NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2010/10/01
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, A new survey includes questions about Darwin and the Scopes trial. Plus a free excerpt from Stones & Bones, and NCSE's Steven Newton discusses the economic importance of science education with USA Today.
DARWIN AND SCOPES IN NEW POLL ON KNOWLEDGE OF RELIGION A new survey on American knowledge about religion included two questions relevant to evolution education. The survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, "covered a wide range of topics, including the beliefs and practices of major religious traditions as well as the role of religion in American history and public life" in order to "provide a baseline measurement of how much Americans know about religion today." The media's coverage of the survey understandably focused on the general lack of knowledge about religion that it revealed, with The New York Times (September 28, 2010) reporting, "On average, people who took the survey answered half the questions incorrectly, and many flubbed even questions about their own faith." But the questionnaire also asked nine general knowledge questions, including one about Darwin and one about the Scopes trial. Respondents were asked, "Which of these people developed the theory of evolution by natural selection?" and offered the choice of Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, and Clarence Darrow. Seventy-one percent of respondents selected the correct answer of Darwin, 6% selected Freud, 3% selected Darrow, and 20% said that they didn't know. (In a 2009 survey conducted by the British Council, 84% of American respondents said that they had heard of Darwin.) Respondents were also asked, "And which of these court trials focused on whether evolution could be taught in public schools?" and offered the choice of the Scopes trial, the Salem witch trials, and Brown vs. Board of Education. Only 31% of respondents selected the correct answer of the Scopes trial, 36% selected Brown vs. Board of Education, 3% selected the Salem witch trials, and 30% said that they didn't know. The Pew Research Center's report describes the survey as "a nationwide poll conducted from May 19 through June 6, 2010, among 3,412 Americans age 18 and older, on landlines and cell phones, in English and Spanish. Jews, Mormons and atheists/agnostics were oversampled to allow analysis of these relatively small groups." The margin of sampling error for the total sample of 3412 respondents was +/- 2.5%. For the Pew Research Center's report on the survey (PDF), visit: http://pewforum.org/uploadedFiles/Topics/Belief_and_Practices/religious-knowledge-full-report.pdf For the story in The New York Times, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/28/us/28religion.html For NCSE's story about the British Council's survey, visit: http://ncse.com/news/2009/07/opinions-evolution-from-ten-countries-004885%22 A SAMPLE OF STONES & BONES NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of Char Matejovsky's Stones & Bones (Polebridge Press, 2007), with illustrations by Robaire Ream. Aimed at children 4-8, Stones & Bones is a charming introduction to evolution, with catchy verses like "Evolution's the solution / to the data that we find / when we study bones and fossils / and we keep an open mind" and with beautiful and whimsical full-color and full-page drawings. (The book is packaged with a CD of the Stones & Bones Song and a bonus recording of The Song of the Meadowlark, for those who like to sing, as well as read, along.) NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott writes, "Stones & Bones will delight the picture-book set with its rhythmic verse and gorgeous, intricate pictures. Readers (and the read-to) also are likely to learn the real science of evolution, a definite plus." For the excerpt from Stones & Bones (PDF), visit: http://ncse.com/files/pub/evolution/Excerpt--Stones.pdf For information about the book, visit: http://westarinstitute.org/Polebridge/StonesandBones.html NCSE'S NEWTON IN USA TODAY NCSE's Steven Newton was quoted in a USA Today story (September 24, 2010) about a new report on the economic importance of science education. The report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited, lamented that "in spite of sometimes heroic efforts and occasional very bright spots, our overall public school system -- or more accurately 14,000 systems -- has shown little sign of improvement, particularly in mathematics and science." Newton commented, "The current economic crisis makes the link between education and employment very clear." In remarks on the newspaper's Science Fair blog (September 24, 2010), Newton wrote, "The NCSE welcomes this report, and we hope that the call for improving education -- particularly in science, math, and technology fields -- is heard by many." He added, "Cuts to education are almost always short-sighted; there is a direct link between education and the economy. Educated citizens earn more, and pay more taxes. When states save money by not fixing roads, more drivers get flat tires. But when states try to save money by short-changing public education, they rob kids of their futures and they rob America of its economic growth." For the story in USA Today, visit: http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/2010-09-24-risingstorm24_ST_N.htm For Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited, visit: http://books.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12999 For Newton's remarks on the Science Fair blog, visit: http://content.usatoday.com/communities/sciencefair/post/2010/09/gathering-storm-reaction-to-us-science-education-report-/1 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 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncse.com Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter: http://groups.google.com/group/ncse-news NCSE is on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter: http://www.facebook.com/evolution.ncse http://www.youtube.com/NatCen4ScienceEd http://twitter.com/ncse NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today! http://ncse.com/membership