We asked applicants for the NCSE Grand Canyon Teacher Scholarship to explain, in 500 words, how they’ve addressed challenges to the teaching of evolution, climate change, and related issues. Here is part of scholarship winner Alyson Miller’s explanation of her fight to keep evolution in classrooms in her Nashua, New Hampshire, high school.

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While exploring Israeli politicians’ views on evolution, and the similar rate at which the US and Israeli public rejects evolution, I wondered how the Israeli public would compare with Jews in the US. It seems more apt to compare the 5.4 million US Jews to the 6.1 million Israeli Jews (or 8 million Israelis) than comparing the US at large to Israel at large, after all.

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While discussion of Israeli elections has largely (and reasonably) focused on the different parties’ views on the occupation of Palestine and the prospect of war with Iran, the ongoing effort to craft a coalition government may carry risks for science education, too.

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Great auks. John Gerrard Keulemans via Wikimedia Commons.

“Why Are There No Penguins at the North Pole?”—a February 6, 2015, article in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano by Carlo Maria Polvani, a biochemist-turned-priest working in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State—raises a good question, although in the service of a bad agenda. The agenda isn’t creationism: Polvani correctly describes evolution as “shared by the majority of the scientific community” and moreover cites Pope John Paul II’s 1996 Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences as sufficient to show that “few today doubt the evolution of life on Earth.” Rather, the agenda is opposition to “Darwinism,” which he defines as holding that there are “two, and only two, forces to explain the phenomenon of evolution,” namely chance, “which creates diversity at the genotypic level,” and selection, “which supports the emergence of the phenotypes most likely to guarantee survival.” 

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Headline: Bill Deny: Science GuyNow, we all know that air pressure is a function of the atmospheric conditions, it’s a function of that. So, if there’s activity in the ball relative to the rubbing process[…] So the atmospheric conditions as well as the true equilibrium of the football is critical to the measurement. …

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“Six Little Snails” by E. GrisetSnips and snails? Sugar and spice? What drives some people to creationism, and others to accept evolution?

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BioLogos, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting evolution within evangelical circles, recently released a large survey examining how and why people develop their views on evolution. There’s a lot to mine there, though you can read the highlights in NCSE’s news item. I’m especially fascinated by the survey’s work to separate out different stances in the public conversation on how evolution and religion intersect.

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Climate change deniers often fancy themselves “skeptics.” For those of us active in movement skepticism, it’s flattering to see others try to ride our coat tails, but it’s also frustrating. Skeptics are known for debunking bogus claims (from ghosts to psychics to the Loch Ness Monster), for operating at the intersection of science and consumer protection, for standing up for the role of evidence and the rational in public discourse. Skepticism means something specific, and deniers just do not do the things that a skeptic does.

That’s what makes it so gratifying that dozens of the leaders of the skeptical movement joined together to state clearly: “Deniers are not skeptics.” Deniers are not Skeptics

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As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, NCSE can’t try to change the outcome of elections, which means we keep mum about candidates who attack climate science and evolution from the hustings. But that doesn’t mean we don’t keep watch: candidates become policymakers, and it’s valuable to know what our future leaders are saying.

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