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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2015/09/18

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear friends of NCSE,

A preview of Donald R. Prothero's latest book. A voice for climate
change education from California. Kitzmiller v. Dover remembered in
the pages of the York Daily Record. And good news for evolution
education in Alabama.


NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of Donald R. Prothero's The
Story of Life in 25 Fossils (Columbia University Press, 2015). The
preview consists of chapter 15, "Terror of the Seas," about the
discovery and the evolutionary history of Kronosaurus -- "one of the
largest members of a group of marine reptiles known as plesiosaurs."

Praising The Story of Life in 25 Fossils, Niles Eldredge writes,
"Prothero, an outstanding paleontologist and skilled communicator, has
written the best up-to-date account of the history of life as revealed
by the fossil record that I have ever had the pleasure to read. ... I
will keep Prothero's book handy as a core reference for years to

For the preview of The Story of Life in 25 Fossils, visit: 

For information about the book from its publisher, visit: 


The California Science Teachers Association adopted a resolution on
climate change education at its board meeting on September 12, 2015.

Observing that "[t]here is broad consensus that the Earth's climate is
warming" as a result of human activity, the resolution affirms, "As
science educators we recognize that we have a responsibility to help
students understand the evidence, impacts, and possible solutions of
climate change."

The statement also says, of "assertions against the human influence on
climate change," "[t]hese positions ignore empirical data and
misrepresent the science."

For CSTA's position statement, visit: 

And for Voices for Climate Change Education, visit: 


As the tenth anniversary of Kitzmiller v. Dover approaches, the York
Daily Record (September 11, 2015) devoted a suite of stories to the
landmark case, which established the unconstitutionality of teaching
“intelligent design” creationism in the public schools.

* "Q&A with U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III" allows the judge
presiding over the case to address major misconceptions of criticisms
of his decision.

* "Ruling deterred other legal challenges" reviews the fate of
"intelligent design" creationism, quoting NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott,
Kenneth R. Miller, and Barbara Forrest.

* "Whatever happened to 'Of Pandas and People'?" asks about the
disposition of the fifty copies of the "intelligent design" textbook
donated to the Dover Area High School.

* "Evolution cartoons from Dover Area High School" presents cartoons
about the arguments surrounding evolution by Dover students.

* "Plaintiffs, attorneys drawn together by the case" discusses the
enduring friendships forged among the successful plaintiffs and their
legal team.

* "Plaintiff's young son now creating his future" catches up with
Griffin Sneath, who was seven years old when the trial was held.

* "Defendant says 'nobody did anything for religious reasons'"
interviews a member of the Dover Area School Board when the
"intelligent design" policy was adopted.

In a subsequent editorial (September 16, 2015), the newspaper took
notice of "one very important lesson a decade after Dover: Elections
matter. School board elections matter," adding, "You owe it to
yourself and your community to make sure your school board is
'intelligently designed' by well-informed voters."

NCSE was deeply involved in the Kitzmiller case, helping to organize
the legal team, to recruit expert witnesses (including three members
of NCSE's board of directors), and to brief the legal team. Extensive
information about the case is available on NCSE's website.

For the York Daily Record's collection of reportage on Kitzmiller v.
Dover, visit: 

For the York Daily Record's editorial, visit: 

And for NCSE's collection of documents from Kitzmiller v. Dover, visit: 


The Alabama state board of education voted unanimously to approve a
new set of science standards on September 10, 2015, according to
National Public Radio (September 10, 2015) -- and evolution is
described as "substantiated with much direct and indirect evidence."

Speaking to NPR, NCSE's Minda Berbeco praised the improvement on
evolution, saying, "We were really pleased to see that" and lauded the
shift to "a really positive, pro-science perspective." (Dan Carsen's
nine-minute interview of Berbeco about the new standards is available
from WBHM radio in Birmingham, Alabama.)

In the past, Alabama's science standards have explicitly sought to
deprecate evolution. In the preface to the 1996 version of the
standards, for example, evolution was described as "a controversial
theory some scientists present," and the board voted to require the
insertion of a corresponding disclaimer about evolution in science
textbooks in the state's public schools.

Subsequent versions of the standards weakened the disclaimer. The
preface to the 2001 version described evolution by natural selection
as controversial and expressed skepticism of its ability to produce
"large" evolutionary changes, while the preface to the 2005 version
retained the skepticism of the power of natural selection but omitted
the description of it as controversial.

According (p. iv) to the preface to the new version, however, "The
theory of evolution has a role in explaining unity and diversity of
life on earth. This theory is substantiated with much direct and
indirect evidence. Therefore, this course of study requires our
students to understand the principles of the theory of evolution from
the perspective of established scientific knowledge."

In the standards themselves, biology students are expected to
"[a]nalyze and interpret data to evaluate adaptations resulting from
natural and artificial selection" and to "[a]nalyze scientific
evidence (e.g., DNA, fossil records, cladograms, biogeography) to
support hypotheses of common ancestry and biological evolution" (p.

Curiously, although the Alabama standards adopt three of the NGSS's
four core ideas of the life sciences verbatim, where the NGSS refers
to "Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity" as a core idea of the
life sciences, the Alabama standards refer instead to "Unity and
Diversity." (Similarly, Oklahoma's new standards refer instead to
"Biological Unity and Diversity.")

There was comparatively little controversy over the new standards,
according to NPR, which cited as possible reasons the requirement that
public comments concern specific standards as well as the support of
the Alabama Science Teachers Association.

For NPR's story, visit: 

For the interview with NCSE's Minda Berbeco, visit: 

For the new Alabama science standards (PDF), visit: 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Alabama, visit; 


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

* Glenn Branch pondering Thomas Henry Huxley's attitude toward William Paley: 

* Steven Newton criticizing the treatment of climate change in a
fifth-grade science textbook: 

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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