NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2008/11/21
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch:)
Dear Friends of NCSE, No shortage of news from Texas, where the state board of education heard testimony about the proposed revisions to the state science standards from over ninety citizens, just two days after a survey of the state's biology professors revealed overwhelming rejection of the arguments advanced by the antievolutionists seeking to undermine the treatment of evolution in those standards. And Judgment Day -- the documentary about the Kitzmiller v. Dover case -- receives new kudos from the AAAS.
TESTIMONY IN TEXAS The Texas state board of education heard testimony about the proposed new set of state science standards during its meeting on November 19, 2008 -- and plenty of the testimony concerned the treatment of evolution in the standards. As the Dallas Morning News (November 20, 2008) explained, the standards "will dictate what is taught in science classes in elementary and secondary schools and provide the material for state tests and textbooks. The standards will remain in place for a decade after their approval by the state board." The standards under consideration were not the version released in September 2008, but a revised version drafted in November 2008 and not posted on the Texas Education Agency's website until November 17, 2008. A significant difference is that the September version omitted the "strengths and weaknesses" language of the old standards, which was selectively applied in 2003 by members of the board seeking to dilute the treatment of evolution in biology textbooks, while the November version includes a variant of it: "strengths and limitations." Texas Citizens for Science's Steven Schafersman told the board that the "strengths and weaknesses" language was unscientific and pedagogically inappropriate, according to the Austin American-Statesman (November 20, 2008). He was not alone in his view: according to a report issued by the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund just two days before the hearing, 94% of Texas biology professors regard the "weaknesses" of evolution cited by creationists as not representing valid scientific objections to evolution. Nor was Schafersman alone in defending the teaching of evolution at the meeting. In a story significantly headlined "Evolution proponents descend on state education panel," the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (November 20, 2008) observed, "With few exceptions, the speakers -- scientists, teachers, clergy and grassroots activists -- took the side of evolution," a situation that evidently vexed the chair of the board, avowed creationist Don McLeroy, who complained, "This is all being ginned up by the evolution side." Reflecting on the spectacle, the Corpus Christi Call-Times (November 20, 2008) editorially commented, "Members of the state Board of Education, as they prepare to establish a new science curriculum, should certainly heed the advice of the state's top science teachers: Teaching the 'weaknesses' of the theory of evolution raises questions about its validity, questions that are not shared by established science. Public schools should teach evolution. Period. Texas students will have to compete in the real world, not the flat earth of the past." In addition to the newspaper reports, detailed running commmentary on the meeting was posted on their blogs by representatives of two of the groups defending the integrity of science education in Texas: Texas Citizens for Science, on the Houston Chronicle's Evo.Sphere blog, and the Texas Freedom Network, on its own blog. Both groups are going to continue to monitor the standards, which are expected first to return to the writing committee for revisions in December 2008, and then return to the board for consideration in January 2009. For the story in the Dallas Morning News, visit: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/texassouthwest/stories/DN-science_20tex.ART.State.Edition1.4aab58e.html For the TEA's information about the standards, visit: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/teks/scienceTEKS.html For the story in the Austin American-Statesman, visit: http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/11/20/1120sboescience.html For the report from the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund (PDF), visit: http://www.tfn.org/site/DocServer/FinalWebPost.pdf?docID=861 For the story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, visit: http://www.star-telegram.com/804/story/1048791.html For the editorial in the Corpus Christi Call-Times, visit: http://www.caller.com/news/2008/nov/20/texas-heads-for-another-squabble-over-evolution/ For Texas Citizens for Science and its blog, visit: http://www.texscience.org/ http://www.chron.com/commons/readerblogs/evosphere.html For the Texas Freedom Network and its blog, visit: http://www.tfn.org/ http://tfnblog.wordpress.com/ And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/news/texas TEXAS SCIENTISTS OVERWHELMINGLY REJECT ANTIEVOLUTION ARGUMENTS Scientists at public and private universities in Texas overwhelmingly reject the arguments advanced by the antievolutionists seeking to undermine the treatment of evolution in Texas's state science standards, according to a report just released by the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund. "This survey leaves no doubt that the political crusade against evolution and other attempts to dumb down our public school science curriculum are deeply misguided," TFN Education Fund President Kathy Miller said in a press release. "Texas scientists are clearly worried that failing to provide a 21st-century science education in our public schools will harm our children's chances to succeed in college and the jobs of the future." The report, entitled Evolution, Creationism, and Public Education: Surveying What Texas Scientists Think about Educating Our Kids in the 21st Century, details a survey conducted by the TFN Education Fund in conjunction with Raymond Eve, a sociology professor at the University of Texas, Arlington, who is the coauthor with Francis B. Harrold of The Creationist Movement in Modern America (Twayne, 1990). The survey was sent to the 1019 biologists and biological anthropologists on the faculty of all 35 public and the 15 largest private colleges and universities in Texas. The response rate was high -- 45% of those surveyed responded. "Their responses should send parents a clear message that those who want to play politics with science education are putting our kids at risk," Eve commented. The TFN Education Fund's press release summarizes five key findings from the survey: "1. Texas scientists (97.7 percent) overwhelmingly reject 'intelligent design' as valid science. 2. Texas science faculty (95 percent) want only evolution taught in science classrooms. 3. Scientists reject teaching the so-called 'weaknesses' of evolution, with 94 percent saying that those arguments are not valid scientific objections to evolution. 4. Science faculty believe that emphasizing 'weaknesses' of evolution would substantially harm students' college readiness (79.6 percent) and ability to compete for 21st-century jobs (72 percent). 5. Scientists (91 percent) strongly believe that support for evolution is compatible with religious faith." Evolution, Creationism, and Public Education was released just as the Texas state board of education was preparing to consider a new draft set of state science standards from November 19 to November 21, hearing testimony from the public on November 19. The Dallas Morning News (November 17, 2008) reported that "a majority of members have voiced support for retaining the current mandate to cover both strengths and weaknesses of major scientific theories, notably evolution, in science courses." But the TFN Education Fund's Kathy Miller told the newspaper that it would be a mistake for the board not to heed the clear consensus of Texas science professors: "This survey leaves no doubt that the political crusade against evolution and other attempts to dumb down our public school science curriculum are deeply misguided." For the TFN Education Fund's press release, visit: http://www.tfn.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5621 For Education, Creationism, and Public Education (PDF), visit: http://www.tfn.org/site/DocServer/FinalWebPost.pdf?docID=861 For tthe story in the Dallas Morning News, visit: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/education/stories/111808dntexevolution.3c0a5be.html And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/news/texas NEW KUDOS FOR JUDGMENT DAY Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, the NOVA documentary about Kitzmiller v. Dover, was among the winners of the 2008 Science Journalism Awards presented by the American Association for the Advancement of Science to honor excellence in science reporting. According to a November 12, 2008, press release: *** The judges praised the two-hour NOVA broadcast for its careful, balanced presentation on the landmark Dover, Pennsylvania, court case that weighed the merits of discussing "intelligent design" in the science classroom. Through interviews with participants in the 2005 case, use of trial transcripts and reenactments of key courtroom moments, the broadcast captured the community turmoil surrounding the case, described the modern science of evolution, and explained why U.S District Court Judge John E. Jones III ruled that intelligent design is a religious idea that should not be taught in public school science classrooms . Frank Roylance, a science writer for The Baltimore Sun who was on the judging panel, said the NOVA broadcast was "a very careful, methodical and sensitive presentation of a vital scientific question, with enormous social and political import." He added: "The filmmakers managed to be both clear and accurate with the science, and fair and sensitive to the beliefs of the ID proponents." Tina Hesman Saey of Science News said the program "brought to life the scientific process and really shows how we know what we know about the evolution of life on Earth." *** NCSE congratulates the producers of the documentary -- NOVA/WGBH Educational Foundation, Vulcan Productions Inc., and The Big Table Film Company -- on the honor, which includes a $3000 award and a plaque. Judgment Day was also the recipient of a Peabody Award and a finalist for the Communication Award presented by the National Academies. For information about Judgment Day, visit: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/id/ For information about Kitzmiller v. Dover, visit: http://ncseweb.org/creationism/legal/intelligent-design-trial-kitzmiller-v-dover For the AAAS's press release, visit: http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2008/1112sja.shtml For information about Judgment Day's other awards, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/2008/04/judgment-day-wins-peabody-award-002139 http://www.keckfutures.org/site/PageServer?pagename=NAKFI_Communications_2008_Communication_Award_Winners_Finalists REMINDER If you wish to unsubscribe to these evolution education updates, please send: unsubscribe ncse-news firstname.lastname@example.org in the body of an e-mail to email@example.com. If you wish to subscribe, please send: subscribe ncse-news firstname.lastname@example.org again in the body of an e-mail to email@example.com. Thanks for reading! And as always, be sure to consult NCSE's web site: http://www.ncseweb.org 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://www.ncseweb.org Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools http://www.ncseweb.org/nioc Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism http://www.ncseweb.org/evc NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today! http://www.ncseweb.org/membership