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by Eugenie C. Scott
High school teachers are in a quandary about teaching evolution. Sometimes they are pressed to teach creation "science" or "intelligent design theory", or "evidence against evolution"; sometimes they are pressed just to forget about teaching evolution. What should a teacher do? What, legally, can and can't a teacher do?
Dear NCSE: I teach 9th grade biology and the principal informed me that in response to the request of a parent, a student in my class has been given permission to opt out of the evolution section.
Nested patterns of shared similarities between species play an important role in testing evolutionary hypotheses. "Homology" is one term used to describe these patterns, but scientists prefer other, more clearly defined terms. Explore Evolution would have done well to accurately present the way scientists talk about this issue, instead of building two chapters around a misguided attack on a particular word with a meaning that dates to pre-evolutionary attempts at understanding the diversity of life.
The new field of "evo-devo"–an integration of evolutionary biology with our growing understanding of embryonic development–is an exciting a fruitful area of intense scientific research. A book purporting to "explore evolution" would do well to address this exciting field, yet the discussion in Explore Evolution is mired in disputes about what Darwin thought about embryos 150 years ago, and the legitimacy of illustrations by Ernst Haeckel 100 years ago.
"Eroding Evolution," a new article in the July/August 2008 issue of Church and State, addresses the recently enacted "Science Education Act" in Louisiana, which threatens to open the door for creationism and scientifically unwarranted critiques of evolution to be taught in public school science classes.
"A Teacher on the Front Line as Faith and Science Clash" -- a story on the front page of The New York Times (August 24, 2008) -- examines the creationism/evolution controversy as it plays out in the classroom of David Campbell, a biology teacher in Orange Park, Florida.
A noteworthy new paper reports on a national survey of high school biology teachers concerning the teaching of evolution. According to Michael B.