NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2009/10/30
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, The first part of a documentary on hominid evolution is about to debut. Norman Levitt, a fierce critic of pseudoscience, is dead. NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott joined Scientific American's board of advisers. And a chance to hear Sean B. Carroll on-line.
BECOMING HUMAN, PART 1 The first episode of Becoming Human -- a three-part NOVA documentary on what the latest scientific research reveals about our hominid relatives -- will air on November 3, 2009, on public broadcasting stations around the country. According to NOVA: *** Part 1, "First Steps," examines the factors that caused us to split from the other great apes. The program explores the fossil of "Selam," also known as "Lucy's Child." Paleoanthropologist Zeray Alemseged spent five years carefully excavating the sandstone-embedded fossil. NOVA's cameras are there to capture the unveiling of the face, spine, and shoulder blades of this 3.3 million-year-old fossil child. And NOVA takes viewers "inside the skull" to show how our ancestors' brains had begun to change from those of the apes. Why did leaps in human evolution take place? "First Steps" explores a provocative "big idea" that sharp swings of climate were a key factor. *** Further information about the film, including a preview, interviews, and interactive features, is available at NOVA's website. Information on finding local public broadcasting stations is available via PBS's website. For further information, visit: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/beta/evolution/becoming-human-part-1.html For information on local stations, visit: http://www.pbs.org/stationfinder/index.html NORMAN LEVITT DIES Norman Levitt, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Rutgers University and a fierce critic of pseudoscience, died on October 23, 2009, in New York City, according to the obituary in eSkeptic (October 26, 2009). Born on August 27, 1943, in New York City, Levitt received his B.A. from Harvard University in 1963 and his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1967. After a brief stint at New York University, he spent the rest of his career at Rutgers University, with visiting professorships at Arhus University, Stanford University, and the University of British Columbia; he retired from Rutgers in 2007. A specialist in topology, he authored Grassmannians and Gauss Maps in Piecewise-Linear Topology (Springer-Verlag, 1987), but he was better known to the general public for his critiques of pseudoscience and obscurantism, including Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994), coauthored with Paul R. Gross, and Prometheus Bedeviled: Science and the Contradictions of Contemporary Culture (Rutgers University Press, 1999). While creationism was hardly Levitt's only target, he was certainly concerned about it, especially in its recent manifestation of "intelligent design," which he described -- in a press release announcing SciPolicy's amicus curiae brief for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover -- as "not new science, fringe science, nor even junk science. It is merely window-dressing for a movement that is social, political, and, above all, theological down to its core, and which never had the least intention of doing disinterested science." In the wake of the Kitzmiller verdict, he castigated the sociologist Steve Fuller's testimony on behalf of "intelligent design" in a review of Fuller's Science vs. Religion? Intelligent Design and the Problem of Evolution (Polity Press, 2007) for Skeptic and reviewed Michael Shermer's Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design (Times Books, 2006) for Reports of the NCSE. His widow Renee Greene Levitt asks for memorial contributions to be sent to NCSE in lieu of flowers. For the eSkeptic obituary, visit: http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/09-10-26 For the SciPolicy press release and brief (both PDF), visit: http://ncseweb.org/webfm_send/379/1 http://ncseweb.org/webfm_send/383 For the two reviews mentioned, visit: http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/07-12-19#feature http://ncseweb.org/rncse/26/6/review-why-darwin-matters GENIE GRANTS SCIAM'S WISHES NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott is on the revamped and expanded Board of Advisers of Scientific American, announced in the magazine's November 2009 issue. Acting editor-in-chief Mariette DiChristina explained that the advisers "have agreed, as friends of the magazine, to assist in our mission of being for you, our readers, the best source for information about science and technology advances and how they will affect our lives. The advisers give us feedback on story proposals and manuscripts from time to time." Other members of the board include Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas, Austin; Lawrence Lessig of Harvard Law School and the Center for Internet and Society; Lawrence M. Krauss of Arizona State University; John P. Moore of Cornell University; Jeffrey Sachs of the Earth Institute; Arthur Caplan of the University of Pennsylvania; Nobel laureate David Gross of the University of California, Santa Barbara; Leslie C. Aiello of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research; and Martin Rees of Cambridge University. Scott's previous involvement with Scientific American includes reviewing Robert T. Pennock's Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the New Creationism for its August 1999 issue and contributing "The Latest Face of Creationism," coauthored with NCSE's Glenn Branch, to its January 2009 issue on "The Evolution of Evolution." She was also honored as one of the Scientific American 10 for 2009 for her "outstanding commitment to assuring that the benefits of new technologies and knowledge will accrue to humanity." For Scientific American's announcement, visit: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=from-the-sources For NCSE's previous coverage of Scott and Scientific American, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/2008/12/evolution-scientific-american-003309 http://ncseweb.org/news/2009/05/eugenie-c-scott-among-scientific-american-10-004783 WEBCAST: THE MAKING OF THE FITTEST Hear NCSE Supporter Sean B. Carroll discuss "The Making of the Fittest: Natural Selection and the DNA Record of Evolution" on-line! From 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. (Eastern) on November 4, 2009, Carroll will deliver the third lecture of the 150th anniversary Origin of Species lecture series, hosted by The Reading Odyssey and the Darwin 150 project -- and the whole lecture will be webcast live. Sponsors of the lecture series include the National Center for Science Education, National Geographic, Citrix Online and its HiDef Conferencing Division, Campaign Monitor, the Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology, SquareSpace, the movie Creation, and the New York Academy of Sciences. Future speakers in the series include E. O. Wilson. For information on the webcast, visit: http://darwinlecture3.eventbrite.com/ For information about the hosts, visit: http://www.readingodyssey.com/ http://www.darwin150.com/ Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://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 x310 fax: 510-601-7204 800-290-6006 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncseweb.org Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter: http://groups.google.com/group/ncse-news NCSE is on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter: http://www.facebook.com/evolution.ncse http://www.youtube.com/NatCen4ScienceEd http://twitter.com/ncse NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today! http://ncseweb.org/membership