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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2012/06/08

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Are antievolution efforts on the horizon in Kansas, and have
creationists won a victory in South Korea? Plus AAAS's blog
talks to teachers about challenges to evolution and climate education;
Gallup releases the results of its latest poll on evolution; and NCSE
offers a free preview of Ian Tattersall's Masters of the Planet.


"Kansas is headed toward another debate over how evolution is taught
in its public schools," the Associated Press (June 6, 2012) reports,
"with a State Board of Education member saying Wednesday that science
standards under development are 'very problematic' for describing the
theory as a well-established, core scientific concept." The standards
in question are the Next Generation Science Standards, a first draft
of which was released for public comment in May 2012. Evolution is
prominent throughout the relevant portions of the NGSS: in life
sciences, for example, Natural Selection and Evolution is one of five
main topics at the high school level, and Natural Selection and
Adaptations is one of five main topics at the middle school level.

Kansas is among the twenty-six "lead state partners" of the NGSS
development process, officially assisting in the development,
adoption, and implementation of the standards; although the lead state
partners are not required to adopt the standards, they have agreed to
give them "serious consideration" for adoption when they emerge in
their final form -- which may be as soon as the end of 2012. But
Kansas state board of education member Ken Willard told the Associated
Press that the draft embraces naturalism and secular humanism, which
he described as "very problematic" and as "preferring one religious
position over another"; he intends to raise the issue on June 12,
2012, when the board is scheduled to hear a presentation on the
present status of the NGSS.

"In the past," the Associated Press noted, "Willard has supported
standards for Kansas with material that questions evolution;
guidelines that he and other conservatives approved in 2005 were
supplanted by the current ones." As NCSE reported, in November 2005,
the Kansas state board of education voted 6-4 to adopt the draft set
of state science standards that were rewritten, under the tutelage of
local "intelligent design" activists, to impugn the scientific status
of evolution -- a decision roundly condemned by state and national
scientific and education groups. After the antievolution faction on
the board, which included Willard, lost its majority in the 2006
elections, the board reversed the decision in February 2007; the
antievolution version of the standards was not in place long enough to
be felt in the classrooms.

For the Associated Press's story (via the Washington Post), visit: 

For information about the Next Generation Science Standards, visit: 

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


A creationist campaign to remove references to evolution from high
school biology textbooks in South Korea succeeded in May 2012,
according to a report in Nature (June 5, 2012), when "the Ministry of
Education, Science and Technology revealed that many of the publishers
would produce revised editions that exclude examples of the evolution
of the horse or of avian ancestor Archaeopteryx." Also in the sights
of the creationist campaign are references to the evolution of humans
and the adaptations of the beak of the finch. All four are favorite
targets of creationists, including the "intelligent design" movement.
South Korean biologists are complaining that they were not consulted
about the revisions; Dayk Jang, an evolutionary scientist at Seoul
National University, told Nature, "The ministry just sent the petition
out to the publishing companies and let them judge."

The campaign was led by the Committee to Revise Evolution In Textbooks
(which Nature calls "the Society for Textbook Revise"), an independent
offshoot of the Korea Association for Creation Research. Support for
creationism in South Korea is high: in The Creationists (Harvard
University Press, 2006), Ronald L. Numbers described the country as
"the creationist powerhouse" in Asia. And acceptance of evolution is
comparatively low: 64% of South Koreans agreed with "human beings are
developed from earlier species of animals" in 2002, as compared to 44%
of respondents in the United States in 2004, 70% of respondents in
China in 2001, and 78% of respondents in Japan in 2001.

Dayk Jang faulted the South Korean scientific community for its
inaction and is now organizing a group of experts to counter the
creationist campaign. "When something like this comes to fruition, the
scientific community can be caught flat-footed," NCSE's Josh Rosenau
told the New York Daily News (June 6, 2012). "Scientists are not by
their nature political." South Korea is an up-and-coming scientific
powerhouse, Rosenau said, adding that it's crucial to continue to
teach evolution in schools if the county wants to compete on the
international stage. "Evolution is the core of modern biological
science," he said.

For the report in Nature, visit: 

For the cited poll data (PDF), visit: 

For the story in the New York Daily News, visit: 


"Clashroom Clashes" -- a two-part series by Carrie Madren posted on
the American Association for the Advancement of Science's
blog -- "talks with middle and high school teachers across the
country to find out what it's like to be on the frontlines of two
often-controversial science topics -- evolution and climate change --
and how they deal with the pushback." Since NCSE provides advice,
support, and resources to teachers facing challenges to evolution
education -- and, starting in 2012, to teachers facing challenges to
climate science education ? it's not surprising to find NCSE staff
represented throughout!

The first part (May 29, 2012) focuses on evolution. "Evolution debates
have simmered since Darwin's time, and even now, many states and
school districts have varied ideas on how evolution should be
presented," Madren writes. "In addition, parents or communities with a
range of views can make it difficult for science teachers to do their
jobs. The controversy has made evolution a hot-button topic that's
either lightly touched on or avoided altogether. Oftentimes, that
means students don't get the scientific education they need to become
well-rounded citizens." Making the point vivid, Jeremy Mohn, a biology
teacher in Overland Park, Kansas, suggests, "Teaching biology without
evolution is like teaching American history without the Civil War."

"Each year, many states revisit the teaching of evolution," Madren
explains, with Louisiana and Tennessee enacting antievolution
legislation in 2008 and 2012, and with Texas constantly experiencing
battles over the place of evolution in the state science standards.
The advent of the Next Generation Science Standards, which emphasize
evolution as a central idea of the life sciences, may help to defuse
controversy at the state level, NCSE's Steven Newton commented.
Individual teachers have developed ways of defusing controversy in
their own classrooms: by discussing the creation/evolution continuum,
for example, or by starting the biology course with a discussion of
the nature of science.

The second part (June 4, 2012) focuses on climate change. Madren
observes, "climate change has become the latest topic to spark
classroom disagreements. Despite near-consensus in the scientific
community, questions about the validity of climate change science and
global warming continue to circulate in mainstream media, news, blogs,
and publications," adding, "As long as individuals continue to debate
climate change validity on news stations, radio shows, and online,
students will bring these biases into the classroom. That means
science teachers across the country must defend science to preserve
the truth about climate change -- as well as the way the next
generation views it. Even though climate scientists and thousands of
studies back them up, teachers still face pushback."

Moreover, there are teachers who have acceded to the idea that climate
change is scientifically controversial. NCSE's Mark McCaffrey
explained, ?Some teachers teach both sides of what is really a phony
debate. In their minds it's fair and balanced but in fact it leads to
confusion rather than clarity." As AAAS's chief executive officer Alan
I. Leshner recently admonished the governor of Tennessee when he was
presented with a bill undermining the teaching of evolution and of
climate change in the state's public schools, "Implying that there are
significant scientific controversies about the overall nature of these
concepts when there are not will only confuse students, not enlighten

For the two parts of "Clashroom Clashes" on AAAS's blog, visit: 


A new Gallup poll on public opinion about evolution suggests that the
rate of acceptance of evolution in the United States is "essentially
unchanged" over the years. Asked in May 2012 "[w]hich of the following
statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development
of human beings," 32% of the respondents accepted "Human beings have
developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but
God guided this process," 15% accepted "Human beings have developed
over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had
no part in this process," and 46% accepted "God created human beings
pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000
years or so."

The same question has been used by Gallup to poll about evolution
since 1982. "Although the percentages choosing each view have varied
from survey to survey, the 46% who today choose the creationist
explanation is virtually the same as the 45% average over that period
-- and very similar to the 44% who chose that explanation in 1982. The
32% who choose the 'theistic evolution' view that humans evolved under
God's guidance is slightly below the 30-year average of 37%, while the
15% choosing the secular evolution view is slightly higher (12%)." As
usual, acceptance of the creationist option was associated with a
lower degree of education, a higher rate of church attendance, and
affiliation with the Republican party.

According to Gallup, the poll results are "based on telephone
interviews conducted May 10-13, 2012, with a random sample of 1,012
adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the
District of Columbia"; the samples were weighted by gender, age, race,
Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household and
phone status. The maximum range of sampling error for the total sample
was +/- 4%. Conveniently, Gallup provides a graph showing the results
from its polls using the same question since 1982. A collection of
material -- including NCSE's coverage, articles from RNCSE, and links
-- relevant to polls and surveys concerning the creationism/evolution
controversy is available on the NCSE website.

For Gallup's report, visit: 

For NCSE's collection of poll and survey material, visit: 


NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of Ian Tattersall's Masters of
the Planet: The Search for Our Human Origins (Palgrave Macmillan,
2012). The excerpt consists of chapter 10, "Who Were the
Neanderthals?" Tattertall writes, "Homo neanderthalensis occupies a
very special place in the hominid pantheon because it was the first
extinct hominid species to be discovered and named, back in the
mid-nineteenth century. Largely as a result of this accident of
history, the Neanderthals have always loomed very large in
considerations of our own evolution -- although it has for long been
evident that they were not direct human precursors as was suggested
early on, and there is fairly general agreement by now that they
deserve recognition as a distinctive hominid species in their own

The reviewer for Nature described Masters of the Planet as "succinct
and masterful," adding, "Tattersall takes us from 6 million years ago
in Africa's Rift Valley to the present day. On the way, he brilliantly
describes humanity's cousins and rivals, from apes to the other
hominins that competed with H. sapiens as, tens of thousands of years
ago, our ancestors made the cognitive leap to symbolic thought." And
Nick Lane praised it as "a book full of wisdom: the distillation of a
lifetime's experience combined with finely honed critical faculties.
... The best guide to human origins that I have ever read." Tattersall
is a Curator in the Division of Anthropology of the American Museum of
Natural History, where he co-curates the Spitzer Hall of Human

For the preview of Masters of the Planet (PDF), visit: 

For information about the book from its publisher, 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

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