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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

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.


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

For TFN's blog posts, visit: 


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: 

For McMullin's "Evolution as a Christian Theme" (PDF), visit: 


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

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

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: 

For NCSE's coverage of the Berkman and Plutzer column, visit: 

For the cited resources, visit: 


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: 


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: 

For NCSE's coverage of the Berkman and Plutzer column, visit: 


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: 

For information about Evolution Weekend, 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.


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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