NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2010/12/03
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, Progress toward a settlement in the Freshwater case, a new issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach, and a free webcast series on "Evolutionary Christianity."
THE LATEST IN THE FRESHWATER CASE A key part of a proposed settlement in Doe v. Mount Vernon Board of Education et al. was approved by a judge on November 23, 2010. Contrary to press reports, including NCSE's initial report of November 30, 2010, the case is not yet officially settled; what was approved was not the overall proposed settlement, but the terms of the proposed settlement as it concerns Zachary Dennis (a minor) -- the "James Doe" of the suit. The judge presiding over the case, Gregory L. Frost of the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, still needs to approve the settlement. The case centered on John Freshwater, a Mount Vernon, Ohio, middle school science teacher, who was accused of inappropriate religious activity in the classroom -- including displaying posters with the Ten Commandments and Bible verses, branding crosses on the arms of his students with a high-voltage electrical device, and teaching creationism. (Investigators commissioned by the district found various creationist literature in his classroom, including Jonathan Sarfati's Refuting Evolution and Jonathan Wells's Icons of Evolution.) The Mount Vernon News (November 30, 2010) described the terms of the settlement: "The settlement of $475,000 to the Dennis family [who originally filed suit under the pseudonym "Doe"] includes $25,000 for attorney fees, $150,000 each to Stephen and Jennifer, and $150,000 to be used for an annuity for Zachary." A previous report from the News (October 27, 2010) indicated that the school district's insurer, Ohio Casualty, will be liable for the payment, since Freshwater was employed by the district when the suit was filed. The district was originally named in the lawsuit, but a settlement was reached in August 2009, leaving Freshwater as the sole defendant. Freshwater filed his own lawsuit against the Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education in June 2009, but then filed a notice to dismiss it in October 2010, claiming that it would have interfered with the administrative hearing on the termination of his employment with the district, which was conducted intermittently from October 2008 to June 2010. The referee presiding over the hearing has yet to release his decision. For the stories in the Mount Vernon News, visit: http://www.mountvernonnews.com/local/10/11/30/judge-approves-settlement-in-civil-lawsuit http://www.mountvernonnews.com/local/10/10/27/settlement-signed-by-both-parties-in-civil-lawsuit For NCSE's collection of documents from the cases, visit: http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/doe-v-freshwater-mv http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/freshwater-v-mount-vernon http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/freshwater-termination-hearing And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Ohio, visit: http://ncse.com/news/ohio THE LATEST ISSUE OF EVOLUTION: EDUCATION AND OUTREACH The latest issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach -- the new journal aspiring to promote accurate understanding and comprehensive teaching of evolutionary theory for a wide audience -- is now published. The theme for the issue (volume 3, number 4) is "Teaching Phylogenetics," and articles by Edward O. Wiley, Deborah McLennan, Marcus Kumala, and Laura R. Novick, Kefyn Catley, and Daniel Funk discuss the importance of phylogenetic systematics in modern evolutionary biology and present ways of incorporating it in high school biology curricula. Articles by Anastasia Thanukos and Richard P. Meisel continue the emphasis on evolutionary trees; articles by Craig Tollini and Jess White and Allan Mazur discuss the results of surveys on "intelligent design" and modern earth science; Bartosz Borczyk reports on creationism and the teaching of evolution in Poland; Finn R. Pond and Jean L. Pond ponder "Scientific Authority in the Creation-Evolution Debates" -- and there's much more besides! Also included is the latest installment of NCSE's regular column, Overcoming Obstacles to Evolution Education. In "Why Are There Still Monkeys?" NCSE's W. Eric Meikle and Eugenie C. Scott address the popular misconception about evolution encapsulated in the question, "If humans evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?" Diagnosing the misconception as stemming from the assumption that evolution is linear and anagenetic, they comment, "What is missing from this view of evolution is the crucial role of branching or splitting in creating the tree of life, and suggest, "Perhaps the easiest way to introduce a more accurate model of the relationships of contemporary species is through the analogy of human family categories, and especially that of 'cousins.'" Meikle and Scott add, "No one would ask, 'If you evolved from your cousin, why is your cousin still here?' ... The question 'if humans evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?' is equally absurd to an evolutionary biologist." For information about the journal, visit: http://www.springerlink.com/content/120878/ For Meikle and Scott's article (subscription required), visit: http://www.springerlink.com/content/4163001t53504815/ WEBCAST: EVOLUTIONARY CHRISTIANITY Interested in exploring the issues raised by science and faith? A free webcast series promises to assemble "thirty of today's most inspiring Christian leaders and esteemed scientists for a groundbreaking dialogue on how an evolutionary worldview can enrich your life, deepen your faith, and bless our world." To be broadcast throughout December 2010 and January 2011, "Evolutionary Christianity -- Conversations at the Leading Edge of Faith" includes interviews with NCSE Supporter Kenneth R. Miller, discussing "Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul," as well as Ian Barbour, John Cobb, Michael Dowd, John F. Haught, Karl W. Giberson, Owen Gingerich, Denis Lamoureux, John Polkinghorne, John Shelby Spong, Charles H. Townes, and a host of further scientists and scholars who regard their acceptance of evolution as expanding and enriching their faith. For information about the webcast series and the companion e-newsletter, visit: http://evolutionarychristianity.com/ 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 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