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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2012/01/06

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

The eminent geneticist James F. Crow is dead. Plus the Fort Wayne
Journal Gazette criticizes Indiana's creation science bill, and the
Granite Geek revisits the antievolution bills in New Hampshire's


The eminent geneticist James F. Crow died on January 4, 2012, at the
age of 95, according to the blog of his colleague John Hawks (January
4, 2012). Born on Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, on January 18, 1916, he
received his A.B. in biology and chemistry from Friends University in
1937 and his Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Texas, Austin, in
1941. He taught at Dartmouth College from 1941 to 1948, and then spent
the rest of his career at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, until
his retirement in 1986. Among his honors were membership in the
National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the
American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and
Sciences, and the Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal from the Genetics Society
of America. The J. F. Crow Institute for the Study of Evolution at the
University of Wisconsin was named in his honor in 2010. He served as
the president of the Genetics Society of America in 1960 and the
American Society of Human Genetics in 1963, and was co-editor-in-chief
of the journal Genetics from 1952 to 1957. In addition to a plethora
of articles, he wrote Genetic Notes: An Introduction to Genetics
(Burgess Publishing 1950), which saw eight editions, and Basic
Concepts in Population, Quantitative, and Evolutionary Genetics (W. H.
Freeman 1986). With Motoo Kimura he coauthored the classic An
Introduction to Population Genetics Theory (Harper & Row 1970).

In his published work, Crow seems not to have mentioned the
creationism/evolution controversy at all. But he was deeply concerned
with the integrity of science education nevertheless. In a June 1-3,
2005, interview with the Oral History of Human Genetics Project, he
was asked how he felt about the persistence of the antievolutionist
movement despite the continued advances in understanding evolution. "I
am puzzled by this," he answered, adding, "I'm especially puzzled by
literate, intelligent, often scientifically trained people who are
into intelligent design. ... The argument of so-called irreducible
complexity that the intelligent design people make such a to-do over,
I think that's a non-issue. ... That to me is a very, very old
argument. I'd say the elephant trunk is complicated, too, and a lot
more complicated than the bacterial flagellum. So what's new in this
argument?" Reiterating "I am worried about creationism," he offered
his view about science and religion: "My own views are atheistic, but
I don't go around preaching atheism. You don't get very far trying to
do this. And I do accept the fact that people can be religious and
still be evolutionists. ... All the arguments among Muller, Fisher,
Wright, the rest of these, none of them are changed one whit by
whether the person's own views are religious or not. So I've decided I
don't care whether a person is personally religious."

For John Hawks's blog post, visit: 

For Crow's interview with the Oral History of Human Genetics Project, visit: 


The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette (January 3, 2012) editorially
criticized Indiana's Senate Bill 89. Introduced by Dennis Kruse
(R-District 14), the bill, if enacted, would amend the Indiana Code to
provide that "[t]he governing body of a school corporation may require
the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life,
including creation science, within the school corporation." Although
Kruse introduced the same bill in the Indiana House of Representatives
in 2000 and 2001 without success, the editorial observed, "Kruse now
is chairman of the Senate Education Committee, and Republicans control
both chambers. Democrats were powerless to stop any GOP education bill
last year, including the voucher program under challenge in a Marion
County court."

If SB 89 is successful, NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott
told the Journal Gazette, a legal challenge is inevitable. Noting the
precedent of the Supreme Court's 1987 decision in Edwards v.
Aguillard, in which a Louisiana law requiring creation science to be
taught in the state's public schools was ruled to have violated the
Constitution, Scott explained, “The law is very, very clear on this
... If this bill is passed, it is going to be challenged, and they
will lose. The case law is so strong against them.” The editorial
concluded, "How refreshing it would be if the General Assembly avoided
inevitable legal battles and limited its work to the intended use of a
30-day session." (The legislative session begins on January 4, 2012,
and ends by March 14, 2012.)

For the Journal Gazette's editorial, visit: 

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


The Nashua Telegraph's science columnist revisits the two
antievolution bills recently prefiled in the New Hampshire
legislature. David Brooks, who writes the "Granite Geek" column for
the Telegraph, interviewed the sponsors of both bills in July 2011
before the bills were actually drafted, and then concluded (July 3,
2011), "My taxpayer dollars pay science teachers to teach science, not
philosophy. Let's hope lawmakers don't try to get in the way." After
examining the text of the bills as introduced, his conclusion is if
anything firmer: "Both of these bills should die a quick and deserving
death," he now writes (January 2, 2012).

Under examination are House Bill 1457 (which would charge the state
board of education to "[r]equire science teachers to instruct pupils
that proper scientific inquire [sic] results from not committing to
any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be
established, and that scientific and technological innovations based
on new evidence can challenge accepted scientific theories or modes")
and House Bill 1148 (which would charge the state board of education
to "[r]equire evolution to be taught in the public schools of this
state as a theory, including the theorists' political and ideological
viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism").

With regard to HB 1457, introduced by Gary Hopper (R-District 7) and
John Burt (R-District 7), Brooks wrote, "At best, it seems to say
'instruct pupils that proper scientific inquiry results from proper
scientific inquiry' -- which is true, if not exactly useful. At worst,
though, it seems to say something like 'you can disregard any
scientific theory if it is challenged.'” He observed that just as
creationism challenges evolution, so astrology challenges physics,
homeopathy challenges chemistry, the Hollow Earth theory challenges
plate tectonics, and so on. "Ridiculous, of course. But if a law that
vague got on the books, it's not out of the question."

With regard to HB 1148, introduced by Jerry Bergevin (R-District 17),
Brooks observed that the idea of teaching evolution "as a theory" is
"standard creationist fare," but the idea of requiring students to be
told about the political and ideological viewpoints of scientists
"seems downright ludicrous" -- "Who are 'the theorists' that Bergevin
wants polled about politics, ideology and atheism? Every scientist in
the world whose work touches on evolution -- all several million of
them? Every biology teacher in New Hampshire? Anybody who has read
[James D. Watson's memoir of the discovery of the structure of DNA]
'The Double Helix'?"

For Brooks's 7/3/2011 and 1/2/2012 columns in the Nashua Telegraph, visit: 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in New Hampshire, 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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