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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2008/12/12

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Judge Jones, who presided over Kitzmiller v. Dover, is interviewed in PLoS
Genetics.  The fourth issue of Evolution:  Education and Outreach is now
available.  And Roger Ebert offers his opinion about Expelled.


Judge John E. Jones III, who presided over the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial,
was interviewed by Jane Gitschier for PLoS Genetics.  After recounting his
legal career and sketching the legal history of the creationism/evolution
controversy, Jones talked about the trial itself.  Describing the expert
testimony he heard, Jones commented, "I will always remember Ken Miller's
testimony in the sense that he did A-Z evolution.  And then got into
intelligent design.  And having laid the foundation with the description of
evolution, got into why intelligent design doesn't work as science, to the
point where it is predominantly a religious concept."  He added, "But Ken
Miller went into the immune system, the blood clotting cascade, and the
bacterial flagellum -- all three are held out by intelligent design
proponents as irreducibly complex, and in effect, having no precursors.  He
[Miller] knocked that down, I thought, quite effectively -- so
comprehensively and so well.  By the time Miller was done testifying, over
the span of a couple of days, the defendants were really already in the hole."

The expert witnesses for the defense were less impressive to
Jones:  "Another remarkable moment on the science side was Michael Behe,
who was the lead witness for the defendants, and a very amiable fellow, as
was Ken Miller, but unlike Miller, in my view, Professor Behe did not
distinguish himself.  He did not hold up well on cross-examination."  And
the school board witnesses for the defense, whom Jones lambasted in his
decision, he described as "dreadful witnesses ... hence the description
'breathtaking inanity' and 'mendacity.'  In my view, they clearly lied
under oath.  They made a very poor account of themselves.  They could not
explain why they did what they did.  They really didn't even know what
intelligent design was.  It was quite clear to me that they viewed
intelligent design as a method to get creationism into the public school
classroom.  They were unfortunate and troublesome witnesses.  Simply
remarkable, in that sense."

Noting that the plaintiffs and defendants both asked for a ruling on the
question of whether "intelligent design" constitutes science, Jones said,
"if you're going to measure the effect of a particular policy, in this case
juxtaposing intelligent design with evolution, on the intended recipients,
you have to delve into what the policy is about.  What was it about?  It
was about intelligent design.  And to try to determine the effect on the
recipients you have to determine what does that concept or phrase stand
for?  Hence, we got into a search and examination of what exactly does ID
say, what is its basis, what are its scientific bona fides or lack
thereof.  That opens the door for a determination of whether ID is in fact
science.  And that is what that part of the opinion was. ... I wrote about
whether ID, as presented to me, in that courtroom from September to
November of 2005, was science, and I said it was not.  That it was the
progeny, the successor to creationism and creation science.  That it was
dressed-up creationism."

Looking forward, Jones expressed uncertainty about the long-term effect of
the Kitzmiller decision, commenting, "This is speculation on my part -- I
don't think that the concept of ID itself has a lot of vitality going
forward.  The Dover trial discredited that thing that is ID.  To the extent
that I follow it -- I'm curious about it, but it doesn't go any further
than that -- the likely tack going forward is something like teach the
controversy, talk about the alleged flaws and gaps in the theory of
evolution and go to that place first."  He noted that creationists in both
Texas and Louisiana seem to be taking such a tack.  And, he noted, there is
no prospect of the creationism/evolution controversy subsiding any time
soon:  "They gave me the last word in 'Judgment Day' [a NOVA program on the
trial] and I said this is not something that will be settled in my time or
even in my grandchildren's lifetimes.  It's an enduring, quintessentially
American, dispute."

For the interview, visit:

For information about Kitzmiller v. Dover, visit:

For the decisionin the case (PDF), visit:

For NCSE's coverage of events in Texas and Louisiana, visit:

For information about Judgment Day, visit:


The fourth issue of Evolution:  Education and Outreach -- the new journal
aspiring to promote accurate understanding and comprehensive teaching of
evolutionary theory for a wide audience -- is now available on-line. The
theme of the issue is the evolution of the eye.  Featured, accordingly, are
original scientific articles "A Genetic Perspective on Eye Evolution:  Gene
Sharing, Convergence and Parallelism," "Charting Evolutions
Trajectory:  Using Molluscan Eye Diversity to Understand Parallel and
Convergent Evolution," "Early Evolution of the Vertebrate Eye -- Fossil
Evidence," "Evolution of Insect Eyes:  Tales of Ancient Heritage,
Deconstruction, Reconstruction, Remodeling, and Recycling," "Exceptional
Variation on a Common Theme:  The Evolution of Crustacean Compound Eyes,"
"Opening the 'Black Box':  The Genetic and Biochemical Basis of Eye
Evolution," "Suboptimal Optics:  Vision Problems as Scars of Evolutionary
History," "The Causes and Consequences of Color Vision," "The Evolution of
Complex Organs," "The Evolution of Extraordinary Eyes:  The Cases of
Flatfishes and Stalk-eyed Flies," and "The Origin of the Vertebrate
Eye."  And there are resources for teachers and reviews of books, too,
including -- consistently with the issue's theme -- a discussion of
teaching about evolution with the example of blind cave fish and a review
of Jay Hosler's comic Optical Allusions.

Also included is the fourth installment of NCSE's regular column for
Evolution:  Education and Outreach, Overcoming Obstacles to Evolution
Education.  In their article "Misconceptions About the Evolution of
Complexity," Andrew J. Petto (a member of NCSE's board of directors) and
NCSE's Louise S. Mead take the vertebrate eye as their example, since "the
complexity of vertebrate eyes is a common antievolution argument."  In the
abstract, they summarize, "Despite data and theory from comparative
anatomy, embryology, molecular biology, genomics, and evolutionary
developmental biology, antievolutionists continue to present the eye as an
example of a structure too complex to have evolved.  They stress what we
have yet to explain about the development and evolution of eyes and present
incomplete information as evidence that evolution is a 'theory in
crisis.'  An examination of the evidence, however, particularly evidence
that has accumulated in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, refutes
antievolutionists' claims.  The distribution of eyes in extant organisms,
combined with what we now know about the control of eye development across
diverse groups of organisms, provides significant evidence for the
evolution of all major components of the eye, from molecular to
morphological, and provides an excellent test of predictions based on
common ancestry."

For the contents of the issue, visit:

For Petto and Mead's article, visit:


The popular film critic Roger Ebert reviewed the creationist propaganda
movie Expelled:  No Intelligence Allowed in a December 3, 2008, post
entitled "Win Ben Stein's mind" on his blog on the Chicago Sun-Times
website -- and he pulled no punches.  "The more you know about evolution,
or simple logic, the more you are likely to be appalled by the film.  No
one with an ability for critical thinking could watch more than three
minutes without becoming aware of its tactics," he wrote.

"This film is cheerfully ignorant, manipulative, slanted, cherry-picks
quotations, draws unwarranted conclusions, makes outrageous juxtapositions
(Soviet marching troops representing opponents of ID), pussy-foots around
religion (not a single identified believer among the ID people), segues
between quotes that are not about the same thing, tells bald-faced lies,
and makes a completely baseless association between freedom of speech and
freedom to teach religion in a university class that is not about
religion," he added.

"And there is worse, much worse," Ebert continued, taking especial offense
at Expelled's claim that the acceptance of evolution resulted in the
Holocaust -- "It fills me with contempt."  Previously, the Anti-Defamation
League said that the movie's claim "is outrageous and trivializes the
complex factors that led to the mass extermination of European
Jewry."  Expelled's lead, Ben Stein, responded, "It's none of their f---ing
business," according to Peter McKnight, writing in the Vancouver Sun (June
21, 2008).

For a thorough critique of Expelled, including a collection of links to
reviews of the movie, visit NCSE's Expelled Exposed website.  Additionally,
the next issue of Reports of the NCSE (volume 28, numbers 5-6) is a special
issue devoted to debunking Expelled, containing reports on its reception, a
summary of the ways in which organizations with a stake in the
creationism/evolution controversy reacted, a summary of the various
controversies over its use of copyrighted material, and a detailed
explanation of its unsuitability for the classroom.

For Ebert's blog post, visit:

For the ADL's statement, visit:

For Peter McKnight's column, visit:

For Expelled Exposed, visit:

For subscription information for Reports of the NCSE, visit:


Although Kevin Padian discussed evolution and religion with Alan Jones, the
dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, on November 22, 2008, the link
provided in the December 5, 2008, evolution education update was to a video
of a previous discussion between the two, filmed on November 4, 2007.  The
later discussion was not filmed.

For the video of Padian's talk with Jones, visit:


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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

Not in Our Classrooms:  Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism

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