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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2008/10/10

[by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch]

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Texas newspapers are editorially supporting the treatment of evolution in
the recently released draft set of science standards, while a lawsuit
alleging that the Understanding Evolution website violates the First
Amendment failed on appeal.


Texas's newspapers are beginning to express their editorial support of the
draft set of science standards, released by the Texas Education Agency on
September 22, 2008, and applauded for their treatment of evolution by the
Texas Freedom Network, Texas Citizens for Science, and the newly formed
21st Century Science Coalition.  Referring to the absence of the "strengths
and weaknesses" language from the draft standards, the Waco Tribune
(October 3, 2008) commented, "Explaining and investigating 'strengths and
weaknesses' of any theory is inherent in scientific inquiry.  But having
such language in state standards, as has been the case for several years,
is code for those who want religion to have a foot in the door when Darwin
comes up," and added, "acknowledging the shortcomings of scientific
theories, no matter what they are, is one of the essences of science.  But
when the objective is to inject matters spiritual, we are not talking about
science.  We are talking about religion that wants a seat at the table."

The Austin American-Statesman (October 6, 2008) urged the board of
education to "defer to scientists and its own advisory committee when it
comes to determining what should be taught in biology classes.  The
six-member advisory committee, which includes science teachers and
curriculum experts, recommended eliminating ideas 'based upon purported
forces outside of nature' from high school biology courses.  In other
words, get rid of creationism and intelligent design, which teach that the
universe was created by God or some other higher power."  Invoking the
increasing economic importance of evolutionary biology, the editorial
added, "McLeroy and other board members should be strengthening science
standards to accommodate a big push to attract world-class biomedical
researchers, companies and grants to Texas.  Those are growth industries
that have not looked favorably on communities that water down science
studies with vague and unproven ideas."

For the Waco Tribune's editorial, visit:

For the Austin American-Statesman's editorial, visit:

For the pro-science organizations in Texas, visit:

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


After her lawsuit challenging the Understanding Evolution website on
constitutional grounds was dismissed for lack of standing on March 13,
2006, Jeanne Caldwell appealed the decision to the United States Court of
Appeal for the Ninth Circuit.  In a ruling dated October 3, 2008, the
appeals court rejected her appeal, affirming the lower court's decision.

Understanding Evolution, a collaborative project of the University of
California Museum of Paleontology (with funding from the National Science
Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute) and the National Center
for Science Education, was originally intended as a resource for teachers;
it subsequently expanded to appeal to everyone interested in learning about

Among the resources for teachers is a brief discussion of the idea, labeled
as a misconception, that evolution and religion are incompatible.  The
website notes, "Of course, some religious beliefs explicitly contradict
science (e.g., the belief that the world and all life on it was created in
six literal days); however, most religious groups have no conflict with the
theory of evolution or other scientific findings," and provides a link to
NCSE's publication Voices for Evolution.

Arguing that Understanding Evolution thereby endorses particular religious
doctrines in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment,
Caldwell filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern
District of California.  But her suit was dismissed because she failed to
allege that she had federal taxpayer standing, failed to sufficiently
allege state taxpayer standing, and failed to establish that she suffered a
concrete "injury in fact."

Upholding the lower court's decision in Caldwell v. Caldwell et alia (the
first defendant was Roy Caldwell, the director of UCMP), the appeals
court's decision concluded, "Accordingly, we believe there is too slight a
connection between Caldwell's generalized grievance, and the government
conduct about which she complains, to sustain her standing to proceed."

Jeanne Caldwell was represented by Kevin T. Snider of the Pacific Justice
Institute and her husband Larry Caldwell.  It was a further legal defeat
for Larry Caldwell, who previously sued his local school district, alleging
that his civil rights were violated, after it declined to implement his
proposals for evolution education; on September 7, 2007, the defendants won
a motion for summary judgment in that case.

For the appeals court's decision (PDF), visit:

For Understanding Evolution, visit:

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


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Thanks for reading! And as always, be sure to consult NCSE's web site:

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 x305
fax: 510-601-7204

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Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism

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