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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2011/09/09

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A new poll on evolution and creationism; a voice for evolution from
Oregon; and sad news from Kansas of the death of Niall Shanks.


A recent Fox News poll (September 7, 2011) included a question about
evolution and creationism. Respondents were asked, "Which do you think
is more likely to actually be the explanation for the origin of human
life on Earth: the theory of evolution as outlined by Darwin and other
scientists, the Biblical account of creation as told in the Bible, or
are both true?" The theory of evolution was favored by 21% of
respondents, the Biblical account of creation was favored by 45%, the
combination answer by 27%, and 7% of respondents said that they didn't

Evolution was more popular among Democrats than Republicans (28% to
13%), men than women (24% to 19%), college graduates than
non-college-graduates (28% to 16%), the affluent than the non-affluent
(28% to 15%), and liberals to conservatives (37% to 11%). In results
from 1999, the theory of evolution was favored by 15%, the Biblical
account of creation by 50%, the combination answer by 26%, and 9% of
respondents said that they didn't know. The poll was conducted by
telephone among 911 registered voters from August 29 to August 31,
2011; results based on the full sample have a margin of error of +/-

For details of the poll, visit: 

For NCSE's collection of polls and surveys, visit: 


The chorus of support for the teaching of evolution continues, with a
statement on "Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design" from the
Oregon Department of Education issued in 2007.

The statement explains, "The Oregon Science Content Standards adopted
in April of 2001 clearly require the teaching of evolution" (as do the
standards subsequently adopted in 2009). With respect to creationism,
the statement quotes from the 1995 document "Religion in the Public
Schools: A Joint Statement of Current Law":


Schools may teach about explanations of life on earth, including
religious ones (such as "creationism"), in comparative religion or
social studies classes. In science class, however, they may present
only genuinely scientific critiques of, or evidence for, any
explanation of life on earth, but not religious critiques (beliefs
unverifiable by scientific methodology). Schools may not refuse to
teach evolutionary theory in order to avoid giving offense to religion
nor may they circumvent these rules by labeling as science an article
of religious faith. Public schools must not teach as scientific fact
or theory any religious doctrine, including "creationism," although
any genuinely scientific evidence for or against any explanation of
life may be taught. Just as they may neither advance nor inhibit any
religious doctrine, teachers should not ridicule, for example, a
student's religious explanation for life on earth.


("Religion in the Public Schools" was endorsed as providing a correct
statement of current law governing religion in the public schools by a
wide variety of organizations, from the American Civil Liberties Union
and Americans United for Separation of Church and State to the
Christian Legal Society and the National Association of Evangelicals.)

The department'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 statement, visit: 

For Voices for Evolution, visit: 


The philosopher of science Niall Shanks died on July 13, 2011, at the
age of 52, according to the Wichita State University Department of
History. Born in Cheshire, England, on January 18, 1959, Shanks
received his B.A. in philosophy from the University of Leeds in 1979,
a M.Phil. in philosophy from the University of Liverpool in 1981, and
a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Alberta in 1987. He was a
member of the Department of Philosophy at Eastern Tennessee State
University, where he also held positions in the Department of
Biological Sciences and the Department of Physics and Astronomy. In
2005, he became the Curtis D. Gridley Distinguished Professor of
History and Philosophy of Science at Wichita State University. He
served as the president of the Southwestern and Rocky Mountain
Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in
2008-2009. Initially focused on the philosophical foundations of
quantum mechanics, he became interested in evolutionary biology and
its implications for biomedical research, writing (with Hugh
LaFollette) Brute Science: The Dilemmas of Animal Experimentation
(Routledge 1996) and Animals and Science: A Guide to the Debates
(ABC-Clio 2002).

Shanks was also profoundly concerned with creationism. In addition to
his book God, the Devil, and Darwin: A Critique of Intelligent Design
Theory (Oxford University Press 2004), which Richard Dawkins
described, in his foreword, as "a shrewd broadside in what will, I
fear, be a lengthy campaign," Shanks (often with collaborators)
criticized creationism in scholarly and popular journals including
Philosophy of Science, Metascience, Synthese, Philo, Free Inquiry, and
Reports of the NCSE as well as in a contribution to Why Intelligent
Design Fails (Rutgers University Press, 2004). His concern was not
only academic, though: in 1996, when Tennessee's legislature was
considering a bill that would have provided for the suspension or
dismissal of any teacher who taught evolution as a fact rather than a
theory, Shanks became politically active. He was also not averse to
debating creationists, having tangled with the Institute for Creation
Research's Duane Gish and the Discovery Institute's William A. Dembski
and Paul Nelson. "Not debating people is a very dangerous tactic," he
told the Lawrence Journal-World (July 25, 2005), which was reporting
on his move to Kansas. "Then they go unchallenged."

For the obituary from the WSU Department of History, visit: 

For information about God, the Devil, and Darwin, visit: 

For articles by Shanks in Free Inquiry and Reports of the NCSE, visit: 

For information about Why Intelligent Design Fails, visit: 

For Shanks's debates with Dembski and Nelson (MP3 download), visit: 

For the Lawrence Journal-World's article, 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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