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Project Steve FAQ

Project Steve: FAQs

Is this for real?

Yes. The signatories of the Project Steve statement are indeed 220 (and counting — 1303 as of January 15, 2014) scientists, whose degrees and institutions are as represented, who have indicated their agreement with and endorsement of the statement, and who have consented for their names to be used. Consult the Steve-o-meter for the current number and the latest Steve to join the list.

Well, is this some kind of joke, then?

Yes and no. Creationists are fond of circulating statements denouncing evolution signed by as many scientists as they can muster, with the intention of conveying the impression that evolution is a theory in crisis. The point of Project Steve is to demonstrate, in a lighthearted manner, that, on the contrary, the status of evolution within the scientific community is secure. But the signatories realize that science is not conducted by voting.

Who circulates these statements denouncing evolution?

These statements are circulated by the three most important antievolution organizations in the United States, among others: the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, the Institute for Creation Research, and Answers in Genesis. For their statements or lists of scientists, see the web sites of the DI, the ICR, and AiG.

Who is sponsoring Project Steve?

The National Center for Science Education, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Science Teachers Association that defends the teaching of evolution and climate science in the public schools.

Is it just Steves who signed NCSE's statement?

Not only Steves, but also Stephens, Stevens, Stephanies, Stefans, and so forth. Etiennes and Estebans would have been welcome. (Update: as of April 13, 2012, we have three Etiennes, three Estebans, one Istvan, and one Tapani — the Finnish equivalent.)

Are all of the Steves biologists? Are they all scientists? Are they all Ph.D.s?

About two thirds are biologists (when we last counted, at any rate). (There are, unsurprisingly, few biologists to be found on the creationist lists.) Most are scientists; there are a few borderline cases (economists, philosophers, psychiatrists, science educators, medical researchers, computer scientists, and so forth). Nearly all are Ph.D.s; there are a few M.D.s and Ed.D.s.

(Update as of August 14, 2007: we counted again in February 2006 at the behest of a reporter for The New York Times. As Kenneth Chang reported (February 21, 2006), "the National Center for Science Education says that 54 percent (381) of the Steves on the Project Steve petition work in biology, which includes anatomy, anthropology, biochemistry, biophysics, botany, cell biology. Including related life sciences fields like medicine, forestry and agriculture, the percentage rises to 61 percent."

(Update as of April 13, 2012: David H. Bailey counted again in April 2012. On his blog he writes, "As of April 2012, the NCSE list had 1202 names, compared with 840 on the Discovery Institute list. If we count only those persons on these two lists who had a Ph.D. degree and/or professional position in a core field closely related to evolution (Anatomy, Anthropology, Biochemistry, Biology, Biophysics, Botany, Ecology, Entomology, Genetics, Geology, Geophysics, Microbiology, Neurophysiology, Paleontology, Physiology or Zoology), who thus are particularly well-qualified to make such a declaration, then 708 (58.9%) of the names on the NCSE list were so qualified, compared with only 258 (30.7%) of the Discovery Institute list, according to a detailed check performed by the present author."

Did it take a long time to collect the signatures?

No. It took about a month to collect most of the original 220. Originally the plan was to stop at 100, but they kept on coming.

Why Steve?

In honor of the late Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002), a supporter of NCSE and a valiant opponent of creationism.

Is NCSE going to circulate a similar statement for Janes, Johns, and so on?

No. It's only funny once.

Is this the only statement of support for evolution education?

As far as we know, it is the only general statement signed by individual scientists. (There have been statements signed by individual scientists in reaction to local threats to evolution education.) For a collection of statements by scientific, as well as educational, civil liberties, and religious, organizations, see NCSE's publication Voices for Evolution.

What can be inferred about the scientific community's acceptance of evolution from the fact that 220 Steves signed the statement?

According to data from the U.S. Census, approximately 1.6% of males and approximately 0.4% of females — so approximately 1% of U.S. residents — have first names that would qualify them to sign the statement. So it is reasonable to infer that at least 22,000 scientists would agree with the statement. ("At least" because the statement was quietly circulated to a limited number of people.) As of January 15, 2014, there were 1303 signatories, corresponding to 130,300 scientists.

I'm a scientist named Steve. Can I endorse the statement?

Certainly. The more the merrier. Send an e-mail to Glenn Branch, indicating your name, the institution from which and the discipline in which you received your degree, your present institution, company, or organization, and (optionally) any one achievement or publication that you would like to be mentioned.

The statement says that "evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences." Did you forget that it is vital to the geological sciences too?

Regrettably, we did. Unfortunately, by the time that Steve Semken pointed out our mistake, the statement was so widely circulated that it would have been difficult to rectify it. For the record, then, NCSE's position is that evolution is vital to the geological sciences too; we confidently expect that the signatories would agree if asked, but we unfortunately failed to ask.

The statement says that "the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry." Aren't you neglecting recent work (by, for example, Carl Woese) that suggests otherwise?

Woese argues (e.g., in his "On the evolution of cells," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 2002 Jun 25; 99 [13]: 8742-8747) that "horizontal" transfer of DNA, proteins, and other cellular components was more important in the evolution of the basic cellular components at the root of the evolutionary tree — about 3.5 billion years ago — than was "vertical" intergenerational transfer. His research suggests that it may be impossible for us ever to resolve the connection between the three domains of living organisms and the earliest life on earth. It also implies that the phrase "common ancestry" — which emphasizes vertical transfer — is somewhat misleading when applied near the root of the phylogenetic tree. Above the root, there is no doubt about common ancestry. Woese's work ought not to be of any comfort to creationists.

The statement refers to "creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to 'intelligent design'." But the proponents of "intelligent design" say that it isn't creationism.

The issue of whether "intelligent design" is creationism is largely semantic. What matters is whether "intelligent design" is good science. It simply isn't: as surveys of the peer-reviewed scientific literature repeatedly reveal, there is no published scientific work providing any evidence for any of the claims of "intelligent design."

There are a couple of signatories whose middle name is Steven or Stephen. Is that fair?

They've assured us that they habitually don't use their first name and go by Steven or Stephen instead.

What is the Steve Song?

The Steve Song is a parody written in the style of Monty Python's Spam Song. It was written by Geoff Sirmai and David Fisher of Comic Roasts for The Science Show, on ABC Radio National on March 8, 2003. The Singing Steves were Daryl Colquhoun, Noel Debien, Robert Green, and Geoff Sirmai

How do I get one of those stylish Project Steve t-shirts?

Project Steve t-shirts are now available for purchase online in the NCSE store.

I'm a member of the press. Can I talk to someone from NCSE about Project Steve?

Of course. Get in touch with Glenn Branch at 1-800-290-6006 or branch@ncse.com. We also have "regional Steves" — signatories from various parts of the world who can provide a local angle on the project — available for interview.