. The statement from Ecsite explains that its "policy for public engagement is to present the theory of evolution as the best explanation for the ongoing generation of diversity of life on Earth." It also "strongly endorses the teaching of the theory of evolution in European schools as a core part of the science curriculum and we urge that views such as creationism and intelligent design should not be taught as science." Ecsite's members include more than 400 institutions in fifty countries. And the statement from NATHIST describes evolution as "the best current explanation for how the diversity of life around us came to exist. It remains the only compelling scientifically rigorous account of how life evolved on our planet for which a great deal of empirical evidence has been accumulated in natural history collections," and endorses the presentation of evolution in public engagement activities. NATHIST is one of the International Committees of the International Council of Museums, representing 30,000 museum professionals across the globe. All three of these statements are now reproduced, by permission, on NCSE's website, and will also be contained in the fourth edition of NCSE's Voices for Evolution. For the statements, visit: http://www.astc.org/resource/education/evolution.htm http://www.ecsite.eu/?p=17 http://www.ggwinter.de/icom/fpe.htm And for information on Voices for Evolution, visit: http://ncse.com/voices REVISITING SUMMER FOR THE GODS NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of Edward J. Larson's Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion (Basic Books, 1997; reissued with a new afterword, Basic Books, 2006). The excerpt, from chapter 7, presents the first days of the Scopes trial in 1925. A high point was the testimony of Maynard Metcalf, a zoologist at the University of Chicago who was the only scientific expert witness permitted to testify: "'The fact of evolution is a thing that is perfectly and absolutely clear,' the professor began. 'But there are many points -- theoretical points as to the methods by which evolution has been brought about -- that we are not yet in possession of scientific knowledge to answer. We are in possession of scientific knowledge to answer directly and fully the question: "Has evolution occurred?"'" Summer for the Gods received the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1998; Ronald L. Numbers described it as "quite simply, the best book ever written on the Scopes trial and its place in American history and myth." For the excerpt (PDF), visit: http://ncse.com/files/pub/evolution/Excerpt--summer.pdf For information about Summer for the Gods, visit: http://www.perseusbooksgroup.com/basic/book_detail.jsp?isbn=046507510X 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