NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2008/10/03
[by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch]
Dear Friends of NCSE, A new coalition of scientists is defending the teaching of evolution in Texas, and the International Planetarium Society affirms the scientifically ascertained ages of the earth and of the universe.
TEXAS SCIENTISTS SUPPORT TEACHING EVOLUTION A new coalition of Texas scientists voiced its opposition to attempts to dilute the treatment of evolution in Texas's state science standards, which are presently undergoing revision. At a news conference in Austin on September 30, 2008, representatives of the 21st Century Science Coalition challenged the idea that students should be told that there are "weaknesses" in evolution. Armed with a stack of scientific journals, Dan Bolnick, who teaches biology at the University of Texas, Austin, explained, "Not a single one [of the articles in these journals] gives us reason to believe evolution did not occur," the Austin American-Statesman (October 1, 2008) reported. "So where are the weaknesses? Simple: They don't exist. They are not based on scientific research or data and have been refuted countless times." The Texas Education Agency released proposed drafts of the state's science standards on September 22, 2008. A requirement in the current standards for high school biology that reads "The student is expected to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information" was replaced with "The student is expected to analyze and evaluate scientific explanations using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing." The change is significant because in 2003, the "strengths and weaknesses" language in the Texas state science standards was selectively applied by members of the state board of education attempting to dilute the treatment of evolution in the biology textbooks then under consideration. The chair of the state board of education, avowed creationist Don McLeroy, favors the "strengths and weaknesses" language, telling the Austin American-Statesman (September 23, 2008), "I'd argue it doesn't make sense scientifically to take it out." The 21st Century Science Coalition organized and mobilized in response. Already over 800 Texas scientists with or working towards advanced degrees in life, physical, and mathematical science have signed the coalition's statement calling on the board to approve science standards that "acknowledge that instruction on evolution is vital to understanding all the biological sciences" and that "encourage valid critical thinking and scientific reasoning by leaving out all references to 'strengths and weaknesses,' which politicians have used to introduce supernatural explanations into science courses." For the story in the Austin American-Stateman, visit: http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/10/01/1001evolution.html For the 21st Century Science Coalition's website, visit: http://www.texasscientists.org/ For the previous story in the Austin American-Statesman, visit: http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/09/24/0924science.html For the full text of the coalition's statement, visit: http://www.texasscientists.org/sign.html And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=TX IPS STATEMENT ON THE AGE OF THE EARTH AND UNIVERSE The International Planetarium Society recently issued a statement on the ancient age of the earth and universe, noting that "Many independent lines of scientific evidence show that the Earth and Universe are billions of years old. Current measurements yield an age of about 4.6 billion years for the Earth and about 14 billion years for the Universe." The statement adds, "These measurements of age are accepted by nearly all astronomers, including both research astronomers and planetarium educators. These astronomers come from nations and cultures around the world and from a very wide spectrum of religious beliefs." The statement also explained the need for the society to take a stand: "Planetariums are based on science and education and as such reflect the ideals and principles of these disciplines. Planetarium educators seek to present both scientific results and an understanding of how these discoveries are made." The International Planetarium Society describes itself as "the global association of planetarium professionals. Its nearly 700 members come from 35 countries around the world. They represent schools, colleges and universities, museums, and public facilities of all sizes including both fixed and portable planetariums." Its primary goal is "to encourage the sharing of ideas among its members through conferences, publications, and networking." For the IPS's statement, visit: http://www.ips-planetarium.org/pubs/age-of-universe.html For the IPS's website, visit: http://www.ips-planetarium.org/ REMINDER If you wish to unsubscribe to these evolution education updates, please send: unsubscribe ncse-news firstname.lastname@example.org in the body of an e-mail to email@example.com. If you wish to subscribe, please send: subscribe ncse-news firstname.lastname@example.org again in the body of an e-mail to email@example.com. Thanks for reading! And as always, be sure to consult NCSE's web site: http://www.ncseweb.org where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it. 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://www.ncseweb.org Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools http://www.ncseweb.org/nioc Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism http://www.ncseweb.org/evc NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today! http://www.ncseweb.org/membership.asp