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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2012/06/15

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Evolution is under attack again in Kansas but is scheduled to come to
the primary national curriculum in England. Plus a new issue of RNCSE
and a new publication on Thinking Evolutionarily.


As expected, when the Kansas state board of education heard a
presentation about the current status of the Next Generation Science
Standards on June 12, 2012, evolution was in the crosshairs. The
Associated Press (June 13, 2012) reports that Ken Willard, a member of
the board, described the draft as "flawed" and "distributed a
nine-page letter criticizing the draft multistate standards from the
group Citizens for Objective Public Education Inc., which lists
officers in Florida and Kansas. The letter suggested that the draft
standards ignore evidence against evolution, don't respect religious
diversity, and promote secular humanism, which precludes God or
another supreme being in considering how the universe works." Willard
said of the letter, "I hope that it will be taken seriously and not as
just information from a bunch of crackpots."

But Citizens for Objective Public Education is not exactly a
well-known or a well-established group; its vice president Anne Lassey
told the Associated Press that it was founded only in March 2012.
Lassey is the wife of Greg Lassey, who was one of the authors of the
so-called minority report of the committee that revised Kansas's state
science standards in 2005; the report systematically deprecated the
scientific status of evolution. The group's president, Jorge
Fernandez, is a self-proclaimed young-earth creationist, with
publications to his credit in Journal of Creation and on the
True.Origin Archive website. The letter claimed that Citizens for
Objective Public Education represents "children, parents and taxpayers
who share our views"; Lassey told the Associated Press that the group
has members across the nation.

"The draft multistate standards and Kansas' existing standards reflect
mainstream scientific views that evidence supporting evolution is
overwhelming," the Associated Press noted, and NCSE's Joshua Rosenau
agreed, saying that evolution is "the center of modern biology."
Rosenau observed that the letter criticizing the NGSS included
hackneyed criticisms of evolution from creationists, explaining, "This
is a long-standing creationist strategy. You can muddy the waters
around evolution and make it seem controversial." The letter's
warnings that the draft standards promote humanism or atheism are
reminiscent of warnings issued by the Kansas-based Intelligent Design
Network, which was active during the last controversy over Kansas's
science standards, helping to draft the minority report and lobby for
its adoption by the board.

As one of the "lead state partners" of the NGSS development process,
Kansas is committed to giving the standards "serious consideration"
for adoption when they emerge in their final form. According to the
Associated Press, the chair of the board, David Dennis, "said he'd
like to have the board consider the new science standards by the end
of the year. Under that timetable, the board would likely adopt
evolution-friendly guidelines because Democrats and moderate
Republicans, including Dennis, have a majority. ... But state
Department of Education officials said the standards probably won't be
ready for a board vote until early next year." With five of the ten
seats on the board up for re-election in November 2012 and with
Willard leaving the board to run for the state legislature, as many as
six seats on the board may change hands by then.

For the Associated Press story (via the Salina Journal), visit: 

For information about the NGSS, visit: 

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


Evolution is to be added to the primary national curriculum in
England, gratifying scientists and educators who have been campaigning
for its addition over the last three years. In 2009, the British
Humanist Association coordinated a letter from top scientists and
science educators in Britain calling for the addition of evolution to
the primary curriculum. Although the government indicated in 2009 that
evolution would indeed be added as part of the reform of the primary
national curriculum called for by the Children, Schools, and Families
bill, the relevant part of the bill was tabled in Parliament in 2010.
Then in September 2011, as NCSE reported, a group of scientists
renewed the call for evolution to be taught "at both primary and
secondary levels in the National Curriculum and in all schools."

Now, in the new draft of the primary national curriculum for science,
posted at the Department of Education's website on June 11, 2012,
students in year 4 (ages 8 and 9) are introduced to the ideas of
adaptation, inheritance, and evolution, and students in year 6 (ages
10 and 11) are introduced to the fossil record as evidence for
evolution. The British Humanist Association's Andrew Copson said, in a
press release dated June 11, 2012, "We are delighted that evolution
will be added to the primary curriculum -- something that we have long
advocated. Teaching this core concept from an earlier age will give
pupils a much stronger understanding of the life sciences and of how
we came to be. The Government must be commended for making this
change, and we look forward to working with them to ensure this
proposal becomes reality."

For the BHA's 2009 letter (PDF), visit: 

For Evolution not Creationism, the group launched in 2011, visit: 

For the draft primary national curriculum for science (PDF), visit: 

For the BHA's press release, visit: 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events outside the United States
and Canada, 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 3 -- is a special book review issue, with a
double helping of reviews of books on the evolutionary sciences. For
his regular People and Places column, Randy Moore discusses the career
of the pioneer of continental drift, Alfred Wegener (1880-1930).

As for the reviews: Warren D. Allmon reviews Alan R. Rogers's The
Evidence for Evolution; Daniel Fairbanks reviews Sherrie Lyons's
Evolution: The Basics; Paul R. Gross reviews Mark S. Blumberg's Freaks
of Nature; Joe Lapp reviews Leslie Brunetta and Catherine L. Craig's
Spider Silk; David Leaf reviews David L. Stern's Evolution,
Development, and the Predictable Genome; E. G. Leigh Jr. reviews
Martin A. Nowak and Roger Highfield's SuperCooperators; Joseph S.
Levine reviews Geerat Vermeij's The Evolutionary World; Larry Moran
reviews James A. Shapiro's Evolution: A View from the 21st Century;
Kevin Padian reviews George R. McGhee's Convergent Evolution; P. David
Polly reviews J. David Archibald's Extinction and Radiation; Steve
Rissing reviews Carl Zimmer's The Tangled Bank; and Erik P. Scully
reviews Sehoya Cotner and Randy Moore's Arguing for Evolution.

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 32:3, 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, a regular column interviewing NCSE's favorite people, and
more besides. (Not a member? Join today!)

For the table of contents for RNCSE 32:3, visit: 

For information about joining NCSE, visit: 


How can evolution be integrated throughout life science education?
Thinking Evolutionarily, a new publication from the National Research
Council and the National Academy of Sciences, reports on a recent
meeting that addressed this vital question. According to the National
Academy Press's description of the book:


Evolution is the central unifying theme of biology. Yet today, more
than a century and a half after Charles Darwin proposed the idea of
evolution through natural selection, the topic is often relegated to a
handful of chapters in textbooks and a few class sessions in
introductory biology courses, if covered at all. In recent years, a
movement has been gaining momentum that is aimed at radically changing
this situation.

On October 25-26, 2011, the Board on Life Sciences of the National
Research Council and the National Academy of Sciences held a national
convocation in Washington, DC, to explore the many issues associated
with teaching evolution across the curriculum. Thinking
Evolutionarily: Evolution Education Across the Life Sciences: Summary
of a Convocation summarizes the goals, presentations, and discussions
of the convocation. The goals were to articulate issues, showcase
resources that are currently available or under development, and begin
to develop a strategic plan for engaging all of the sectors
represented at the convocation in future work to make evolution a
central focus of all courses in the life sciences, and especially into
introductory biology courses at the college and high school levels,
though participants also discussed learning in earlier grades and
life-long learning.

Thinking Evolutionarily: Evolution Education Across the Life Sciences:
Summary of a Convocation covers the broader issues associated with
learning about the nature, processes, and limits of science, since
understanding evolutionary science requires a more general
appreciation of how science works. This report explains the major
themes that recurred throughout the convocation, including the
structure and content of curricula, the processes of teaching and
learning about evolution, the tensions that can arise in the
classroom, and the target audiences for evolution education.


Among the participants in the convocation were NCSE's Eric Meikle and
Steven Newton. Four recipients of NCSE's Friend of Darwin award --
NCSE Supporter Bruce Alberts, David M. Hillis, Robert T. Pennock, and
Judy Scotchmoor -- presented or participated in panels at the

For Thinking Evolutionary, 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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