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Two Times Two


Two excellent opinion columns about evolution education appeared on January 19, 2005, on opposite sides of the country.

In the Los Angeles Times, Patt Morrison's "A Museum That Lies Far, Far Off the Path of Science" (registration required) begins with a description of her visit to the Institute for Creation Research's museum in Santee, California, on the outskirts of San Diego. "I'd just seen 'proof' that the Earth is no older than about 10,000 years, that man and dinosaurs coexisted before a flood that not only created the Grand Canyon but put the final score at humans (Noah and kin) 1, dinosaurs 0," she quips. "I needed someone to deliver a couple 'quick, snap out of it, girl' taps with a copy of Scientific American." But she notes soberly that the real threat to science education these days is from "intelligent design": "If IDers can put their argument on an equal footing with science, they figure they'll skip nimbly around the Constitution's church-state wall without having to wear themselves out trying to knock it down." Toward the end of her column, Morrison quotes Jack Krebs, a member of NCSE and the vice president of Kansas Citizens for Science: "Watch out," he says, "it could be in anybody's backyard tomorrow. You could be next." Morrison is a regular columnist for the Times.

In The New York Times, Susan Jacoby's "Caught Between Church and State" (registration required) argues that "the elected anti-evolutionists on local and state school boards today are the heirs of eight decades of fundamentalist campaigning against Darwinism through back-door pressure on textbook publishers and school officials." Reviewing the history of antievolutionism since the Scopes trial in 1925, Jacoby correctly observes that "[p]erhaps the most insidious effect of the campaign against evolution has been avoidance of the subject by teachers, who, whatever their convictions, want to forestall trouble with fundamentalist parents." As loyal NCSE members will realize, however, her conclusion -- "Only now, when the religious right is no longer satisfied with avoidance but is demanding that schools add anti-Darwinist intelligent design to the curriculum, are defenders of evolution fighting back" -- is overstated: NCSE and its members have been fighting back for two decades! Susan Jacoby is director of the Center for Inquiry-Metro New York, and the author of Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism (Metropolitan Books, 2004).