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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2017/12/08

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear friends of NCSE,

A further problematic piece of legislation in Florida. And sad news of
the deaths of Colin Groves and Jerry Fodor.


"A controversial new state law that makes it easier for Florida
residents to challenge books used in public schools could get
overhauled next year so those who dislike certain texts could also
suggest replacements they find more appropriate," reports the Orlando
Sentinel (December 1, 2017).

Florida's House Bill 827, prefiled on November 28, 2017, would, if
enacted, revise the procedures for adopting instructional materials to
permit members of the public to recommend instructional materials for
consideration by the state or their district school board, which would
then be required to get in touch with the publisher of those materials
and allow it to submit a bid for evaluation.

The sole sponsor of HB 827, Byron Donalds (R-District 80), was the
main sponsor of HB 989 in 2017, which, as NCSE previously reported,
was intended to make it easier for creationists and climate change
deniers to pester their local school districts. Supporters of the bill
complained, "I have witnessed students being taught evolution as fact
... rather than theory ... I have witnessed children being taught that
Global Warming is a reality."

HB 989 was passed and enacted in 2017. According to the Associated
Press (November 18, 2017), there have already been at least seven
complaints filed, including a complaint in Brevard County that
elementary school social studies textbooks are engaged in "blatant
indoctrination" by asserting that global warming is caused by human
activity, and a complaint in Nassau County challenging the teaching of
evolution there.

The chief of legal services for the Nassau County School District told
the Sentinel that the passage of HB 827 could be burdensome for
districts, adding, "It's troubling to me, for example, the notion that
we're going to throw out to the general public … this option of
challenging books. ... What expertise do I have to challenge some high
school calculus book? ... Don't we have experts?”

In a November 29, 2017, post at Florida Citizens for Science's blog,
Brandon Haught suggested that Donalds is evidently "working closely
with the creationist and climate change denying folks at the Florida
Citizens Alliance" who supported HB 989 in 2017. He urged, "We need to
follow this bill closely."

For the Orlando Sentinel's story, visit: 

For the text of Florida's House Bill 827, visit: 

For the Associated Press's story (via the South Florida Times), visit: 

For Brandon Haught's post at Florida Citizens for Science's blog, visit: 

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


The eminent biological anthropologist Colin Groves died on November
30, 2017, at the age of 75, according to a press release from the
Australian National University. The university described Groves as
"one of the world's leading anthropologists and taxonomists who
identified more than 50 species of animal during his career"; he
specialized in the classification, variation, and evolution of living
primates, the topic of his book Primate Taxonomy (2001). Along with
Vratislav Mazák, he was the describer of Homo ergaster, sometimes
regarded as a variety of Homo erectus.

Groves was concerned about pseudoscientific belief in general,
especially the danger posed to conservation by folk medical beliefs
and "the baleful influence of creationism." In a 1996 article with the
rococo title "From Ussher to Slusher, from Archbish to Gish: or, Not
in a Million Years ...," originally published in Archaeology in
Oceania, he excoriated young-earth creationism in no uncertain terms,
concluding with a call to arms: "It is a great mistake to ignore the
threat: it will not just go away, it must be countered. ...
Scientists, but most especially archaeologists, are in the front line;
we, not the artists or the politicians, are the ones with ammunition
to stem the tide of creationist rubbish, and relegate it to Monty
Python's Flying Circus where it belongs." His contributions to Reports
of the NCSE included a 1999 article on Australopithecus garhi and a
2000 review of Patrick O'Connell's Science of Today and the Problems
of Genesis.

Groves was born in London, England, on June 24, 1942. He received his
B.Sc. from University College London in 1963 and his Ph.D. at the
Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine  in 1966. After a series of
post-doctoral research and teaching appointments, he spent the
remainder of his career at the Australian National University. He was
a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and the honoree
of a recent volume entitled Taxonomic Tapestries: The Threads of
Evolutionary, Behavioural, and Conservation Research, edited by Alison
M. Behie and Marc F. Oxenham (2015).

For the Australian National University's press release, visit: 

And for the cited articles by Groves, visit: 


The distinguished philosopher of mind Jerry Fodor died on November 29,
2017, at the age of 82, according to The New York Times (November 30,
2017). Often described as the leading philosopher of mind of his day,
Fodor was particularly well-known for his contributions to the
modularity of mind and the language of thought hypotheses. A prolific,
provocative, and entertaining author, his books included The
Modularity of Mind (1983), Psychosemantics (1986), The Elm and the
Expert (1994), and The Mind Doesn't Work That Way (2000).

Toward the end of his career, Fodor launched a philosophical attack on
the theory of natural selection, arguing that talk about selection for
traits relies on a metaphor that is ultimately insupportable: where
there is no selector -- human, divine, or instantiated by natural law
-- there is no selection for; accordingly, the theory of natural
selection is unable to distinguish causally active traits from their
mere correlates. Fodor aired the argument in the London Review of
Books (2007), the journal Mind and Language (2008), and at book length
in What Darwin Got Wrong (2010), coauthored with Massimo
Piattelli-Palmarini. Criticism was not slow in coming, with
philosophers such as Michael Ruse and Elliott Sober and biologists
such as Jerry Coyne and Douglas Futuyma offering their objections --
to which Fodor, always a keen polemicist, responded. Throughout, Fodor
disclaimed any intention of challenging evolution in the sense of
common descent or of appealing to the supernatural in explanations of
natural phenomena, a fact often unacknowledged by creationists
applauding his attack on natural selection.

Fodor was born in New York City on April 22, 1935. He received his
A.B. in philosophy from Columbia University in 1956 and his Ph.D. in
philosophy from Princeton University in 1960. He taught at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1959 to 1986, then at the
City University of New York from 1986 to 1988, and then at Rutgers
University from 1988 until his retirement in 2016. His honors included
presidency of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical
Association in 2005-2006, membership in the American Academy of Arts
and Sciences, and the first Jean Nicod Prize for philosophy of mind
and cognitive philosophy.

For the obituary in The New York Times, visit: 

And for Fodor's article in the London Review of Books (and responses
and counterresponses), visit: 


Have you been visiting NCSE's blog recently? If not, then you've missed:

* Emily Schoerning reporting from the Northern Illinois Science
Educators conference: 

For NCSE's blog, 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.
1904 Franklin Street, Suite 600
Oakland CA 94612-2922
fax 510-788-7971 

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