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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2010/04/16

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A philosopher whose conversion from atheism delighted creationists is
dead; a seminary professor resigns over his acceptance of evolution;
and a discussion of survey results involving evolution is removed from
a National Science Board report.


The philosopher Antony Flew died on April 8, 2010, at the age of 87,
according to the obituary in the Telegraph (April 13, 2010). Born in
London on February 11, 1923, Flew served in Royal Air Force
Intelligence during World War II before graduating from Oxford
University in 1947. He spent twenty years as professor of philosophy
at the University of Keele and then almost a decade at the University
of Reading; in his retirement, he was a part-time faculty member at
York University. A prolific author with over twenty books to his
credit, he was especially known for his work on the eighteenth-century
philosopher David Hume, his conservative views on politics and
education, and his writings on the philosophy of religion, in which he
vigorously argued for what he called the presumption of atheism.

During his career, Flew took a degree of interest in evolutionary
theory and its implications, publishing monographs on Evolutionary
Ethics (1968) as well as Darwinian Evolution (1984; second edition,
1997) -- although his exposition was arguably marred by a fondness for
claims of genetic linkage between intelligence and race. Toward the
end of his life, Flew announced that he was renouncing his atheism in
favor of a form of deism. The reasons for his conversion seemed to
shift from interview to interview, although arguments associated with
various forms of creationism were frequently mentioned. Flew's There
is a God (2007) failed to clarify the matter, since, as The New York
Times (November 24, 2007) revealed, Flew acknowledged that "he had not
written his book."

For the obituary in the Telegraph, visit: 

For Flew's announcement of his conversion, visit: 

For the story in The New York Times, visit: 


A noted evangelical Old Testament scholar resigned from his faculty
position at a seminary in the wake of a controversy over his public
acceptance of evolution. On March 24, 2010, a video featuring Bruce
Waltke, Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary,
was posted on the website of the BioLogos Foundation. (Founded by
Francis Collins, the BioLogos Foundation "explores, promotes, and
celebrates the integration of science and Christian faith.") Entitled
"Why Must the Church Come to Accept Evolution?" the video discussed
"the danger that the Church will face if it does not engage with the
world around it, in particular by acknowledging the overwhelming
amount of data in support of biological evolution, which many
evangelicals still reject."

On March 29, 2010, however, Waltke told BioLogos that the
administration of Reformed Theological Seminary asked him to request
that the video be removed. According to a blog post at BioLogos (April
2, 2010), "Dr. Waltke himself indicated that he still agreed with the
content of the video. Indeed, Dr. Waltke has written previously on his
support for theistic evolution ... However, given the brevity of the
video, Dr. Waltke is concerned that his views might not be correctly
understood. ... But despite repeated attempts to find an alternative
solution, it has become clear that Dr. Waltke feels that the only
remedy to his predicament is to remove the video." BioLogos complied
with Waltke's request, while lamenting the necessity.

But that was apparently not enough for the seminary. Inside Higher
Education (April 9, 2010) reported, "Michael Milton, president of the
seminary's Charlotte campus and interim president of its Orlando
campus, where Waltke taught, confirmed that the scholar had lost his
job over the video." (Technically, Waltke offered his resignation,
which officials at the seminary decided to accept.) Milton explained
that Reformed Theological Seminary's faculty members are allowed to
have different views on creation, but "Darwinian views, and any
suggestion that humans didn't arrive on earth directly from being
created by God (as opposed to having evolved from other forms of
life), are not allowed, he said, and faculty members know this."

Waltke's views were already on record. In a post on BioLogos's blog
(April 8, 2010), BioLogos's president Darrell Falk quoted Waltke's
endorsement of theistic evolution from his book An Old Testament
Theology (Zondervan, 2007), and commented, "Bruce made some equally
strong statements with the BioLogos camera running and gave us the
written permission to post the now-controversial video. What Bruce
said on the video was simply an elaboration of things he had written
already." Falk added, "Decades from now, when the Evangelical Church
has come to terms with the reality of evolution, we hope she will look
back at those who were the pioneers on its journey toward a fuller
understanding of the manner by which God has created."

In a widely circulated letter to his colleagues at the Orlando campus
of Reformed Theological Seminary, Waltke later commented, "I knew the
issue of Genesis 1-3 and evolution was emotionally charged, but not
this charged." The real issue, he explained, was that the video posted
at BioLogos identified him as a professor at the seminary: "I was
speaking as an individual, not as a representative of RTS. It may well
be that I am the only one on the faculty holding the view of creation
by the process of evolution as understood by mainline science, apart
from its normal atheistic philosophy. As it stands, I dragged the
whole community in the misunderstandings." Expressing regret for the
turmoil, he added, "I find no fault with the RTS administration; in
fact, I think they did the right thing."

For Inside Higher Ed's report, visit: 

For the two posts at BioLogos's blog, visit: 

For Waltke's letter, visit: 


A section describing survey results about the American public's
beliefs about evolution and the Big Bang was removed from the 2010
edition of Science and Engineering Indicators. According to a post on
the AAAS's Science Insider blog (April 8, 2010) and a subsequent
report in Science (April 9, 2010; subscription required), although
survey results about evolution and the Big Bang have regularly
appeared in the National Science Board's Science and Engineering
Indicators, its biennial compilation of global data about science,
engineering, and technology, they were absent from the 2010 edition.

NCSE's Joshua Rosenau decried the decision, saying, "Discussing
American science literacy without mentioning evolution is intellectual
malpractice ... It downplays the controversy." Also reportedly
dismayed by the decision was the White House. "The Administration
counts on the National Science Board to provide the fairest and most
complete reporting of the facts they track," Rick Weiss, a
spokesperson and analyst at the White House Office of Science and
Technology Policy, told Science.

Previous editions of the Indicators reported the data about the
public's beliefs about evolution and the Big Bang, and moreover
highlighted the discrepancy between the overwhelming acceptance of
evolution by the scientific community and the prevalence of doubt
among the general public. The 2008 edition of the Indicators featured
a sidebar on "Evolution and the Schools," for example, and the 2006
edition similarly featured a sidebar entitled "More Than a Century
After Darwin, Evolution Still Under Attack in Science Classrooms."

The lead reviewer of the chapter, John Bruer, told Science that he
recommended deleting the section because the questions seemed like
"blunt instruments" for assessing public understanding. When asked
whether people who reject evolution and the Big Bang could be
considered to be scientifically literate, he replied, "There are many
biologists and philosophers of science who are highly scientifically
literate who question certain aspects of the theory of evolution," but
conceded that they would not be likely to regard the statement about
humans having evolved from earlier species as false.

Officials at the National Science Board defended the decision. Louis
Lanzerrotti, chair of the board's Science and Engineering Indicators
committee, told Science that the questions were "flawed indicators of
science knowledge because the responses conflated knowledge and
beliefs." George Bishop, a political scientist at the University of
Cincinnati who is familiar with the difficulties of polling about
evolution, regarded that position as defensible, explaining, "Because
of biblical traditions in American culture, that question is really a
measure of belief, not knowledge."

Jon Miller, a science literacy researcher at Michigan State University
who originally devised the question about evolution, disagreed,
however, asking, "If a person says that the earth really is at the
center of the universe, even if scientists think it is not, how in the
world would you call that person scientifically literate?" According
to Science, "Miller believes that removing the entire section was a
clumsy attempt to hide a national embarrassment. 'Nobody likes our
infant death rate,' he says by way of comparison, 'but it doesn't go
away if you quit talking about it.'"

The text deleted from the report is available on Science's website. It
observes that 45% of Americans in 2008 regarded the statement "Human
beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of
animals" as true, whereas 78% of Japanese, 70% of Europeans, 69% of
Chinese, and 64% of South Koreans regarded it as true. It also
includes a sidebar entitled "How Schools Teach Evolution," summarizing
the results of Berkman, Pacheco, and Plutzer's important paper
"Evolution and Creationism in America's Classrooms: A National

For Science and Engineering Indicators 2010, visit: 

For the reports from Science, visit: 

For the sidebars on evolution, visit: 

For the deleted material (PDF), visit: 

For Berkman, Pacheco, and Plutzer's paper, 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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