NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2011/08/05
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, Evolution is front and center in a new framework intended to provide the basis for common state science education standards. Plus a preview of Alan R. Rogers's The Evidence for Evolution, and a further voice for evolution from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
EVOLUTION IN THE NRC FRAMEWORK A Framework for K-12 Science Education -- a new publication from the National Research Council offering "a framework that articulates a broad set of expectations for students in science" -- emphasizes evolution as one of the "disciplinary core ideas" of the life sciences. "A core principle of the life sciences is that all organisms are related by evolution and that evolutionary processes have led to the tremendous diversity of the biosphere," the framework explains, adding, "Biological evolution explains both the unity and the diversity of species and provides a unifying principle for the history and diversity of life on Earth." Evolution and related topics such as deep time also appear appropriately in the material on the earth sciences. The framework is intended as the first step in the development of common state science education standards. Over the next year, a set of science standards based on the framework will be developed by content experts from states across the nation, coordinated by the educational non-profit organization Achieve. The new standards are expected to be released in late 2012, according to a July 19, 2011, press release from Achieve. States will individually decide whether or not to adopt them; forty-four states and the District of Columbia have already adopted similar common state education standards for mathematics and English language arts. Discussing public feedback to a draft, the framework notes that "a small subset of responders ... wanted to eliminate evolution" -- a desire that was not heeded. Helen R. Quinn, who chaired the committee that developed the framework, recently told the Symmetry Breaking blog that evolution and climate change -- which she described as "at least by some people, considered controversial, although scientifically they're not controversial" -- will be included in the new standards. She added, "we can say scientifically that this is what the science says and this is what students should know, and the standards will be written based on that. Then the states will have to decide what they do about adopting them." NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott, who is thanked for her assistance in the acknowledgments to the framework, commented, "I'm delighted to see that the framework treats evolution in a scientifically and pedagogically appropriate way. I confidently expect that the standards based on the framework will follow suit. And I'm hopeful that these new national science education standards will be widely adopted -- eliminating the sort of divisive, distracting, and unnecessary fights over the place of evolution in state science standards that we've seen too often, in places like Florida, Kansas, Ohio, and Texas, over the last decade." For the framework, visit: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13165 For the press release from Achieve, visit: http://www.achieve.org/national-research-council-releases-science-frameworks For the Symmetry Breaking interview with Helen R. Quinn, visit: http://www.symmetrymagazine.org/breaking/2011/07/29/new-report-lays-out-what-kids-should-know-about-science/ A SAMPLE OF THE EVIDENCE FOR EVOLUTION NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of Alan R. Rogers's The Evidence for Evolution (University of Chicago Press, 2011). The preview consists of chapter 5, "Peaks and Valleys," in which Rogers discusses the evolution of complex adaptations in the evolutionary landscape. He summarizes, "the adaptive landscape is rugged, with lots of peaks and valleys. ... We saw ... that complex adaptations can evolve via a series of small, individually advantageous changes. No valley need be involved. ... On the other hand, we need not appeal to miracles even if evolution does cross valleys. ... In small populations, gene frequences are buffeted by a variety of random forces, and these can push populations across valleys. We understand the mechanisms involved, and we have seen them operate in the laboratory. Evolutionists may argue about how often they happen in nature, but one thing is clear: there is no plausible basis for the argument that adaptive evolution requires miracles." Endorsing The Evidence for Evolution, Steven Pinker writes, "Alan Rogers addresses the political controversy over the theory of evolution (there's no longer any scientific controversy) in the best scientific spirit: with evidence and logic. For anyone with an open mind, a curiosity about the natural world, and a desire to see controversies settled with evidence rather than rhetoric, this is an invaluable contribution and a fascinating read." And Warren D. Allmon, in a review forthcoming in Reports of the NCSE, applauds "this fresh and splendid little book" for "its focus on precisely why such indirect evidence actually favors evolution over its alternatives. The answer is hardly novel, but it is strangely missing (or at least dramatically deemphasized) in virtually all presentations of the topic: the most abundant evidence for evolution is that the characters of organisms are not scattered randomly, but rather are arranged in such a pattern that implies a hierarchical, branching tree." For the preview (PDF), visit: http://ncse.com/files/pub/evolution/Excerpt--evidence.pdf For information about the book from the publisher, visit: http://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/E/bo5941109.html CARNEGIE MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY ADDS ITS VOICE FOR EVOLUTION The chorus of support for the teaching of evolution continues, with a statement from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, a place of adventure, discovery and education that welcomes everyone to enjoy the wonders of its collections and exhibitions. Describing evolution as "the only scientifically rigorous and strongly corroborated explanation for the amazing diversity of life on Earth," the statement explains, "Our educational goal is to help visitors understand and explore the theory of evolution, the observable evidence that supports it, and the scientific questions and debates that are taking place at the edge of exploration about the mechanisms of evolution and its consequences." The Carnegie Museum of Natural History's statement is now reproduced, by permission, on NCSE's website, and will also be contained in the fourth edition of NCSE's Voices for Evolution. For the museum's statement, visit: http://www.carnegiemnh.org/science/evolution.html For Voices for Evolution, visit: http://ncse.com/voices 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 x305 fax: 510-601-7204 800-290-6006 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncse.com Read Reports of the NCSE on-line: http://reports.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/join