NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2011/02/11
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, A creationist publisher's plans to submit "intelligent design" material for approval in Texas are revealed. Plus the philosopher Ernan McMullin is dead; the Hechinger Report addresses "The evolution of teaching evolution"; NCSE launches a new multimedia page; and Bill Nye "The Science Guy" affirms, "The main idea in all of biology is evolution." And, of course, a further reminder about Darwin Day and Evolution Weekend.
DODGING A BULLET IN TEXAS Before deciding not to submit any supplementary materials for approval by the Texas state board of education, the Foundation for Thought and Ethics was planning to offer a supplement that included "presentation of [the] intelligent design alternative," according to a February 10, 2011, post on the blog of the Texas Freedom Network. FTE is perhaps best known as the publisher of Of Pandas and People, the "intelligent design" creationism textbook at the center of the Kitzmiller v. Dover case in 2005. To judge from a November 15, 2010, e-mail from FTE to the Texas Education Agency, quoted by the Texas Freedom Network, it was going to be the same old story in Texas: *** FTE's product will be electronic written material satisfying the new and expanded Biology 1 TEKS for Texas schools, with components for both teachers and students. It will include irenic yet candid discussions of what an educated person in the 21st century must know in regard to neo-Darwinian theory of life’s diversity and origin of life studies. Discussions will cover fair and accurate portrayals of the major explanations, as well as analysis and critiques of each, as advanced in scientific literature. The goal will be to equip students to see beyond the uncritical acceptance of majority viewpoints when warranted by scientific data, as well as to consider possible alternatives. Such alternatives will include intelligent design perspectives but not creationism or creation science. The major components are: (1) review of evolutionary theory; (2) critique of conventional evolutionary theory; (3) examination of origin-of-life studies and enumeration of problems with chemical scenarios for life’s origin; (4) presentation of intelligent design alternative. *** FTE's decision to withdraw its material from the approval process notwithstanding, the Texas Freedom Network warns that the battle is not over, citing (in a February 9, 2011, blog post) the presence of "more than a dozen" antievolution activists seeking to be included on the review teams that will review the proposed supplementary materials in June 2011, with a final vote by the board now expected in July 2011. For TFN's blog posts, visit: http://tfninsider.org/2011/02/10/dodging-a-bullet-2/ http://tfninsider.org/2011/02/09/creationists-target-texas-science-classes/ ERNAN MCMULLIN DIES The philosopher Ernan McMullin died on February 8, 2011, at the age of 86, according to the University of Notre Dame's obituary (February 9, 2011). Born in Ballybofey, Donegal, Ireland, on October 13, 1924, McMullin was educated at Maynooth College, where he received his B.Sc. in 1945 and his B.D. in 1948. He was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1949, and then studied at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Dublin and the University of Louvain, where he received his Ph.D. in 1954. He spent forty years in the philosophy department at the University of Notre Dame, from which he retired in 1994. The author of numerous scholarly and popular articles on the history and philosophy of science, he was also the author of Newton on Matter and Activity (1978) and The Inference that Makes Science (1992). Among his honors were honorary degrees from Maynooth College, the National University of Ireland, Loyola University (Chicago), Stonehill College, and the University of Notre Dame. Evolution and creation was a recurring topic in McMullin's work. For example, he edited and contributed a lengthy introduction to the collection Evolution and Creation (1985); criticized Alvin Plantinga's views on evolution and the Bible in Christian Scholar's Review in 1991 (reprinted in Robert T. Pennock's collection Intelligent Design Creationism and its Critics, 2001) and in Zygon in 1993; and delivered a lecture on "Evolution as a Christian Theme" at Baylor University in 2004. In his 2004 lecture, he argued that Augustine's view of origins, though not itself evolutionary, "open[s] the way to portraying the contemporary theory of evolution as consonant with the Christian doctrine of creation," and criticized "these proponents of what nowadays goes under the label of 'Intelligent Design'" for implicitly assuming "inadequacy of the original creation to bring about the Creator's ends without further later causal supplementation on the Creator's part." For the University of Notre Dame's obituary, visit: http://newsinfo.nd.edu/news/18404/ For McMullin's "Evolution as a Christian Theme" (PDF), visit: http://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/36443.pdf "THE EVOLUTION OF TEACHING EVOLUTION" Writing in The Hechinger Report (February 7, 2011), Jennifer Oldham addresses "The evolution of teaching evolution," explaining that, even in the face of persistent challenges and obstacles, "scientists and teachers are pushing to make evolution the backbone of biology lesson-plans from kindergarten through high school." Alluding to Michael B. Berkman and Eric Plutzer's recent column, she wrote, "They have their work cut out for them. A recent article in Science found that almost three out of four high school students will get no schooling in evolutionary biology, or a version 'fraught with misinformation.'" Louise Mead -- formerly Education Project Director at NCSE, now Education Director at the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action -- explained, "there's been a realization that we have to address the misconceptions. There has been a renewed focus on how we teach evolution and renewed outreach." Cited were the University of California Museum of Paleontology's Understanding Evolution website, the BioKIDS curriculum developed at the University of Michigan, and the Evolution Readiness curriculum developed by the Concord Consortium. The hope is that such resources will give teachers the knowledge they need to have confidence in teaching evolution, Judy Scotchmoor of UCMP explained. Jeremy Mohn, a biology teacher in Kansas who teaches evolution, also urged the necessity of addressing the nonscientific concerns of students in presenting evolution, observing, "You don't have people in a chemistry classroom who have been raised to believe that the periodic table comes from the devil and that if they believe in it they are going to go to hell." For Oldham's article, visit: http://hechingerreport.org/content/the-evolution-of-teaching-evolution_5146/ For NCSE's coverage of the Berkman and Plutzer column, visit: http://ncse.com/news/2011/01/too-many-teachers-ignore-evolution-006454 For the cited resources, visit: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/ http://www.biokids.umich.edu/ http://www.concord.org/projects/evolution-readiness NCSE'S NEW MULTIMEDIA PAGE NCSE is pleased to announce its new multimedia page, which collects videos, audios and podcasts, presentations, and charts and graphics, and moreover offers one-click access to everything on our YouTube channel, Facebook page, and Twitter and RSS feeds. In short, it's one-stop shopping for anyone who wants to follow the battle for evolution education. For NCSE's new multimedia page, visit: http://ncse.com/multimedia BILL NYE ON TEACHING EVOLUTION Prompted by Michael B. Berkman and Eric Plutzer's recent column in Science deploring "a pervasive reluctance of teachers to forthrightly explain evolutionary biology," Popular Mechanics asked Bill Nye for his reaction. "It's horrible," Nye replied. He explained, "Science is the key to our future, and if you don't believe in science, then you're holding everybody back. And it's fine if you as an adult want to run around pretending or claiming that you don't believe in evolution, but if we educate a generation of people who don't believe in science, that's a recipe for disaster. ... The main idea in all of biology is evolution. To not teach it to our young people is wrong." Nye was particularly concerned with the characterization of evolution as "just a theory," arguing, "People make flu vaccinations that stop people from getting sick. Farmers raise crops with science; they hybridize them and make them better with every generation. That's all evolution. Evolution is a theory, and it's a theory that you can test. We've tested evolution in many ways. You can't present good evidence that says evolution is not a fact. " A Supporter of NCSE, Bill Nye "The Science Guy" was the host of the popular science education television programs Bill Nye the Science Guy -- which won eighteen Emmys -- and The Eyes of Nye; he is currently the executive director of the Planetary Society, the world's large space interest organization. For the Popular Mechanics interview of Nye, visit: http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/environment/evolution-classroom-bill-nye-science-education For NCSE's coverage of the Berkman and Plutzer column, visit: http://ncse.com/news/2011/01/too-many-teachers-ignore-evolution-006454 DARWIN DAY APPROACHES It's time to dust off your Darwin costume again: Darwin Day 2011 is just about here! Colleges and universities, schools, libraries, museums, churches, civic groups, and just plain folks across the country -- and the world -- are preparing to celebrate Darwin Day, on or around February 12, in honor of the life and work of Charles Darwin. These events provide a marvelous opportunity not only to celebrate Darwin's birthday but also to engage in public outreach about science, evolution, and the importance of evolution education -- which is especially needed with assaults on evolution education currently ongoing in Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. NCSE encourages its members and friends to attend, participate in, and even organize Darwin Day events in their own communities. To find a local event, check the websites of local universities and museums and the registry of Darwin Day events maintained by the Darwin Day Celebration website. (And don't forget to register your own event with the Darwin Day Celebration website!) And with Darwin Day comes the return of Evolution Weekend! Hundreds of congregations all over the country and around the world are taking part in Evolution Weekend, February 11-13, 2011, by presenting sermons and discussion groups on the compatibility of faith and science. Michael Zimmerman, the initiator of the project, writes, "Evolution Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between religion and science. One important goal is to elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic -- to move beyond sound bites. A second critical goal is to demonstrate that religious people from many faiths and locations understand that evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith. Finally, as with The Clergy Letter itself, Evolution Weekend makes it clear that those claiming that people must choose between religion and science are creating a false dichotomy." At last count, 642 congregations in all fifty states (and thirteen foreign countries) were scheduled to hold Evolution Weekend events. For the Darwin Day registry, visit: http://www.darwinday.org/events/ http://www.darwinday.org/events/register.php For information about Evolution Weekend, visit: http://www.evolutionweekend.org/ 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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