NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2010/11/12
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, Creationists renew their assault on evolution education in Louisiana. Plus three more museums add their voices for evolution, and a preview of Brian Switek's Written in Stone.
TEXTBOOKS UNDER SIEGE IN LOUISIANA "Some proposed high school biology textbooks are under fire because critics say they put too much credibility in the theory of evolution," the Baton Rouge Advocate (November 9, 2010) reports. Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University and a cofounder of the Louisiana Coalition for Science, charged that the criticisms were orchestrated by the Louisiana Family Forum, a religious right group with a long history of promoting creationism and attacking evolution education in the state. "They had their people going through the books, writing up complaints and sending them," Forrest said. Darrell White of the Louisiana Family Forum told the Advocate that the proposed biology textbooks fail to comply with the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act, the 2008 antievolution law that his organization shepherded through the legislature. "If this was a beauty contest, we have got all ugly contestants in these biology textbooks." The LSEA (enacted as Louisiana Revised Statutes 17:285.1) purports to encourage teachers to promote "critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning" and allows teachers to use "supplemental textbooks" in order to do so. "What has happened," Forrest told the newspaper, "is that the Louisiana Family Forum is attacking the process of textbook selection" in the hope of forcing disclaimers to be added to the textbooks (as in neighboring Alabama), requiring the revision of their treatment of evolution, or encouraging the use of supplemental classroom materials that dispute evolution. (In 2002, the LFF attempted to convince the state to include evolution disclaimers in biology textbooks, as Forrest noted in a July 26, 2010, letter to the editor of the Hammond Daily Star.) Moreover, several critics of the textbooks were reported to complain specifically that the textbooks under consideration lacked information about "intelligent design". A decision on the high school life science textbooks in question, expected initially in October 2010, was deferred by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education until December 2010; a recommendation from the board's Textbook/Media/Library Advisory Council -- described by the Advocate as "little-known" -- is expected on November 12, 2010. The council includes a state senator and a state representative appointed by the governor; interestingly, the legislators presently on the council are Senator Ben W. Nevers (D-District 12) and Representative Frank A. Hoffman (R-District 15), who were the chief sponsors of the LSEA in the Louisiana Senate and House of Representatives in 2008. For the Baton Rouge Advocate's story, visit: http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/106937789.html For the Louisiana Coalition for Science, visit: http://lasciencecoalition.org/ For Forrest's letter to the Hammond Daily Star, visit: http://www.hammondstar.com/articles/2010/07/26/opinion/letters/9055.txt And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit: http://ncse.com/news/louisiana MORE MUSEUMS ADD THEIR VOICES FOR EVOLUTION The chorus of support for the teaching of evolution continues, with statements from the Australian Museum, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and the Museum of the Earth. The statement from the Australian Museum reads, in its entirety, "The Australian Museum supports the teaching of evolution as the scientifically tested and verifiable theory for the origin and development of all species on Earth. In doing so, the Australian Museum's position is that creationism or intelligent design should not be taught as part of the science curriculum." The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County's statement explains, "Evolution is a central concept in modern science," and adds, "Because understanding evolution is important for both scientists and the public, the Natural History Museum emphasizes that evolutionary biology belongs in school curricula and textbooks as well as in public museums." And the statement from the Museum of the Earth (in Ithaca, New York) emphasizes that "essentially all qualified scientists fully endorse the idea that all organisms on earth share a common ancestry and that life's unfolding has encompassed billions of years of time. Evolution is one of the cornerstones of modern science, and is therefore one of the key elements of our institutional mission." 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://australianmuseum.net.au/BlogPost/Editorials-and-opinions/Evolution-Statement http://www.nhm.org/site/sites/default/files/pdf/nhm_evolution_statement.pdf http://www.museumoftheearth.org/outreach.php?page=overview/evolution For Voices for Evolution, visit: http://ncse.com/voices A PREVIEW OF WRITTEN IN STONE NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of Brian Switek's Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature (Bellevue Literary Press, 2010). The excerpt discusses the evidence for the dinosaurian ancestry of birds: "There is scarcely anything about a pigeon perched on a statue or a chicken you eat for dinner that did not first appear in dinosaurs, long before Confuciusornis flew in great flocks over what is now China," Switek writes. "The majority of their relatives sunk into extinction sixty-five million years ago, but they are perhaps the most successful dinosaurs ever to have evolved. If you want to see living dinosaurs, you don't have to trek to a steaming jungle or isolated plateau. All you have to do is put up a bird feeder and look out the window." Niles Eldredge writes, "Elegantly and engagingly crafted, Switek's narrative interweaves stories and characters not often encountered in books on paleontology -- at once a unique, informative and entertaining read." For the preview of Written in Stone (PDF), visit: http://ncse.com/files/pub/evolution/Excerpt--writteninstone.pdf For information about the book from the publisher, visit: http://www.blpbooks.org/books/writteninstone.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 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