NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2012/03/02
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, A publisher's second thoughts about a forthcoming cryptocreationist book. A step forward for the credit-for-creationism scheme in Alabama. A new poll of public opinion regarding climate change. Plus a new issue of Reports of the NCSE and a new batch of videos on NCSE's YouTube channel.
SECOND THOUGHTS FROM SPRINGER A scientific publisher is having second thoughts about a forthcoming cryptocreationist volume, Inside Higher Ed reports (March 1, 2012). The volume in question, entitled Biological Information: New Perspectives, edited by R. J. Marks II, M. J. Behe, W. A. Dembski, B. L. Gordon, and J. C. Sanford, and slated to appear in a series of engineering books dubbed the Intelligent Systems Reference Library, was advertised by Springer as presenting "new perspectives regarding the nature and origin of biological information," demonstrating "how our traditional ideas about biological information are collapsing under the weight of new evidence," and written "by leading experts in the field" who had "gathered at Cornell University to discuss their research into the nature and origin of biological information." In a February 27, 2012, post at The Panda's Thumb blog, however, Nick Matzke charged, "It looks like some creationist engineers found a way to slither some ID/creationism into a major academic publisher." He asked, "Do you think Springer commissioned any actual population geneticists to peer-review his work and his editing? Any actual biologists at mainstream institutions anywhere? Or was it creationist engineers peer-reviewing theologians masquerading as information theoreticians? Does the volume actually address any of the detailed and technical rebuttals of the favorite ID arguments? ... Wouldn't this be a minimal requirement, even if a publisher like Springer decided to publish pseudoscientists on the everyone-deserves-to-be-heard-even-cranks theory, or whatever?" Addressing the advertisement's claim that the papers derived from a conference at Cornell University, Matzke observed, "a few posts from attendees tell us what actually happened -- the conference wasn?t advertised, mainstream scientists with relevant expertise were not invited to attend, and participants were told several times to suppress their apparently otherwise overwhelming tendency to bring in their religion and do fundamentalist apologetics like they do in most other venues. It was basically just another fake ID 'conference' where the ID fans get together and convince each other that they are staging a scientific revolution, all the while ignoring the actual science on how new genetic 'information' originates." Subsequently, information about the book disappeared from Springer's website. A spokesperson for Springer told Inside Higher Ed that although the initial proposal for the book was peer-reviewed, "once the complete manuscript had been submitted, the series editors became aware that additional peer review would be necessary ... This is currently underway, and the automatically generated pre-announcement for the book on Springer has been removed until the peer-reviewers have made their final decision." He added that the publisher does not "endorse intelligent design as a legitimate area of scientific research. Springer stands behind evolutionary theory as a fundamental component of modern science." Matzke told Inside Higher Ed that he suspected that the editorial staff at Springer was caught unaware: "This falls into a trend that has been going on for the past few years, where creationists/IDists have been exploiting engineering venues to get carefully-phrased versions of their stuff published," Matzke said. "But as is often said, publication isn't the end of peer review, it's the beginning of it. And if a scientific publisher seems to be dropping the ball, it?s the responsibility of the rest of us to say so." Douglas Theobald, a professor of biochemistry at Brandeis University, agreed, saying, "Our default take on this is that Springer has been duped and that the senior editors are unaware that this is a quack group of anti-evolution creationists." Theobald, who with a number of fellow Springer authors is drafting a letter of protest to the publisher, expressed concern that the book would compromise the credibility of Springer as a scholarly publisher and deter prospective authors. He called the book the latest effort "in a long sordid history here of trying to get pseudoscientific, anti-evolution papers published in journals to raise the respectability of ID with non-scientists." NCSE's Glenn Branch observed that such efforts pose a threat to scientific literacy in the United States, commenting, "Once published, they can claim that scientific authority is behind them" -- particularly, of course, in their attempts to undermine the proper teaching of evolution in the public school science classroom. John Sanford, one of the editors of the book and a courtesy associate professor at Cornell's Department of Horticulture told Inside Higher Ed, "Obviously we are only trying to exercise academic freedom and freedom of speech, and are challenging a sacred cow." In May 2005, before the "kangaroo court" on evolution orchestrated by three antievolutionist members of the state board of education in Kansas, Sanford testified that he believes the earth is between 5000 and 100,000 years old, that he rejects the general principle of common descent and the idea that humans are descended from prehominid ancestors, and that he agrees that "the teaching of science as is currently practiced is an indoctrination in naturalism." For the article in Inside Higher Ed, visit: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/03/01/book-intelligent-design-proponents-upsets-scientists For Matzke's blog post at The Panda's Thumb, visit: http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2012/02/springer-gets-s.html For Sanford's testimony in Kansas, visit: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/kansas/kangaroo4.html#p1705 CREDIT-FOR-CREATIONISM SCHEME PASSES COMMITTEE Alabama's House Bill 133 -- which would, if enacted, "authorize local boards of education to include released time religious instruction as an elective course for high school students" -- was passed by the House Education Policy Committee on February 29, 2012, according to the Birmingham News (February 29, 2012). Its sponsor, Blaine Galliher (R-District 30), previously explained his motivation for introducing the bill to WAFF in Huntsville, Alabama (February 5, 2012): "They teach evolution in the textbooks, but they don't teach a creation theory ... Creation has just as much right to be taught in the school system as evolution does and I think this is simply providing the vehicle to do that." While released time programs are generally constitutionally permissible, a controversial feature of HB 133 is its allowing local boards of education to award course credit for participating in religious education. In 2009, a local school district in South Carolina was sued for its implementation of such a policy pursuant to the South Carolina Released Time Credit Act, enacted in 2006; in 2011, the trial court held that the policy was constitutional and granted summary judgment to the school district. But the plaintiffs appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and oral arguments are scheduled to begin on March 20, 2012. The case is Robert Moss et al. v. Spartanburg County School District No. 7. Besides the question of the bill's constitutionality, the state board of education opposed the bill when it was introduced as HB 568 in 2011, according to WAFF. But the only concern reported by the Birmingham News was about the educational appropriateness of the scheme. Phil Williams (R-District 6), the vice chair of the House Education Policy Committee, was described as saying that what schools need is courses in mathematics and science: "The future jobs are in that area." Williams added, "I can't imagine us putting school children on a bus and sending them to a mosque to learn about the Koran. Or pick your religion." HB 133 could be considered by the House "as soon as next week," the newspaper reported. For the text of Alabama's HB 133, visit http://ncse.com/news/2012/02/antievolution-legislation-alabama-007208 For the story in the Birmingham News, visit: http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2012/02/alabama_house_could_debate_rel.html For the story from WAFF, visit: http://www.waff.com/story/16681725/bill-would-allow-elective-religious-courses-for-high-school-students For information on Moss v. Spartanburg County School District No. 7 from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, visit: http://ffrf.org/legal/challenges/watchdog-parents-file-suit-against-south-carolina-release-time-credits/ And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Alabama, visit: http://ncse.com/news/alabama POLLING PUBLIC OPINION ON CLIMATE CHANGE "After a period of declining levels of belief in global warming there appears to be a modest rebound in the percentage of Americans that believe temperatures on the planet are increasing," according to the latest National Survey of American Public Opinion on Climate Change. Asked, "Is there solid evidence that the average temperature on Earth has been getting warmer over the past four decades," 62% of respondents said yes, 26% said no, and 12% said that they weren't sure. The 62% figure was a rebound: only 52%, 58%, and 55% of respondents said yes to the same question in spring 2010, fall 2010, and spring 2011, while 72% and 65% said yes in fall 2008 and fall 2009. The report added, "partisanship continues to play a key role in predicting an American's views on the existence of global warming. While over 3 out of 4 Democrats indicate that there is solid evidence of climate change, Republicans are almost evenly [split] on the question, with 47% seeing evidence of increasing global temperatures and 42% contending that there is not enough evidence that the Earth is getting warmer. Contrary to the apparent partisan influence on perceptions of climate change, other traditional demographic categories such as gender, race and educational attainment offer little in the way of providing cues about an individual's standing on this issue." Respondents who accepted global warming were also asked, "What is the primary factor that has caused you to believe that temperatures on earth are increasing?" Leading were personal observation of warmer temperatures and personal observation of extreme weather at 24% each; media coverage and scientific research trailed at 12% and 8%, respectively. Asked about factors that influenced their views, 56% cited declining glaciers and polar ice, 46% cited declining numbers of polar bears and penguins, and 43% cited extreme weather events; the comparatively less accessible factors of computer models and the IPCC reports trailed at 18% and 13%, respectively. The report explained, "While Americans who think the planet is warming largely disagree with the premise that the media and climate scientists are overstating evidence about global warming, most citizens who do not see evidence of increasing temperatures on Earth believe that scientists and the press are distorting evidence on the matter." Among those respondents who accepted global warming, only 28% thought that scientists were overstating the evidence for their own interests and only 34% thought that the media is overstating the evidence; among those who rejected global warming, those figures precipitously rose to 81% and 90%, respectively. The National Survey of American Public Opinion on Climate Change is jointly produced by the Gerald Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan and the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion. The latest survey was conducted among 887 residents of the United States between December 4 and 21, 2011, by land and cell phones. According to the report, "The total number of completions results in a margin of error of +/- 3.5% at the 95% confidence interval. ... The data has been weighted by the following categories: age, gender, educational attainment, race and region." For the NSAPOCC report (PDF), visit: http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Files/rc/papers/2012/02_climate_change_rabe_borick/02_climate_change_rabe_borick.pdf RNCSE 32:1 NOW ON-LINE NCSE is pleased to announce that the latest issue of Reports of the National Center for Science Education is now available on-line. The issue -- volume 32, number 1 -- features two articles by T. Joe Willey discussing a recent controversy over evolution education at La Sierra University and reflecting on evolution education in Seventh-Day Adventist higher education in general, and a detailed account by Richard B. Hoppe of the Freshwater case in Mount Vernon, Ohio. For his regular People and Places column, Randy Moore discusses the controversial career of the twentieth-century preacher and crusader against evolution Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944). Plus a host of reviews of books on the history of science: NCSE's Glenn Branch reviews Thomas F. Glick's What about Darwin?; David F. Prindle reviews Richard York and Brent Clark's The Science and Humanism of Stephen Jay Gould; E. G. Leigh Jr. reviews Mark E. Borrello's Evolutionary Restraints: The Contentious History of Group Selection; Stephen Pruett-Jones reviews Oren Harman's The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness; Stanley A. Rice and Lisette Rice review James D. Loy and Kent M. Loy's Emma Darwin; and Tom Wanamaker reviews C. A. P. Saucier's The Lucy Man. 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 32:1, 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 32:1, visit: http://reports.ncse.com/index.php/rncse/issue/current/showToc For information about joining NCSE, visit: http://ncse.com/join WHAT'S NEW ON NCSE'S YOUTUBE CHANNEL NCSE is pleased to announce the addition of a further batch of videos to NCSE's YouTube channel. Featured are Eugenie C. Scott explaining "Why we still have to take creationism seriously" at the Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism in New York City in 2011; Scott discussing NCSE's role in "Protecting the right to teach evolution" with iBioMagazine in 2011; Joshua Rosenau and Steven Newton recounting "Adventures in defending evolution" at West Virginia University in 2011; Rosenau explaining "What Miss USA can teach us about evolution" for the Humanist Community of Silicon Valley in 2012; and Newton discussing "Grand Canyon, bigger lies" for Bay Area Skeptics in Berkeley, California, in 2012. Tune in and enjoy! For NCSE's YouTube channel, visit: http://www.youtube.com/NatCen4ScienceEd 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 and climate education and threats to them. -- 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