Skip navigation.
The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

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.


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: 

For Matzke's blog post at The Panda's Thumb, visit: 

For Sanford's testimony in Kansas, visit: 


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 

For the story in the Birmingham News, visit: 

For the story from WAFF, visit: 

For information on Moss v. Spartanburg County School District No. 7
from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, visit: 

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


"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

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: 


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

All of these articles, features, and reviews are freely available in
PDF form from 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: 

For information about joining NCSE, visit: 


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: 

Thanks for reading. And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- -- where you can always find the latest news on 
evolution and climate education and threats to them.


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

Read Reports of the NCSE on-line: 

Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter: 

NCSE is on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter: 

NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today!