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How to respond to attacks on science education

Webinar conducted November 25, 2013.

Description: What can citizens like you do to respond when science education comes under attack? How can you and other concerned citizens organize to fight back? What can you do to prevent attacks on science education in your community? 

Climate Change Denial Supplementary Materials

Teachers often feel the need to use supplementary materials when covering climate change, particularly because the topic is often left unaddressed in state science standards, curricula, and textbooks. Unfortunately, climate change deniers have developed and are distributing supplementary materials (such as lesson plans and DVDs) that foster confusion about the occurrence, causes, and consequences of climate change.

Lights! Camera! Evolve!

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is expanding its online video presence with its new YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/NatCen4ScienceEd.

Here you'll find reports from the evolution/creationism wars—footage of contentious testimony, landmark and illuminating speeches, conference coverage, excerpts from television appearances, and presentations. In the future, look for classroom videos, tutorials for teachers, videos contributed by NCSE members, and much more.

When you visit our YouTube channel, check out a couple of key areas. At top right you'll see the latest, hot video. (In this case, executive director Dr. Genie Scott explaining evolution to the Texas Board of Education.) Below this video window you'll see the Playlist area. We've broken down our initial offerings into different categories—Genie Scott's testimony before the Texas Board of Education; the board's chairman, Don McLeroy, expounding on why evolution is false; and some light-hearted coverage of our recent Project Steve celebration.

Please explore the site, tell us what you like (and don't), and suggest improvements and changes. Send your comments to Robert Luhn at luhn@ncseweb.org.

"Theory, Not Fact" Policies — What's Wrong?

(Download this document as a pdf file here! )

  1. Legislation or regulations that single out evolution for restriction, ignoring other scientific topics, are unconstitutional (Epperson v. Arkansas)
  2. Legislation that requires teaching evolution as "theory" or "belief" only, or that it not be taught as "fact", without defining these terms, is too vague to give real guidance to school districts and teachers about what may be taught.

Evolution Primers

Evolution is a vast subject and there are many books and websites that offer introductions as well as more advanced discussions to its many subtopics and related fields. Our purpose here is to provide answers to questions about evolution that frequently arise in connection with creationism. Some resources here are short, quick answers; others delve into college-level material.

Deep Time

One of the most challenging concepts in thinking about evolution is the idea of "deep time," the profoundly different timescale involved in geological and evolutionary processes than those we deal with in our daily lives. It is rare for those of us in North America to see buildings that are more than 100 years old. If the geological history of the world were represented by the height of the Empire State Building, the time since mastodons walked across North America 14,000 years ago would be represented by the thickness of a single dime.

Recommended Books about Creationism and Evolution

(Book titles are linked to Amazon.)

Alters, Brian J. and Sandra Alters
Defending Evolution: A guide to the creation/evolution controversy
Sudbury, Mass: Jones & Bartlett Pub (2001)

Handling Challenges

Teachers who teach evolution whether at the K-12 or college level face a number of challenges. One set of challenges comes from misunderstandings about evolution or the nature of science. For example, students may have difficulty in understanding basic concepts such as speciation or in grasping the immense scale of geological time. Another set of challenges comes from "outside" of science, that is, from creationist efforts to weaken (or even block) the teaching of evolution.

Facing Challenges to Evolution Education

In 1983, The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) was founded to promote excellence in science education, improve public understanding of evolution, and defend evolution education from sectarian attacks. In 1987, when the Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana anti-evolution law, many observers thought the "creation science" controversy had been put to an end. Instead, it returned to the local level, where new strategies appeared in countless communities and at the state level, as well.

Definitions of Fact, Theory, and Law in Scientific Work

Science uses specialized terms that have different meanings than everyday usage. These definitions correspond to the way scientists typically use these terms in the context of their work. Note, especially, that the meaning of “theory” in science is different than the meaning of “theory” in everyday conversation.
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