A PREVIEW OF THE STORY OF LIFE IN 25 FOSSILS
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 come!”
For the preview of The Story of Life in 25 Fossils, visit:
For information about the book from its publisher, visit:
CSTA RAISES ITS VOICE FOR CLIMATE CHANGE EDUCATION
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:
KITZMILLER IN THE YORK DAILY RECORD
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:
EVOLUTION IN ALABAMA’S NEW SCIENCE STANDARDS
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. 48).
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;
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.
National Center for Science Education, Inc.