NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2011/12/09
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, A preview of Richard Dawkins's The Magic of Reality, a reflection by Steve Jones on creationism in British higher education, and creationism in a case going to trial in California.
A PREVIEW OF THE MAGIC OF REALITY NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of Richard Dawkins's book for children The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True (Free Press, 2011). The preview consists in the bulk of chapter 3 -- "Why are there so many different kinds of animals?" -- in which Dawkins, after discussing various answers to the titular question offered by myth, introduces the idea of speciation. Species, he writes, form "a family tree: a tree with many branches, each branch having sub-branches, and each sub-branch having sub-sub-branches. The tips of the twigs are species. The other groupings -- class, order, family, genus -- are the branches and sub-branches. The whole tree is all of life on Earth." Lawrence Krauss writes, "I am often asked to recommend good books on science for young people. From now on, I will not have to hesitate. The Magic of Reality provides a beautiful, accessible and wide ranging volume that addresses the questions that all of us have about the universe, separating often too-little known facts from too-frequently believed fictions. For this reason, it should be a powerful resource for people of all ages, written with the masterful and eloquently literate style of perhaps the best popular expositor of science, Richard Dawkins, and delightfully illustrated by Dave McKean. What more could anyone ask for?" For the preview, visit: http://ncse.com/book-excerpt For information about the book from its publisher, visit: http://books.simonandschuster.com/Magic-of-Reality/Richard-Dawkins/9781439192818 CREATIONISM IN BRITISH HIGHER EDUCATION Writing in The Telegraph (December 3, 2011), the geneticist Steve Jones reflects on his experience in teaching university students who reject evolution ? and refuse even to learn about it ? because of their religious objections. "At University College London we have numbers of Islamic students, almost all dedicated, hard-working and able. Some, unfortunately, refuse to accept Darwin?s theory on faith grounds, as do some of their Christian fellows," Jones reports. Referring to the Islamic creationist literature distributed under the name Harun Yahya, Jones observes, "Much of their propaganda has been lifted from Christian fundamentalism and there is a certain irony in where it has ended up." Jones adds, "I have had plenty of verbal complaints from undergraduates of both persuasions that I am demeaning religion, while others ask that they be excused lectures on my subject, or simply fail to turn up." "Anyone, of course, is free to believe whatever they wish," Jones continues. "But why train to become a biologist, or a doctor, when you deny the very foundations of your subject? For a biology student to refuse to accept the fact of evolution is equivalent to choosing to do a degree in English without believing in grammar, or in physics with a rooted objection to gravity: it makes no sense at all. The same is true for doctors. How can you put a body right with no idea as to why it is liable to go wrong?" For Jones's column, visit: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/8931518/Islam-Charles-Darwin-and-the-denial-of-science.html And for NCSE's previous coverage of events abroad, visit: http://ncse.com/news/international CREATIONISM IN JOB DISCRIMINATION CASE "A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has opted to let a jury decide whether NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory discriminated against a former employee who claims he was fired for discussing intelligent design," according to the Pasadena Star-News (November 30, 2011). The initial complaint, filed on April 11, 2010, alleged that JPL discriminated against and unfairly demoted David Coppedge because of his discussion of "intelligent design" as well as religious and political issues in the workplace. After Coppedge was laid off from his job in January 2011, the complaint was amended to add a claim of wrongful termination, although JPL replied that Coppedge was laid off as part of a natural attrition. The Star-News described Coppedge as "[a] well-known figure among proponents of 'intelligent design'" and noted that he operates the Creation-Evolution Headlines website, but overlooked the fact that he is on the board of Illustra Media, which produces "intelligent design" films such as Unlocking the Mystery of Life, The Privileged Planet, and Darwin's Dilemma. It was, in part, Coppedge's distribution of such films to his coworkers that prompted JPL to take disciplinary action against him. Coppedge's attorney, William J. Becker Jr., represented the American Freedom Alliance in its recent suit against the California Science Center over the cancellation of a screening of Darwin's Dilemma. With the judge's decision to allow the case to go to trial, a spokesperson for JPL told the Star-News, "The suit is completely without merit, and we intend to vigorously fight the allegations raised by Mr. Coppedge." Shortly after the filing of the suit, Gary Williams, a professor of law at Loyola University, told the Star-News (April 18, 2010) that Coppedge's prospects for success were dim: "If an employee is talking about anything in the workplace that is not related to work, the employer is entitled to say that 'I don't want you to do this,'" Williams said. "You're not protected." The trial is expected to begin on March 7, 2012. Documents from the case, David Coppedge v. Jet Propulsion Laboratory et al., are available on NCSE's website. For the Pasadena Star-News's story, visit: http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/news/ci_19445645 For documents from the case, visit: http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/coppedge-v-jpl 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 x305 fax: 510-601-7204 800-290-6006 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncse.com Read Reports of the NCSE on-line: http://reports.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/join