Evolution Saturday: Resources from the National Center for Science Education

It is Evolution Weekend, and so to help you celebrate this “Evolution Saturday”, here is the text of the latest circular e-mail from the National Center for Science Education, packed full of useful resources and interesting articles:

Kevin Padian argues in the pages of Geotimes for improving evolution education by starting with the textbooks. The United Church of Christ embraces evolution in a major new statement on faith, science, and technology, and the American Fisheries Society adds its voice for evolution, too. NCSE’s Glenn Branch explains why Darwin Day and Evolution Weekend are worth celebrating — and it’s just about time to celebrate them!


In a commentary published in the February 2008 issue of Geotimes, Kevin Padian argues that the way to improve evolution education is to start with the textbooks. Discussing his testimony in Kitzmiller v. Dover, he writes, “In reviewing for the judge the creationist ‘textbook’ Of Pandas and People, I explained in some length — and in conversational language — the actual evidence for how birds evolved from dinosaurs, how whales evolved from land mammals, and how vertebrates came onto land, as well as the methods that we use to test our hypotheses. The judge and the reporters covering the trial were intrigued by this testimony and that of all of the expert witnesses. Most of what we know of the history of Earth and its life is not being taught to Americans — despite their desire to learn it.”

But, Padian continues, “They’re not getting it in textbooks, not even the ones that focus on evolution and paleontology, as I found in a recent study.” Diplaying a figure like those he used in the Kitzmiller trial (which are available on-line), he writes, “It shows the fossils themselves, so people can see the basis for our work. It shows the comparable parts of the skeletons color-coded, so the evolution of form is clear. It gives reconstructions of the animals in life. And it bases all this on an evolutionary tree that is derived from independent evidence. It illustrates what we practice: a highly integrative science that depends on the reconciliation of many independent lines of evidence.” He concludes, “Let’s fight the anti-evolutionists by putting the right evidence in front of the public and alleviating ignorance.”

In addition to serving as president of NCSE’s board of directors, Padian is Professor of Integrative Biology at the University of California at Berkeley and also Curator of Paleontology at the University of California’s Museum of Paleontology. He testified for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover, where he was the only expert witness with any expertise in paleontology. In his decision, Judge John E. Jones III wrote, “Dr. Padian’s demonstrative slides, prepared on the basis of peer-review[ed] scientific literature, illustrate how Pandas systematically distorts and misrepresents established, important evolutionary principles.” He also noted that “Padian bluntly and effectively stated that in confusing students about science generally and evolution in particular, the disclaimer makes students ‘stupid.'”

For Padian’s commentary, visit: http://www.geotimes.org/feb08/article.html?id=comment.html

For his testimony in Kitzmiller v. Dover, along with the slides he used, visit: http://www2.ncseweb.org/kvd/exhibits/Padian/Padian_transcript.html

For the slip opinion in Kitzmiller v. Dover (PDF), visit: http://www.pamd.uscourts.gov/kitzmiller/kitzmiller_342.pdf


In a new statement on faith, science, and technology from the United Church of Christ, evolution is described as a matter of fact and a way in which God creates. Entitled “A New Voice Arising: A Pastoral Letter on Faith Engaging Science and Technology,” the statement contains a paragraph reading:


Evolution helps us see our faithful God in a new way. Our creator works patiently, calling forth life through complex processes spanning billions of years and waiting for us to awaken and respond in conscious participation in God’s own overarching dream for all living things. Evolution also helps us see ourselves anew, as creatures who share a common origin with other species. Today we know that human bodies and brains share the same genetic and biochemical processes with other creatures, not just mammals but insects, plants, and bacteria. How then should we understand ourselves as evolved creatures, sharing much of our DNA with other species, and at the same time as distinct creatures in the image of God?


The general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, the Reverend John H. Thomas, told The New York Times (January 31, 2008) that the statement was in part intended to counter “the creationist approach, the continuing caricature of the opposition of evolution and religion.”

According to a January 29, 2008, press release, “A New Voice Arising” is being distributed in February to each of the UCC’s 5,700 local churches as part of a new campaign aimed at the scientific and technological communities, intended to promote the UCC’s belief that science and religion are not mutually exclusive and to express the denomination’s welcome to “persons who devote their lives to scientific inquiry, no matter the discipline.” Included in the campaign is a pro-science poster (PDF), with the motto, “For too long, science and faith have had a combustible relationship. But even churches evolve.”

For “A New Voice Arising” (PDF), visit: http://www.ucc.org/not-mutually-exclusive/pdfs/pastoral-letter.pdf

For the story in The New York Times, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/31/us/31church.html

For the UCC’s press release, campaign, and poster (PDF), visit: http://www.ucc.org/news/seeking-an-end-to.html


At its annual meeting in September 2007, the American Fisheries Society adopted a resolution concerning the teaching of alternatives to evolution affirming “that the theory of evolution is the only current scientific explanation for the diversity of life on earth for inclusion in the science curricula of public schools,” expressing its opposition to “policies that would allow the teaching of creationism, intelligent design or other political or faithbased doctrines in public school science classes,” and encouraging “citizens, educational authorities and legislators to oppose such policies at the appropriate federal, state and local levels of government.”

Explaining the rationale for the resolution is a background document that concludes, “As a society whose members work with natural resources, we should find it particularly disturbing that the theory of evolution, the best available scientific perspective from which to understand natural ecosystems, continues to be the target of political efforts to bring issues of faith and social values into public schools. As a profession that promotes the conservation and sustainable management of aquatic resources through the application of the best available science, our voice should be added to the others speaking out to protect science education in public schools.”

Founded in 1870, the American Fisheries Society is the oldest and largest professional society representing fisheries scientists. It seeks to promote the conservation, development, and wise use of fisheries; promote and evaluate the development and advancement of all branches of fisheries science and practice; gather and disseminate to its members and the general public scientific, technical, and other information about fisheries science and practice through publications, meetings, and other forms of communication; and encourage the teaching of fisheries science and practice in colleges and universities and the continuing education and development of fisheries professionals.

For the AFS’s resolution (PDF), visit: http://www.fisheries.org/units/education/Documents/Evolution%20Resolution.pdf

For the background document (PDF), visit: http://www.fisheries.org/units/education/Documents/Evolution%20Resolution%20Background.pdf


NCSE’s deputy director Glenn Branch was invited to contribute a piece on Darwin Day and Evolution Weekend to Beacon Broadside, the blog of Beacon Press. After describing a host of innovative ways in which people are celebrating, he turned serious: “Why make such a point of celebrating Darwin Day, as opposed to, say, Einstein Day on March 14? A crucial reason, particularly in the United States, is to counteract the public climate of ignorance of, skepticism about, and hostility toward evolution.”

Beacon Press is the publisher of Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design is Wrong for our Schools, edited by NCSE’s executive director Eugenie C. Scott and Glenn Branch, and including essays by them as well as by Nick Matzke and Paul R. Gross, Martinez Hewlett and Ted Peters, Jay Wexler, and Brian Alters. Reviewing it in BioScience, Randy Moore wrote, “If you read just one book about this subject, read this one. Then give the book to others and urge them to do the same. “

For Branch’s essay, visit: http://www.beaconbroadside.com/broadside/2008/02/dust-off-your-d.html

For information about Not in Our Classrooms, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/nioc/


And speaking of Darwin Day, there are only a few day remaining! Colleges and universities, schools, libraries, museums, churches, civic groups, and just plain folks across the country — and the world — are preparing to celebrate Darwin Day, on or around February 12, in honor of the life and work of Charles Darwin. These events provide a marvelous opportunity not only to celebrate Darwin’s birthday but also to engage in public outreach about science, evolution, and the importance of evolution education. NCSE encourages its members and friends to attend, participate in, and even organize Darwin Day events in their own communities. To find a local event, check the websites of local universities and museums and the registry of Darwin Day events maintained by the Darwin Day Celebration website. (If you’re speaking at or organizing a Darwin Day event, please let NCSE know — and also register it at the Darwin Day Celebration website!)

And with Darwin Day comes the return of Evolution Sunday — now expanded to Evolution Weekend! Hundreds of congregations all over the country and around the world are taking part in Evolution Weekend, February 8-10, 2008, by presenting sermons and discussion groups on the compatibility of faith and science. Michael Zimmerman, the initiator of the project, writes, “For far too long, strident voices, in the name of Christianity, have been claiming that people must choose between religion and modern science. … Together, participating religious leaders will be making the statement that religion and science are not adversaries. And, together, they will be elevating the quality of the national debate on this topic.” At last count, 800 congregations in all fifty states (and nine foreign countries) were scheduled to hold Evolution Weekend events; they are listed at the Clergy Letter Project website.

To find a Darwin Day event, visit: http://www.darwinday.org/englishL/home/2008.php

To register a Darwin Day event, visit: http://www.darwinday.org/englishL/regevent/index.php

For information about Evolution Weekend, visit: http://www.evolutionweekend.org/

And for information about the Clergy Letter Project, visit: http://www.butler.edu/clergyproject/religion_science_collaboration.htm

Thanks for reading! And as always, be sure to consult NCSE’s web site where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it.


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

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

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