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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2008/11/14

(By NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch:)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

The Texas board of education is scheduled to consider the new draft of the
state science standards shortly. The president of NCSE's board of
directors is featured in a video promoting the Society of Vertebrate
Paleontology. And the third edition of NCSE's Voices for Evolution is now


The Texas state board of education is scheduled to hear testimony on the
state's science standards on November 19, 2008, and the treatment of
evolution is likely to be a contentious issue. The Texas Education Agency
released drafts of the standards on September 22, 2008, and as the Dallas
Morning News (September 23, 2008) reported, "Proposed curriculum standards
for science courses in Texas schools would boost the teaching of evolution
by dropping the current requirement that students be exposed to
'weaknesses' in Charles Darwin's theory of how humans and other life forms
evolved. Science standards drafted by review committees of teachers and
academics also would put up roadblocks for teachers who want to discuss
creationism or 'intelligent design' in biology classes when covering the
subject of evolution."

Subsequently, members of the board appointed six outside reviewers to
evaluate the standards -- including three creationists, two of whom hail
from outside Texas -- and their comments are all now available (in PDF
form) on the TEA website. The panels that wrote the standards for the
various subjects were furnished with the outside reviews as well as
feedback from the public, a comparison of the draft standards to the Texas
College Readiness Standards, and a comparison of the draft standards with
the highly regarded Massachusetts science standards, as Texas Citizens for
Science's Steven Schafersman reports; the panels have revised the standards
in light of the comments, and it is the latest revisions that are going to
the board, although they are not yet publicly available.

According to the agenda posted at the TEA website, the board is now
scheduled to consider the standards from November 19 to November 21,
hearing testimony on November 19. NCSE encourages anyone who is ready,
willing, and able to testify in defense of the proper treatment of
evolution and the nature of science to register to testify. To register,
visit the Texas Education Agency in person at 1701 North Congress Avenue in
Austin; telephone (512) 463-9007; or download a form, complete it (checking
the "Commitee of the Full Board" box) and fax it to (512) 936-4319. Act
now: November 17 is the last day for registration, and no one will be
allowed to testify who has not registered in advance. NCSE's Steven Newton
is available (via e-mail to to advise prospective

After the board considers the standards, what next? Texas Citizens for
Science's Schafersman explains, "the science panels will have one last
attempt to revise the standards to final form during December 4-6. After
that, only the [state board of education] can revise the science standards
by majority vote during their January 2009 meeting. The standards receive
final adoption in March 2009 and are to be used by teachers and textbook
publishers for the next ten years." NCSE's deputy director Glenn Branch
observed, in a Halloween post for the Beacon Broadside blog, that "the
'strengths and weaknesses' language [in the old standards] was selectively
applied only to evolution in 2003 by members of the board attempting to
dilute the treatment of evolution in the biology textbooks then under
consideration. After a concerted effort by scientists, teachers, parents,
and others to defend evolution, all eleven books were eventually adopted --
but it was a long, hard, and unedifying ordeal." So it is clear that the
standards matter.

For the first draft of the standards, visit:

For the story in the Dallas Morning News, visit:

For the comments from the outside reviewers, visit:

For Steven Schafersman's report, visit:

For the agenda for the board meeting, visit:

For the form for prospective testifiers, visit:

For Glenn Branch's blog post, visit:


A video project from the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology devotes a
segment to discussing paleontology, evolution, and creationism. The
thirty-three-minute video, entitled "We Are SVP," debuted on the society's
website on October 29, 2008. According to a press release, "This video
celebrates the extraordinary world of vertebrate paleontology and provides
a unique glimpse into the diversity of its scientists and
pursuits." Blaire Van Valkenburgh, professor of ecology and evolutionary
biology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and current president
of SVP, commented, "This video gives the public the inside story on our
membership -- why they became paleontologists, what inspires their research
and what they do on a day-to-day basis."

Featured in the segment on evolution and creationism is Kevin Padian,
professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley,
curator of paleontology at the University of California Museum of
Paleontology, and president of NCSE's board of directors. Padian
commented, "Antievolutionists have no problem with change within a species;
they just think it's noise in the system. They don't like it when they see
new species, when we talk about a new species evolving. And they sure
don't like it when we talk about natural processes making birds and
dinosaurs and mammals and things like that. But the evidence is
there. And we have terrific methods and approaches, all kinds of things
that work together to give us really good complex information on these

In the video, Padian also discussed his testimony in the Kitzmiller v.
Dover trial, in which he "spent a whole day showing the judge what we know
about evolution that's not at the population level." (His testimony,
together with the slides he showed to the court, is available on the NCSE
website.) "If we can put this [the paleontological evidence for evolution]
in front of the public, we'll win. We'll have a much better public
understanding of evolution and of science in general," Padian said. Also
appearing are the paleontologists Richard K. Stucky (a Supporter of NCSE),
Guillermo W. Rougier, Tyler R. Lyson, Claudia A. Marsicano, Anthony R.
Fiorillo, Robert T. Bakker, and Donald R. Prothero -- as well as former
Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, a paleontology fan.

Founded in 1940, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology is the leading
North American scientific and educational organization concerned with
vertebrate paleontology. According to its position statement on evolution
education, "Evolution is fundamental to the teaching of good biology and
geology ... Any attempt to compromise the patterns and processes of
evolution in science education, to treat them as less than robust
explanations, or to admit 'alternative' explanations not relying upon sound
evolutionary observations and theory, misrepresents the state of our
science and does a disservice to the public." The SVP also recently urged
the state of Louisiana to repeal its recently enacted antievolution law.

For the SVP video, visit:

For the press release, visit:

For Padian's testimony in the Kitzmiller case, visit:

For the SVP's position statement on evolution education, visit:

For the SVP's opposition to Louisiana's antievolution law, visit:


NCSE is pleased to announce the publication of the third edition of Voices
for Evolution. As NCSE deputy director Glenn Branch explains in his
foreword, "Amid the dizzying panoply of creationist activity, what is
gratifyingly constant is the thoughtful, balanced, and authoritative
opposition from the scientific, educational, and civil liberties
communities, as well from a considerable portion of the faith
community. Organizations small and large, local, national, and
international, have expressed their unflinching support for evolution
education. Their statements are collected here, in Voices for Evolution."

Equally gratifying is the increase in the number of organizations taking a
stand in defense of the teaching of evolution. The first edition of Voices
for Evolution, edited by Betty McCollister and published in 1984, contained
68 such statements; the second edition, edited by Molleen Matsumura and
published in 1995, contained a round 100; and the third edition, edited by
Carrie Sager and published in 2008, contains 176. Also included in the
third edition are summaries of and excerpts from significant court
decisions, including Kitzmiller v. Dover.

Neil deGrasse Tyson praised Voices for Evolution as "a beacon for students,
teachers, and the curious public who never knew the full extent that
biological evolution is recognized and accepted among secular as well as
religious organizations"; Michael Ruse described it as "a wonderful guide
to the reasons for teaching evolution in our schools, and proof that we do
our students a grave disservice if we keep them from one of the jewels in
the crown of science"; and Nina Jablonski maintains that "it needs to be in
the hands of every teacher in the United States."

Printed and bound copies of the third edition of Voices for Evolution are
available from the NCSE office and from for $12.95 plus shipping
and sales tax (if applicable); electronic copies in PDF format are freely
available from Additionally, we are in the process of adding the
individual statements to the NCSE website. And, of course, we will be
adding new statements to the NCSE website -- and, eventually, to a fourth
edition of Voices for Evolution -- as they become available.

For further information about Voices for Evolution, visit:

To purchase Voices for Evolution from, visit:

For the free version of Voices for Evolution as a PDF, 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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