NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2010/11/19
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, Morris Goodman, a pioneer in molecular systematics, is dead. A cross-complaint in a lawsuit over the cancellation of the screening of a creationist film, and a possible sign of progress in Louisiana's textbook approval process. Plus NCSE's Facebook page breaks the 10,000-fan mark.
MORRIS GOODMAN DIES The distinguished evolutionary biologist Morris Goodman died on November 14, 2010, at the age of 85, according to the Wayne State University School of Medicine. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on January 12, 1925, Goodman attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison, before enlisting in the United States Army Air Forces in 1943. Returning to Wisconsin, he earned his bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in zoology. After a series of postdoctoral appointments, in 1958 he took a position at Wayne State University, where he remained for fifty-two years. In the late 1950s, he became interested in evolution, and swiftly became a pioneer in molecular systematics, especially as applied to primates. Describing a 1975 paper using hemoglobin sequence data, he commented, "I think we were the first to get hard evidence of Darwinian evolution." His honors included election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences and the Charles R. Darwin Award for Lifetime Achievement from the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. Goodman's scientific prominence, as well as his controversial proposal that chimpanzees and bonobos be reclassified from the genus Pan to the genus Homo, resulted in his frequently serving as a target of creationists. A long-time member of NCSE, Goodman seldom bothered to rebut creationism publicly, although in his article on "Reconstructing human evolution from proteins" for The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Evolution (edited by Steve Jones, Robert Martin, and David Pilbeam; Cambridge University Press 1992), he pointedly wrote, "If the biblical account of creation were true, then independent features of morphology, proteins and DNA sequences would not be expected to be congruent with each other. Chaotic patterns, with different proteins and different DNA sequences failing to indicate any consistent set of species relationships, would contradict the theory of evolution. However, such patterns do not exist: the molecular phylogeny of primates and of all vertebrates is remarkably similar to the picture that emerges from morphology" (p. 307). For the obituary from Wayne State University School of Medicine, visit: http://prognosis.med.wayne.edu/article/morris-goodman-distinguished-professor-and-groundbreaking-researcher-dies For a 2004 interview of Goodman, visit: http://authors.library.caltech.edu/5456/1/hrst.mit.edu/hrs/evolution/public/goodman.html COUNTERSUIT IN AFA V. CSC A lawsuit over the canceled screening of a creationist film took a twist recently with the filing of a cross-complaint that charges the plaintiff with breach of contract, violation of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and fraud. In 2009, the American Freedom Alliance, a Los Angeles-based organization that describes itself as "a movement of concerned Americans advancing the values and ideals of Western civilization," arranged to screen Darwin's Dilemma -- characterized by the Los Angeles Times (December 29, 2009) as "a feature-length documentary that criticizes Darwin and promotes intelligent design" -- at the California Science Center. Helping to promote the event was the Discovery Institute, which issued a press release touting the screening. However, the terms of the rental contract provide that all promotional materials for events at the CSC have to be submitted for approval before they are disseminated; the screening was accordingly canceled. The AFA filed suit, arguing that it is unfair to hold it responsible for the actions of a third party, contending that the contract issue was a "false pretext" for cancellation of the screening, and claiming that "a broad network of Darwin advocates" conspired with the CSC to cancel the screening. The cross-complaint was filed by the California Science Center Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that provides support for the CSC (itself a department of the state of California) and a defendant in the case; the CSCF operates the Event Service Department, through which private groups such as the AFA are able to arrange to hold private events at the CSC. The cross-complaint charges (pp. 5-6), "AFA and the Discovery Institute consistently communicated and collaborated on the Event up to, and even after, its cancellation. ... AFA was cognizant that its publicity efforts might impact its alleged contractual relationship with the Foundation. ... [The Discovery Institute's Robert Crowther] noted in his email to the AFA: 'Once we let the jinni [sic] out of the bottle it's likely all hell will break loose.' ... And in a later email, [the AFA's] Avi Davis admits that the Discovery Institute warned AFA that a cancellation might happen due to the Discovery Institute's publicity" (emphasis and "[sic]" in the original). The CSCF's cross-complaint listed three causes of action. First, that the AFA "materially breached the alleged contract" (p. 7) by issuing publicity, both in coordination with the Discovery Institute and on its own, about the screening without seeking the approval of the CSCF, as required by the contract. Second, that the AFA's conduct in doing so violated "the covenant of good faith and fair dealing" (p. 7) even if it was not a material violation of the contract. Third, that because "AFA entered into the alleged agreement with the Foundation and agreed to seek pre-approval of any publicity materials, all the while coordinating with the Discovery Institute to promote the Event and never intending on planning to obtain such pre-approval and fulfill its obligations of the alleged contract" (p. 10), the AFA committed actual fraud. The CSCF is asking the court for compensatory and punitive damages. A jury trial is currently scheduled to begin on June 13, 2011. Important documents from the case, American Freedom Alliance v. California Science Center, California Science Center Foundation, Jeffrey Rudolph, et al., are available on NCSE's website. For the story in the Los Angeles Times, visit: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/arts/la-et-science-center29-2009dec29,0,6400745.story For the CSCF's cross-complaint (PDF), visit: http://ncse.com/webfm_send/1452 For NCSE's collection of documents from the case, visit: http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/american-freedom-alliance-v-california-science-center-et-al PROGRESS IN LOUISIANA? New high school biology textbooks were recommended for approval in Louisiana, reports the Associated Press (November 12, 2010), despite the ongoing complaints of creationists objecting to their treatment of evolution. As NCSE previously reported, a decision on the textbooks, expected initially in October 2010, was deferred by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which sought a recommendation from its Textbook/Media/Library Advisory Council. On November 12, 2010, the council voted 8-4 to recommend the textbooks; the board is expected to issue its final decision during its December 7-9, 2010, meeting. Before the council's meeting, in a November 12, 2010, editorial, the Baton Rouge Advocate called on the council not to compromise the treatment of evolution in the textbooks. "The committee members have a duty to reject intrusion of pseudo-science, such as creationism or its offshoot 'intelligent design,' into science classrooms," the editorial argued. "It's one thing to be different culturally, as Louisiana is in so many ways. But the facts of science and biology do not change. For Louisiana to be different in the direction of ignorance would be a humiliation in the eyes of the nation and the world." According to the Associated Press, "Most of those who testified before the council supported the books and objected to any inclusion of disclaimers about the theory of evolution or of provisions about intelligent design, which has been barred by federal courts from being taught as an alternative to evolution." Kevin Carman, the dean of the Louisiana State University's College of Science, said that "intelligent design" "simply is not science," adding, "We need our textbooks to be focused on what is scientifically accurate and not religion." High school senior Zachary Kopplin warned of the threat to Louisiana's national reputation. Commenting on the council's vote, Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University and cofounder of the Louisiana Coalition for Science, wrote, "Past experience -- which has been utterly and entirely consistent since the introduction and passage of the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA) in 2008 -- suggested that this meeting would be just another railroad job." Two of the members of the council, after all, were Senator Ben W. Nevers (D-District 12) and Representative Frank A. Hoffman (R-District 15) -- the chief sponsors of the LSEA in the Louisiana Senate and House of Representatives in 2008. Both Nevers and Hoffman voted against recommending the textbooks, with Nevers reportedly expressing concern about the cost of the textbooks and the length of the seven-year contract with the textbook companies -- concerns that were not apparently expressed for any textbooks under consideration by the state except for the high school biology textbooks. Nevertheless, Forrest's expectations were happily confounded: she began her report by quipping, "something happened today in Louisiana that is about as common here as snowflakes at Christmas: the voice of reason prevailed at a meeting of public officials." For the Associated Press story (via the New Orleans Times-Picayune), visit: http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2010/11/new_high_school_biology_books.html For the Baton Rouge Advocate's editorial, visit: http://www.2theadvocate.com/opinion/107375348.html For Forrest's report at the Louisiana Coalition for Science, visit: http://lasciencecoalition.org/2010/11/13/hell-froze-over-in-louisiana/ And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit: http://ncse.com/news/louisiana NCSE ON FACEBOOK: N > 10,000 A milestone: there are now over 10,000 fans of NCSE's Facebook page. Why not join them, by visiting the page and becoming a fan by clicking on the "Like" box by NCSE's name? 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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 email@example.com 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