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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2009/11/06

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott tackles a creationist version of the Origin of
Species. Islamic creationism is addressed by The New York Times and
the Boston Globe. And the second part of Becoming Human airs on
November 10, 2009.


NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott was invited to debate Ray
Comfort, a creationist in the news recently for his plans to
distribute copies of the Origin of Species with his own introduction,
on the God & Country blog of U.S. News & World Report. Comfort began
the debate on October 29, 2009; Scott replied on October 30, 2009;
Comfort responded on November 2, 2009; and Scott replied on November
3, 2009. The debate, according to Dan Gilgoff, who maintains the blog,
elicited "more feedback than any other issue on this blog has received
over any similar stretch in its not-quite-one-year of existence."

In her first post, Scott urged students to accept the free copy of the
Origin that Comfort is offering, but not to waste time reading
Comfort's introduction -- especially the middle section. "[It's] a
hopeless mess of long-ago-refuted creationist arguments," she
observed, "teeming with misinformation about the science of evolution,
populated by legions of strawmen, and exhibiting what can be
charitably described as muddled thinking." After giving a number of
examples of scientific errors in Comfort's introduction, she added, "I
have faith that college students are sharp enough to realize that
Comfort's take on Darwin and evolution is simply bananas."

Scott also noted that the copy of Comfort's version of the Origin she
was sent by the publisher was missing four chapters as well as
Darwin's introduction. In his response, Comfort claimed that the next
edition includes the missing material: "Not one word will be omitted."
Scott observed, "It's still missing a crucial diagram from Chapter 4
as well as the epigraphs from Bacon and Whewell, which Darwin chose
with care," and also wondered about the unexplained change of heart:
"Elsewhere he wrote that it was 'abridged because it was too many
pages (too expensive) for a giveaway.' But now he's going to try to
give away even more copies of this more complete version?"

"I stick by my advice," Scott wrote in her second post. "Students who
are interested in learning about science can skip Comfort's
introduction, which, despite a few cosmetic revisions, remains a
hopeless mess of long-ago-refuted creationist arguments." And she
concluded, "Anyone who honestly examines the data supporting evolution
-- even a young-earth creationist [such as Bryan College's Todd C.
Wood, whom Scott quoted as acknowledging, "Evolution is not a theory
in crisis"] -- concludes that the science is strong. If you reject
evolution, you are doing it for religious reasons. You're entitled to
your religious opinions -- but not to your own scientific facts."

For the debate, visit: 

For Gilgoff's comments on the reception of the debate, visit: 


The phenomenon of Islamic creationism was addressed by two major
newspapers, The New York Times (November 3, 2009) and the Boston Globe
(October 25, 2009), in the wake of a recent conference at Hampshire
College on evolution in the Muslim world. (Webcasts of the conference
presentations will be available on-line by November 15, 2009,
according to the conference website.)

The Globe's article began arrestingly, with the news that the
Arabic-language version of Al Jazeera's website -- a major news source
in the Middle East -- triumphantly misdescribed the recently described
early hominid Ardipithecus ramidus as "evidence that Darwin's theory
of evolution was wrong." "'Ardi Refutes Darwin's Theory,' Al Jazeera
announced in an Oct. 3 article."

"It's hard to say exactly how much support the theory of evolution
enjoys in the world's Muslim countries, but it's definitely not very
much," the Globe noted. The Times added, "The degree of acceptance of
evolution varies among Islamic countries," citing Pakistan as a
country where evolution is covered in high school biology texts, with
the aid of Qu'ranic verses.

In Turkey, however, "the teaching of evolution has largely
disappeared, at least below the university level, and the science
curriculum in public schools is written in deference to religious
beliefs," the Times reported. Both articles attributed the
disappearance of evolution in Turkish schools to the activities of
Adnan Oktar -- widely known by his pseudonym, Harun Yahya.

"Oktar's work is easy to lampoon," the Globe commented, but added,
"Oktar's main concern -- that evolution is the tool of atheists bent
on destroying Islam -- does resonate there and in other Muslim
countries." Moreover, "in the West, where non-Islamic influences are
strongest, Islamic creationism may be stronger in reaction to the
outside pressure," according to the Times.

Islamic creationists "do not quarrel with astronomers and geologists,"
the Times explained, "just biologists, insisting that life is the
creation of God, not the happenstance consequence of random
occurrences." Both articles also reported that, like their Christian
counterparts, Islamic creationists take especial issue with the idea
of human evolution in particular.

“[T]he fact that there is a creationist debate at all can be seen as a
sort of progress," the Globe observed. "In the most conservative parts
of the Muslim world, creationism isn't a political or philosophical
force because it doesn't need to be -- there aren't enough people who
believe in evolution, or have even been exposed to it, to require a

For the stories in the Times and the Globe, visit: 

For the information about the Hampshire conference, 

For information from Science about Ardi, visit: 


The second episode of Becoming Human -- a three-part NOVA documentary
on what the latest scientific research reveals about our hominid
relatives -- will air on November 10, 2009, on public broadcasting
stations around the country. According to NOVA:


In "Birth of Humanity," the second part of the three-part series
"Becoming Human," NOVA investigates the first skeleton that really
looks like us -- "Turkana Boy" -- an astonishingly complete specimen
of Homo erectus found by the famous Leakey team in Kenya. These early
humans are thought to have developed key innovations that helped them
thrive, including hunting large prey, the use of fire, and extensive
social bonds.

The program examines an intriguing theory that long-distance running
-- our ability to jog -- was crucial for the survival of these early
hominids. Not only did running help them escape from vicious predators
roaming the grasslands, but it also gave them a unique hunting
strategy: chasing down prey animals such as deer and antelope to the
point of exhaustion. "Birth of Humanity" also probes how, why, and
when humans' uniquely long period of childhood and parenting began.


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

For further information, visit: 

For information on local stations, visit: 

Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit 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

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