NCSE News Blurb

From: Richard Fischer <>
Date: Sat Nov 26 2005 - 13:00:09 EST

Dear Friends of NCSE, (I guess that includes some of us)
Darwin's visage appears on the cover of Newsweek, while antievolution legislation is threatened in Utah again, and the lawsuit against the University of California system continues to attract the attention of the media.
A photograph of Charles Darwin in his old age adorns the cover of the November 28, 2005, issue of Newsweek, with the headline "The Real Darwin: His Private Views on Science & God." Within the magazine, in his article "Charles Darwin: Evolution of a Scientist," Jerry Adler takes the opening of the American Museum of Natural History's new exhibit on Darwin (on display from November 19, 2005, through May 29, 2006) as the occasion to review Darwin's life, work, and significance. "In part," he notes, "the fascination with the man is being driven by his enemies, who say they're fighting 'Darwinism,'" quoting the eminent biologist E. O. Wilson as observing, "It's a rhetorical device to make evolution seem like a kind of faith, like 'Maoism'." "But," Adler adds, "the man is, in fact, fascinating. His own life exemplifies the painful journey from moral certainty to existential doubt that is the defining experience of modernity."
Tracking the checkered reception of Darwin's work by the general public to the present day, Adler observes that "it's not surprising that, down to the present day, fundamentalist Christians have been suspicious of Darwin and his works." He subsequently describes how the AMNH's exhibit on Darwin, conceived "when the current round of Darwin-bashing was still over the horizon," now addresses "intelligent design" -- which "biologists overwhelmingly dismiss," he reports, "as nonsense." The exhibit includes a video in which Francis Collins -- the evangelical Christian who directed the Human Genome Project -- comments, "[intelligent design"] says, if there's some part of science that you can't understand, that must be where God is. Historically, that hasn't gone well. And if science does figure out [how the eye evolved] --and I believe it's very likely that science will ... then where is God?"
Accompanying the cover story is a feature by William Lee Adams exploring how "[t]he teaching of evolution continues to polarize communities." The article races from 1925, when John Thomas Scopes was prosecuted for violating a Tennessee statute forbidding the teaching of evolution in the state's public schools, to 1987, when the Supreme Court ruled in Edwards v. Aguillard that teaching creationism in the public schools violates the First Amendment; "intelligent design" is presented in the context of religiously motivated assaults on evolution education. Adams discusses recent controversies over evolution education in Pennsylvania and Kansas, emphasizing their political background and quoting NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott as commenting, "Evolution is not controversial in the field of science. It's controversial in the public sphere because public education is highly politicized." Such skirmishes, he concludes, are therefore bound to continue.
For Adler's article in Newsweek, visit:
For Adams's article in Newsweek, visit:
For the AMNH's website for its new Darwin exhibit, visit:
Utah state senator Chris Buttars is at it again. Over the summer, he threatened to introduce legislation calling for "divine design" to be taught in Utah's public schools, then withdrew the threat after talking to the state superintendent of education, and then reinstated it in response to the adoption of a firm position statement on the teaching of evoution by the state board of education. In a November 15, 2005, post on the Utah senate majority's blog, Buttars wrote, "I'm asked on an ongoing basis if I plan to introduce a bill concerning the Utah State Board of Education's position on teaching evolution. The answer to that question is yes. I've opened a bill file and I'm currently working on the language. The bill text is not yet public and will remain private until I'm satisfied that 1) the intent of the bill is clear, 2) how it will be administered is also clear, and 3) it can withstand a court challenge."
Subsequently, the Deseret Morning News (November 17, 2005) reported that the bill is to be unveiled at the annual meeting of the Utah Eagle Forum, days before the Utah legislature convenes. Buttars was cagey about its exact content, telling the Deseret Morning News, "I have it 'confidential'"
-- that is, shielded from public view -- "and it's 'prioritized.' That means it will be heard," but declining to say whether it would require the teaching of "intelligent design." Explaining that the bill's purpose was to challenge the state board of education's position on evolution, Buttars said that it might require the school board to revise its statement or require teachers to read a disclaimer about evolution: "We've got two or three different [things] we're looking at right now."
For NCSE's previous coverage of the threatened legislation in Utah, visit:
For the story in the Deseret Morning News, visit:,1249,635161898,00.html
As a lawsuit against the University of California system wends its way through the legal system -- with a hearing on a motion to dismiss the complaint to be heard in federal court in Los Angeles on December 12, 2005
-- the media is taking notice of it again. The suit charges the University of California system with violating the constitutional rights of applicants from Christian schools whose high school coursework is deemed inadequate preparation for college. Creationism is involved, since the plaintiffs cite the university's policy of rejecting high school biology courses that use textbooks published by Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Books as "inconsistent with the viewpoints and knowledge generally accepted in the scientific community" in their complaint. One of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs is Wendell Bird, a former staff attorney for the Institute for Creation Research.
"The case is being closely tracked by free speech advocates, public educators and Christian leaders who are concerned about the impact the case could have on state school admissions policies and the ability of some Christian schools to teach their core beliefs," wrote Matt Krasnowski in the San Diego Union-Tribune (November 23, 2005). Krasnowski interviewed a variety of experts for his story, including lawyers on both sides of the case, Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center (who speculated that the plaintiffs might have a valid case), Barmak Nassirian of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (who is worried about a subsequent wave of similar cases), and NCSE's Glenn Branch (who was quoted as saying, "I don't think the UC is insisting that incoming students accept evolution ... They want them to have a good understanding of it.")
In his syndicated column for the Sacramento Bee (November 23, 2005), Peter Schrag reviewed the recent controversies in Dover, Pennsylvania, and Kansas before reminding his readers that "California isn't immune" and describing the lawsuit in detail. (He notes that the preparers of one of the books at issue, Bob Jones University's Biology for Christian Schools, write in the introduction that they "have tried consistently to put the Word of God first and science second.") "Still UC is taking the suit seriously, concerned that it might compromise its right to set its admission standards," Schrag concludes. "More important, according to UC spokesperson Ravi Poorsina, is the worry that the suit will create an impression that the university doesn't welcome students from Christian schools, something that she says simply isn't true. It could also bring another fatwa from Pat Robertson."
For NCSE's previous coverage of the case, visit:
For the story in the San Diego Union-Tribune, visit:
For Peter Schrag's column in the Sacramento Bee, visit:
Dick Fischer - Genesis Proclaimed Association
Finding Harmony in Bible, Science, and History
Received on Sat Nov 26 13:00:32 2005

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