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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2012/11/02

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

The Freshwater case is discussed in detail in Church & State. Plus a
preview of Storms of My Grandchildren, a new issue of Reports of the
NCSE, and the webcast of the HHMI's Holiday Lectures on Science.


The Freshwater case is featured in the November 2012 issue of Church &
State, the magazine of Americans United for Separation of Church and
State. In his article, Rob Boston reviews the complicated course of
the case, starting in Mount Vernon, Ohio, in 2007: "The Dennis
family?s problems began one day when their son Zachary, then 13,
showed them some marks on his arm. The red burns were in the shape of
a cross, and Zachary told his parents that a science teacher named
John Freshwater was responsible for them. Freshwater had made the mark
with an electronic device called a Tesla coil."

It was discovered that Freshwater engaged in a variety of
inappropriate religious activities in the classroom, including not
only branding crosses on the arms of his students but also displaying
posters with the Ten Commandments and Bible verses and teaching
creationism. In 2008, the school board voted to initiate termination
proceedings. In 2011, after administrative hearings that proceeded
sporadically over two years, the board voted to terminate Freshwater's
employment. Freshwater then launched a legal challenge, which reached
the Ohio Supreme Court in 2012; the court is expected to hear oral
arguments in the case in February 2013.

In his appeal, Freshwater contends that the Mount Vernon City School
District Board of Education violated his academic freedom and his free
speech rights by terminating his employment. Boston notes, "Previous
attempts by teachers who oppose evolution to secure an academic
freedom right to teach creationism have not fared well in the courts,"
and quotes NCSE's deputy director Glenn Branch as commenting, "If
Freshwater had his way, teachers could present any nonsense they
wanted under the shield of 'academic freedom' -- and schools would be
powerless to stop them from mis-educating their students."

The Dennis family, NCSE, Americans United and the Anti-Defamation
League, and the American Humanist Association and the Secular Student
Alliance have all submitted friend-of-the-court briefs to the Ohio
Supreme Court, supporting the board. Richard Katskee, who helped to
litigate Kitzmiller v. Dover and who wrote the Americans United brief,
told Church & State, "The creationists are trying to walk right
through the front door of the schoolhouse with a bogus ?academic
freedom? argument," adding, "Say what you will about the creationists,
they're creative ... One might say their strategies are evolving."

Jenifer Dennis told Church & State that she is stunned that the case
is taking so long to resolve, but added that she considers it a
learning experience: "It has taught me that what I once considered a
given about individual rights is not in fact such an easy issue. ... I
am dumbfounded that individuals still feel the need to inject personal
beliefs to a captive audience of minors ... If families do not
confront wrongdoings," she added, "they will continue to happen and
the rights of all Americans will slowly be stripped away, leaving
everyone to have to follow another?s beliefs or ideals."

The same issue of Church & State commented editorially on the issues
raised by the Freshwater case, observing, "The attempt to introduce
creationism into the public schools is one of the most serious
church-state threats young people face." The editorial concluded,
"Secondary school teachers who elevate their personal religious
beliefs above the core curriculum are doing more than violating the
religious liberty rights of students. They are also engaged in a form
of educational malpractice. Courts must recognize this and give public
schools the tools they need to crack down on instructors who?d rather
preach than teach."

Legal documents relevant to Freshwater's termination and the
subsequent court case are available on NCSE's website. Extensive blog
coverage of the Freshwater saga, including Richard B. Hoppe's
day-by-day account of Freshwater's termination hearing, is available
at The Panda's Thumb blog; search for "Freshwater". Hoppe also
recently contributed "Dover Comes to Ohio" -- a detailed account from
a local observer of the whole fracas, from the precipitating incident
to Freshwater's appeal -- to Reports of the National Center for
Science Education 32:1.

For the article in Church & State, visit: 

For the editorial in Church & State, visit: 

For NCSE's collection of documents from the Freshwater case, visit: 

For the Panda's Thumb blog, visit: 

And for Hoppe's article in RNCSE (PDF), visit: 


NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of James Hansen's Storms of My
Grandchildren (New York: Bloomsbury, 2009). The preview consists of
the first half of chapter 7, "Is There Still Time? A Tribute to
Charles Keeling," discussing the events leading up to Hansen's famous
talk at the American Geophysical Union meeting in 2005 in honor of
Charles David Keeling, the scientist famous for his observations of
atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Praising Storms of My Grandchildren, the reviewer for the Los Angeles
Times wrote, "James Hansen gives us the opportunity to watch a
scientist who is sick of silence and compromise; a scientist at the
breaking point -- the point at which he is willing to sacrifice his
credibility to make a stand to avert disaster, to offer up the fruits
of four-plus decades of inquiry and ingenuity just in case he might
change the course of history."

For the preview of Storms of My Grandchildren (PDF), visit: 

For Hansen's 2005 talk (PDF), visit: 

For information about the book from its publisher, 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 5 -- features Minda Berbeco's "The
Butterfly Effect," reporting on butterflies and climate change, and
Jere H. Lipps's "A Thrilling Chase," reviewing Nick Lane's Life
Ascending. For his regular People and Places column, Randy Moore
discusses the career of Sue Hicks, the original Boy Named Sue, who
served as a member of the prosecution in the Scopes trial.

Plus a host of reviews of books on creationism's past and present:
Taner Edis reviews Jason Rosenhouse's Among the Creationists, Matthew
H. Haber reviews Bradley Monton's Seeking God in Science, Adam Laats
reviews Jeffrey P. Moran's American Genesis, Steve Watkins reviews
David E. Long's Evolution and Religion in American Education, Bruce H.
Weber reviews Alister E. McGrath's Darwinism and the Divine, and
Robert "Mac" West reviews Warren D. Allmon's Evolution and

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 32:5, 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,
and more besides. (Not a member? Join today!)

For the table of contents for RNCSE 32:5, visit: 

For information about joining NCSE, visit: 


Has Earth changed over deep time? How did Earth shape life and life
shape Earth? What does Earth's climate in the distant past tell us
about the future? These are the questions that Andrew H. Knoll, Naomi
Oreskes, and Daniel P. Schrag will be answering in "Changing Planet:
Past, Present, Future," the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Holiday
Lectures on Science.


Modern humans have lived on Earth for only the past 200,000 years --
not even a blink of an eye in the history of a planet that is about
4.6 billion years old. Scientists have discovered a rich fossil record
of animal evolution going back more than 600 million years and a much
richer one of microbial life starting almost 4 billion years ago.
Throughout this time, the geologic record reveals that dramatic
changes have occurred to Earth?s oceans, atmosphere, climate, and land
forms, which match major biological transitions. In concert, studies
in biology and earth science are providing incredible insights into
the forces that have shaped, and will continue to shape, life on our
ever-changing planet.


The talks will be delivered on November 15 and 16, 2012, and webcast
from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. ET and 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET and
re-webcast at 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 PT and 12 noon to 1:00 p.m. PT.
Information about registering to view the webcast, and about previous
events in the Holiday Lectures on Science series, is available at the
HHMI's BioInteractive website.

For information about the webcast, 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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