RNCSE 25 (3-4)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
25
Issue: 
3–4
Year: 
2005
Date: 
May–August
Articles available online are listed below.
Click "Print Edition Contents" for list of articles in the print edition.

Print Edition Contents: 25 (3-4)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Contents
Volume: 
25
Issue: 
3–4
Year: 
2005
Date: 
May–August
Page(s): 
2

NEWS

  1. New Mexico's Science Standards Do not Support the Concept of "Teach the Controversy"
    Marshall Berman and David Thomas
    When ID proponents failed to change science education standards, they tried to spin the committee's decision.
  2. Carl Baugh ... Archaeologist?
    Christopher O'Brien
    When an activist opposes the inflated credentials of pseudoscientists in Northern California, he is in for a pleasant surprise.
  3. Divine Design in Utah?
    Glenn Branch
    A state legislators keeps threatening to insert religion into the science curriculum.
  4. Creationists Sue the University of California
    Glenn Branch
    At stake: can a university enforce standards concerning pre-college academic preparation?
  5. President Bush Addresses "Intelligent Design"
    Glenn Branch
    Recent comments show the President's take on science.
  6. Updates
    News from California, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

NCSE NEWS

  1. News from the Membership
    Glenn Branch
    A sampling of our members' activities and accomplishments.

FEATURES

  1. The Ugly Underside of Altruism
    David P Barash
    If our genes promote altruism toward closely related others, can they also promote antipathy to those most different?
  2. The Accidental Creationists: Why Evolutionary Psychology is Bad for the Teaching of Evolution
    James Miles
    If genes encode our behaviors, then why does evolutionary psychology shy away from some obvious conclusions?
  3. Evolution and the Biology of Morality
    Douglas Allchin
    How can we use evolution to understand the emergence of behaviors that we would consider "moral"?
  4. Bush Science Is a Dangerous Slope
    The editors of Indian Country Today
    The editors of a leading Native American newspaper ponder the President's take on science and religion.
  5. Bird Flu, Bush, Evolution — and Us
    Steven Salzberg
    The evolving strains of influenza virus demonstrate evolution in action.
  6. Evolution is a Winner — for Breakthroughs and Prizes
    James McCarter
    How many of the last 50 Nobel Prizes in Medicine are based on research informed by and based on evolutionary theory?

MEMBERS' PAGES

  1. Would We All Behave Like Animals?
    William Thwaites
    If we accept our evolutionary roots, are we "just" animals?
  2. Books: Evolutionary Psychology: Sic et Non
    Books that explore the concepts and critiques of evolutionary psychology.
  3. NCSE On the Road
    An NCSE speaker may be coming to your neighborhood. Check the calendar here.
  4. Letters: Steve Bratteng's 13 Answers

BOOK REVIEWS

  1. Speciation by Jerry A Coyne and H Allen Orr
    Reviewed by Norman A Johnson
  2. Law, Darwinism, and Public Education by Francis J Beckwith
    Reviewed by Todd Mollan, Bradley J Consentino and Jason J Williams
  3. Why is a Fly not a Horse? by Giuseppe Sermonti
    Reviewed by Andrea Bottaro
  4. Faith-Based Government: The Republican War on Science by Chris Mooney
    Reviewed by Robert L Park
  5. Paradigms on Pilgrimage by Stephen J Godfrey and Christopher R Smith
    Reviewed by Daryl P Domning
  6. The Trial of John T Scopes by Steven P Olson
    Reviewed by Glenn Branch
  7. Evolution, Creationism, and Other Modern Myths by Vine Deloria Jr
    Reviewed by H David Brumble
  8. Glimpses of the Wonderful by Ann Thwaite
    Reviewed by Robert Ackerman
  9. The Piltdown Forgery by Joseph S Weiner
    Reviewed by Jim Foley
  10. Controversy, Catastrophism, and Evolution by Trevor Palmer
    Reviewed by Hiram Caton

New Mexico's Science Standards Do not Support the Concept of "Teach the Controversy"

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
New Mexico's Science Standards Do not Support the Concept of "Teach the Controversy"
Author(s): 
Marshall Berman and David Thomas
Volume: 
25
Issue: 
3–4
Year: 
2005
Date: 
May-August
Page(s): 
4–8
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
On August 21, 2005, The New York Times published an article entitled "Politicized scholars put evolution on the defensive." This otherwise excellent article unfortunately contained several errors that resulted from treating some false information from the Discovery Institute as accurate. One major error was accepting the claim that New Mexico has "embraced the institute's 'teach the controversy' approach." This is absolutely false, as the following evidence will show.

New Mexico Standards Development Process and History

New Mexico's Public Education Department states on its website (http://www.nmlites.org/standards/science/index.html), "The Science Standards, Benchmarks, and Performance Standards revision process began in 2002. Writing teams consisting of educators and scientists developed draft standards, which were reviewed by teachers, scientists, parents, and other community members; over 200 responses were received during the review process."

On August 28, 2003, the New Mexico State Board of Education unanimously (13–0) approved a new set of public school science standards that had been strongly supported by scientists, science teachers, the New Mexico Conference of Churches, and dozens of other state and national organizations (see RNCSE 2003 Sep–Dec; 23 [5–6]: 9–12).

New Mexico Intelligent Design Network Intervention and Distortion

The evolution portions of these standards had been opposed by the New Mexico Intelligent Design Network (IDnet–NM; http:/www. nmidnet.org/) for many months, and they continued to propose massive wording changes right up to the day of the vote.

Four days before this vote, on August 24, IDnet–NM capped months of intense lobbying of state education officials by publishing a full-page ad (http://www.nmidnet.org/IDNet.pdf) in the Sunday Albuquerque Journal, saying that "the goal of completely objective language has not yet been met," and pleading for people to get involved.

What was the "objective language" that "intelligent design" promoters wanted? IDnet–NM posted a document on its website in the summer of 2003, entitled "IDnet–NM Proposal for Alternative and Added Language to the 2003 Field Review Draft Science Standards, dated May 27, 2003, Submitted to the individual members of the New Mexico State Board of Education, July 21, 2003."

In the proposal, IDnet–NM objected to the following draft standard as being "dogmatic":
Examine the data and observations supporting the conclusion that one-celled organisms evolved into increasingly complex multi-cellular organisms.
IDnet–NM formally asked the State Board to replace that statement with this one:
Evaluate the data and observations that bear on the claim that one-celled organisms evolved into increasingly complex multi-cellular organisms.
And what was finally adopted? Here's the statement the State Board approved 13–0 on August 28, 2003:
Understand the data, observations, and logic supporting the conclusion that species today evolved from earlier, distinctly different species, originating from the ancestral one-celled organisms.
There were sixteen other changes proposed by IDnet–NM, and none of those was accepted by the Board of Education. IDnet–NM's plea to the board to delete the phrase "Explain how natural selection favors individuals who are better able to survive, reproduce, and leave offspring" was denied, as were all the rest of their suggestions. (For details, see the article "Do NM's science standards embrace intelligent design?" available on-line at http://www. nmsr.org/embrace.htm.)

However, just prior to the board vote, and to the shock and dismay of most of the audience and the board, Joe Renick, executive director of IDnet–NM, used his final opportunity for public comment to try to trick the Department of Education staff — Steven Sanchez and Sharon Dogruel in particular — into expressing support for his views and to try to "place on the record" his false interpretation of the board's support for the standards. This display of arrogance and disregard for the staff and the board was halted by board member Flora Sanchez. As reported by Diana Heil of the Santa Fe New Mexican (2003 Aug 29), "Board member Flora Sanchez put a stop to mixed messages, though. She clarified this point: The state is not asking teachers to present all the alternatives to evolution and 'put them on an equal footing.'"

Renick then reversed himself. The Albuquerque Journal reported (2003 Aug 29): "Joe Renick, executive director of the New Mexico branch of the Intelligent Design Network Inc, on Thursday reversed course and recommended that the board adopt the science standards without changing the language on evolution. 'All we wanted to do was have an opportunity to state our concerns,' Renick said after the board vote."

The IDnet–NM "intelligent design" strategy then metamorphosed into a different public relations approach to turn their defeat into victory. Two other members of IDnet–NM, Rebecca Keller and Michael Kent, wrote a letter to the Albuquerque Journal (2003 Sep 4) extolling the standards, but inserting once again their distorted view of what the standards say: "There must be an opportunity to analyze the data critically from an open philosophical view. This is an area where it is necessary to present the evidence and the arguments for and against, and let the students decide for themselves what to believe."

Renick then further advanced this propaganda in a piece for the the website of the Center for Reclaiming America, which describes itself as a project of D James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries which enables Christians "to defend and implement the Biblical principles on which our country was founded" (http://www.reclaimamerica.org/pages/NEWS/newspage.asp?story=1416). Disregarding the actual text in the standards, Renick bragged about his success, and considered his rude interrogation as "for-the-record" support for his misrepresenting the standards. The article reported:
While much language in the standards was not changed, an important caveat was added which stated in part, " ... these standards do not present scientific theory as absolute. ...

Further, "for-the-record" questions posed by ID-net confirmed that the SDE's [State Department of Education] intent for the new standards was that (1) evolution would not be taught as absolute fact and (2) teachers would be allowed to discuss problems with evolution.

Renick's final evaluation of the situation: "If there is ever a dispute over intent and meaning of the Standards in the area of biological evolution, these policy statements may be referenced for clarification ... [and] will essentially neutralize the impact of the remaining dogmatic language.

What the Standards Actually Say About Evolution

Here is the only portion of the New Mexico standards (available on-line at http://www.nmlites.org/standards/science/index.html) directly relevant to this issue:
Strand III, Content Standard V-A, Benchmark 9–12.16:

"[Students shall] [u]nderstand that reasonable people may disagree about some issues that are of interest to both science and religion (e.g., the origin of life on earth, the cause of the big bang, the future of earth)."
Even the word "controversy" does not appear anywhere in the standards.

Here are some of the other standards related to evolution:
K-4 Benchmark II: Know that living things have similarities and differences and that living things change over time.

5-8 Benchmark II: Understand how traits are passed from one generation to the next and how species evolve.

9-12 Benchmark II: Understand the genetic basis for inheritance and the basic concepts of biological evolution.
and:

Strand II, Standard II, 5–8 Benchmark II:

Biological Evolution

7. Describe how typical traits may change from generation to generation due to environmental influences (e.g., color of skin, shape of eyes, camouflage, shape of beak).

8. Explain that diversity within a species is developed by gradual changes over many generations.

9. Know that organisms can acquire unique characteristics through naturally occurring genetic variations.

10. Identify adaptations that favor the survival of organisms in their environments (e.g., camouflage, shape of beak).

11. Understand the process of natural selection.

12. Explain how species adapt to changes in the environment or become extinct and that extinction of species is common in the history of living things.

13. Know that the fossil record documents the appearance, diversification, and extinction of many life forms.
and:
Strand II, Standard II, 9–12 Benchmark I:

Biodiversity

8. Understand and explain the hierarchical classification scheme (i.e., domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species), including:
classification of an organism into a category
similarity inferred from molecular structure (DNA) closely matching classification based on anatomical similarities
similarities of organisms reflecting evolutionary relationships.

9. Understand variation within and among species, including:
mutations and genetic drift
factors affecting the survival of an organism
natural selection
and:
Strand II, Standard II, 9–12 Benchmark II:

Biological Evolution

8. Describe the evidence for the first appearance of life on Earth as one-celled organisms, over 3.5 billion years ago, and for the later appearance of a diversity of multicellular organisms over millions of years.

9. Critically analyze the data and observations supporting the conclusion that the species living on Earth today are related by descent from the ancestral one-celled organisms.

10. Understand the data, observations, and logic supporting the conclusion that species today evolved from earlier, distinctly different species, originating from the ancestral one-celled organisms.

11. Understand that evolution is a consequence of many factors, including the ability of organisms to reproduce, genetic variability, the effect of limited resources, and natural selection.

12. Explain how natural selection favors individuals who are better able to survive, reproduce, and leave offspring.

13. Analyze how evolution by natural selection and other mechanisms explains many phenomena including the fossil record of ancient life forms and similarities (both physical and molecular) among different species.


Benchmark 9 above may be (deliberately?) misinterpreted by suggesting that "critically analyze" means "criticize" or "reject", when in fact it is intended to have the students apply the scientific method. Both Benchmarks 9 and 10 include the phrase "supporting the conclusion", with no suggestion that the conclusion is not, in fact, well-supported. The phrase "critically analyze" appears several times in the standards on other topics ranging from technology and scientific knowledge to ecology. It appears to be misused only by the "intelligent design" movement with reference to evolution.

Renick's "for-the-record" Claim

So the standards themselves disprove the "intelligent design" propaganda. But the Center for Reclaiming America's article, which clearly relied on Renick, said that his "for-the-record" cross-examination "confirmed that the SDE's intent for the new standards was that (1) evolution would not be taught as absolute fact and (2) teachers would be allowed to discuss problems with evolution." His public attack was directed at two Education Department officials who managed and led the standards revision effort: Steven Sanchez and Sharon Dogruel. What do the victims of his interrogation say about this episode?

Steven Sanchez, former Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Learning Technologies, notes:
From the beginning of the development of these science standards to their adoption by the State Board of Education, we were guided by two principles. First, important content should be introduced in early grades and strengthened year after year, so that our students will be scientifically literate when they leave high school. Since evolution is the only accepted scientific theory of the history and unity of life on earth, it is unambiguously central to our life-science standards, beginning in middle school and with increasing sophistication in high school. Second, students should understand the process of scientific inquiry in addition to specific scientific content, so our standards require that students learn to use scientific thinking to develop questions, design and conduct experiments, analyze and evaluate results, make predictions, and communicate findings. In a classroom where those standards are met, students will understand that scientific methods produce scientific knowledge that is continually examined, validated, revised, or rejected, and they will understand the difference between scientific knowledge and other forms of knowledge.

Mr Renick tried to use our scientific-inquiry standards to attack our life-science standards when he addressed the Board of Education on the day of their final deliberations. However, the members of the New Mexico Board of Education saw science as a unified whole, not as a house divided against itself, and unanimously adopted the standards without modification or caveat.
Sharon Dogruel, Program Manager, Curriculum, Instruction and Learning Technologies, said:
Over 14 months, members of the science standards writing team worked diligently to craft standards in which science content, scientific thinking and methods, and societal and personal aspects of science were integrated into a coherent framework for exemplary science education. Members of this team considered all issues at great depth and, in the area of biological evolution, they were confident that the standards respected the backgrounds and beliefs of all students while remaining perfectly true to science. Based on the extensive development and thorough public review process completed for the science standards, coupled with the strong support from New Mexico teachers, and the praise and congratulations from numerous state and national science organizations, the team and the Department recommended that the New Mexico State Board adopt the standards without further modification.

The board was poised for [its] final vote when Joe Renick attempted to distort the intention of the standards by suggesting that teachers had to treat evolution according to his own perspective. Using a tactic that focused on student inquiry, he tried to manipulate the meaning of scientific inquiry, as elaborated in the standards, into a discussion of a controversy that may be political, philosophical, or even religious, but is not scientific. The writing team was clear: There is no controversy regarding the principles of evolution as presented in the standards. Mr Renick's attempt to undermine the standards failed.

I was appalled at this attempt to discredit the hard work of so many educators, scientists, parents, and the public, including Mr Renick's fellow members of NM IDnet. Any statements that the New Mexico science standards open the door to "alternatives to evolution" or that science instruction in New Mexico should cast doubt on the principles of evolution are completely false. New Mexicans can be extremely proud of their science standards, and it is unfortunate that some people continue to advance misrepresentations at a time when we need support for strong science education.
It appears that Renick and the people he interrogated disagree about whether his comments reflected any reality in the standards. In our view, his behavior was boorish and his conclusions are disingenuous.

Official Public Education Department Clarifications

As the "intelligent design" advocates continued to misinterpret the standards and even conduct teacher workshops to promote this misinformation, the Public Education Department issued two memoranda to all the state's school districts, describing in no uncertain terms how the department interpreted the standards; in addition, Berman also received a third memorandum. Excerpts from these three memoranda, written by Richard Reif, science consultant for the department, follow:
The Public Education Department requires all school districts to align their curricula to the New Mexico Science Content Standards, Benchmarks, and Performance Standards. Therefore, all science teachers in New Mexico should be teaching about evolution in the appropriate grades and courses, according to their districts' curricula.

Further, because of the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and a wide-reaching United States Supreme Court case, New Mexico public schools are not permitted to endorse a particular religion, teach religion, or teach "creation science" or any of its variations that advance the religious belief that a supernatural being created humankind.

… Third, the state must remain neutral in matters pertaining to religion. In no way do the science standards support the teaching of notions of intelligent design or creation science or any of its variations.

Fourth, fundamental to science and the New Mexico science standards is the role of inquiry in learning about the world. There is no place in science instruction for the teaching of notions that are not or have not been investigated through rigorous scientific means or that are not consider by the mainstream scientific community to be consistent with sound scientific inquiry.
So far, nothing that the "intelligent design" movement has produced meets the criteria of acceptance by mainstream science or is consistent with sound scientific inquiry.

Conclusion

The claim that New Mexico's science standards support the teaching of "intelligent design" or any other alternative "theory" to evolution, or encourages teachers "to present the "evidence and the arguments for and against" evolution, is baseless and false.

Nevertheless, this disingenuous and/or self-deluding misrepresentation has been widely circulated, including by the Discovery Institute, which has published similar claims on its website. These misrepresentations have infected such outlets as the Washington Post, which claimed (2005 Mar 13) that "Alabama and Georgia legislators recently introduced bills to allow teachers to challenge evolutionary theory in the classroom. Ohio, Minnesota, New Mexico and Ohio [sic] have approved new rules allowing that," and The New York Times.

New Mexico is not the only state to have been misrepresented in "Politicized scholars put evolution on the defensive" (The New York Times 2005 Aug 21), which (like the Washington Post's article) claimed, "Ohio, New Mexico and Minnesota have embraced the institute's 'teach the controversy' approach. In Ohio, as Patricia Princehouse of Ohio Citizens for Science explained (RNCSE 2004 Jan/Feb; 24 [1]: 5–6), the problem was not primarily with the standards but with the "secret process ... used to build the model curriculum in 2003, incorporating creationist mischaracterization not only of the content, but also of the process of science itself." As for Minnesota, Glenn Branch of NCSE reports that on seeing the story, he alerted a public relations official in the Minnesota Department of Education, who promptly e-mailed the Times to request a correction with regard to his state.

A correction of sorts followed in the August 24, 2005, edition of the Times, reading: "The article also referred incorrectly to recent changes in science standards adopted by Ohio, Minnesota and New Mexico. While those states encourage critical analysis of evolution, they did not necessarily embrace the institute's 'teach the controversy' approach."

If there's anything to be learned from the saga, it's that claims from proponents of "intelligent design" ought to be taken, as we used to say in Latin class, cum grano salis — with a grain of salt.

About the Author(s): 
Marshall Berman
5408 Vista Sandia NE
Albuquerque NM 87111

President Bush Addresses "Intelligent Design"

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
President Bush Addresses "Intelligent Design"
Author(s): 
Glenn Branch
Volume: 
25
Issue: 
3–4
Year: 
2005
Date: 
May–June
Page(s): 
13–14
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
During a press conference with a group of Texas reporters on August 1, 2005, President George W Bush responded to a question about teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools. The reporter referred to "what seems to be a growing debate over evolution versus 'intelligent design'" and asked, "What are your personal views on that, and do you think both should be taught in public schools?" In response, Bush referred to his days as governor of Texas, when "I said that, first of all, that decision should be made to local school districts, but I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught ... so people can understand what the debate is about." (It is noteworthy that Bush tacitly equated "intelligent design" and creationism.) Pressing the issue, the reporter asked, "So the answer accepts the validity of 'intelligent design' as an alternative to evolution?" Bush avoided a direct answer, construing the question instead as a fairness issue: "You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes."

Although there was nothing unexpected about Bush's response, which is consistent with his previous statements on the topic, the present heightened awareness of issues involving evolution education ensured a media frenzy. NCSE was widely consulted for comment. The New York Times (2005 Aug 3) quoted NCSE's Susan Spath on the specious appeal to fairness: "It sounds like you're being fair, but creationism is a sectarian religious viewpoint, and 'intelligent design' is a sectarian religious viewpoint," she said. "It's not fair to privilege one religious viewpoint by calling it the other side of evolution." NCSE's Glenn Branch concurred, telling the Los Angeles Times (2005 Aug 3) that because "[t]he question was presented to him as a fairness issue," it was not surprising that Bush expressed the view that "both sides ought to be taught." Branch also told the Financial Times (2005 Aug 3) that "Bush would have done better to heed his White House science adviser, John Marburger, who [has] said that evolution was the 'cornerstone of modern biology' and who has characteri[z]ed ID as not even being a scientific theory."

When interviewed by The New York Times, Marburger reiterated that "evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology" and that "intelligent design is not a scientific concept." According to the Times, Marburger — who is Science Adviser to the President and Director of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy — suggested that it would be "over-interpreting" Bush's remarks to endorse equal treatment for "intelligent design" and evolution in the public schools. Instead, he said, Bush's remarks should be interpreted as recommending the discussion of "intelligent design" as part of the "social context" in science classes. Marburger's charitable interpretation was not shared, however, by Richard Land, the president of the ethics and religious liberties commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, whom the Times quoted as construing Bush's remarks as supportive of the view he favors: "if you're going to teach the Darwinian theory as evolution, teach it as theory. And then teach another theory that has the most support among scientists" — presumably alluding to "intelligent design."

The scientific community rushed to deplore Bush's remarks. The American Geophysical Union issued a press release (2005 Aug 2) in which its executive director Fred Spilhaus stated, "President Bush, in advocating that the concept of 'intelligent design' be taught alongside the theory of evolution, puts America's schoolchildren at risk." In its press release (2005 Aug 4), the American Physical Society accepted Marburger's interpretation of Bush's remarks, but emphasized that "only scientifically validated theories, such as evolution, should be taught in the nation's science classes." The American Institute of Biological Sciences issued a press release (2005 Aug 5) in which its president Marvalee Wake stated, "'Intelligent design' is not a scientific theory and must not be taught in science classes." And in a letter to President Bush dated August 5, 2005, Robert Kirschner, the president of the American Astronomical Society, commented that "intelligent design has neither scientific evidence to support it nor an educational basis for teaching it as science."

The education community expressed its concern, too. According to a statement dated August 3, 2005, the National Science Teachers Association, the world's largest group of science educators, was "stunned and disappointed that President Bush is endorsing the teaching of intelligent design — effectively opening the door for nonscientific ideas to be taught in the nation's K–12 science classrooms" (see p 38). In a statement dated August 4, 2005, the American Federation of Teachers, with over 1.3 million members, described Bush's remarks as "a huge step backward for science education in the United States," adding that "[b]y backing concepts that lack scientific merit, President Bush is undermining his own pledge to 'leave no child behind.'"

On editorial and op-ed pages, Bush's remarks took a hammering. The Washington Post's editorialist wrote (2005 Aug 4), "To pretend that the existence of evolution is somehow still an open question, or that it is one of several equally valid theories, is to misunderstand the intellectual and scientific history of the past century." Referring to "intelligent design," the Baltimore Sun's editorialist wrote (2005 Aug 4), "It's creationism by another name, and if it makes its way into schools at all, it should definitely not be part of science classes." In its editorial (2005 Aug 4), the Sacramento Bee connected the dots between Bush's remarks and the Wedge strategy for promoting "intelligent design," commenting, "America's children deserve a first-rate education in science in public school and not a false, politically motivated 'Teach the Controversy' debate between science and religion." And in his August 5, 2005, column in The New York Times, the economist Paul Krugman perceptively remarked, "intelligent design doesn't have to attract significant support from actual researchers to be effective. All it has to do is create confusion, to make it seem as if there really is a controversy about the validity of evolutionary theory."

Nevertheless, two prominent Republican politicians subsequently echoed Bush. According to the Associated Press (2005 Aug 18), Senator Bill Frist (R–Tennessee), the Senate majority leader, told reporters in Nashville that students ought to be exposed to different ideas, including "intelligent design": teaching "intelligent design" alongside evolution, he said, "doesn't force any particular theory on anyone. I think in a pluralistic society that is the fairest way to go about education and training people for the future." According to the Arizona Daily Star (2005 Aug 24), Senator John McCain (R–Arizona) "told the Star that, like Bush, he believes 'all points of view' should be available to students studying the origins of mankind."

Senator Rick Santorum (R–Pennsylvania), who as the Senate Republican Conference Secretary is third in the Republican leadership, took a different tack, however. Speaking on National Public Radio (2005 Aug 4), he said, "as far as intelligent design is concerned, I really don't believe it has risen to the level of a scientific theory ... that we would want to teach it alongside of evolution." Santorum's reaction represents a departure for him: writing in the Washington Times (2002 Mar 14), for example, he stated, "intelligent design is a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in science classes." Like Frist and McCain, Santorum is reportedly contemplating a run for the presidency in 2008.

A welcome congressional response appeared in the following month. Writing as a guest columnist on the popular TPMCafe blog (2005 Sep 8; available on-line at ), Representative Rush Holt (D–New Jersey) — one of the very few research scientists who serve in Congress — contributed a piece entitled "Intelligent design: It's not even wrong." "As a research scientist and a member of the House Education Committee," Holt wrote:
I was appalled when President Bush signaled his support for the teaching of 'intelligent design' alongside evolution in public K–12 science classes. Though I respect and consistently protect the rights of persons of faith and the curricula of religious schools, public school science classes are not the place to teach concepts that cannot be backed up by evidence and tested experimentally.
He added, "It is irresponsible for President Bush to cast 'intelligent design' — a repackaged version of creationism — as the 'other side' of the evolution 'debate.'" His incisive essay ends with the sobering thought, "When the tenets of critical thinking and scientific investigation are weakened in our classrooms, we are weakening our nation. That is why I think the President's off-hand comment about 'intelligent design' as the other side of the debate over evolution is such a great disservice to Americans."

About the Author(s): 
Glenn Branch
NCSE
PO Box 9477
Berkeley CA 94709-0477
branch@ncseweb.org

Bird Flu, Bush, Evolution — and Us

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Bird Flu, Bush, Evolution — and Us
Author(s): 
Steven Salzberg, University of Maryland
Volume: 
25
Issue: 
3–4
Year: 
2005
Date: 
May-August
Page(s): 
36–37
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
The emergence of the new, highly virulent bird flu is just the latest example of how the microscopic world is constantly evolving into new forms that threaten to devastate the human population. The seriousness of the threat was underscored yesterday by President Bush's announcement of a new $7.1 billion national preparedness plan.

To fight off this threat, we need to understand everything we can about the influenza virus. But even if we succeed completely in defeating the flu today, the problem is not going away. Not only will flu pandemics continue, but also we never know when a new disease such as SARS or West Nile virus will appear.

To keep ahead of these diseases, we need to continue our scientific research, and we need to educate our citizens about what they can do both to protect themselves and to help control the spread of disease. The current assault on the teaching of evolution greatly undermines our efforts to do this, now and in the future. If we stop educating our children about science, our society runs the risk of losing many of the wonderful advances that make our lives better.

Why has the debate about evolution re-emerged? Perhaps because few people see the obvious effects of evolution that geneticists and evolutionary biologists see every day.

Consider the influenza virus. Like many viruses, it mutates very fast, creating many slightly different strains that compete to see which ones can infect their host most efficiently. Each year, we create a new flu vaccine, which although not perfect, is very effective.

Why do we need a new vaccine every year? In a word, evolution. Each year, the flu accumulates many mutations, and some of those mutations allow it to avoid the existing vaccine. These resistant strains quickly take over — that's what Darwin meant by phrase "natural selection” — and become next year's flu strain. The same thing happens with bacteria, and this is why our over-use of antibiotics — in animal feed, hand soaps, and a growing number of other products — is hastening the evolution of frightening new antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

What about the feared bird flu, the H5N1 strain that has jumped from birds to humans and killed more than half the people it has infected? Most people do not understand that H5N1 is evolving not in people, but in birds. We do not yet know what genetic changes will turn this flu strain into a pandemic, but we do know that it will continue to evolve. Each time it jumps to humans, there's a chance that this one will be the new pandemic strain.

Scientists in my lab and others can tell you that developing a vaccine for the flu absolutely requires that we understand its evolution. We can also tell you that the flu does not "care” if we believe in evolution. It will keep evolving anyway, and it will kill us if we ignore it.

A major misconception about evolution is that it is a theory of the origin of life. It isn't. It is about the origin of species. It does not explain how life came to be in the first place, but rather it explains how, once life appeared, it separated into distinct forms that led to the wonderful diversity of life on our planet. (Darwin himself believed that the first life was put here by a divine being.)

The evidence for evolution is overwhelming and increases every year. Among the many astonishing things we have learned through the sequencing of the human genome is that we share hundreds of genes with the lowly E coli bacterium. These genes are so essential to life that their DNA has been preserved for two billion years, and today we can read the evidence in our genomes.

Several polls have reported that a majority of Americans believe that religion-based alternatives to evolution should be taught in science classes in our schools. These polls are called evidence that perhaps we should teach these alternative views. Reporters and pollsters deserve much of the blame here: Science is not like politics, where outcomes are determined by polls. Another recent poll revealed that less than half of the US population knows that the earth revolves around the sun. Does this mean we should teach that the sun revolves around the earth? What these polls do highlight, sadly, is the failure of science education. Of course it would be a huge mistake, and a disservice to our children, if we used polls to decide what to teach in school.

Let's drop the artificial debate about evolution and "intelligent design" and teach our children what science really is. Let's teach them that science requires a skeptical mind and that scientific theories must be supported by objective facts. If we want to teach children about scientific debates, let's pick a real debate — there are plenty of them — rather than an artificial one. And let's equip the next generation of scientists to bring us new cures and new technology, rather than burying our heads in the sand.

[Originally published in the Philadelphia Inquirer 2005 Nov 2 and reprinted with permission.]

About the Author(s): 
Steven Salzberg
3125 Biomolecular Sciences Building #296
University of Maryland
College Park MD 20742
salzberg@umd.edu

Evolution is a Winner — for Breakthroughs and Prizes

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Evolution is a Winner — for Breakthroughs and Prizes
Author(s): 
James McCarter
Volume: 
25
Issue: 
3–4
Year: 
2005
Date: 
May–August
Page(s): 
38–39
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
In 1965, the young American scientist Leland Hartwell had to make a decision crucial to his research on understanding how cells divide, a key step toward curing cancer.

Hartwell had to decide whether to place his bet on simple single-celled organisms like baker's yeast, which were easy to study but might be too distantly related to humans for the information to matter. Or he had to cast his lot on cells from humans and mice, which were clearly relevant but difficult to study. Hartwell gambled that over the course of evolution, certain genes would be so important that natural selection would conserve their key features, making them recognizable even between yeast and humans. Over the next few decades, this speculation was confirmed, and in 2001 Hartwell was awarded the Nobel Prize.

The importance of evolution to Hartwell's work exemplifies a key perspective that has been overshadowed by recent attacks on science and evolution from creationist ideologues advocating "intelligent design". While it is essential to explain the flaws in the pseudoscience of "intelligent design" and to review the overwhelming evidence supporting the facts of evolution, such discussions of fossils and extinct species can seem irrelevant to everyday concerns. So let's focus on some of the many practical applications of evolution in an area that matters to all of us: breakthroughs in medicine.

Evolution, in addition to being solid science, provides us with a practical and powerful tool-kit. Applied techniques based on evolution play central roles in the biotechnology industry, and in recent advances in genomics and drug discovery. Bioinformatics, the application of computers to biology and one of the hottest career opportunities in science, is full of evolution-based computer code. Tens of thousands of researchers in the multibillion-dollar field of biomedical research and development use evolution-based discoveries and concepts as a routine part of their important work.

For instance, our interpretation of the human genome is largely based on comparisons to genomes of other species. Coincidentally, the statement by President George W Bush in support of teaching "intelligent design" (see p 13) occurred just weeks before the publication of the chimpanzee genome, work led by Washington University's Genome Sequencing Center.

In a peer-reviewed article, many of the same world-renowned scientists responsible for sequencing the human genome presented in detail the differences between the DNA of humans and chimps. Consistent with chimpanzees' being our closest living relatives, the researchers reported that across billions of bases in the genomes, about 97.4% of the human and chimp DNA is identical. And the differences in the remaining 2.6% are fascinating, showing the signatures not of creation or design but of evolution. The DNA sequence differences show change driven over the last 6 million years by the forces of mutation and natural selection, from the selection for genes that aid in our defense against infection to the movement of transposable elements (parasitic DNA).

To see the integral role of evolution in biomedical research, consider Nobel Prizes, a good indicator of the most important breakthroughs in biology. Reviewing the last 50 years of Nobel Prizes in medicine or physiology, I asked, "Is training in evolutionary biology necessary for a thorough understanding of the award-winning discoveries and work resulting from each breakthrough?" By my criteria, understanding of evolution is necessary in 47 of 50 cases. From vaccines, viral cancer genes, and nerve cell communication to drug trials, and genes controlling cholesterol and heart disease, evolutionary insights are crucial.

In Hartwell's case, a bet on the simple yeast cell revolutionized our understanding of how cells of all organisms replicate. Versions of most of the genes found in yeast cells by Hartwell and his co-recipients Tim Hunt and Paul Nurse were later found in humans. Despite over a billion years of evolution since they diverged from their common ancestor, humans and yeast still maintain similar gene-encoded machinery for cell replication. Drugs aimed at this replication machinery are currently in clinical trials for the treatment of breast, lung, kidney and other cancers.

In Kansas, backers of "intelligent design" have scoffed at the idea that watering down the evolutionary biology curriculum would have a negative effect on that state's fledgling biotech industry.

What does evolution have to do with biotechnology? As the president of a biotech firm in St Louis, I can tell you that evolutionary biology is an integral part of what we and other companies do. I hire scientists who are well-trained in molecular evolutionary biology; who know how to recognize the business end of enzymes simply by looking at DNA sequences; who know which changes in a protein are important; who can design research tools based on the way a species manipulates the genetic code. Today, these skills are as important to discoveries in the laboratory as knowing how to use a microscope, and it takes an understanding of evolution to master them.

Creationists ask, "Do you really think an ape was your ancestor?" Biologists are actually saying something much more profound. From anatomists, biochemists and immunologists to molecular biologists, neurobiologists and cell biologists, we are stating that all aspects of biology support the conclusion that humanity shares ancestry not only with primates, but with mammals, reptiles, fish, insects, worms, plants, and yes, even yeast and bacteria. We have evolved as part of one inseparable living world — one ancient tree of life that inhabits this planet. And for many scientists of diverse religious traditions, this realization does not pose the conflict with their faith that fundamentalist ideologues assert.

Americans, in addition to being a passionate people of many faiths, are also practical people. We are innovators who expect to lead the world in medical breakthroughs and products. Open-minded Americans must know that the assault on evolution in the science curriculum not only puts at risk our understanding of natural history, ecology and environmental change, but also jeopardizes the science literacy of our students and our international competitiveness in making biomedical breakthroughs of Nobel-Prize caliber. Americans have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 39 of the last 50 years. At a time when we face international competition that is more intense than ever, a good start toward success is to put the attacks on evolution, biology, and science behind us.

About the Author(s): 
James McCarter
Divergence Inc
893 North Warson Rd
St Louis MO 63141

Review: Why is a Fly not a Horse?

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
25
Year: 
2005
Issue: 
3–4
Date: 
May-August
Page(s): 
43–45
Reviewer: 
Andrea Bottaro, University of Rochester Medical Center
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Work under Review
Title: 
Why is a Fly not a Horse?
Author(s): 
Giuseppe Sermonti
2005. Discovery Institute, Seattle, Washington.
At the ripe age of 80, Giuseppe Sermonti can hardly be considered the new kid on the block of creationism, even more so because he has been pushing his personal brand of anti-evolution, an idiosyncratic brew of supernaturalism, structuralism, and postmodernist anti-rationalism, already for a couple of decades. Judging by the treatment this retired Italian genetics professor recently received in the United States by the local creationist “intelligent design” honchos, however, one would be almost forgiven for thinking that Sermonti might be the movement’s next star. Much of the newfound enthusiasm is, I suspect, due to his editorship of Rivista di Biologia/Biology Forum, a third-tier but historical and, importantly, ISI-indexed biology journal which he has turned into a haven for all sorts of creationist and anti-Darwinian material. Sermonti’s Rivista provides “intelligent design” advocates a much-needed back door to the “mainstream scientific literature” without the inconvenience of proper peer-review — a unique opportunity that they have already started to exploit. Hard on the heels of Sermonti’s trans-Atlantic travel to appear at Discovery Institute-sponsored lectures and as an “expert witness” at the Kansas anti-evolution hearings, now comes a translation of his book Dimenticare Darwin (“To forget Darwin”), published by none else but the Discovery Institute itself, under the title Why is a Fly not a Horse?

Despite the back-cover claim that the book is “loaded with scientific facts,” it can hardly be called a scientific treatise. In fact, the book lacks any coherent thread, any substantial argument that is logically developed. In its place, two main ideas reverberate and echo throughout the book: first, that modern evolutionary theory and the current mechanistic models of development — indeed, the scientific method itself — are utterly inadequate to explain biological form in all its fascinating and rich complexity, and second, that abstract form exists apart from, and precedes — indeed must precede — its physical ontogenetic and phylogenetic realization. Sermonti bounces these two ideas around, roaming across themes as diverse as fractals and paleoentomology, prions, and anthropology. This could have even been an instructive approach, if it were not for the fact that the treatment is mostly superficial, and often outright misleading, practically overwhelming the reader with an avalanche of factoids, pseudo-claims, and anecdotes which, due to the general lack of proper citations and attributions, a general reader will not even be equipped to confirm and evaluate properly.

The lack of citations is actually strategic, because for the most part Sermonti runs through the usual gamut of well-known creationist rhetorical arguments and scientific misrepresentations (key transitional forms are missing, no models exist for the origin of genetic information, evolution contradicts the Second Law of Thermodynamics, natural selection is a purely conservative force, and so on), sometimes with highly personal twists, such as his creative claim that the evidence indicates that Homo sapiens appeared first (and abruptly) among hominids, and that all other fossil hominids and extant great apes are its degenerate forms. When support for an argument is missing, Sermonti does not turn away from inventing some, for instance when he argues that modern evolutionary theory, via its adherence to the “Central Dogma” of molecular biology, posits that DNA must act as a thermodynamically closed system (and therefore is subject to the Second Law).

In most cases, Sermonti’s arguments are based on mere misrepresentations or cherry-picking of the existing evidence; I can’t say whether intentionally or due to ignorance. Thus, the finding that homologous “master” genes (hox genes, pax6) can drive similar developmental programs in morphologically different organisms is cited as a strong argument that morphological differences cannot be genetic in origin, but must be due to “some vague ‘field’ that unfolds to the point of being the very form of a fly or a cat” — a view, Sermonti assures the reader, that is “gaining ever wider support” (which may be news to developmental biologists). Later, he claims that leaf insects, or phasmids, predated the appearance of the leafy plants they mimic (angiosperms) in the Cretaceous. This is simply false.

First, there is no fossil evidence at all of Phasmida before the radiation of angiosperms. Second, the Permian fossil insects of the order Protophasmida, which Sermonti cites as problematic evidence, do not particularly mimic sticks or leaves, and certainly not angiosperm leaves. (As Sermonti notes with characteristic suspicion for scientists’ motives, they are unfortunately named: they are not even related to modern Phasmida at all.) Third, leafy plants, such as ferns and gymnosperms, existed in the Paleozoic anyway, and with visual predators such as amphibians and early reptiles around, it would hardly be a surprise if some insects did find an advantage in forms of camouflage. Sermonti says, “The entomologists I have consulted prefer to gloss over the phasmids.” Quite possibly, he simply did not like their answers.

Also on an insect topic, Sermonti cites as another case of impossible evolutionary “premonition” the fact that most of the extant insect mouth apparatuses existed before angiosperms (Labandeira and Sepkoski 1993). He asks, “How did it happen that these complex and delicate apparatuses existed millions and millions of years before they had a job to do?” The straightforward answer is, because they had a job to do on non-angiosperm plants, as highlighted by the damage detected on plant fossils.

A review paper by Labandeira (1998) describes insect feeding modes for which Paleozoic evidence already exists: “spore feeding and piercing-and-sucking” (extending to the early Devonian), “[e]xternal feeding on pinnule margins and the intimate and intricate association of galling” (in the Carboniferous), “hole feeding and skeletonization” (in the early Permian), “surface fluid feeding” and possible but inconclusive evidence of “mutualistic relationships between insect pollinivores and seed plants” by the end of the Paleozoic. In other words, insects pierced, sucked, gnawed, crushed, lapped, imbibed, scraped and otherwise fed on non-angiosperm plants then, much as they do on angiosperms today (the only exception being the current highly specialized flower-feeding apparatuses, whose appearance in the fossil record not surprisingly overlaps that of flowering plants).

Quite amusingly, these supposed entomological “evolutionary mysteries” so struck “intelligent design” advocate and biochemist Michael Behe’s fancy that he made them the centerpiece of his endorsement of Sermonti’s book: “With charming prose Sermonti describes biology which contradicts Darwinian expectations: leaf insects before leaves, insects before plants [sic] …“ It would have taken Behe some basic knowledge of biology and paleontology and a few hours of checking the appropriate literature to figure out the facts. Perhaps Behe blindly trusted Sermonti’s scholarship, but he should have asked the book’s editor (Jonathan Wells of Icons of Evolution fame) and translator first, who (to their credit) went to the trouble of correcting several banally gross errors from the Italian version of the book (such as the claims that all animal phyla, including Protozoa, Porifera, and Cnidaria, appeared in the Cambrian, and that there are no known fossil transitional forms in cetacean evolution).

The alternative view of the biological world Sermonti proposes has less to do with science, even anti-Darwinian structuralism, and more with some sort of passive, contemplative mysticism. Ultimately, Sermonti seems to suggest, we should just marvel at nature’s intricacies, and give up on trying to understand it with our faulty tools: “The budding flower of the world is a cathedral of cathedrals, and it remains to us to bend our knee and say ‘Domine, non sum dignus’”.

I am all for being transported by contemplation of nature at times, but Sermonti is not St Francis, and his anti-scientific approach ultimately sounds alternatively resentful (of the veil-piercing successes of science) and defeatist (of its future prospects). The goal of Sermonti’s approach, however, is not knowledge but, as he states in a 1996 open letter to Rupert Sheldrake in Rivista di Biologia (Sermonti 1996), to endow the modern world with an “enchanted and magic aura” (interestingly, Sermonti is also the author of several books and articles of literary criticism of fables and fairy tales).

If one has to look for a positive aspect in the book, it may reside in the exposure of creationist and “intelligent design” readers to some of the more respectable structuralist ideas, which although limited may be something not often encountered in their pamphlets. As one of the founders of the Osaka Group, Sermonti should at least have a reasonable understanding of structuralism. Alas, he barely runs through the topic in a couple of chapters (most effectively in the one entitled “Prescribed forms of life”). He talks about D’Arcy Thompson and even describes Brian Goodwin’s more pragmatic approach to structuralist embryology, only later to essentially apologize for its empirical nature, and fall back on empty fluff such as Rupert Sheldrake’s “morphic resonance” and the “inherent collective memory” of natural systems.

So, all in all, between the poor arguments, the many errors, and the misrepresentations, what is left of this book to leave a mark on the reader is the “charming prose” Behe alludes to. Certainly Sermonti loves to turn out flourishing phrases and rich descriptions — possibly even too much for many English readers, more used to terse and utilitarian prose. Another Discovery Institute Fellow, Jonathan Witt, crows, “Anyone who believed in reincarnation would say Sermonti was a poet in a former life.” Judging solely from this book, any knowledgeable reader would have a hard time believing that Sermonti has been a scientist in this life.

[Some material and ideas in this essay first appeared on the Panda’s Thumb website in Bottaro’s review of the Italian version of Sermonti’s book and later commentaries.]

References

Labandeira CC. 1998. Early history of arthropod and vascular plant associations. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 26: 329–77.

Labandeira CC, Sepkoski JJ Jr. 1993. Insect diversity in the fossil record. Science 261: 310–5.

Sermonti G. 1996. The impossible exists: About the “seven experiments” suggested by Rupert Sheldrake. Rivista di Biologia / Biology Forum 89: 479–82.

About the Author(s): 
Andrea Bottaro
URMC Box 695
University of Rochester Medical Center
601 Elmwood Ave
Rochester NY 14642
abottaro@pandasthumb.org

Review: The Republican War on Science

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
25
Year: 
2005
Issue: 
3–4
Date: 
May-August
Page(s): 
45–46
Reviewer: 
Robert L Park, University of Maryland
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Work under Review
Title: 
The Republican War on Science
Author(s): 
Chris Mooney
2005. Basic Books.
On August 1, 2005, in an interview with Texas reporters, the President of the United States of America publicly declared war on science. Siding with biblical literalists, George W Bush called for “intelligent design” to be taught in public schools alongside the theory of evolution (see p 13). An undeclared war that had smoldered behind the headlines suddenly broke out on the front pages. The war on science was now national news.

It was certainly not the first time that George W Bush had embraced ideologically driven pseudoscience. Large blocks of the scientific community had already been alienated by the President’s stand on such issues as climate change, missile defense, abortion, stem cell research, the environment, the test ban treaty, energy, and so on. But now, as if by design, he had found the one issue that seemed to offend every scientist. Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection occupies a special place in the world of science. When it was published in 1859, the reaction of the great biologist Thomas Huxley was “why didn’t I think of that?” Every scientist since, whatever his or her field, has felt that same sense of awe. How could an idea of such clarity and simplicity, an idea that explains so much of what is known, have eluded scientists for so long? Darwin’s theory of evolution demonstrates what the human mind is capable of when it’s freed from the shackles of tradition. It is treasured by scientists in every field — even as it is despised by the religious right.

By fortunate coincidence, even as the President was calling for a religious fable to be taught beside science in our schools, the story of how the most advanced nation on earth came to reject science, Chris Mooney’s The Republican War on Science, was already at the printer’s.

The Republican dismissal of mainstream science actually began two decades ago with Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, a missile defense program commonly referred to as “Star Wars”. Technological optimism was substituted for scientific reality. The reckless Reagan “dream” of “rendering nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete” never had any realistic prospect of working and risked initiating a peremptory strike from the Soviets. “Star Wars” — overwhelmingly opposed, even ridiculed, by the scientific community — simply did not work. Now, under George W Bush, a vastly scaled-down version of Star Wars is also opposed by scientists, and it also does not work.

George W Bush, like Ronald Reagan, has no interest in science. Bush, like Reagan, saw no urgency in appointing a science advisor and listens to whoever tells him what he wants to hear. It was almost a year before Jack Marburger, a physicist and director of Brookhaven National Laboratory, was confirmed as director of a scaled-down White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Moreover, the job had been stripped of the rank of Special Advisor to the President, greatly reducing the influence of science in this administration. None of this seemed to perturb Marburger, a registered Democrat, who was President of the State University of New York at Stony Brook prior to becoming director at Brookhaven.

Following the President’s comment on teaching “intelligent design”, however, Marburger, whom the President had not bothered to consult, told The New York Times that the President had been misunderstood. “Evolution,” he said, is the “cornerstone of modern biology,” whereas “‘intelligent design’ is not a scientific concept.” All of this is perfectly true, but he needed to be telling this to the President, not The New York Times. The President did not bother to take notice of Marburger’s comments.

Scientists have traditionally been reluctant to take public stands as a group on partisan political issues, believing that science should be a high priority for both parties. But as Mooney points out, that changed on February 18, 2004, when 60 leading scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, signed a statement denouncing the Bush administration for distorting scientific information and manipulating the process by which science advice is factored into government decisions. To the charge of manipulating the science advisory process, the eloquent White House response was to eject two advocates of stem cell research from the Council on Bioethics, replacing them with three appointees whose opposition to stem cell research is solidly faith-based.

The number of Nobel laureates signing the statement eventually rose to an astonishing 48, along with 62 recipients of the National Medal of Science. The administration response was to trivialize the issue. John Marburger was assigned the task of belittling the statement. Marburger, after all, had nothing else to do. He told The New York Times that it was just a matter of a few scientists “getting their feathers ruffled.”

It is one thing to point out how pervasive the Republican war on science has become, another to devise a strategy for deterring future abuse. In a final chapter, or “Epilogue,” Mooney makes it clear there is no one solution. Legislative reforms are needed to safeguard science advice and rescind measures that have served to further politicize science. Moderate Republicans might convince their more extreme colleagues of the dangers of science abuse, but so far he points out, “we can detect no evidence” that they are having any effect. Indeed, in the short time since Mooney wrote those words, the lure of the White House has pushed Republican moderates such as McCain and Frist, who witnessed the power of the Christian right in the last election, to endorse the teaching of “intelligent design” alongside evolution.

Strong belief in “fair play” is one of the most appealing characteristics of Americans, but it is often exploited by fringe groups who have little rational justification for their positions. Reporters also justify giving “balanced” treatment to such issue on which one side has little or no sensible support.

But in the end, Mooney says, “We must mobilize the natural defenders of Enlightenment values: scientists themselves, who all too often fail to engage anti-evolutionists and other know-nothings in defense of what they hold dear.”

About the Author(s): 
Robert L Park
University of Maryland
Department of Physics
John S Toll Physics Building
College Park Maryland 20742
bob@physics.umd.edu