NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2011/08/26
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, A preview of The Evolutionary World, a ruling from the Ninth Circuit in C. F. v. Capistrano, and a new issue of Reports of the NCSE.
A VISIT TO THE EVOLUTIONARY WORLD NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of Geerat Vermeij's The Evolutionary World (Thomas Dunne Books, 2010). The preview consists of chapter 9, "Dispatches from a Warming World," in which Vermeij discusses the evolutionary consequences of a warming world. He concludes, "Whether warming is a curse or a blessing thus depends entirely on whether living systems subjected to it can adapt or move. If they can, warming presents an opportunity, especially if the surroundings are healthy and productive. If they cannot, warming becomes a hardship, an insuperable challenge. Humanity should do what it can to limit the rate at which the world is heating up, but above all we must adapt to a warming world. If we want to maintain some semblance of wild nature in the fact of warming and habitation fragmentation, we must preserve -- or, better yet, enhance -- opportunities for species to adapt. We must give them wiggle room, not box them in. We must allow evolution and adaptation to do their work." Neil Shubin, the author of Your Inner Fish, describes The Evolutionary World as "[a] bold, brash, and magisterial account of the fundamental mechanisms that built our bodies, our genes, and our society. A culmination of decades of thinking by one of our leading scientists, this is a book that is sure to stir the pot." Nick Lane, the author of Life Ascending, adds, "Combining an exhilarating zest for life with unusual and acute powers of observation, Geerat Vermeij is also a refreshingly original thinker. His insights into the processes of evolution and their relevance to science and society are striking and thought-provoking." And Michael Ruse, the author of Defining Darwin (and a Supporter of NCSE), writes that Vermeij's book "will be read with delight by all who love science and should be read for instruction by those who think that an evolutionary world picture in any way detracts from our true understanding of ourselves and the planet on which we all live." For the excerpt, visit: http://ncse.com/book-excerpt For information about The Evolutionary World from its publisher, visit: http://us.macmillan.com/theevolutionaryworld VINDICATION FOR CORBETT Was it unconstitutional for a teacher to describe creationism as "superstitious nonsense"? In 2009, a federal district court ruled that it was, in C. F. et al. v. Capistrano Unified School District et al. But the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in a decision issued on August 19, 2011, overturned the district court's decision "to the extent it decided the constitutionality of any of Corbett's statements" while upholding its grant of qualified immunity to James Corbett, the teacher in question. As NCSE previously reported, the case originated when Corbett, a twenty-year history teacher at Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo, California, was accused by a student, Chad Farnan, of "repeatedly promoting hostility toward Christians in class and advocating 'irreligion over religion' in violation of the First Amendment's establishment clause," according to the Orange County Register (May 1, 2009). Farnan cited more than twenty offending statements of Corbett's in his complaint. In the district court's decision, however, only one of the statements was identified as constitutionally impermissible. In 2007, while describing to his class his involvement in the 1994 case Peloza v. Capistrano Unified School District -- in which a teacher unsuccessfully contended that it was unconstitutional for the school district to require him to teach evolution -- Corbett characterized creationism as "superstitious nonsense." The district court wrote, "The Court cannot discern a legitimate secular purpose in this statement, even when considered in context. The statement therefore constitutes improper disapproval of religion in violation of the Establishment Clause." But the district court also ruled that because there was no clear precedent establishing that Corbett's comment would have been unconstitutional, Corbett was entitled to qualified immunity, shielding him from liability. Both Farnan and Corbett appealed the decision. As the Orange County Register (February 11, 2011) summarized in its story on a February 11, 2011, oral hearing before a three-judge panel from the Ninth Circuit, "Corbett is seeking to be vindicated; Farnan is seeking a stronger ruling against Corbett, and for Corbett's qualified immunity to be tossed out." The panel was reportedly "skeptical and critical of arguments from both sides." In its decision, however, the Ninth Circuit upheld the district court's grant of qualified immunity to Corbett, writing: *** In broaching controversial issues like religion, teachers must be sensitive to students' personal beliefs and take care not to abuse their positions of authority. ... But teachers must also be given leeway to challenge students to foster critical thinking skills and develop their analytical abilities. This balance is hard to achieve, and we must be careful not to curb intellectual freedom by imposing dogmatic restrictions that chill teachers from adopting the pedagogical methods they believe are most effective. ... At some point a teacher's comments on religion might cross the line and rise to the level of unconstitutional hostility. But without any cases illuminating the "'dimly perceive[d] . . . line[ ] of demarcation'" between permissible and impermissible discussion of religion in a college level history class [Corbett was teaching Advanced Placement European history], we cannot conclude that a reasonable teacher standing in Corbett's shoes would have been on notice that his actions might be unconstitutional. *** The decision added, "Because we do not reach the constitutionality of any of Corbett's statements, we vacate the district court?s judgment in that respect." The Orange County Register (August 19, 2011) reported, "Robert Tyler, a lawyer with the Faith and Freedom legal organization who represented the student, said he would ask the appeals court to reconsider its decision [presumably en banc, i.e., with eleven judges from the circuit hearing the appeal]. Tyler also said he would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case if the appeals court doesn't change its ruling." For the Ninth Circuit's decision (PDF), visit: http://ncse.com/webfm_send/1656 For the Orange County Register's 5/1/2009 story, visit: http://www.ocregister.com/news/corbett-198567-religion-court.html For information on the Peloza case, visit: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/peloza.html For the district court's rulings about Corbett's statement and his qualified immunity (PDF), visit: http://ncse.com/webfm_send/963 http://ncse.com/webfm_send/1657 For the Orange County Register's 2/11/2011 story, visit: http://www.ocregister.com/news/corbett-288056-case-judges.html For the Orange County Register's 8/19/2011 story, visit: http://www.ocregister.com/news/corbett-313016-court-ruling.html And for NCSE's collection of documents from the case, visit: http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/c-f-v-capistrano-usd RNCSE 31:4 NOW ON-LINE NCSE is pleased to announce the fourth issue of Reports of the National Center for Science Education in its new on-line format. The issue -- volume 31, number 4 -- features a pair of articles on surveys of attitudes to evolution among preservice teachers: Hasan Deniz, Faruk Cetin, and Irfan Yilmaz's "Examining the Relationships among Acceptance of Evolution, Religiosity, and Teaching Preference for Evolution in Turkish Preservice Biology Teachers" and Hasan Deniz and Lisa A. Donnelly's "Preservice Secondary Science Teachers? Acceptance of Evolutionary Theory and Factors related to Acceptance." For his regular People and Places column, Randy Moore discusses Cerro Tijeretas, Isla San Cristóbal -- where Darwin first set foot on the Galápagos. Plus a host of reviews of books on Darwin and evolution aimed at children, as well as a novel: Scott Hatfield reviews Jay Hosler's Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth; David C Kopaska-Merkel reviews Sandra Dutton's Mary Mae and the Gospel Truth; Stephanie LaMassa reviews Dean Koontz's Breathless; Louise S. Mead reviews two books on evolution (John Long's The Big Picture Book and Robert Winston's Evolution Revolution) and, separately, two books on Darwin (Mick Manning and Brita Granström's What Darwin Saw and Alice B. McGinty's Darwin: With Glimpses into his Private Journal & Letters, and Ben Roberts reviews Sandra Markle's Animals Charles Darwin Saw. All of these articles, features, and reviews are freely available in PDF form from http://reports.ncse.com. Members of NCSE will shortly be receiving in the mail the print supplement to Reports 31:4, which, in addition to summaries of the on-line material, contains news from the membership, a regular column in which NCSE staffers offer personal reports on what they've been doing to defend the teaching of evolution, a new regular column interviewing NCSE's favorite people -- members of NCSE's board of directors, NCSE's Supporters, recipients of NCSE's Friend of Darwin award, and so on -- and more besides. (Not a member? Join today!) For the table of contents for RNCSE 31:4, visit: http://reports.ncse.com/index.php/rncse/issue/current/showToc For information about joining NCSE, visit: http://ncse.com/join 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