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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2011/03/25

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A Friend of Darwin award for Niles Eldredge. Plus the latest poll on
creationism in Canada, reactions to the antievolution bill in Florida,
and a new issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach.


NCSE is pleased to announce the winner of the Friend of Darwin award
for 2011: Niles Eldredge. In a March 21, 2011, press release
announcing the award, NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott
explained, "Niles was there before there was an NCSE and he has never
flagged in his support for NCSE over the many decades. Just as
important: Niles has been a devoted advocate for evolution education
and for keeping the creationists out of the science class." Eldredge
received his award at a gala dinner in New York City on March 22,

Curator of the Division of Paleontology at American Museum of Natural
History, Eldredge is renowned for his development, with Stephen Jay
Gould, of the idea of punctuated equilibrium. But his contributions to
the cause of evolution education -- including organizing the AMNH's
acclaimed exhibit celebrating the bicentennial of Darwin's birth and
the sesquicentennial of the publication of On the Origin of Species,
writing the impassioned The Triumph of Evolution: And the Failure of
Creationism (2000), and serving as the founding co-editor-in-chief of
the journal Evolution: Education and Outreach -- are also immense.

Eldredge joins Bruce Alberts, Susan Epperson, Robert T. Pennock, Randy
Moore, Brandon Haught, Steve Rissing, Howard Van Till, Philip
Appleman, Patricia Princehouse, Betty McCollister, Michael Zimmerman,
and the eleven plaintiffs of Kitzmiller v. Dover, to name a few, as
NCSE's Friends of Darwin. The Friend of Darwin award is presented
annually to a select few whose efforts to support NCSE and advance its
goal of defending the teaching of evolution in the public schools have
been truly outstanding.

For the press release, visit: 

For the list of Friends of Darwin recipients, visit: 


A new national poll discussed in the Toronto Globe and Mail (March 21,
2011) indicates that 14 percent of Canadians think that God created
humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years, while 19
percent think that humans evolved over time but through divine
guidance and 58 percent think that humans evolved through natural
selection. The poll, conducted by Ekos Research Associates, surveyed
984 Canadians from March 15 to March 17, 2011; the medium in which the
poll was conducted and the margin of error were not provided.

According to Ekos's data tables (pp. 77-79), creationism was strongest
in the Atlantic provinces (25.1 percent) and Alberta (18.8 percent),
stronger among women (18.8 percent) than men (9.5 percent), stronger
among those with "right" ideology (22.4 percent), and stronger with
those who attended religious services more than once in the past three
months (38.4 percent). The "natural selection" option was particularly
popular among respondents in Quebec (67.6 percent), less than
twenty-five years old (73.9 percent), with university education (72.8
percent), and with "left" ideology (74.2 percent).

A previous national poll in Canada, conducted by Angus Reid Strategies
in 2008, indicated that 58 percent of Canadians preferred "Human
beings evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years,"
with 22 percent preferring "God created human beings in their present
form within the last 10,000 years" and 20 percent not sure. As the
political scientist and polling expert George Bishop observed,
however, minor changes in the wording of poll questions about
creationism and evolution can make a substantial difference in poll

Ekos compared its results with the latest Gallup poll on evolution,
conducted in December 2010, in which 40 percent of Americans preferred
"God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one
time within the last 10,000 years or so," 38% preferred "Human beings
have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of
life, but God guided this process," and 16% preferred "Human beings
have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of
life, but God had no part in this process" -- although Bishop's
observation applies here as well.

For the article in the Toronto Globe and Mail, visit: 

For Ekos's data tables (PDF), visit: 

For NCSE's article on the Angus Reid poll, visit: 

For George Bishop's "Polls Apart on Human Origins," visit: 

For Ekos's comparison of Canada and the United States (PDF, p. 16), visit: 


Florida organizations concerned about the integrity of science
education are expressing their opposition to Senate Bill 1854, which
would, if enacted, amend a section of Florida law to require "[a]
thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory
of evolution" in the state's public schools. Introduced in the Florida
Senate on March 5, 2011, by Stephen R. Wise (R-District 5), SB 1854
was subsequently referred to the Senate Committee on Education
Pre-K-12 -- of which Wise is the chair -- and to the Senate Budget

In 2009, before introducing a similar bill, Wise announced his
intention to introduce a bill requiring "intelligent design" to be
taught in Florida's public schools. Now, discussing SB 1854 with a
reporter for the Tampa Tribune (March 13, 2011), he asked, "Why would
you not teach both theories at the same time?" According to the
Tribune, he was referring to evolution and what he called
"non-evolution." Wise further explained, "I think it's a way in which
people can have critical thinking ... what we're saying is here's a
theory, a theory of evolution, a theory of whatever, and you decide."

"You can have critical analysis of everything, but the idea that you
should single out evolution for critical analysis is problematic,"
NCSE's Joshua Rosenau told the St. Augustine Record (March 17, 2011).
"It's recognized by the scientific community as the foundation of
modern biology." Rosenau also emphasized that, according to Florida's
state science standards, adopted in 2008, "evolution is the
fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported by
multiple forms of scientific evidence."

Howard Simon of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida told the
Record, "The mischief that this legislation does is that it tries to
entice local county school boards into violating the [C]onstitution,"
adding, "Wise is trying to entice county school boards and he's
putting the liability on them." Simon previously predicted to the
Tampa Tribune (March 13, 2011) that his organization would file a
lawsuit over the bill "were some county school district to be silly
enough to be enticed by the legislation to teach religion instead of

Florida Citizens for Science, in a March 13, 2011, press release,
expressed its opposition to SB 1854, writing, "it is clearly
unnecessary, harmful to science education, and sends a negative
message to science-based industries that would otherwise consider
setting up shop in our state." Comparing Wise's previous advocacy of
"intelligent design" with his present espousal of "non-evolution" or
"a theory of whatever," FCFS wondered, "What kind of 'critical
analysis' is he really wanting?" and urged Florida's legislators "to
send a clear message that sound science education is important to our

Similarly, the Florida Academy of Sciences, in a March 11, 2011,
statement, expressed its opposition to SB 1854, writing, "SB 1854, in
effect, leaves the door open for the introduction in the public school
curriculum of nonscientific and covertly religious doctrines. The
proposed bill would be damaging to the quality of science education of
Florida’s children and the scientific literacy of our citizens. It
would further undermine the reputation of our state and adversely
affect our economic future as we try to attract new high tech and
biomedical jobs to Florida."

Florida's newspapers have taken heed. Most recently, the Orlando
Sentinel (March 18, 2011) editorially observed, "Among scientists, the
idea of teaching "nonevolution" in public schools would be dismissed
as nonsense. But in Tallahassee, just such a bill sponsored by ...
Stephen Wise has its supporters. This is, after all, a state that only
three years ago started officially referring to 'evolution' instead of
'biological change over time,'" adding, "Florida has enough challenges
getting its kids educated. It doesn't need another one -- this one --
from Wise."

For the text of Florida's Senate Bill 1854, visit: 

For the article in the Tampa Tribune, visit: 

For the article in the St. Augustine Record, visit: 

For Florida Citizens for Science's press release, visit: 

For the statement of the Florida Academy of Sciences (PDF), visit: 

For the Orlando Sentinel's editorial, visit: 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Florida, visit: 


The latest issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach -- the new
journal promoting the accurate understanding and comprehensive
teaching of evolutionary theory for a wide audience -- is now
published. The theme for the issue (volume 4, number 1) is the
Evolutionary Studies (EvoS) Consortium, a program that seeks to
catalyze evolutionary training across the university curriculum. As
David Sloan Wilson, Glenn Geher, Jennifer Waldo, and Rosemarie Sokol
Chang explain in their introduction, "This special issue of EEO
provides a glimpse of what it means to take Dobzhansky's dictum
seriously across the entire college curriculum -- including mainstream
evolutionary biology (Halverson), premedical education (Waldo and
Greagor), psychology (Geher, Crosier, Dillon, and Chang), family
studies and human development (King and deBaca), childhood education
(Gray), environmental studies and literature (Hart and Long), the mass
media (Fisher, Kruger, and Garcia) nutrition and physical fitness
(Platek, Geher, Heywood, Stapell, Porter, and Waters), general
education pedagogy (O'Brien and Gallup; Price), and involving
undergraduate students in the peer-review process (Chang)."

Also included is the latest installment of NCSE's regular column,
Overcoming Obstacles to Evolution Education. In "Why Bother Teaching
Evolution in High School?" NCSE's Louise S. Mead (now Education
Director at the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action)
and Glenn Branch address the suggestion that evolution should be
taught only in college on the grounds that it's not necessary, too
controversial, or too difficult to teach evolution in high school.
Mead and Branch argue, "there are good responses to these three
concerns, all centering on the crucial point that -- as Theodosius
Dobzhansky (1973) rightly stated -- 'nothing in biology makes sense
except in the light of evolution.'" They conclude, "Leaving evolution
out of the high school biology curriculum is as unacceptable as
leaving algebra out of the mathematics curriculum or the Civil Rights
Movement out of the social studies curriculum. Evolution is the
organizing principle of biology, the study of life, and should be
taught, not only in high schools but also, at a suitably
age-appropriate level, throughout the K-12 science curriculum -- and
certainly not deferred to college."

For Evolution: Education and Outreach, visit: 

For information on the Evolutionary Studies (EvoS) Consortium, visit: 

For Mead and Branch's column (subscription required), visit: 

Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- -- where you can always find the latest news on 
evolution education and threats to it.


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

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