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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2010/09/17

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A new format for NCSE's journal is in the works. In Ireland, a
government official decides not to attend a launch party for a
self-published antievolutionist book. And the eminent evolutionary
biologist George C. Williams is dead.

ANNOUNCING A TRANSFORMATION OF RNCSE

Reports of the National Center for Science Education will undergo a
transformation in 2011. Starting with vol. 31, no. 1, articles,
features, and reviews will appear on-line -- and only on-line -- at
NCSE's website, http://ncse.com. These materials will be available 
on-line to the public free of charge, helping to expand access to the
contents of RNCSE to those defending the teaching of evolution across
the country and around the world.

The printed version of RNCSE will shrink -- to about sixteen pages --
and contain abstracts of those materials as well as special
members-only items, such as the regular "News from the Membership"
column and stories from the front lines by NCSE staff. The printed
version will be sent only to members of NCSE, who will also be
entitled to free delivery of any articles from the on-line version of
RNCSE they wish to have in print.

As Andrew J. Petto, the editor of RNCSE, explained, "this change will
allow NCSE to make a more efficient use of your financial
contributions. Printing and mailing costs continue to increase, and
the publication of RNCSE takes up an increasing proportion of our
budget. This change ... will allow us to devote more of our resources
to our primary mission of promoting good science education and
evolution education everywhere."

For the announcement from RNCSE's editor, visit:
http://ncse.com/rncse/30/4/coming-soon-new-rncse 

ANTIEVOLUTION BLARNEY IN THE IRISH HEADLINES

The Irish minister of state for science was to appear at a launch
party for a self-published antievolutionist book, according to the
Irish Times (September 13, 2010). Conor Lenihan, who represents Dublin
South West for Fianna Fáil in Dáil Éireann (the lower house of the
Irish parliament) and serves as Minister of State for Science,
Technology, Innovation, and Natural Resources, was billed as launching
John J. May's The Origin of Specious Nonsense (Dublin: Original
Writing, 2010) at a September 15, 2010, event in Dublin.

In a sample provided on the book's promotional website, May writes,
"It is sacrificing reason on the altar of treason to accept that the
greatest construction of all time -- a human being with a brain [--]
is the result of chance, random selection and destructive mutations.
It is the irrational 3-legged chair of hopeless speculation that bears
no resemblance whatsoever to reality and observable functioning
perfect order. ... We are free to believe what we want, but I have
chosen reason." The website also contends that "Thousands of reputable
non[-]religious Scientists reject evolution as an unscientific hoax."

According to the Times, "Michael Nugent of Atheist Ireland said the
Minister's appearance at the launch is an abuse of his position and an
attack by the Government on both scientists and science education."
Lenihan, for his part, told the newspaper that he was appearing not in
his capacity as minister for science but because May is a constituent
of his. Neither Lenihan (who previously worked as a journalist and as
a telecommunications executive) nor May (who describes himself on his
website as a self-educated polymath) appears to have a significant
level of scientific education.

Later, however, the Irish Times (September 14, 2010) reported,
"Lenihan will not now launch a book in Dublin which describes
evolution as a fantasy and a hoax, after the author asked him to
withdraw in the wake of controversy on the web." May told the
newspaper that he asked Lenihan not to participate in the event
"because I am so embarrassed that the Minister for Science has been so
insulted" by those critical of his involvement in the event. "He
doesn’t even believe in my central argument," May remarked, and indeed
Lenihan said that he "remained to be convinced" by May's arguments --
while insisting that "diversity of opinion is a good thing."

For the articles in the Irish Times, visit:
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2010/0913/breaking61.html 
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/frontpage/2010/0914/1224278831472.html 

For the book's website, visit:
http://www.theoriginofspeciousnonsense.com/ 

GEORGE C. WILLIAMS DIES

The eminent evolutionary biologist George C. Williams died on
September 8, 2010, at the age of 84, according to the Evolution &
Medicine Review blog (September 10, 2010). Born in Charlotte, North
Carolina, on May 12, 1926, Williams served in the U.S. Army from 1944
to 1946, and then studied at the University of California, Berkeley,
where he received his A.B. in zoology in 1949, and the University of
California, Los Angeles, where he received his Ph.D. in biology in
1955. During his academic career, mostly at the State University of
New York, Stony Brook, he published a string of important work,
including the books Adaptation and Natural Selection (1966), Sex and
Evolution (1975), Natural Selection (1992), Why We Get Sick
(coauthored with Randolph M. Nesse, 1994), and Plan and Purpose in
Nature (1996). His honors include induction in the National Academy of
Sciences (1993) and the Crafoord Prize in Biosciences (1999).

A long-time member of NCSE, Williams was concerned about creationism.
In a brief 1996 article in Biology and Philosophy, he defended his
treatment of genetic information in Natural Selection against
"intelligent design" advocate Phillip Johnson's misrepresentations of
it: "Johnson's argument is based on some obvious fallacies," he
explained, "such as information requiring an intelligent author." In
1999, he reviewed the early "intelligent design" anthology Mere
Creation for the Quarterly Review of Biology, writing that the
contributors "reject the idea that a strictly trial-and-error process
of natural selection can account for the functional design of
organisms, and propose that a creator's wisdom has been directing
evolution. They make no attempt to deal with the many examples of
egregious unwisdom seen in functionally arbitrary and sometimes
maladaptive historical legacies, which suggest a creator with no
understanding or concern with what he was imposing on organisms."

For the obituary at the Evolution & Medicine Review blog, visit:
http://evmedreview.com/?p=420 

Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website --
http://ncse.com -- 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
branch@ncse.com 
http://ncse.com 

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