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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2010/06/18

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Encouraging news from Nebraska, and a preview of Massimo Pigliucci's new book.


"Darwin's theory of evolution would continue as a cornerstone of
science classes in Nebraska's public schools if proposed new state
science standards are adopted this summer by the Nebraska Board of
Education," according to a story in the Omaha World-Herald (June 13,
2010). Moreover, there are apparently no efforts underway to lobby for
the inclusion of creationism: "Three members of the Nebraska Board of
Education say they're not aware of any effort by board members or the
public to include intelligent design in Nebraska's new science

The World-Herald editorially expressed its relief at the lack of any
fuss over evolution, writing (June 15, 2010): "The board has included
evolution in the curriculum as part of a commendably calm and
responsible approach to modern science education. Indications are that
the Nebraska standards, which are underpinned by the theory of
evolution, will pass muster without the firestorm the same issue has
raised in other states. That says a lot about the sound judgment of
the elected board members and the common sense of Nebraskans in

The editorial added, "Evolution is the bedrock on which much of modern
science is built. Everything from government policy to agricultural
biotechnology, medical advances to ethics issues can require an
understanding of evolutionary principles and findings. Children who
lack a solid background in the fundamentals of modern science can be
at a considerable disadvantage. In a hyper-competitive world economy,
our country depends on a continuing supply of well-educated,
knowledgeable and science-literate young people."

Nebraska's previous state science standards, from 1998, received a
grade of C for their treatment of evolution from both Lawrence S.
Lerner in his 2000 study for the Fordham Foundation and NCSE's Louise
S. Mead and Anton Mates in their 2009 study published in Evolution:
Education and Outreach. Mead and Mates commented that the standards
were "[w]eak on evolution," and also criticized them for including
"creationist jargon" -- in particular, using the word “theory” only
with relation to biological evolution.

The proposed new standards would still refer to evolution as a theory;
Jim Woodland, the director of science education for the Nebraska
Education Department, told the World-Herald that the decision was
intended not to "stir the hornet's nest." The newspaper added, "In
common usage, the word theory has come to mean 'a hunch,' suggesting a
conclusion reached based on incomplete evidence. However, the American
Association for the Advancement of Science defines a scientific theory
as 'a well-substantiated explanation ... based on a body of facts that
have been repeatedly confirmed.'”

Woodland said that in the new standards, "We're treating evolution the
way that we have it now. ... We expect the students to develop an
understanding of biological evolution." Chuck Austerberry, a professor
of biology at Creighton University and a member of the Nebraska
Religious Coalition for Science Education, which supports the teaching
of evolution in the public schools, reviewed the draft standards and
regarded them as "appropriately neutral" on philosophical and
theological matters. "We just want [students] to learn the science,"
he said, "to learn it in a neutral, respectful environment."

For the story and editorial in the Omaha World-Herald, visit: 

For the Lerner and the Mead and Mates studies, visit: 

For the proposed standards (PDF), visit: 

For the Nebraska Religious Coalition for Science Education, visit: 

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


NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of Massimo Pigliucci's
Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk (University of
Chicago Press, 2010) -- featuring Pigliucci's account of "the bizarre
story that unfolded in Dover, Pennsylvania, and culminated in one of
the best examples of how science and philosophy of science can play a
surprising and fundamental role in our courtrooms." The publisher
writes, "Nonsense on Stilts is a timely reminder of the need to
maintain a line between expertise and assumption. Broad in scope and
implication, it is also ultimately a captivating guide for the
intelligent citizen who wishes to make up her own mind while
navigating the perilous debates that will affect the future of our
planet," and NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott described it
as "[a]n eminently readable, insightful, and sensible book," adding,
"I enjoyed it very much."

For the preview (PDF), visit: 

For information about Nonsense on Stilts, 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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