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NCSE Supporter Dalrymple receives National Medal of Science


Noted geologist and NCSE Supporter G. Brent Dalrymple was named a 2005 National Medal of Science Laureate, in an announcement made on February 14, 2005, by President Bush. The medals will be awarded at a White House ceremony on March 14, 2005. The criteria for the award include:

(a) The total impact of an individual's work on the present state of physical, biological, mathematical, engineering or social and behavioral sciences is to be the principal criterion. (b) Achievements of an unusually significant nature in relation to the potential effects of such achievements on the development of scientific thought. (c) Unusually distinguished service in the general advancement of science and engineering, when accompanied by substantial contributions to the content of science at some time. (d) Recognition by peers within the scientific community.
The National Medal of Science is the nation's highest honor for scientific achievement.

Dalrymple worked for the U.S. Geological Survey for 31 years, helping to establish the foundations for plate tectonics and performing fundamental research on the origin and age of the earth and moon, and then taught at Oregon State University, where he also served as Dean of the College of Oceanic and Atomospheric Sciences before retiring in 2001. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he served as president of the American Geophysical Union for two years and as chair of the geology section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for three years. Author of numerous scientific papers, he also wrote two books on geochronology: The Age of the Earth (Stanford University Press, 1991), and Ancient Earth, Ancient Skies: The Age of Earth and Its Cosmic Surroundings (Stanford University Press, 2004).

As the Corvallis, Oregon, Gazette-Times noted in its story on the award, Dalrymple "has also been a passionate advocate for science-based teachings in schools and has worked to keep creationism out of textbooks. He was involved in several ACLU cases against creation science, one of which successfully overturned the policy of granting equal coverage of creationism in school science texts. He also has given numerous lectures and written articles against creation science." As a scientific expert on the age of the earth, he was a key expert witness in the 1981 court case McLean v. Arkansas, which resulted in the overturning of an Arkansas law that gave "equal time" for creationism. Of his testimony, fellow witness Michael Ruse wrote (in "A philosopher's day in court," in Science and Creationism, ed. Ashley Montagu [Oxford University Press, 1984]):

Rounding out the science witnesses was G. Brent Dalrymple of the U.S. Geological Survey. He gave a quite brilliant disquisition on methods of dating the earth. One would not think that such a topic could be all that intrinsically interesting, but Dalrymple gave this assumption the total lie. He held us absolutely spellbound as he talked of various dating techniques and how geologists compensate for weaknesses in one direction by strengths from another. My sense was that Dalrymple was so good and so firm that he rather broke the back of the State's case. He had checked all of the Creationist arguments and showed in devastating detail the trail of misquotations, computational errors, out-of-date references, and sheer blind stupidity which allows the Creationists to assign the earth an age of 6000 years. After Dalrymple, the State seemed far less ready to tangle with witnesses.
The Age of the Earth developed from Dalrymple's preparation for McLean.