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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2010/10/08

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

In Israel, the chief scientist in the Ministry of Education is finally
sacked over his denial of evolution and global warming, while in
Florida, a problematic sidebar will be removed from a marine science
textbook. And NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott discussed the continuing
relevance of Inherit the Wind with the Los Angeles Times.


Gavriel Avital was dismissed from his position as chief scientist in
Israel's ministry of education due to his denial of evolution and
global warming, according to Haaretz (October 5, 2010). In February
2010, Avital's views sparked a furor; Haaretz (February 21, 2010)
quoted him 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. ... Part of my responsibility,
in light of my position with the Education Ministry, is to examine
textbooks and curricula."

Sa'ar distanced the ministry from Avital's remarks, 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," as
reported in Haaretz (March 4, 2010). But after Avital promised to
follow the ministry's policy on evolution and the environment, the
controversy seemed to have subsided. Avital's dismissal now appears to
be connected to the expiration of what Ynetnews (October 4, 2010)
described as "a scandal-filled trial period of less than a year."

Avital told Ynetnews that he was fired "because of an interview I gave
to the press, not because I didn't do my job well." He added, "In the
interview I expressed my opinion on evolution, science and literature
-- there was no negative response to the interview, only good
feedback." Yet the responses to his interview included a protest from
ten recipients of the Israel Prize -- the country's highest civilian
honor -- protesting that his remarks "undermine the standing and
importance of science and take us centuries backward," as Haaretz
(February 26, 2010) reported.

For the stories in Haaretz, visit: 

For the story on Ynetnews, visit:,7340,L-3964117,00.html 


The antievolution sidebar in a marine science textbook recommended for
approval in Florida will be removed. The textbook in question, Life on
an Ocean Planet (Current Publishing, 2011), was under fire after the
grassroots pro-evolution-education organization Florida Citizens for
Science charged that its sidebar on "Questions about the Origin and
Development of Life" was "simultaneously actively misinforming, at
odds with state standards, and ultimately irrelevant to marine

The Orlando Sentinel (September 23, 2010) reported that state
education officials stated that the publisher agreed to remove the
sidebar, and a week later, the newspaper's education blog (September
30, 2010) quoted excerpts from e-mail correspondence from the
publisher to the state department of education confirming that the
sidebar would be removed: "We will also review all of the curriculum
components and remove any content that refers to the information on
these pages."

Eileen Roy, a member of the Alachua County School Board who was on the
committee and voted against the textbook's approval, told the
Sentinel's blog that she feared that the "very, very egregious ...
discussion of evolution" might be reflected in the rest of the
textbook. She also said that she worried that, if the textbook were
approved, it would be adopted by the Florida county school boards that
in 2008 adopted resolutions opposing the proposed improvements to the
treatment of evolution in Florida's state science standards.

Subsequently, Dean Allen, the vice president and general manager of
Current Publishing, told the Sentinel's education blog (October 4,
2010) that the sidebar was intended to provide a "critical thinking
exercise for students" and not to undermine the teaching of evolution.
"Everywhere else in the book we teach evolution," he said, "and we
teach it to the Sunshine State standards." He confirmed that the
sidebar would be removed from both the printed and the electronic
version of the textbook.

For FCFS's story, visit: 

For the sidebar, visit: 

For the Orlando Sentinel's story, visit:,0,5239590.story 

For the posts on the Orlando Sentinel's blog, visit: 

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


As the fiftieth anniversary of the film adaptation of Inherit the Wind
approached, NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott discussed its
enduring relevance with the Los Angeles Times (October 2, 2010).
Scott, Edward J. Larson (who won a Pulitzer Prize for his book on the
Scopes trial, Summer for the Gods), and Karen Kramer and Kat Kramer
(the widow and daughter of Stanley Kramer, who directed the film
adaptation) participated in a panel discussion on Inherit the Wind at
the Malibu Film Society on October 3, 2010.

Karen Kramer, Larson, and Scott all emphasized that Inherit the Wind
was not intended as a documentary, with Kramer saying, "It is not
about the Scopes trial. It's about freedom of thought, freedom of
speech," Scott explaining, "I always tell people, 'Don't look at it as
a movie reporting on the Scopes trial,'" and Larson adding, "In the
1950s, everybody realized that. ... What happens was that they set up
the Creationists as strawmen for McCarthy and they didn't think there
were any Creationists left. But the strawmen outlived the

Nevertheless, Scott contended, Inherit the Wind "does capture a very
important mood that reflects the anti-evolution movement ... That
theme is particularly strong in the movie and is central to the
Creationist message today: Evolution leads to evil, and evolution
means that you can't believe in God and you have no moral rudder." In
addition, she suggested that the film retains its appeal simply
"because it's a great story. It engages your interest and deals with
serious issues. The Scopes character … he does what is right."

For the story in the Los Angeles Times, visit:,0,1595945.story 

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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