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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2012/10/12

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(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

NCSE's Steven Newton discusses Dr Pepper and Bill Nye at the
Huffington Post. Plus NCSE files a friend-of-the-court brief to Ohio's
Supreme Court, and a new issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach is


Writing at the Huffington Post (October 5, 2012), NCSE's Steven Newton
mused on the latest incidents to provoke tirades from creationists.
Discussing the reactions to a Dr Pepper advertisement featuring a
march-of-progress theme and to NCSE Supporter Bill Nye's video warning
about the effects of teaching creationism, Newton commented,
"Evolution should not -- in the year 2012, after a century and a half
of scientific verification from multiple independent lines of evidence
-- be the subject of controversy." He concluded by looking forward to
"the day when American schoolchildren are taught evolution in the same
way as any other well-established scientific idea, without caveats or
apologies. With evolution at the center of biology, and thus important
to the success of medicine, biotechnology, and agriculture, we can't
afford to keep it bottled up or to kick the can."

For Newton's column, visit: 

For Time magazine's discussion of the Dr Pepper advertisement, visit: 

For NCSE's coverage of Bill Nye's video, visit: 


By providing a friend-of-the-court brief to Ohio's Supreme Court on
October 4, 2012, NCSE is again supporting a local school district that
fired a middle school science teacher over his inappropriate religious
activity in the classroom -- including teaching creationism. The case
is John Freshwater v. Mount Vernon City School District Board of
Education; NCSE's amicus curiae brief was prepared by pro bono counsel
Richard Mancino, Samuel M. Leaf, and Anthony Juzaitis of Willkie Farr
& Gallagher LLP and Christopher S. Williams, Colleen M. O'Neil,
Jeffrey J. Lauderdale, and Trevor Alexander of Calfee, Halter &
Griswold LLP.

In 2008, a local family accused Freshwater, a Mount Vernon, Ohio,
middle school science teacher, of engaging in inappropriate religious
activity and sued Freshwater and the district. Based on the results of
an independent investigation, the Mount Vernon City School Board voted
to begin proceedings to terminate his employment. After thorough
administrative hearings that proceeded over two years and involved
more than eighty witnesses, the presiding referee issued his
recommendation that the board terminate Freshwater's employment with
the district, and the board voted to do so in January 2011. (The
family’s lawsuit against Freshwater was settled in the meantime.)

Freshwater challenged his termination in the Knox County Court of
Common Pleas in February 2011. When the challenge was unsuccessful, he
then appealed the decision to Ohio's Fifth District Court of Appeals
in December 2011. NCSE filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the
appellate court, arguing that Freshwater's materials and methods
concerning evolution "have no basis in science and serve no
pedagogical purpose." In March 2012, the Fifth District Court of
Appeals upheld the lower court's rejection of Freshwater's challenge.
Freshwater then appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Also filed with the Ohio Supreme Court on the same date (October 4,
2012) were the Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education's
merit brief, responding to Freshwater's merit brief, and three
additional friend of the court briefs, from Jenifer Dennis and Stephen
Dennis, the parents whose complaints about Freshwater's religious
advocacy in the classroom prompted the investigation that led to his
dismissal; Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the
Anti-Defamation League; and the American Humanist Association and the
Secular Student Alliance.

All these briefs and additional documents relevant to Freshwater's
termination and the subsequent court case are available on NCSE's
website. Extensive blog coverage of the Freshwater saga, including
Richard B. Hoppe's day-by-day account of Freshwater's termination
hearing, is available at The Panda's Thumb blog; search for
"Freshwater". Hoppe also recently contributed "Dover Comes to Ohio" --
a detailed account from a local observer of the whole fracas, from the
precipitating incident to Freshwater's appeal -- to Reports of the
National Center for Science Education 32:1.

For NCSE's amicus brief (PDF), visit: 

For NCSE's collection of materials from the case, visit: 

For The Panda's Thumb blog, visit: 

For Hoppe's "Dover Comes to Ohio" (PDF), visit: 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Ohio, 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 5, number 3), edited by
Antonio Lazcano, is the origin and early evolution of life. Articles
on the theme include "Darwinism and the Origin of Life"; "Prebiotic
Chemistry: What We Know, What We Don't"; "Origins for Everyone"; "The
Origin and Evolution of Metabolic Pathways: Why and How did Primordial
Cells Construct Metabolic Routes?"; "Cenancestor, the Last Universal
Common Ancestor"; "Viruses in Biology"; and "The Sorites Paradox,
'Life,' and Abiogenesis." Plus there are various articles on the
teaching of evolution (including reports on the state of evolution
education in Portugal and Slovenia), book reviews, and commentaries.

Also included is the latest installment of NCSE's regular column,
Overcoming Obstacles to Evolution Education. In "The Soft Underbelly
of Evolution?" NCSE's Glenn Branch and Eugenie C. Scott argue,
"Evolution and the origin of life are separate, if connected, topics,
but they are frequently conflated -- especially by creationists.
Regarding the natural origin of life as 'the soft underbelly' of
evolution, creationists argue that it is impossible, improbable, or
insusceptible to scientific investigation. Underlying their arguments
is the hope that the failure of scientific research on the origin of
life is evidence for a supernatural account. It is crucial for
teachers to understand the nature of science in order to be able to
explain why appeals to the supernatural are out of place in explaining
the origin of life and why scientific research on the origin of life
is not intrinsically a threat to faith."

For the issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach, visit: 

For Branch and Scott's article (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 and climate education and threats to them.


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

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