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Dr. Brent Dalrymple, 11/92

The National Center for Science Education, Inc.

Sponsor of the Committees of Correspondence

 

Officers and Directors

Robert J. Schadewald, President
John R. Cole, Past President
Jack B. Friedman, Sec.-Treas.
Frederick Edwords, Director
Kevin Padian, Director
Alvin G. Lazen, Director
Robert M. West, Director
Laurie Godfrey, Director
Ronnie J. Hastings, Director
Eugenie C. Scott, Executive Director

Supporters

Francisco J. Ayala, UC/Irvine
Stephen G. Brush, U. MD
Johnnetta B. Cole, Spelman
Bruce Collier, U. Alberta
Joel Cracraft, U. IL
Robert S. Dietz, AZ State U.
Richard E. Dickerson, UCLA
James D. Ebert, Chesapeake Inst. of
Johns Hopkins

Niles Eldredge, A.M.N.H.
Milton Fingerman, Tulane
Douglas J. Futuyma, SUNY/SB
James A. Gavin, U. MO
Stephen J. Gould, Harvard
Donald Homig, Harvard
Duane E. Jeffrey, Brigham Young
Donald Johanson, Inst. Hum. Origins
Thomas H. Jukes, UC/Berkeley
Patricia Kelley, U. MS
Philip Kitcher, UCSD
Richard C. Lewontin, Harvard
Paul MacCready, Aerovironment, Inc.
Kenneth Miller, Brown
John A. Moore, UC/Riverside
David Morrison, NASA/Ames
Dorothy Nelkin, Cornell
William S. Pollitzer, U. NC
Joseph E. Rall, N.I.H.
Michael Ruse, U. Guelph
Carl Sagan, Cornell
James W. Skehan, S.J., Weston
Observatory

Frank Sonleitner, U. OK
Tim D. White, UC/Berkeley

A nonprofit, tax exempt corporation.

Affiliated with the American
Association for the Advancement of
Science and the National Science
Teachers Association

Executive Director

Eugenie C. Scott Ph.D
2530 San Pablo Avenue. Ste. D
Berkeley, CA 94702-2013
510-843-3393

November, 1992

Dear Fellow AGU Member,

I am writing you to tell you about an organization that all scientists should belong to and support. The National Center for Science Education, Inc., is a small, nonprofit organization of scientists and educators that defends the integrity of what all of us take for granted: rational science education. At the heart, of the problem is the fundamentalists' opposition to the theory of evolution.

I know it's hard to believe that evolution can still be a problem in 1992, but the opposition to evolution throughout the US and Canada has actually increased during the last year. For example:

In Massachusetts, the Institute for Creation Research drew 4,000 enthusiastic citizens to a "Back to Genesis" rally. In Michigan, one of these seminars drew 6,000 people, and In California, another drew 7,000. Subsequently, area teachers began receiving leaflets and calls from local parents encouraging them to introduce this "new science of creationism" into the curriculum.

In Ohio, an elementary school teacher read her students Dinosaurs, Those Terrible Lizards by creationist Duane Gish. An enraged parent wrote NCSE, "This book even goes so far as to say that the Bible talks about dragons and it could be that Corythosaurus, Lambeosaurs, and Parasaurolophus could use their hollow bony structures to contain and mix chemicals such that fire and smoke would come pouring out of their nostrils. Needless to say, I am appalled."

If you think that the proponents of creationism are concerned only about biological evolution, I have more bad news. The creationists insist that the Earth is only a few thousand years old, that the geomagnetic field has never reversed, that the velocity of light was much higher in the past, and that the theory of plate tectonics is wrong. For example, In Washington state, a student came home from school last spring and told her mother about the guest speaker in science class. The "Dr.", a physicist, talked about the "new information not yet in our science books" about how the earth is only a few thousand years old, and how dinosaurs and people lived together as "proven" by their footprints being found together in Texas. The parent complained to the school board, which expressed surprise that anyone should object.

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In Pennsylvania, a college professor working with high school teachers wrote NCSE that "...some of the teachers had been told directly by their principals or superintendents that they cannot teach evolution in their classes." The NCSE Executive Director, Dr. Eugenie C. Scott, has told me that some teachers in our state of California have told her directly that their principals have forbidden them to teach evolution, because it is "too controversial."

Nationally, CBS network broadcast a television show, "Secrets of the Bible," that claimed that scientific evidence exists to support the literal interpretation of the Genesis creation story. This program, broadcast to millions of viewers, promoted the idea that (again) dinosaurs and people lived at the same time, and that Noah's Flood was an historical event.

The list could go on and on. Even though evolution has won in the Supreme Court, it faces stiff opposition at the grassroots level. The movement called "scientific creationism" is composed of Biblical literalists who claim to have scientific evidence that the world was created all at one time, exactly as we see it today, only a few thousand years ago. Needless to say, there is no science behind this claim, but the public understanding of science is so dismal that such claims are widely believed.

Some of our colleagues think that the scientific creationism movement can be ignored, but I think they are wrong. Anti-evolutionism has much popular support. Creationists in the past have lobbied congress for equal funding in NSF for creationist research, and beyond that, have so cast a chill over government funding agencies that the "e-word" is avoided in abstracts to be perused by congressional aides.

The movement is beginning to affect some college classes, too, as members of Genesis Clubs enter classrooms with disruptive (and difficult to answer) questions. How would you answer a student who announced in your class that the, Second Law of Thermodynamics doesn't permit evolution? Or that the presence of Polonium halos in granite demonstrates that granite had to have formed suddenly (i.e., was specially created)?

Of course, it isn't the quality of the science presented by these scientists that matters, it's the broad acceptance of these claims by a scientifically illiterate public. But problems at the college level are dwarfed by those at the high school and junior high level. Many pre-college teachers don't have the background to teach science let alone teach it well. Far too many high school science teachers across the country refuse to teach evolution because it is a controversial subject. Others, worse yet, actually teach students that evolution never happened — that the universe as we know it was created just as it says in Genesis, with a literal Flood explaining the Grand Canyon and the fossil record.

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This spring, the largest creationist organization in the country, the Institute for Creation Research, won its suit against the California Department of Education to continue granting graduate degrees in science education, astro-geo-physics, and other sciences (see article from Science accompanying this letter.) California agreed in the out-of-court settlement that "a private postsecondary educational institution may teach the creation model as being correct provided that the institution also teaches evolution," thus encouraging the "two model" approach of teaching both evolution and creationism.

This state of affairs bodes ill for the preparation of the next generation of scientists. It's bad enough that some high school students are being taught factual nonsense. It is even worse that they are being taught a scientific methodology that bears little relationship to what you and I do for a living.

The National Center for Science Education is trying to do something about this. The organization is composed of a network of scientists, teachers, and interested citizens that defends science education from sectarian religious intrusion. NCSE also defends science from those with political agendas, and strives (well) to explain science to the public and the media. This organization does a job that, frankly, no others do, and it does it through involving scientists like us.

NCSE is religiously neutral.

I've been a member of NCSE for many years, and I am proud to be associated with this organization. I hope I can persuade you to join with me as a member and contributor.

What has NCSE done? In addition to supporting grass-roots efforts to combat creationism through its hot line and other services, NCSE has worked with state agencies to ensure that good science is included in state curricula; it has worked with publishers to provide them with scientific expertise for pre-publication science content review. Some of you AGU members have in fact worked in this program, responding for a request in EOS for volunteers to review earth science and physics textbooks. NCSE has worked with national teacher organizations to improve pre-college teachers' understanding of science, and has even produced its first two classroom videotapes.

But the heart of NCSE is to provide the all-important expertise and information needed to keep good science in the classroom and keep scientific creationism out.

If you have not yet had an outbreak of scientific creationism in your area, you probably will sometime in the future. I hope NCSE will be there to support the people in your community when they need this help. Furthermore, NCSE needs to know you are there to provide information to individuals in your community who wish, as you do, to support good science education.

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Please join NCSE by filling out the card that accompanies this letter.

For your $20 annual membership dues, you will receive four copies of a 24-page newsletter, NCSE Reports, that presents news about the creation/evolution controversy in the US, Canada, and abroad. (Yes, it is an international movement.) You will also annually receive two issues of Creation/Evolution, a journal in which scientists explore the allegedly scientific arguments of the creationists. Without the specialized Information found in Creation/Evolution, most of us would be at a loss to counter these unscientific but scientific-sounding claims.

If you can donate $25, NCSE will send you a copy of its book, Voices for Evolution, a compendium of statements from scientific, educational, and religious organizations in support of the teaching of evolution and against the teaching of scientific creationism.

For sending NCSE $50, NCSE will send you a rare, privately published book you probably won't find anywhere else: a reprint of C.S. DeFord's 1931 A Reparation, Universal Gravitation a Universal Fake. Through science, calculations, quotations from Newton, and reasoned logic, the author argues his premise that the earth is flat. If you have ever read "scientific" creationist literature, this book will give you a sense of deja vu.

For a donation of $75, NCSE will send you a new book by Raymond Eve and Francis Harrold, The Creationist Movement in Modern America, an incisive analysis of what makes creationists tick, and why we are likely to have the anti-evolution movement around for a long time.

And, if you can donate $125 or more, NCSE will send you Arthur Strahler's massive compendium, Science and Earth History, the Evolution/Creationism Controversy. This is an excellent source of information on almost all of the scientific Issues in the controversy.

Please fill out the enclosed card and send it to NCSE today.

NCSE is doing a great job at a difficult task. Please join us!

Sincerely yours,

G. Brent Dalrymple
Past President, AGU


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