Dr. Brent Dalrymple, 11/95
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Eugenie C. Scott Ph.D
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Dear Fellow Geologist,
A recent scientifically-conducted poll of adult Americans by the
nonprofit organization, Public Agenda, showed strong sentiment for
"teaching in a science class that the biblical view of creation and Darwin's
theory of evolution are equally valid." Thirty-eight percent of the general
public was in favor, suggesting a strong base of support for school boards
or teachers who present sectarian religious views as science.
When over a third of American adults feel there is scientific validity to
biblical literalism, the efforts of the "scientific" creationists, a small but
determined band of antievolutionists attempting to support biblical
literalism through alleged scientific data, appear to be paying off.
What sort of "science" is taught in creation science? In creationist geology,
the geological column supposedly was laid down by the receding
waters of Noah's Flood. Dinosaurs and people coexisted. The geomagnetic
field has never reversed, and the velocity of light was much higher in the
past. Continents either don't move, or sped to their present positions after
the Ark landed at Ararat.
I don't think having students taught factual nonsense is good for science
education, or for the profession of geology or other historical sciences.
Students need to be taught that the universe has had a history, and that the
world has changed through time. They need to learn evolution, not a
distortion of scientific fact arid methodology.
If you agree that creation "science" needs to be kept out of the science
curriculum of our schools, and that evolution needs to be kept in, then you
should join me as a member of The National Center for Science Education,
NCSE is a small, nonprofit organization of scientists, educators, and
others, that defends the integrity of what we all shouldn't take for granted:
rational science education. NCSE is the only national organization whose
primary activity is to tackle a major problem in education today:
religiously-based opposition to the theory of evolution.
I know it's hard to believe that evolution is still under attack in 1995, but the NCSE
newsletter is full of reports showing just that. Even though courts in the United States have ruled
that creation "science" is not science at all, and further, that advocating creationism as accurate
scholarship violates the First Amendment, numerous organizations continue to press for teaching
either scientific creationism or thinly-disguised substitutes like "abrupt appearance theory." In
the last few years, active opposition to evolution has actually increased throughout the US and
Canada. For example:
In British Columbia, Canada, Abbotsford school board members have just been ordered by
the provincial Education Minister to stop teaching creationism in science classes, which has been
Abbotsford's standard policy for years. It remains to be seen whether students will finally start
learning standard geology and biology.
Local school boards in California, New Hampshire, Texas, South Dakota, Oregon,
Washington, Minnesota, Louisiana, Arkansas, Iowa, and Ohio, among other states, have
considered (or are considering) the introduction of "intelligent design theory", (a euphemism for
creation science whose proponents simply don't identify the "designer") or straightforward
antievolutionism (in the form of requirements that, when evolution is taught, it must be
"balanced" by "evidence against evolution"). A district in Oregon even had a policy of inviting
ministers to teach creationism in science classes! Alaska's state school board, fortunately,
defeated a member's attempt to introduce creation "science", and Florida's legislature set aside
a similar proposal. Isn't it amazing that these proposals appeared at such high governmental
levels, years after the Supreme Court's 1987 ruling that teaching creation science is illegal?
Sometimes individual teachers teach creationism as science without waiting for a school
board directive or a curriculum change. Lawsuits in Ohio, California, and Pennsylvania have
discouraged this practice, but it continues because it has public support. In the Pennsylvania
case, over 700 parents signed a statement in support of teaching creationism as a scientific theory
in science classes.
Yes, creationism is still being taught as if it were legitimate science, and there is also
pressure against the teaching of evolution. State curricula mandating what is to be taught from
kindergarten to twelfth grade in Alabama and Michigan have watered down previous
requirements that evolution be presented matter-of-factly. When evolution appears in these
education frameworks, it is presented tentatively, as something you needn't take seriously: a
guess, or hunch—the popular, not the scientific definition of "theory."
NCSE has received calls from parents in Colorado and California asking for advice on how to
get evolution into the science curriculum. Some of the most poignant requests for help have
come from teachers who are told by administrators not to teach evolution "because it is too
controversial." When NCSE Executive Director Dr. Eugenie C. Scott attends science teacher
conventions, she hears this complaint regularly.
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 claims that the presence of Polonium halos in granite demonstrates that
granite had to have formed suddenly (i.e., was specially created)?
Still, problems at the college level are dwarfed by those at the high school and junior high
levels. Many pre-college teachers don't have the background to teach science at all, let alone
teach it well. Far too many high school science teachers across the country—even when they
know better—"just skip those chapters" because evolution 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 deposition of the Grand
Canyon and the distribution of fossils in strata.
Fortunately for K-12 teachers and the rest of us, there is a place to go for help. The National
Center for Science Education 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 does its best work when it
involves scientists like us.
What does NCSE do? In addition to supporting grass-roots efforts to combat the teaching of
creation "science" by providing a hot line and other services, NCSE has worked with state
agencies to ensure that state science curricula explicitly and unequivocally include evolution; it
has worked to give publishers access to scientific experts for pre-publication review of textbook
content. NCSE has worked with national teacher organizations to improve pre-college teachers'
understanding of science, and has even produced its first two videotapes for classroom use.
But the heart of NCSE's work is providing the all-important scientific and legal expertise and
information needed to keep good science in the classroom, and scientific creationism out. NCSE
does a lot: it provides advice on the creation and evolution problem, helps the media understand
important issues in science education, advises curriculum developers, helps publishers improve
the content of textbooks, and much more. NCSE is, indeed, the place people come to for information
and help when they have to cope with creationism.
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.
If you have not yet had an outbreak of scientific creationism or antievolution 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
Please join NCSE by filling out the card that accompanies this letter.
For your $25 annual membership dues, you will receive four issues 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, active from Australia to Eastern Europe to
South Africa.) You will also receive two issues of Creation/Evolution, a journal in which
scientists explore the allegedly scientific arguments of creationists. Without the specialized
information found in Creation/Evolution, most of us would be unprepared to counter these
unscientific but scientific-sounding claims.
If you can donate $50, NCSE will send you the revised and expanded second edition of its
book, Voices for Evolution, a compendium of statements from scientific, educational, civil
liberties, and religious organizations that support the teaching of evolution and oppose the
teaching of scientific creationism. Teachers, parents, and school boards have used this book to
demonstrate that evolution is not incompatible with religion, and that it is not educationally
sound to "teach both sides, and let the children decide."
For a donation of $100, NCSE will send you a beautiful book of extraordinary geological
wonders, Agents of Time; the Art of Geology by Bradford Van Diver.
And, if you can donate $200 or more, NCSE will send you Arthur Strahler's encyclopedic
compendium, Science and Earth History, the Evolution/Creationism Controversy. This is an
excellent source of information on virtually all of the scientific issues in the controversy.
Please fill out the enclosed card and send it to NCSE today.
G. Brent Dalrymple
Past President, AGU
p.s. NCSE is doing a great job at a difficult task. Please join us!
The above page was found at http://www.halos.com/faq-replies/dalrymple-to-fellow-geologist-11-1995.htm on March 8, 2014.
Earth Science Associates