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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2011/12/09

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(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A preview of Richard Dawkins's The Magic of Reality, a reflection by
Steve Jones on creationism in British higher education, and
creationism in a case going to trial in California.


NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of Richard Dawkins's book for
children The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True (Free
Press, 2011). The preview consists in the bulk of chapter 3 -- "Why
are there so many different kinds of animals?" -- in which Dawkins,
after discussing various answers to the titular question offered by
myth, introduces the idea of speciation. Species, he writes, form "a
family tree: a tree with many branches, each branch having
sub-branches, and each sub-branch having sub-sub-branches. The tips of
the twigs are species. The other groupings -- class, order, family,
genus -- are the branches and sub-branches. The whole tree is all of
life on Earth."

Lawrence Krauss writes, "I am often asked to recommend good books on
science for young people. From now on, I will not have to hesitate.
The Magic of Reality provides a beautiful, accessible and wide ranging
volume that addresses the questions that all of us have about the
universe, separating often too-little known facts from too-frequently
believed fictions. For this reason, it should be a powerful resource
for people of all ages, written with the masterful and eloquently
literate style of perhaps the best popular expositor of science,
Richard Dawkins, and delightfully illustrated by Dave McKean. What
more could anyone ask for?"

For the preview, visit: 

For information about the book from its publisher, visit: 


Writing in The Telegraph (December 3, 2011), the geneticist Steve
Jones reflects on his experience in teaching university students who
reject evolution ? and refuse even to learn about it ? because of
their religious objections. "At University College London we have
numbers of Islamic students, almost all dedicated, hard-working and
able. Some, unfortunately, refuse to accept Darwin?s theory on faith
grounds, as do some of their Christian fellows," Jones reports.

Referring to the Islamic creationist literature distributed under the
name Harun Yahya, Jones observes, "Much of their propaganda has been
lifted from Christian fundamentalism and there is a certain irony in
where it has ended up." Jones adds, "I have had plenty of verbal
complaints from undergraduates of both persuasions that I am demeaning
religion, while others ask that they be excused lectures on my
subject, or simply fail to turn up."

"Anyone, of course, is free to believe whatever they wish," Jones
continues. "But why train to become a biologist, or a doctor, when you
deny the very foundations of your subject? For a biology student to
refuse to accept the fact of evolution is equivalent to choosing to do
a degree in English without believing in grammar, or in physics with a
rooted objection to gravity: it makes no sense at all. The same is
true for doctors. How can you put a body right with no idea as to why
it is liable to go wrong?"

For Jones's column, visit: 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events abroad, visit: 


"A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has opted to let a jury decide
whether NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory discriminated against a
former employee who claims he was fired for discussing intelligent
design," according to the Pasadena Star-News (November 30, 2011). The
initial complaint, filed on April 11, 2010, alleged that JPL
discriminated against and unfairly demoted David Coppedge because of
his discussion of "intelligent design" as well as religious and
political issues in the workplace. After Coppedge was laid off from
his job in January 2011, the complaint was amended to add a claim of
wrongful termination, although JPL replied that Coppedge was laid off
as part of a natural attrition.

The Star-News described Coppedge as "[a] well-known figure among
proponents of 'intelligent design'" and noted that he operates the
Creation-Evolution Headlines website, but overlooked the fact that he
is on the board of Illustra Media, which produces "intelligent design"
films such as Unlocking the Mystery of Life, The Privileged Planet,
and Darwin's Dilemma. It was, in part, Coppedge's distribution of such
films to his coworkers that prompted JPL to take disciplinary action
against him. Coppedge's attorney, William J. Becker Jr., represented
the American Freedom Alliance in its recent suit against the
California Science Center over the cancellation of a screening of
Darwin's Dilemma.

With the judge's decision to allow the case to go to trial, a
spokesperson for JPL told the Star-News, "The suit is completely
without merit, and we intend to vigorously fight the allegations
raised by Mr. Coppedge." Shortly after the filing of the suit, Gary
Williams, a professor of law at Loyola University, told the Star-News
(April 18, 2010) that Coppedge's prospects for success were dim: "If
an employee is talking about anything in the workplace that is not
related to work, the employer is entitled to say that 'I don't want
you to do this,'" Williams said. "You're not protected." The trial is
expected to begin on March 7, 2012. Documents from the case, David
Coppedge v. Jet Propulsion Laboratory et al., are available on NCSE's

For the Pasadena Star-News's story, visit: 

For documents from the case, 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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