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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2010/12/24

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(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

The latest about the plans to construct a creationist theme park in
northern Kentucky. Plus the Philadelphia Inquirer and the York
Dispatch both commemorate the fifth anniversary of the verdict in
Kitzmiller v. Dover, while Gallup releases the results of a new poll
on public attitudes toward evolution, and videos of the Evolution
Symposium at the National Association of Biology Teachers conference
for 2010 are now available on-line. And a reminder about the special
issue of Synthese on the creationism/evolution controversy, which is
freely available until December 31, 2010.


The controversy continues over the prospect of state tourism
development incentives for Ark Encounter, the proposed creationist
theme park in northern Kentucky. According to the Louisville
Courier-Journal (December 1, 2010), "Ark Encounter, which will feature
a 500-foot-long wooden replica of Noah's Ark containing live animals
such as juvenile giraffes, is projected to cost $150 million and
create 900 jobs ... The park, to be located on 800 acres in Grant
County off Interstate 75, also will include a Walled City, live animal
shows, a replica of the Tower of Babel, a 500-seat special-effects
theater, an aviary and a first-century Middle Eastern village."
Collaborating on the project are Ark Encounter LLC and the young-earth
creationist ministry Answers in Genesis, which already operates a
Creation "Museum" in northern Kentucky.

In a December 20, 2010, op-ed in the Lexington Herald-Leader (December
20, 2010), the Reverend Cynthia Cain, Rabbi Marc Kline, and the
Reverend Mark D. Johnson, representing the board of directors of the
Interfaith Alliance of the Bluegrass, protested the incentives,
writing, "we do not believe our commonwealth should be giving tax
incentives to an avowedly sectarian group, at least part of the
purpose of which is to promote one particular brand of religion --
namely fostering only one way to read, apply and understand scriptural
revelation," and adding, "when Kentucky presents even the appearance
of advancing or promoting one particular version of faith over other
faiths, or over none, it does enormous damage to the future of
interfaith understanding, respect and hope for peace that so many have
worked so hard to ensure."

Nevertheless, on December 20, 2010, the Kentucky Tourism Development
Finance Authority voted unanimously to give preliminary approval for
the park to apply for the incentives, which would allow Ark Encounter
to recoup 25 percent of its development costs by retaining the sales
tax generated by the project. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader
(December 20, 2010), "a third-party consultant [will] do an
independent analysis of financial projections for the park and to see
if the park would qualify for a full 25 percent rebate of its costs.
If the consultant finds that the project won't generate enough
economic activity, the board could decide against granting the full 25
percent return on the $150 million investment over 10 years. It could
also decide not to grant the incentive at all." The analysis is
expected to take about four months to complete.

When Governor Steve Beshear (D) announced the project, he cited a
feasibility study predicting that the park would attract 1.6 million
visitors in its first year. But as the Lexington Herald-Leader
(December 18, 2010) observed, "neither Beshear nor other state
officials had seen or read the study, which was commissioned by Ark
Encounter, LLC, the group building the theme park." The state lacks a
copy of the study, and Ark Encounter declined to provide it to the
Herald-Leader. The study, conducted by America's Research Group (whose
founder Britt Beemer coauthored a book with Answers in Genesis's Ken
Ham), is reportedly 10,000 pages in length, with a 200-page executive
summary. "When someone asks me to do one of these studies, I'm
thorough," Beemer told the newspaper, explaining that his firm
conducted extensive telephone interviews with one thousand people
across the country.

A further controversy over Ark Encounters centers on whether the park
would be able to discriminate on the basis of religion in hiring if it
receives the state incentives. Answers in Genesis already requires its
employees to endorse its statement of faith. Governor Beshear told the
Louisville Courier-Journal (December 9, 2010), "We’re going to require
that anybody that we deal with is going to obey all of the laws on
hiring and not discriminate on hiring." But a consultant for the
project told the conservative Christian on-line news source OneNewsNow
(December 15, 2010), "There will be positions that will require Bible
knowledge because ... we have certain things in there that are
requiring biblical knowledge," raising the question -- broached in
Cain, Kline, and Johnson's op-ed -- of who is to decide what
constitutes genuine understanding of the Bible.

For the 12/1/2010 story in the Louisville Courier-Journal, visit:$250+million+impact 

For the op-ed in the Lexington Herald-Leader, visit: 

For the 12/20/2010 story in the Lexington Herald-Leader, visit: 

For the 12/18/2010 story in the Lexington Herald-Leader, visit: 

For the 12/9/2010 story in the Louisville Courier-Journal, visit: 

For the story at OneNewsNow, visit: 

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


The Philadelphia Inquirer (December 20, 2010) commemorated the fifth
anniversary of the verdict in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the case
establishing the unconstitutionality of teaching "intelligent design"
in the public schools, with a review of the trial and its
consequences. NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott told the
paper, "We're not fighting Dovers in every fifth school district in
the country ... Dover seriously put the brakes on the
intelligent-design movement." But as Michael Berkman, coauthor with
Eric Plutzer of Evolution, Creationism, and the Battle to Control
America's Classrooms (Cambridge University Press, 2010), explained,
"the movement always adapts to the court cases and calls it something

As a case in point, Scott cited Louisiana, where creationist attacks
on the treatment of evolution in biology -- in the guise of calls for
"critical analysis" — were recently rebuffed by the state board of
elementary and secondary education. Kenneth R. Miller, a Supporter of
NCSE who testified in the Kitzmiller trial, told the Inquirer that
"the forms of 'critical analysis' promoted by the Louisiana Family
Forum are actually a series of baseless arguments against evolution
that have been repeatedly discredited by the scientific community."
(Barbara Forrest reflects on the importance of the Kitzmiller case to
the ongoing situation in Louisiana in a December 20, 2010, post on the
Louisiana Coalition for Science's blog.)

"Evolution also suffers in the classroom, according to Berkman's
survey, because many teachers are timid, may undermine the science, or
may not present evolution thoroughly," the story explained, quoting
Scott as observing, "Too many biology teachers skip evolution, give
one lecture, or leave it till the end." Eric Rothschild, a Pepper
Hamilton attorney who represented the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller,
commented, "I often think about what would have happened if we hadn't
won," adding, "We would have seen dozens, if not hundreds, of schools
adopt intelligent design." Instead, the decision served to encourage
teachers -- like Dover's Jennifer Miller, according to the York
Dispatch (December 17, 2010) -- to present evolution without fear.

For the story in the Philadelphia Inquirer, visit: 

For Barbara Forrest's blog post, visit: 

For NCSE's coverage of events in Louisiana, visit: 

For the story in the York Dispatch, visit: 

For NCSE's collection of material relevant to Kitzmiller v. Dover, visit: 


A new Gallup poll on public opinion about evolution hints at a
slightly higher rate of acceptance of evolution in the United States
over the years. Asked in December 2010 "[w]hich of the following
statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development
of human beings," 38% of the respondents accepted "Human beings have
developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but
God guided this process," 16% accepted "Human beings have developed
over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had
no part in this process," and 40% accepted "God created human beings
pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000
years or so."

Gallup observed, "A small minority of Americans hold the 'secular
evolution' view that humans evolved with no influence from God -- but
the number has risen from 9% in 1982 to 16% today. At the same time,
the 40% of Americans who hold the 'creationist' view that God created
humans as is 10,000 years ago is the lowest in Gallup's history of
asking this question, and down from a high point of 47% in 1993 and
1999," but added, "But these shifts have not been large, and the basic
structure of beliefs about human beings' origins is generally the same
as it was in the early 1980s." Acceptance of the creationist option
was associated with a lower degree of education, a higher rate of
church attendance, and affiliation with the Republican party.

According to Gallup, "The poll was based on telephone interviews
conducted Dec. 10-12, 2010, with a random sample of 1,019 adults, aged
18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using
random-digit-dial sampling"; the samples were weighted by gender, age,
race, education, region, and phone lines. The maximum range of
sampling error for the total sample was +/- 4%. Conveniently, Gallup
provides a graph showing the results from its polls using the same
question since 1982. Additionally, a collection of material --
including NCSE's coverage, articles from RNCSE, and links -- relevant
to polls and surveys concerning the creationism/evolution controversy
is available on the NCSE website.

For Gallup's report, visit: 

For NCSE's collection of material on polls and surveys, visit: 


Five years after the verdict in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the case
establishing the unconstitutionality of teaching "intelligent design"
in the public schools, the York Dispatch (December 17, 2010) marked
the anniversary with a review of the trial and its significance,
including brief interviews with a number of the figures in the trial.
The verdict was issued on December 20, 2005, prompting the Kitzmiller
family to refer jokingly to the date as "Kitzmas" -- a term apparently
coined by P. Z. Myers in a December 20, 2005, post on The Panda's
Thumb blog celebrating the Kitzmiller verdict.

Commenting were the lead plaintiff Tammy Kitzmiller (who remarked, "I
still get my hate mail"), Witold "Vic" Walczak of the American Civil
Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, Judge John E. Jones III, William
Buckingham (a former member of the Dover Area School Board who
supported the challenged policy), and Dover Area Senior High School
biology teacher Jennifer Miller. While Miller used to relegate
evolution to the end of the semester in her classes, she explained,
"Now I teach it first and make sure I emphasize it. And I keep
referring to it, to show them how important evolution is to biology."

Expert witnesses commenting included "intelligent design" proponent
Michael Behe as well as Barbara Forrest (a member of NCSE's board of
directors) and Kenneth Miller (a Supporter of NCSE). Forrest told the
newspaper, "We need to remind people that we have now a federal court
precedent that applies explicitly to ID. The next time there is a
court case, the first thing that judge is going to do is look at that
case," and Miller similarly said, "When evolution comes under attack,
people are able to point to the Kitzmiller trial. There was a complete
absence of scientific evidence for intelligent design."

For the article in the York Dispatch, visit: 

For P. Z. Myers's post at The Panda's Thumb, visit: 

For NCSE's collection of material relevant to Kitzmiller v. Dover, visit: 


Videos from "Molecular Insights into Classic Examples of Evolution" --
the Evolution Symposium at the National Association of Biology
Teachers conference for 2010 -- are now available on-line! Featured
are four exciting speakers whose research in molecular evolution is
revolutionizing our understanding of familiar and compelling examples
of evolution.

Edmund "Butch" D. Brodie III of the University of Virginia speaks on
"Time to change the channel: Predator-prey arms races and the
evolution of toxin resistance in snakes"; Allen G. Rodrigo of the
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center and Duke University speaks on
"Rapidly evolving viruses: Studying molecular evolution in real time";
Hopi E. Hoekstra of Harvard University speaks on "From mice to
molecules: the genetics of color adaptation"; and NCSE Supporter Sean
Carroll of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Howard Hughes
Medical Institutes speaks on "How bugs get their spots: Genetic
switches and the evolution of form." In addition, research and
teaching resources are provided for each topic.

The Evolution Symposium, presented annually since 2004 at the annual
NABT conference, is cosponsored by the American Institute of
Biological Sciences and the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center.
Videos of previous symposia, and collections of relevant educational
resources, are available in CD form from NESCent and on-line from
NESCent's website.

For the videos and related materials, visit:


"Evolution and its rivals" -- a special issue of the philosophy
journal Synthese focused on the creationism/evolution controversy --
was just published. Coedited by Glenn Branch, NCSE's deputy director,
and James H. Fetzer, professor emeritus of philosophy at the
University of Minnesota, Duluth, the issue (volume 178, number 2)
contains Glenn Branch's introduction; Robert T. Pennock's "Can't
philosophers tell the difference between science and religion?:
Demarcation revisited"; John S. Wilkins's "Are creationists
rational?"; Kelly C. Smith's "Foiling the Black Knight"; Wesley
Elsberry and Jeffrey Shallit's "Information theory, evolutionary
computation, and Dembski's 'complex specified information'"; Bruce H.
Weber's "Design and its discontents"; Sahotra Sarkar's "The science
question in intelligent design"; Niall Shanks and Keith Green's
"Intelligent design in theological perspective"; Barbara Forrest's
"The non-epistemology of intelligent design: Its implications for
public policy"; and James H. Fetzer's "Evolution and atheism: Has
Griffin reconciled science and religion?" Fortuitously, as part of a
special promotion on the part of the journal's publisher, access to
Synthese is free until December 31, 2010.

For the table of contents, visit: 

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.

With best wishes for the holiday season,

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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