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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

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.


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

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: 

For the press release from Achieve, visit: 

For the Symmetry Breaking interview with Helen R. Quinn, visit: 


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: 

For information about the book from the publisher, visit: 


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: 

For Voices for Evolution, 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 x305
fax: 510-601-7204

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