Great Success for Evolution Education

There’s a very encouraging article in Nature, and it’s a tribute to our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). Their headline is Good news: US classrooms are warming to evolution, thanks in part to scientist outreach. It was written by Ann Reid, NCSE’s executive director. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

At a time when misinformation seems to be ascendant, a decades-long effort aided by the scientific community is bearing fruit. Results published on 10 June show that the proportion of US secondary-school biology teachers who present creationism as a scientifically valid alternative to evolution fell from 32% in 2007 to 18% in 2019. And the amount of class time devoted to human evolution shot up by almost 90%.

As her source for those statistics, Reid cites an article in a journal from the publisher of Nature. It was written by her, Glenn Branch (NCSE’s deputy director), and Eric Plutzer, of Penn State University: Teaching evolution in U.S. public schools: a continuing challenge. Reid says:

Evolution teaches children that they and all living things have the same common ancestors, and that they and their fellow humans are much more similar than they are different. The genetic variation within the groups that we designate as races is much larger than that between those groups. Imagine a world in which every student learns this.

Quite a contrast from creationists, who — unlike their openly racist predecessors a few decades ago — now claim that creationism teaches we’re all the same, and Darwin was the author of racism. Anyway, Reid tells us:

Teachers’ practices have shifted partly as a result of scientists stepping up. Working closely with teacher groups, scientists have united to advocate for education policies, advise on classroom resources and help rally public opinion.

Skipping a few paragraphs, she continues:

In 2014, my conviction that understanding evolutionary theory is core to scientific literacy led to my becoming executive director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) in Oakland, California. This non-profit organization is devoted to ensuring that evolution (and, more recently, climate change) is taught accurately in US public schools. It was founded in the early 1980s, when advocacy for teaching creationism alongside evolution was spreading. [The Institute for Creation Research was founded in 1970, and the Discovery Institute in 1990.] We and allies made the case against creationism to textbook publishers, school boards, federal judges and more.

Let’s read on:

In 2005, a federal court found that ‘intelligent design’ (like its ancestor, ‘creation science’) lacks scientific merit and is a religious belief. [That was Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.] Hence, it cannot, constitutionally, be taught in science classrooms in public schools. Two years later, researchers at Pennsylvania State University in University Park surveyed teachers to learn how evolution was being taught. The results were shocking: only 51% were unequivocally teaching the scientific consensus that evolution is a fact. Clearly, there was work to do.

There was indeed work to do — a lot of work. Another excerpt:

This week’s results are from a similar survey, which the NCSE commissioned last year. They show a rise not only in the time spent teaching evolution, but also in the proportion of educators emphasizing the scientific consensus (now 67%). Clearly, things are moving in the right direction.

Much credit is due to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a set of benchmarks released in 2011 that emphasizes evolution as a core concept. The 44 US states that have adopted these, or standards based on the same framework, have seen the greatest improvements.

There’s more, but we’ve excerpted enough. We congratulate our friends at NCSE on a job well done — so far — and we encourage them to carry on, because as they remind us, there’s still more to be done. Hey — we haven’t seen any creationist posts about this news. Why is that?

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20 responses to “Great Success for Evolution Education

  1. docbill1351

    If you want to help promote sound science education, please support the good folks at the NCSE. You will receive a personal letter of appreciation and a nifty quarterly newsletter. Be part of the team and support the NCSE.

    Full disclosure, DocBill has been an active, annual supporter of the NCSE since 2005. I’ve almost got tenure.

  2. They’re good guys. They don’t pester you with unwanted emails and fund solicitations.

  3. Dave Luckett

    I subscribed to NCSE some years ago. I must renew.

    But what am I, an Australian, doing that for? It’s not idealism, I’m afraid. And I am somewhat chary about meddling in the affairs of another nation. Americans – and we, too – rightly tend to resent that, witness the long series of political kerfuffles resulting from the possibility that Russia interfered with the electoral process for POTUS. Still, I’ll re-up with NCSE, despite those qualms, because the benefits for me are tangible and material. It’s pure self-interest.

    The world needs the awesome intellectual, engineering and material resources of the Great Republic devoted to science, purely because it improves the lives of all human beings to have it so. Just over the horizon lies a revolution in everything that makes our shared world – transport, employment, medicine, energy production and storage, materials technology, computing power, space exploration, on and on and on. It’s a race, and it can be won. But not if the strongest runner insists on hobbling themself.

    I first read the figures on creationism – which means denial of science – over two decades ago, and they horrified and frightened me. And the worst aspect seemed to be that they were obdurate, having hardly changed in a generation. I thought then, and I think now, that the only remedy was secular education. It dismayed me to realise that it wasn’t so simple. Local lobbies and creationist activism were effective at the level of the school board and the classroom. There actually were creationist science teachers and apart from them, a population of teachers who won’t touch evolution because it only meant trouble.

    Slowly, that has changed. Good to know. Let it roll on. Now, as long as the Supreme Court holds firm, creationism seems doomed to shrink to the level of a minor nuisance, almost an irrelevance. Let’s hope so.

  4. Dave Luckett

    Oh, that’s an education, all right.

  5. Yup – it educates the inexperienced regarding creacrap very well how those scatterbrains work. Pay special attention to “Those who truly lack foundational intelligence yet become articulate through monkey see monkey do activities down at the University are pathetic”, how the not so genuine article doesn’t address anything postulated by Dawkins and doesn’t write anything about evolution either.

    “Not even wrong” would be a compliment in this case.

  6. Well so you two are not bright enough to understand math and statistics.

  7. Michael Fugate

    What does quoting random Bible verses have to do with math and statistics?

  8. Read the posts June 7-yesterday. There are several math problems taken right out of the Bible and landing precisely on the timeline of history. Objective evidence fit for a court of law.

  9. Dave Luckett

    OFFS. The “book” of Daniel is pseudoepigraphical, and consists of several different compilations from various sources. The dating for parts of it can be fairly firmly nailed down to the early second century BCE because it relates some historical events before that, while remaining ignorant about later ones. The “math problems” genuineidiot is talking about aren’t problems, they’re merely obscure and highly figurative ex post facto references to events the original writer knew about, presented as if they were predictions made centuries earlier, at the time of the Babylonian exile. There are no statistics. I suspect genuineloon has no idea what the word “statistics” means.

  10. @Not so genuine article splutters:

    “Well so you two are not bright enough to understand math and statistics.”
    Thanks for the compliment – because when coming from a scatterbrain like you it totally is.

    “Read the posts June 7-yesterday.”
    Why would I? The probability of me winning the national lottery without buying a ticket exceeds the probability of you writing anything insightful. So the only good reason would be to have a good laugh at your expense. You’ll need to give a clue first in that respect before I read anything on your blog again.

    Also I don’t need you to criticize Richard Dawkins. On the contrary, at your very best you’re an obstacle.

  11. So Dave how then does Daniel correctly predict the Year of the retaking of the Temple (1967) and the Jesus through Daniel the year of the abomination of desolation being “SET UP” (688) there on the temple mount with the anti-Christ creed all over it and how does John then confirm it also in Revelation 11? [Link to creationist blog deleted.]

    Its all right there.

  12. As far as mathematics in the Bible, there is nothing which rises to the level of pre-algebra. No long division, negative numbers, arithmetic of fractions, … What is the largest number in the Bible?

  13. @Not so genuine article:

    well, then perhaps Daniel was the son of YHWH, not that impostor Jesus.

    Matthew 16:28: “Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”

    Indeed, it’s allright there. We’ve been waiting for almost 2000 years instead. Now treat us with some exquisite cognitive dissonance, ie the very foundation of christianity.

  14. Dave Luckett

    Daniel predicted no such thing. The highly figurative description in chapter 8 refers to events that had already happened by the time it was written – the conquests of Alexander and the division of his Empire under the Diadochi. “Two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings” – days, not years – was the period during which the “regular offering” would be suppressed. Not the site retaken, not the Temple destroyed or restored. (It hasn’t been, yet.) The Battle of Gaugamela was fought in the first week of October, 332 BCE, not in June. It’s only a successful prophecy if you ignore most of what it says.

    The passage clearly refers to the suppression of certain Jewish rites by Antiochus IV Epiphanes. (Daniel 8:12 specifies that it was “the regular offering” that was “cast to the ground”, not the Temple destroyed.) That happened around 168 BCE; the writer is clearly aware of it, and probably of the restoration, but not of what happened afterwards, which gives a date for the text. It does NOT predict the destruction of the second Temple, nor the loss of Jerusalem, nor the diaspora, nor the establishment of modern Israel, not its recovery of Temple Mount.

    John “the Divine” knew Daniel intimately well, and copied the style assiduously. In chapter 11, he seems to be referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. Of course he was writing afterwards, so this isn’t prophecy. “Forty-two months” of “trampling the Holy City underfoot” (Rev. 11:2) might refer to the period between the fall of the city (August 10, 70 CE) and the final end of the revolt, at Masada in probably 73 or 74 CE, but the number is a magical one, anyway.

    In other words, these are attempts to interpret historical events, known to the writers, in mystical and religious terms. They are not prophecies, nor successful predictions. They are more in the nature of religious propaganda, and they are the products of a human mind.

  15. This sort of thing is well known enough to have a technical term
    Vaticinium ex eventu
    See the article in Wikipedia

  16. Clowns who don’t bother with any evidence and could not understand the math for surety.

  17. Dave Luckett

    You have no evidence. What you have is a deluded misunderstanding of a text, most of which you ignore to achieve that misunderstanding, as I demonstrated to you.