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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2010/11/12

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Creationists renew their assault on evolution education in Louisiana.
Plus three more museums add their voices for evolution, and a preview
of Brian Switek's Written in Stone.

TEXTBOOKS UNDER SIEGE IN LOUISIANA

"Some proposed high school biology textbooks are under fire because
critics say they put too much credibility in the theory of evolution,"
the Baton Rouge Advocate (November 9, 2010) reports. Barbara Forrest,
a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University and a
cofounder of the Louisiana Coalition for Science, charged that the
criticisms were orchestrated by the Louisiana Family Forum, a
religious right group with a long history of promoting creationism and
attacking evolution education in the state. "They had their people
going through the books, writing up complaints and sending them,"
Forrest said.

Darrell White of the Louisiana Family Forum told the Advocate that the
proposed biology textbooks fail to comply with the so-called Louisiana
Science Education Act, the 2008 antievolution law that his
organization shepherded through the legislature. "If this was a beauty
contest, we have got all ugly contestants in these biology textbooks."
The LSEA (enacted as Louisiana Revised Statutes 17:285.1) purports to
encourage teachers to promote "critical thinking skills, logical
analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories
being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of
life, global warming, and human cloning" and allows teachers to use
"supplemental textbooks" in order to do so.

"What has happened," Forrest told the newspaper, "is that the
Louisiana Family Forum is attacking the process of textbook selection"
in the hope of forcing disclaimers to be added to the textbooks (as in
neighboring Alabama), requiring the revision of their treatment of
evolution, or encouraging the use of supplemental classroom materials
that dispute evolution. (In 2002, the LFF attempted to convince the
state to include evolution disclaimers in biology textbooks, as
Forrest noted in a July 26, 2010, letter to the editor of the Hammond
Daily Star.) Moreover, several critics of the textbooks were reported
to complain specifically that the textbooks under consideration lacked
information about "intelligent design".

A decision on the high school life science textbooks in question,
expected initially in October 2010, was deferred by the state Board of
Elementary and Secondary Education until December 2010; a
recommendation from the board's Textbook/Media/Library Advisory
Council -- described by the Advocate as "little-known" -- is expected
on November 12, 2010. The council includes a state senator and a state
representative appointed by the governor; interestingly, the
legislators presently on the council are Senator Ben W. Nevers
(D-District 12) and Representative Frank A. Hoffman (R-District 15),
who were the chief sponsors of the LSEA in the Louisiana Senate and
House of Representatives in 2008.

For the Baton Rouge Advocate's story, visit:
http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/106937789.html 

For the Louisiana Coalition for Science, visit:
http://lasciencecoalition.org/ 

For Forrest's letter to the Hammond Daily Star, visit:
http://www.hammondstar.com/articles/2010/07/26/opinion/letters/9055.txt 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/louisiana 

MORE MUSEUMS ADD THEIR VOICES FOR EVOLUTION

The chorus of support for the teaching of evolution continues, with
statements from the Australian Museum, the Natural History Museum of
Los Angeles County, and the Museum of the Earth.

The statement from the Australian Museum reads, in its entirety, "The
Australian Museum supports the teaching of evolution as the
scientifically tested and verifiable theory for the origin and
development of all species on Earth. In doing so, the Australian
Museum's position is that creationism or intelligent design should not
be taught as part of the science curriculum."

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County's statement explains,
"Evolution is a central concept in modern science," and adds, "Because
understanding evolution is important for both scientists and the
public, the Natural History Museum emphasizes that evolutionary
biology belongs in school curricula and textbooks as well as in public
museums."

And the statement from the Museum of the Earth (in Ithaca, New York)
emphasizes that "essentially all qualified scientists fully endorse
the idea that all organisms on earth share a common ancestry and that
life's unfolding has encompassed billions of years of time. Evolution
is one of the cornerstones of modern science, and is therefore one of
the key elements of our institutional mission."

All three of these statements are now reproduced, by permission, on
NCSE's website, and will also be contained in the fourth edition of
NCSE's Voices for Evolution.

For the statements, visit:
http://australianmuseum.net.au/BlogPost/Editorials-and-opinions/Evolution-Statement 
http://www.nhm.org/site/sites/default/files/pdf/nhm_evolution_statement.pdf 
http://www.museumoftheearth.org/outreach.php?page=overview/evolution 

For Voices for Evolution, visit:
http://ncse.com/voices 

A PREVIEW OF WRITTEN IN STONE

NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of Brian Switek's Written in
Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature (Bellevue
Literary Press, 2010). The excerpt discusses the evidence for the
dinosaurian ancestry of birds: "There is scarcely anything about a
pigeon perched on a statue or a chicken you eat for dinner that did
not first appear in dinosaurs, long before Confuciusornis flew in
great flocks over what is now China," Switek writes. "The majority of
their relatives sunk into extinction sixty-five million years ago, but
they are perhaps the most successful dinosaurs ever to have evolved.
If you want to see living dinosaurs, you don't have to trek to a
steaming jungle or isolated plateau. All you have to do is put up a
bird feeder and look out the window." Niles Eldredge writes,
"Elegantly and engagingly crafted, Switek's narrative interweaves
stories and characters not often encountered in books on paleontology
-- at once a unique, informative and entertaining read."

For the preview of Written in Stone (PDF), visit:
http://ncse.com/files/pub/evolution/Excerpt--writteninstone.pdf 

For information about the book from the publisher, visit:
http://www.blpbooks.org/books/writteninstone.html 

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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