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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2010/03/05

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(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

The New York Times reports on the increasing linkage of evolution
denial and global warming denial, and NCSE announces a new award for
the most noisome creationist of the year. Plus Don McLeroy loses at
the Texas polls, NCSE's Joshua Rosenau and Steven Newton comment on a
South Dakota bill that uses antievolutionist rhetoric in the service
of global warming denial, and the latest from Israel's fracas over


"Critics of the teaching of evolution in the nation's classrooms are
gaining ground in some states by linking the issue to global warming,
arguing that dissenting views on both scientific subjects should be
taught in public schools," reported The New York Times (March 3,
2010). "Wherever there is a battle over evolution now," Lawrence M.
Krauss told the Times, "there is a secondary battle to diminish other
hot-button issues like Big Bang and, increasingly, climate change. It
is all about casting doubt on the veracity of science -- to say it is
just one view of the world, just another story, no better or more
valid than fundamentalism."

The article suggested that the linkage of evolution and global warming
was in part due to legal considerations. NCSE's Joshua Rosenau told
the Times that he began to notice the linkage after the 2005 decision
in Selman v. Cobb County. At issue was a disclaimer about evolution
affixed to textbooks; although the text of the disclaimer was not
religious, it was held to be unconstitutional because it endorsed the
creationist view that evolution is a problematic theory lacking an
adequate foundation. "By insisting that global warming also be
debated, deniers of evolution can argue that they are simply
championing academic freedom in general."

Reporting the scientific consensus, the Times explained, "For
mainstream scientists, there is no credible challenge to evolutionary
theory. They oppose the teaching of alternative views like intelligent
design, the proposition that life is so complex that it must be the
design of an intelligent being. And there is wide agreement among
scientists that global warming is occurring and that human activities
are probably driving it." Nevertheless, it seems clear that around the
country, attempts to undermine the integrity of science education are
increasingly likely to include global warming as well as evolution.

For the story in The New York Times, visit: 


Not content only to honor those who have valiantly defended the
teaching of evolution in the public schools with its annual Friend of
Darwin award, NCSE is introducing a new award: the UpChucky, bestowed
on the most noisome creationist of the year. "It's a spoof award, of
course," explained NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott, "but
even so there's a lot of competition out there, unfortunately."

The nominees for 2009, as announced in a press release issued on March
3, 2010, were: Don McLeroy, the former chair of the Texas state board
of education, for his longstanding efforts to undermine the teaching
of evolution in the Lone Star state; Ray Comfort of Living Waters
Ministries, for his distribution of copies of the Origin disfigured
with his own creationist introduction; Casey Luskin of the Discovery
Institute, for his logorrheic zeal in reciting the "intelligent
design" talking points du jour, and Al Jazeera, for its wildly
misleading coverage of Ardipithecus ramidus.

And the winner is ... Don McLeroy. "Perhaps the honor of receiving the
first annual UpChucky award will compensate for his loss at the
polls," joked NCSE's Scott, who noted that in the March 2, 2010,
primary election, McLeroy narrowly lost his bid for his party's
nomination for the District 9 seat, to which he was first elected in
1998. "I'd like to think that we won't have to give a future UpChucky
to any of his colleagues, though."

For the press release, visit: 


In the March 2, 2010, primary election, avowed young-earth creationist
Don McLeroy narrowly lost his bid to be the Republican candidate for
the District 9 seat on the Texas state board of education. As the
Dallas Morning News (March 3, 2010) reported, "The fiercely contested
race pitted McLeroy, a dentist from College Station and member of the
board’s social conservative bloc, against [Thomas] Ratliff, a
legislative consultant and son of former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff," who
is viewed as likely to side with the moderates on the board. There is
no Democratic candidate for the seat, so Ratliff is expected to be
elected in November 2010.

Originally elected to the board in 1998, McLeroy was persistently
determined to undermine the treatment of evolution in Texas's public
schools. During the debate over biology textbook adoption in 2003, he
was one of the four members of the board who misused the state science
standards to oppose adopting the eleven textbooks under consideration.
His attacks on science education -- including his endorsement of a
book that described parents who want their children to learn about
evolution as "monsters" -- were in part responsible for the state
senate's refusal to confirm him as chair of the board in May 2009, as
NCSE previously reported.

McLeroy's assault on evolution came to a head during a meeting of the
board in March 2009 when he declaimed, in a now notorious moment,
"Somebody's got to stand up to experts!" (Video is available on NCSE's
YouTube channel.) Unfortunately, a majority of the board did so,
voting to amend the Texas state science standards to add a requirement
that students examine "all sides of scientific evidence" and to add or
amend various standards in a way that encourages the presentation of
creationist claims about the complexity of the cell, the completeness
of the fossil record, and the age of the universe.

The board's revisions to the standards were widely deplored, with the
head of the White House Office of Science and Technology describing it
as "a step backward" and the Austin American-Statesman (April 1, 2009)
editorially complaining, "Don McLeroy, Dunbar and others have turned
the education board into a national joke. But when it comes to
teaching Texas children, what they have done is not funny." But
McLeroy was unabashed. "Our science standards are light years ahead of
any other state when it comes to challenging evolution," he told the
Washington Monthly (January/February 2010), adding, "Evolution is

For the story in the Dallas Morning News, visit: 

For the "a step backward" comment, visit: 

For the Austin American-Statesman's editorial, visit: 

For the article in the Washington Monthly, visit: 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit: 


House Concurrent Resolution 1009, now under consideration in South
Dakota's legislature, borrows language from antievolution legislation
in encouraging teachers to present "a balanced and objective"
presentation of global warming, and two NCSE staffers react -- Steven
Newton at the Huffington Post (February 25, 2010) and Joshua Rosenau
at the Center for American Progress's Science Progress blog (February
26, 2010). As the Rapid City Journal (February 24, 2010) reports, "The
resolution, which does not have the force of law, asks schools that
present the threats of global warming to balance the information with
the skeptical view of climate change as well."

Analyzing HCR 1009 as it was introduced, Newton commented on the
resolution's "startling lack of knowledge about the particulars of
climate science and how science works," observing that it refers to "a
variety of climatological, meteorological, astrological,
thermological, cosmological, and ecological dynamics" -- "Do they
think glaciers melt slower when Virgo is ascending?" Newton added,
"Even more disturbing than these errors is the underlying premise of
HCR 1009: the assumption that political bodies, rather than
scientists, should have the final say over scientific issues. ... This
political interference in science education is a problem that extends
beyond merely getting the facts wrong. Students deserve better than to
be pawns of science denialists."

After discussing the history of creationist activism and its
increasing affinity for global warming denial, Rosenau noted that HCR
1009 was revised by the Senate to remove most of the scientific errors
-- including the reference to astrology, prompting the quip "[t]he
stars were not aligned." He warned, however, that "the Senate
strengthened the final line, insisting now that teachers offer a
'balanced and objective' presentation of global warming. However
reasonable such advice may be in the abstract, the effect of the law
will be chilling to teachers on the ground. Science is not and should
not be resolved through the legislative process, and the details of
what teachers present as science should not be dictated by legislators
with no experience as scientists or teachers."

For the Rapid City Journal's article, visit: 

For Newton's and Rosenau's articles, visit: 

For the House and Senate versions of HCR 1009, visit: 


The furor over Gavriel Avital's denial of evolution and global warming
continues, with a host of eminent scientists calling for his dismissal
and with the minister of education reportedly describing his remarks
as "unacceptable." Avital, the chief scientist at the Israel ministry
of education, was quoted in Haaretz (February 21, 2010) as saying, "If
textbooks state explicitly that human beings' origins are to be found
with monkeys, I would want students to pursue and grapple with other
opinions. There are many people who don't believe the evolutionary
account is correct ... Part of my responsibility, in light of my
position with the Education Ministry, is to examine textbooks and
curricula." Subsequently, Haaretz (February 23, 2010) editorially
called on the minister of education, Gideon Sa'ar, to sack Avital,
describing him as "an obscurantist Orthodox zealot who casts doubt on
the validity of scientific research and rejects both evolution and
global warming."

The reaction to Avital's remarks from the scientific community was
indignant, with Yehoshua Kolodny, who recently won the Israel Prize --
the country's highest civilian honor -- for his contributions to the
earth sciences, telling Haaretz (February 22, 2010), "Denying
evolution is like denying science itself." A letter to Sa'ar signed by
ten recipients of the Israel Prize, including Nobel laureates Avram
Hershko and Aaron Ciechanover, protested that Avital's remarks
"undermine the standing and importance of science and take us
centuries backward, even as the world celebrates the importance of
Charles Darwin's discoveries and the great contributions he made to
human knowledge and scientific development, and is striving to uproot
benighted doctrines such as intelligent design," and commented, "We
don't see any alternative other than to replace Dr. Gavriel Avital
with an individual suited to fill the position, one who could do so
faithfully and professionally," Haaretz (February 26, 2010) reported.

Sa'ar is apparently taking the protests seriously, telling a session
of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, that Avital's remarks "are not in
line with Education Ministry policy, and are unacceptable to me."
Haaretz (February 25, 2010) reported that a letter sent by one of
Sa'ar aides to Eyal Morag, a blogger who publicized Avital's
statements, explained, "The statements of the chief scientist of the
Education Ministry reflect only his personal views and do not reflect
the policy of the ministry, those heading it and the professionals in
charge [of the said] subjects." A source in the ministry described the
letter as in effect a vote of no confidence in Avital; and although
Sa'ar told the Knesset that "a process of clarification with the chief
scientist" was underway, a source in the ministry told Haaretz that
Sa'ar would prefer for Avital to resign. Instructed by the ministry
not to give any interviews, Avital reportedly told a religious website
that he stands behind his statements, but would not make any comment
to Haaretz.

For Haaretz's initial story about the furor, visit: 

For Haaretz's editorial, visit: 

For Haaretz's subsequent coverage, 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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