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 legislature.
JAMES F. CROW DIES 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: http://johnhawks.net/weblog/topics/history/genetics/james-f-crow-1916-2012.html For Crow's interview with the Oral History of Human Genetics Project, visit: http://ohhgp.pendari.com/Interview.aspx?id=9# OPPOSITION TO INDIANA'S CREATIONISM BILL 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: http://www.journalgazette.net/article/20120103/EDIT07/301039998/1021/EDIT And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Indiana, visit: http://ncse.com/news/indiana THE GRANITE GEEK ON NEW HAMPSHIRE'S ANTIEVOLUTION BILLS 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: http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/newsstatenewengland/924904-227/lawmakers-pushing-creationism-in-schools-is-a.html http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/news/945078-196/lawmakers-zero-in-on-science-theory.html And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in New Hampshire, visit: http://ncse.com/news/new-hampshire 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