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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2009/08/14

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Chris Comer is appealing the dismissal of her case against the Texas
Education Agency. A new study conducted by NCSE's Louise S. Mead and
Anton Mates reveals progress in the treatment of evolution in state
science standards -- but there's still plenty of room for improvement.
And NCSE's Glenn Branch reviews the updated edition of But Is It
Science? for Skeptic.


Chris Comer, whose lawsuit challenging the Texas Education Agency's
policy of requiring neutrality about evolution and creationism was
dismissed on March 31, 2009, is now appealing the decision. Formerly
the director of science at the TEA, Comer was forced to resign in
November 2007 after she forwarded a note announcing a talk by Barbara
Forrest in Austin; according to a memorandum recommending her
dismissal, "the TEA requires, as agency policy, neutrality when
talking about evolution and creationism."

In June 2008, Comer filed suit in federal court in the Western
District of Texas, arguing that the policy violates the Establishment
Clause of the First Amendment: "By professing 'neutrality,' the Agency
credits creationism as a valid scientific theory." The judge ruled
otherwise, however, writing, "As a matter of law, the Agency's
neutrality policy, if it advances religion at all, only does so
incidentally. Further, a reasonable observer of the neutrality policy
would not believe the Agency endorses religion through the policy."

In her appellate brief, submitted to the United States Court of
Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Comer asked the court to "review the
record de novo and reverse and vacate the district court's decision.
Specifically, it should grant Comer's motion for summary judgment, and
vacate the grant of summary judgment for defendants, as well as the
dismissal of plaintiff's complaint. At a minimum, this Court should
vacate the grant of summary judgment to defendants, plus the order
dismissing the complaint, and remand for further proceedings."

For Comer's appellate brief (PDF), visit:

For NCSE's collection of information about the case, visit:

For NCSE's video about the case, visit:


How is evolution faring in state science education standards? NCSE's
Louise S. Mead and Anton Mates pored over the latest standards in all
fifty states. In a new study forthcoming in the journal Evolution:
Education and Outreach, they report, "The treatment of biological
evolution in state science standards has improved dramatically over
the last ten years." Forty states received satisfactory grades for the
treatment of evolution in their state science standards in Mead and
Mates's study, as opposed to only thirty-one in Lawrence S. Lerner's
2000 study Good Science, Bad Science, conducted for the Fordham

But the news is not all rosy. Five states -- Alabama, Louisiana,
Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia -- received the grade of F, and a
further six states -- Alaska, Connecticut, Kentucky, Tennessee,
Wisconsin, and Wyoming -- receive the grade of D. Moreover, the
"treatment of human evolution is abysmal," Mead and Mates lament, with
only seven states (and the District of Columbia) providing a
comprehensive treatment. Many states "do not reference the Big Bang as
the current scientific theory for the origin of the universe," they
add, and only 17 states provide a comprehensive treatment of the
connections among biological, geological, and cosmological systems.

Mead and Mates also consider a few states that furnish "excellent
examples of the successes and failures of the standards-setting
process." The grades for Florida and Kansas have vaulted from F to A,
although not without controversy: "the Kansas standards have seesawed
between abysmal and excellent no fewer than four times in the last
decade." In Louisiana, however, the passage of the so-called Louisiana
Science Education Act undermined the treatment of evolution in the
standards, which now receive the grade of F. And in Texas, the state
board of education's revisions in March 2009 served to undermine the
treatment of evolution in the standards to the point where they, too,
receive a failing grade.

In a companion article introducing the study, NCSE's executive
director Eugenie C. Scott commented, "On the basis of Mead and Mates’s
results, there is reason to be pleased by the progress over the last
ten years in the inclusion of evolution in state science education
standards. That the treatment of evolution is inadequate in almost one
in five states still suggests that there is considerable room for
improvement, but we should be optimistic that teachers, scientists,
and others who care about science education will continue -- as
science standards continue to be periodically revised -- to work for
the appropriate inclusion of evolution in state science education

For Mead and Mates's article, visit:

For Lerner's study, visit:

For Scott's article, visit:


NCSE's deputy director Glenn Branch's review of the updated edition of
But Is It Science? The Philosophical Question in the
Creation/Evolution Controversy (Prometheus Books, 2009) appeared in
eSkeptic for August 12, 2009. The review concluded:


But Is It Science? is evidently intended as a sourcebook for
university classes in philosophy, the history of science, science and
religion, and so forth, and as such it succeeds admirably. But it is,
or ought to be, appealing to the general public at large. The
creationism/evolution controversy is a perennial feature of life in
the United States, with attempts to remove, balance, or compromise the
teaching of evolution recurring from the Scopes era to the present
day. Even if public interest in intelligent design dwindles after
Kitzmiller, as public interest in creation science dwindled after
McLean and Edwards, the profound yet misguided discomfort with
evolution that actuates such assaults on evolution is bound to remain.
Also bound to remain are philosophical controversies over creationism,
which -- as the Kitzmiller case illustrated so vividly -- have the
potential to affect the quality of science education across the
country and indeed around the world. Pennock and Ruse conclude their
preface by writing, "We hope that you enjoy this collection and learn
from it." I think that you will. And they add, "We hope sincerely that
in twenty years it will not be necessary to bring out a third
edition." I do, too. But if so, it will be due, despite Mencken's jab,
in large part to the philosophers -- Pennock, Ruse, and Forrest, to be
sure, but also Philip Kitcher, Sahotra Sarkar, Elliott Sober, and a
host of their colleagues -- who have worked tirelessly to expose the
philosophical flaws of creationism.


The editors of the book, philosophers Michael Ruse and Robert T.
Pennock, testified in McLean and Kitzmiller, respectively, and Ruse is
additionally a Supporter of NCSE. Branch's review will be published in
a forthcoming issue of Skeptic.

For Branch's review, visit:

To buy the book from (and benefit NCSE in the process), visit:

For information about Skeptic, visit:

Thanks for reading! And as always, be sure to consult NCSE's website
-- -- 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 x310
fax: 510-601-7204

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism -- now in its second edition!

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

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