History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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NCSE newsletter

August 31st, 2012 · No Comments

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A Bill Nye video on the creationism/evolution controversy goes viral.
Plus a new issue of Reports of the NCSE is available, The New York
Times covers climate change in zoos and aquariums, and two NCSE
staffers discuss climate change issues at the Daily Kos blog.


A two-and-a-half-minute video with Bill Nye discussing the
creationism/evolution controversy went viral, garnering over 2.5
million views in its first week on-line. Posted on August 23, 2012, on
the YouTube channel of Big Think, under the title “Creationism is not
appropriate for children,” the video reiterates the centrality of
evolution to the life sciences and laments the prevalence of evolution
denial in the United States. In it, Nye remarked, “And I say to the
grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in
your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe
in the universe, that’s fine, but don’t make your kids do it because
we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for
the future.”

Nye later told CBS This Morning (August 28, 2012), “My concern is you
don’t want people growing up not believing in radioactivity, not
believing in geology and deep time. You don’t want people in the
United States growing up without the expectation that we can land
spacecraft on Mars. You want people to believe in science, this
process, this great idea that humans had to discover more about the
universe and our place in it, our place in space. And I really want to
emphasize, I’m not attacking anybody’s religion, but science, if you
go to a museum and you see fossil dinosaur bones, they came from
somewhere, and we have by diligent investigation have determined that
the earth is 4.54 billion years old.”

NCSE’s Steven Newton was interviewed on KPCC (August 29, 2012) for its
story about Nye’s video. Nye’s remarks were fully in step with the
views of the scientific community, Newton explained, adding, “Science
teachers around the country are pretty much in sync with scientists
around this country in understanding that evolution is the foundation
of the biological sciences, and as such, it should be part of the
curriculum and it should be taught,” citing the courageous teachers in
Dover, Pennsylvania, who in 2005 refused to read the evolution
disclaimer mandated by the school board there. “Intelligent design or
overtly biblical Creationism — all of them have the same root [in] a
denial of evolution and how science works,” Newton commented.

A Supporter of NCSE, Bill Nye “The Science Guy” was the host of the
popular science education television programs Bill Nye the Science Guy
— which won eighteen Emmys — and The Eyes of Nye; he is currently
the executive director of the Planetary Society, the world’s large
space interest organization. The video was by no means Nye’s first
excursion into defending the teaching of evolution: in 2011, for
example, he told Popular Mechanics, “it’s fine if you as an adult want
to run around pretending or claiming that you don’t believe in
evolution, but if we educate a generation of people who don’t believe
in science, that’s a recipe for disaster. … the main idea in all of
biology is evolution. To not teach it to our young people is wrong.”

For Nye’s “Creationism is not appropriate for children” video, visit:

For the CBS This Morning story, visit:

For KPCC’s interview with Newton, visit:

For the Popular Mechanics interview with Nye, visit:


NCSE is pleased to announce that the latest issue of Reports of the
National Center for Science Education is now available on-line. The
issue — volume 32, number 4 — features Valerie First’s “My Niche in
Human Evolution,” reporting the author’s experiences in discussing
evolution as a docent at her local science center and at her local
zoo. For his regular People and Places column, Randy Moore discusses
the career of Carl Akeley, the pioneering taxidermist whose work is
still on display at the American Museum of Natural History.

Plus a host of reviews of books on the public understanding of
evolution: Tim Beazley reviews Frank S. Ravitch’s Marketing
Intelligent Design, George Bishop reviews Michael Berkman and Eric
Plutzer’s Evolution, Creationism, and the Battle to Control America’s
Classrooms, Richard F. Firenze reviews David Sloan Wilson’s The
Neighborhood Project, Timothy H. Goldsmith reviews the films Creation
and Darwin’s Darkest Hour, Brandon Haught reviews the film No
Dinosaurs in Heaven, and Richard P. Meisel reviews Greg Graffin and
Steve Olson’s Anarchy Evolution.

All of these articles, features, and reviews are freely available in
PDF form from http://reports.ncse.com. Members of NCSE will shortly be
receiving in the mail the print supplement to Reports 32:4, which, in
addition to summaries of the on-line material, contains news from the
membership, a regular column in which NCSE staffers offer personal
reports on what they’ve been doing to defend the teaching of
evolution, a new regular column interviewing NCSE’s favorite people —
members of NCSE’s board of directors, NCSE’s Supporters, recipients of
NCSE’s Friend of Darwin award, and so on — and more besides. (Not a
member? Join today!)

For the table of contents for RNCSE 32:4, visit:

For information about joining NCSE, visit:


“With many zoos and aquariums now working with conservation
organizations and financed by individuals who feel strongly about
threatened habitats and species, managers have been wrestling with how
aggressive to be in educating visitors on the perils of climate
change,” reports The New York Times (August 26, 2012). “Surveys show
that American zoos and aquariums enjoy a high level of public trust
and are ideally positioned to teach,” the Times explains. “Yet many
managers are fearful of alienating visitors — and denting ticket
sales — with tours or wall labels that dwell bleakly on damaged coral
reefs, melting ice caps or dying trees.”

The solution: “a patter that would intrigue rather than daunt or
depress the average visitor.” Paul Boyle, the senior vice president
for conservation and education at the Association of Zoos and
Aquariums, told the Times that most of the association’s 224 member
institutions have some sort of climate message. The AZA itself is
encouraging its member institutions to engage their visitors in
understanding climate change, observing, “Overwhelming international
scientific consensus confirms that human activities are disturbing
Earth’s climate … Effects from climate change are already
threatening biodiversity and human health and are expected to

For the story in The New York Times, visit:

For the AZA’s discussion of climate and wildlife, visit:


When the popular Daily Kos blog decided to devote a week-long
blogathon, running August 17 through August 24, 2012, to climate
change, two NCSE staffers were invited to contribute.

In “Why climate literacy matters,” posted on August 20, 2012, Mark
McCaffrey observed, “Ideology, cultural norms, and corporate profits
certainly contribute to climate change denial. But arguably one of the
biggest drivers of denial is ignorance. Most people, even many
meteorologists, never learned anything about climate change in
school.” There are signs of hope, he explains: “In recent years, a few
projects have been funded to develop sound, scientifically accurate
climate education materials for educators, museums and science
centers, key influentials such as community leaders, and yes, even TV
weathercasters.” But there is abundant room for improvement, he
concluded: “For a real sea change, a national climate and energy
literacy initiative is needed so that humans and the ecosystems that
sustain us can survive and thrive in the 21st [c]entury.”

In “Attacks on climate change education are attacks on our future,”
posted on August 22, 2012, Joshua Rosenau argued, “The greatest
climate change battlefield in the US may not be Congress and the White
House, but the nation’s more than 17,000 elected school boards and the
classrooms they run. Disputes over local curriculum make fewer
headlines, but those decisions shape the generations that will be most
affected by climate change — the citizens (and voters) who will have
to respond to climate change.” Reviewing a host of recent incidents of
climate change denial in the schools, he urged, “In order for future
citizens to be able to make scientifically informed decisions about
how to deal with the challenge, the science of climate change needs to
be taught — accurately, thoroughly, and without compromise — in the

Among those also contributing to the Daily Kos’s Climate Change SOS
blogathon were Michael E. Mann, John P. Abraham, Bill McKibben, Henry
Waxman, Brian DeMelle, Ed Markey, and Al Gore.

For McCaffrey’s and Rosenau’s posts, visit:

For a chronological list of posts in the blogathon, visit:

Thanks for reading. And don’t forget to visit NCSE’s website —
http://ncse.com — 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 x305
fax: 510-601-7204

Read Reports of the NCSE on-line:

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