NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2011/03/25
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, A Friend of Darwin award for Niles Eldredge. Plus the latest poll on creationism in Canada, reactions to the antievolution bill in Florida, and a new issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach.
FRIEND OF DARWIN AWARD FOR NILES ELDREDGE NCSE is pleased to announce the winner of the Friend of Darwin award for 2011: Niles Eldredge. In a March 21, 2011, press release announcing the award, NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott explained, "Niles was there before there was an NCSE and he has never flagged in his support for NCSE over the many decades. Just as important: Niles has been a devoted advocate for evolution education and for keeping the creationists out of the science class." Eldredge received his award at a gala dinner in New York City on March 22, 2011. Curator of the Division of Paleontology at American Museum of Natural History, Eldredge is renowned for his development, with Stephen Jay Gould, of the idea of punctuated equilibrium. But his contributions to the cause of evolution education -- including organizing the AMNH's acclaimed exhibit celebrating the bicentennial of Darwin's birth and the sesquicentennial of the publication of On the Origin of Species, writing the impassioned The Triumph of Evolution: And the Failure of Creationism (2000), and serving as the founding co-editor-in-chief of the journal Evolution: Education and Outreach -- are also immense. Eldredge joins Bruce Alberts, Susan Epperson, Robert T. Pennock, Randy Moore, Brandon Haught, Steve Rissing, Howard Van Till, Philip Appleman, Patricia Princehouse, Betty McCollister, Michael Zimmerman, and the eleven plaintiffs of Kitzmiller v. Dover, to name a few, as NCSE's Friends of Darwin. The Friend of Darwin award is presented annually to a select few whose efforts to support NCSE and advance its goal of defending the teaching of evolution in the public schools have been truly outstanding. For the press release, visit: http://ncse.com/evolution/niles-eldredge-father-punctuated-equilibria-honored-by-ncse For the list of Friends of Darwin recipients, visit: http://ncse.com/about/friend-of-darwin POLLING CREATIONISM IN CANADA A new national poll discussed in the Toronto Globe and Mail (March 21, 2011) indicates that 14 percent of Canadians think that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years, while 19 percent think that humans evolved over time but through divine guidance and 58 percent think that humans evolved through natural selection. The poll, conducted by Ekos Research Associates, surveyed 984 Canadians from March 15 to March 17, 2011; the medium in which the poll was conducted and the margin of error were not provided. According to Ekos's data tables (pp. 77-79), creationism was strongest in the Atlantic provinces (25.1 percent) and Alberta (18.8 percent), stronger among women (18.8 percent) than men (9.5 percent), stronger among those with "right" ideology (22.4 percent), and stronger with those who attended religious services more than once in the past three months (38.4 percent). The "natural selection" option was particularly popular among respondents in Quebec (67.6 percent), less than twenty-five years old (73.9 percent), with university education (72.8 percent), and with "left" ideology (74.2 percent). A previous national poll in Canada, conducted by Angus Reid Strategies in 2008, indicated that 58 percent of Canadians preferred "Human beings evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years," with 22 percent preferring "God created human beings in their present form within the last 10,000 years" and 20 percent not sure. As the political scientist and polling expert George Bishop observed, however, minor changes in the wording of poll questions about creationism and evolution can make a substantial difference in poll results. Ekos compared its results with the latest Gallup poll on evolution, conducted in December 2010, in which 40 percent of Americans preferred "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so," 38% preferred "Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process," and 16% preferred "Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process" -- although Bishop's observation applies here as well. For the article in the Toronto Globe and Mail, visit: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/canadians-surprisingly-divided-over-education-religion-in-depth-poll-reveals/article1950897/ For Ekos's data tables (PDF), visit: http://beta.images.theglobeandmail.com/archive/01256/See_the_data_from__1256612a.pdf For NCSE's article on the Angus Reid poll, visit: http://ncse.com/news/2008/08/polling-creationism-canada-001375 For George Bishop's "Polls Apart on Human Origins," visit: http://www.publicopinionpros.norc.org/features/2006/aug/bishop.asp For Ekos's comparison of Canada and the United States (PDF, p. 16), visit: http://beta.images.theglobeandmail.com/archive/01256/Look_through_chart_1256611a.pdf REACTIONS TO THE ANTIEVOLUTION BILL IN FLORIDA Florida organizations concerned about the integrity of science education are expressing their opposition to Senate Bill 1854, which would, if enacted, amend a section of Florida law to require "[a] thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution" in the state's public schools. Introduced in the Florida Senate on March 5, 2011, by Stephen R. Wise (R-District 5), SB 1854 was subsequently referred to the Senate Committee on Education Pre-K-12 -- of which Wise is the chair -- and to the Senate Budget Committee. In 2009, before introducing a similar bill, Wise announced his intention to introduce a bill requiring "intelligent design" to be taught in Florida's public schools. Now, discussing SB 1854 with a reporter for the Tampa Tribune (March 13, 2011), he asked, "Why would you not teach both theories at the same time?" According to the Tribune, he was referring to evolution and what he called "non-evolution." Wise further explained, "I think it's a way in which people can have critical thinking ... what we're saying is here's a theory, a theory of evolution, a theory of whatever, and you decide." "You can have critical analysis of everything, but the idea that you should single out evolution for critical analysis is problematic," NCSE's Joshua Rosenau told the St. Augustine Record (March 17, 2011). "It's recognized by the scientific community as the foundation of modern biology." Rosenau also emphasized that, according to Florida's state science standards, adopted in 2008, "evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence." Howard Simon of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida told the Record, "The mischief that this legislation does is that it tries to entice local county school boards into violating the [C]onstitution," adding, "Wise is trying to entice county school boards and he's putting the liability on them." Simon previously predicted to the Tampa Tribune (March 13, 2011) that his organization would file a lawsuit over the bill "were some county school district to be silly enough to be enticed by the legislation to teach religion instead of science." Florida Citizens for Science, in a March 13, 2011, press release, expressed its opposition to SB 1854, writing, "it is clearly unnecessary, harmful to science education, and sends a negative message to science-based industries that would otherwise consider setting up shop in our state." Comparing Wise's previous advocacy of "intelligent design" with his present espousal of "non-evolution" or "a theory of whatever," FCFS wondered, "What kind of 'critical analysis' is he really wanting?" and urged Florida's legislators "to send a clear message that sound science education is important to our state." Similarly, the Florida Academy of Sciences, in a March 11, 2011, statement, expressed its opposition to SB 1854, writing, "SB 1854, in effect, leaves the door open for the introduction in the public school curriculum of nonscientific and covertly religious doctrines. The proposed bill would be damaging to the quality of science education of Florida’s children and the scientific literacy of our citizens. It would further undermine the reputation of our state and adversely affect our economic future as we try to attract new high tech and biomedical jobs to Florida." Florida's newspapers have taken heed. Most recently, the Orlando Sentinel (March 18, 2011) editorially observed, "Among scientists, the idea of teaching "nonevolution" in public schools would be dismissed as nonsense. But in Tallahassee, just such a bill sponsored by ... Stephen Wise has its supporters. This is, after all, a state that only three years ago started officially referring to 'evolution' instead of 'biological change over time,'" adding, "Florida has enough challenges getting its kids educated. It doesn't need another one -- this one -- from Wise." For the text of Florida's Senate Bill 1854, visit: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2011/1854/BillText/Filed/HTML For the article in the Tampa Tribune, visit: http://www2.tbo.com/content/2011/mar/13/PMENEWSO1-legislators-challenge-to-evolution-has-s/ For the article in the St. Augustine Record, visit: http://staugustine.com/news/local-news/2011-03-16/senator-teach-evolution-alternative For Florida Citizens for Science's press release, visit: http://www.flascience.org/wp/?p=1267 For the statement of the Florida Academy of Sciences (PDF), visit: http://www.flascience.org/FAS%20Statement%20on%20SB%201854_March%202011.pdf For the Orlando Sentinel's editorial, visit: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2011-03-18/news/os-ed-evolution-031811-20110317_1_smoking-areas-evolution-state-lockups And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Florida, visit: http://ncse.com/news/florida THE LATEST ISSUE OF EVOLUTION: EDUCATION AND OUTREACH The latest issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach -- the new journal promoting the accurate understanding and comprehensive teaching of evolutionary theory for a wide audience -- is now published. The theme for the issue (volume 4, number 1) is the Evolutionary Studies (EvoS) Consortium, a program that seeks to catalyze evolutionary training across the university curriculum. As David Sloan Wilson, Glenn Geher, Jennifer Waldo, and Rosemarie Sokol Chang explain in their introduction, "This special issue of EEO provides a glimpse of what it means to take Dobzhansky's dictum seriously across the entire college curriculum -- including mainstream evolutionary biology (Halverson), premedical education (Waldo and Greagor), psychology (Geher, Crosier, Dillon, and Chang), family studies and human development (King and deBaca), childhood education (Gray), environmental studies and literature (Hart and Long), the mass media (Fisher, Kruger, and Garcia) nutrition and physical fitness (Platek, Geher, Heywood, Stapell, Porter, and Waters), general education pedagogy (O'Brien and Gallup; Price), and involving undergraduate students in the peer-review process (Chang)." Also included is the latest installment of NCSE's regular column, Overcoming Obstacles to Evolution Education. In "Why Bother Teaching Evolution in High School?" NCSE's Louise S. Mead (now Education Director at the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action) and Glenn Branch address the suggestion that evolution should be taught only in college on the grounds that it's not necessary, too controversial, or too difficult to teach evolution in high school. Mead and Branch argue, "there are good responses to these three concerns, all centering on the crucial point that -- as Theodosius Dobzhansky (1973) rightly stated -- 'nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.'" They conclude, "Leaving evolution out of the high school biology curriculum is as unacceptable as leaving algebra out of the mathematics curriculum or the Civil Rights Movement out of the social studies curriculum. Evolution is the organizing principle of biology, the study of life, and should be taught, not only in high schools but also, at a suitably age-appropriate level, throughout the K-12 science curriculum -- and certainly not deferred to college." For Evolution: Education and Outreach, visit: http://www.springerlink.com/content/120878/ For information on the Evolutionary Studies (EvoS) Consortium, visit: http://evostudies.org/ For Mead and Branch's column (subscription required), visit: http://www.springerlink.com/content/vvw22m7v1u93731u/ 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