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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2015/09/04

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear friends of NCSE,

Sad news of the death of William B. Provine. Polling data on trust in
scientists in the Granite State. And congratulations to a member of
NCSE's board of directors.


The historian of science William B. Provine died on September 1, 2015,
at the age of 73, according to a Facebook post from his wife. A
specialist in the history of population genetics, his books included
The Origins of Theoretical Population Genetics (1971), Sewall Wright
and Evolutionary Biology (1986), and a collection of Sewall Wright's
papers (1986) with his explanatory introductions. In a memoir
published in Isis in 1999, he explained that in his view, a student
working on the history of biology "should be as familiar with the
science as any doctoral student"; for his own part, he added, "I am
very happy to move between history and science."

Provine was a vocal and persistent opponent of creationism. He wrote
thoughtfully on evolution and creationism, e.g. in his essay on
"Evolution, Religion, and Science" in The Oxford Handbook of Religion
and Science (2006), but he was perhaps most famous for his views on
the connection between evolution and atheism. He once asserted, "As
the creationists claim, belief in modern evolution makes atheists of
people" -- a consequence that he welcomed. His views were formed in
graduate school, where, he related in his memoir, "[a]fter reading
[Theodosius] Dobzhansky several times and listening to [Lynn]
Throckmorton, my belief in purposive nature disappeared for good." He
was eager to share his views. Starting in 1986, he taught a class at
Cornell University where students were exposed to creationism along
with evolution, and he was often willing to debate creationists,
including his regular opponent the "intelligent design" proponent
Phillip Johnson. As a result of his prominence, he was often cited by
creationists eager to portray his views on the connection between
evolution and atheism, or a caricature thereof, as representative of
scientists in general. He was among the scholars interviewed, under
false pretenses, for the creationist propaganda film Expelled (2008).

Provine was born on February 19, 1942, in Nashville, Tennessee. He
attended the University of Chicago, where he received his B.S. in
mathematics in 1962, his M.A. in the history of science in 1965, and
his Ph.D. in the history of science in 1970. His academic career was
mainly spent at Cornell University, where he became a professor of
history and of biology. His honors included fellowship in the American
Association for the Advancement of Science, a Guggenheim Fellowship in
1985, and the inaugural David L. Hull Prize from the International
Society for History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology in

For Provine's Facebook page (including the post from his wife), visit: 


Researchers asked residents of New Hampshire about their trust of
scientists as a source of information about five topics: vaccines,
climate change, nuclear power safety, evolution, and genetically
modified organisms. The results, according to the report, "offer
modest encouragement regarding public trust in scientists."

Asked "Would you say that you trust, don't trust, or are unsure about
scientists as a source of information about climate change," 62% of
respondents said that they trust scientists, 23% that they were
unsure, and 15% that they do not trust scientists.

Asked "Would you say that you trust, don't trust, or are unsure about
scientists as a source of information about evolution," 63% of
respondents said that they trust scientists, 21% said that they were
unsure, and 16% that they do not trust scientists.

For both climate change and evolution, respondents with higher
education levels, respondents who identified themselves with the
Democratic Party, and respondents who identified themselves as
ideologically liberal were more likely to trust scientists.

The data was from the Granite State Poll, run by the Survey Center at
the University of New Hampshire, which conducted cell and landline
telephone interviews with random samples of state residents from 2013
to 2015. There were 3037 respondents to the climate change question
and 1409 respondents to the evolution question.

For the poll report (PDF), visit: 

For NCSE's collection of polls and surveys, visit: 

And for NCSE's collection of polls and surveys on climate, visit: 


NCSE is delighted to congratulate Richard B. Katskee, a member of
NCSE's board of directors, on his appointment as the legal director of
Americans United for Separation of Church and State. A graduate of
Yale Law School, Katskee began his legal career at the law firm Mayer
Brown, after which he joined Americans United. As the organization's
assistant legal director, Katskee was instrumental in litigating
Kitzmiller v. Dover, the 2005 case establishing the
unconstitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" creationism in
the public schools. Leaving Americans United, he served as deputy
director of the Program Legal Group in the federal Department of
Education's Office for Civil Rights and then returned to Mayer Brown,
in its Supreme Court and Appellate practice. Katskee joined NCSE's
board of directors in 2013.

For information about NCSE's board of directors, visit: 

For information about Americans United, visit; 


Have you been visiting NCSE's blog, The Science League of America,
recently? If not, then you've missed:

* Emily Schoerning reporting on NCSE's informal survey of science teachers: 

* NCSE intern Nikita Daryanani describing a classroom activity on
ocean acidification: 

* Steven Newton lamenting the paucity of geology in high school science: 

And much more besides!

For The Science League of America, 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 x303
fax: 510-601-7204

Check out NCSE's new blog, Science League of America: 

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