Contents of This Page
The District of Columbia is considering whether to require biology for all high school graduates.
CFI weighs in.
Public testimony of John Kingman, Friend of the Center, CFI Austin, before the Texas Senate Nominations Committee, November 19, 2008.
Clare Wuellner, Ph.D., Executive Director, Center for Inquiry Austin, article in the CFI Secular Humanism Online News, Vol. 5, No. 5, May 6, 2009.
Public testimony of Eric Hennenhoefer, President & CEO of Obsidian Software, for the Senate Education Committee, April 14, 2009.
Clare Wuellner, Ph.D., Executive Director, Center for Inquiry Austin, comments on points made in Dr. McLeroy’s Commentary “Enlisting in the culture war,” March 25, 2009.
Public testimony of Clare Wuellner, Ph.D., Executive Director, Center for Inquiry Austin, before the Texas State Board of Education, March 25, 2009.
Email letter sent out in March, 2009, asking respondents to urge the SBOE to take appropriate action on the science standards at the March meeting of the Board.
Public testimony of John Kingman, Friend of the Center, Center for Inquiry Austin, for the Texas State Board of Education, January 21, 2009.
Public testimony of Clare Wuellner, Ph.D., Executive Director, Center for Inquiry Austin, before the Texas State Board of Education, January 21, 2009.
Statement of Clare Wuellner, Ph.D., Executive Director, Center for Inquiry Austin, prior to the Texas State Board of Education meeting, January 21, 2009.
Religious and Secular Groups Team Up to Advocate Teaching 21st-Century Science and Evolution in Texas Classrooms
New co-sponsored website is one-stop resource for parents, educators, and other concerned citizens.
AUSTIN – As the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) prepares to vote on new science curriculum standards for public schools, two organizations—one secular, the other religious—have come together to advocate a 21st-Century science education for Texas public schoolchildren.
Today, the Center for Inquiry Austin (CFI) and The Clergy Letter Project (TCLP) announced the launch of a new website intended to empower parents, educators and other concerned citizens. CFI supports and defends science. TCLP is an organization of thousands of American clergy members who have banded together to demonstrate that religion and science need not be at odds with one another…
Dr. Clare Wuellner is Executive Director of Center for Inquiry Austin and has a Ph.D. in biology.
The Center for Inquiry Austin and The Clergy Letter Project are proud to announce the launch of TeachThemScience.org.
We have four speakers today.
First to speak will be me. I'm Dr. Clare Wuellner, Executive Director of the Center for Inquiry Austin. My Ph.D. is in biology. I will introduce you to the project, why it was undertaken, its purpose and scope.
Next, representing our co-sponsor will be Dr. Michael Zimmerman, Founder and Director of The Clergy Letter Project and Biology professor and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Butler University in Indianapolis. He will talk about the broad range of religions represented in his organization, and the cause he is working for.
Third, Dr. Dan Bolnick, from the Section of Integrative Biology at the University of Texas, and member of the Advisory Committee of the 21st Century Science Coalition will talk about how science should be kept separate from both religion and politics.
Finally, Dr. Charles Kutz-Marks, Sr. Minister of the University Christian Church will talk about how science and religion have had difficulties similar to ours in the past and suggest how we might do better this time.
The Center for Inquiry Austin promotes and defends science. The Clergy Letter Project is an organization of thousands of American clergy members who have banded together to demonstrate that religion and science need not be a threat to one another. Both organizations agree that 21st-Century science and evolution should be taught in the public school classroom. We have been watching closely as the SBOE teeters on the edge of undoing the 21st-Century curriculum recommended by experts. We knew people would care if they just knew what was happening. But too many people didn't know. We decided to do something about that.
Now, there are lots of websites out there, but TeachThemScience.org is special and here are the top 10 reasons why…
But that's not all it is. It is also easy to navigate. It's written with your busy life in mind. Information is simple and succinct.
In short, this is a one-stop resource for learning about science education in Texas public schools. It is written for everyone, whether scientist or not; whether religious or nonbeliever; whether parent, educator, or concerned citizen; whether Texas citizen or not.
TeachThemScience.org is our gift to anyone who strives to defend good science. We invite you to visit the site and see what it offers.
Dr. Michael Zimmerman is Founder and Director of The Clergy Letter Project and biology professor and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Butler University in Indianapolis.
My name is Michael Zimmerman and in addition to being a biologist and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Butler University in Indianapolis, I am the founder and director of The Clergy Letter Project.
Because The Clergy Letter Project is one of the two sponsors of the Teach Them Science web pages, I think it is important that you hear a bit about our organization.
We are, first and foremost, an organization of clergy members. Indeed, we are more than 12,000 strong and our sole purpose is to make it clear that religion and science have much to offer each other.
We recognize that evolution is the best scientific explanation for the diversity of life found on Earth. The thousands of religious leaders who comprise The Clergy Letter Project do not fear the best that science has to offer – rather they embrace it. As the last paragraph of The Christian Clergy Letter, already signed by more than 11,800 Christian clergy members in the United States concludes: “We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.”
The clergy who are part of our organization represent a broad cross-section of America. Some come from the smallest towns in the country while others are from some of our largest cities. Some represent tiny rural parishes while others work in our greatest cathedrals. Some were ordained recently while others have been serving for 50 or 60 years. Some are male and some are female. All races and ethnicities are represented. Some are liberal and some are conservative.
But all of them, every one of the more than 12,000 has devoted his or her life to religion and spirituality – and every one knows that attacking evolution in the name of religion is wrong. They know that it is wrong from a religious perspective and they know that it is wrong from a scientific perspective.
And make no mistake about it. Those who attack evolution are doing so on religious grounds rather than scientific grounds. Yes, the latest attack is dressed up to look scientific, but scratch the surface and you'll see that there's no science there.
The Clergy Letter Project has sponsored the Teach Them Science web site to make it clear that the science of evolution is sound, to demonstrate that those who are attacking evolution are doing so on false pretenses.
The people of Texas, indeed the people of the United States, deserve to know the truth about evolution. The truth is incredibly simple – neither the scientific community nor thousands upon thousands of religious leaders have any problem with the concept of evolution.
The controversy is often portrayed as a struggle between religion and science. In fact, however, the real difference is among members of different religious groups. Those who attack evolution attempt to pass themselves off as representing religion, implying that anyone who accepts evolution can't be religious. The very existence of The Clergy Letter Project demonstrates just how wrong this claim is.
Those who attack evolution profess that their religious views are the norm and deserve attention in our science classrooms and laboratories. The very existence of The Clergy Letter Project demonstrates just how wrong this claim is as well.
I stand before you today on behalf of thousands of religious leaders and thousands of scientists and ask the Texas State Board of Education to hear our voices. I ask the Texas State Board of Education to hear the voices of the numerous religious organizations that have expressed support for evolution and the hundreds of scientific societies around the world that have done the same thing.
I ask the Texas State Board of Education to allow Texas students to learn the best that science has to offer. And I urge the members of the Board to read the information on our web pages – there they'll see that the controversy they're promoting is simply not real.
Dr. Dan Bolnick is from the Section of Integrative Biology at the University of Texas and is member of the Advisory Committee of the 21st Century Science Coalition.
My name is Dan Bolnick, and I'm an Assistant Professor of biology at the University of Texas at Austin. For the past decade, I have been doing original research on how genetic and ecological forces drive the origin of new species. This research has led to over 50 publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and several major international awards. It is in this capacity, as a research scientist, that I am pleased to support the launch of the Teach Them Science website.
Let me begin with a brief anecdote:
Every middle-school student learns that the mathematical constant Pi, related to the circumference of a circle, is 3.14159… et cetera. However, in 1897 a physician by the name of Edward Goodwin decided that the correct value of Pi must be 3.2. At Goodwin's urging, Representative T.I. Record introduced House Bill #246 to the Indiana House of Representatives. The bill claimed that 3.14159 was incorrect, and that schools should instead teach an alternative value, that Pi = 3.2. Remarkably, the House Committee on Education approved the bill, 67 to 0. Thankfully for Indiana's mathematicians and engineers, the state Senate never got around to voting on Goodwin's bill.
Today, we are watching an equally misguided attempt to change the content of the public school curriculum. Creationists are pushing to require teachers to discuss alleged “weaknesses” of evolution. The intent is to make students believe, incorrectly, that evolution may not have happened at all. There are some remarkable similarities between this creationist movement, and Goodwin's attempt to redefine Pi:
First, Goodwin was wrong about Pi: it really is 3.14159…. Similarly, today's creationists are wrong - there are no scientifically valid weaknesses to evolution as a whole. Yesterday I did a quick search of an online database, JSTOR, and found 214,531 peer-reviewed articles about evolution in scholarly biology journals. This is an incomplete list. As far as I am aware, not a single one of these articles indicates that evolution is false. Not one of the articles shows that natural selection is fundamentally ineffective. Not one shows that life was designed, or created as we see it today. Don't get me wrong: there are plenty of controversies among those 200,000 papers: (1) are geographic barriers ALWAYS required for new species to arise? (2) are coding or regulatory mutations more important in evolution? But these are arguments about HOW evolution occurred, not whether it occurred. They are not weaknesses of evolution, merely details being worked out by means of normal scientific research.
So what are these so-called “weaknesses”? Simple, they are logically and factually flawed claims about biology, made by people who have never done any original research on the topic themselves. To give an example: a common creationist tactic is to state that mutations can only degrade a trait, and so cannot be a source of beneficial adaptation. In fact, dozens of laboratory experiments have concluded that roughly 10% of mutations are actually beneficial. The creationists are making claims, without doing the experiments to prove their case. So they aren't just wrong, they are being unscientific - that's not what we want to teach our kids!
This leads me to a second way in which modern creationists resemble Edward Goodwin. Goodwin never proved that Pi was 3.2, and never convinced his fellow mathematicians of his view. Instead, he did an end-run around 2,500 years of mathematical tradition, and appealed directly to politicians. Creationists are doing the same thing. They haven't bothered to do the laboratory experiments, field work, mathematical models, and data analysis to prove their point. They haven't provided original evidence to convince professional biologists. Instead, they are doing an end-run around the scientific process, by appealing directly to politicians. Again, they are acting unscientifically - that's not behavior we want our kids to learn.
Finally, if Edward Goodwin had been successful, an entire generation of public school students would have been systematically misled about a key mathematical concept. Similarly, if today's creationists are successful, an entire generation of students will grow up misled about the unifying concept of biology. This matters deeply: evolution explains why your wisdom teeth are impacted, why we can't immunize against HIV, and why fish are getting smaller as we over-fish them. It explains why we get cancer, or bad backs, or sickle cell anemia. Engineers use evolutionary ideas to build new products. CSI labs use evolutionary ideas to identify criminals.
To conclude, the modern political push to require teachers to cover bogus “weaknesses” of evolution is a holdover from the 19th century, not fitting for our 21st century classrooms. It will set back our students as they prepare for a 21st century economy driven by scientific innovations. Please, let's just teach science. And science is driven by scientists and data, not politics and rhetoric.
Rev. Dr. Charles Kutz-Marks is Sr. Minister of the University Christian Church.
In the great sweep of time, it was only yesterday, a mere 500 years ago when Copernicus first wrote his On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres and related to his shocked readers that the sun, not the earth, was the center of our solar system. He proposed a theory for how the planets all revolved around the sun that was so elegantly simple that one wonders why it wasn't thought of earlier.
The truth of the matter was that it had been suggested earlier by a number of people, but you know how it goes, an earth-centered cosmos better suited the narrow vision Europeans held until that time. Then in the early 16th century with that other form of revolution in the air everywhere, it was finally time for the populace to be able to hear and take in a strange and yes, challenging truth.
Is that situation much different from ours today? I don't think so. The science that underlies evolution is impeccable. Month by month more and more corroborating evidence mounts. We have with all the new DNA testing demonstrating the actual genetic changes that move species to new species. Amazing, isn't it? Every step points to the underlying truth of the theory of evolution that Darwin first pointed us toward.
We shouldn't be surprised that some in the some religious communities aren't thrilled by this challenge. It is one more in a long string of adjustments religions have had to make in a constantly changing world. But just because we can understand their reticence to letting go of cherished old ways of understanding that does not excuse them of the necessity to do so. Especially, when the children of Texas will graduate from high school and will have to compete for the same spot in a science program of a college or university along other young people from Michigan and California and New York who were actually taught what scientists understand today! Their young people will know that the earth revolves around the sun and that evolution describes our genesis and they won't have wasted time and focus on outmoded, antiquated understandings.
I suggest it is the sacred duty of a parent and of a society to provide its young people with a solid cultural education and also a solid scientific education that will help them understand their world, be competent in it and be able to compete in it. It is not betraying faith to welcome science's fully orbed evolutionary picture of how varieties of life forms have slowly branched over millions of years into the wondrous multiplicity we enjoy this day. Many a person of faith can see in that very process the slow, steady hand of God arching all the way from simple single-celled life to the soaring heights and complexity of a self-conscious humanity.
It is not betraying faith to welcome science's answers to the question “how?” Nor will science be able to touch religion's answers to “why?” But, let us be clear, it is betraying our children to pretend the Book of Genesis chapters 1&2 are literal renditions of how we got it here.
Public testimony of Eric Hennenhoefer, President & CEO of Obsidian Software, before the Texas State Board of Education, November 19, 2008.
Public testimony of John Kingman, Friend of the Center, CFI Austin, before the Texas State Board of Education, November 19, 2008.
'Anti-evolution' debate addressed at Austin group meeting.
The science vs. creationism debate will be the topic of discussion July 16 at UT's Burdine Hall. Steven Schafersman, president of the Texas Citizens for Science, will address “various Creationist anti-evolution efforts in our state and what TCS is doing about them” a joint meeting of the Center for Inquiry-Austin and Texas Citizens for Science Meeting. Afterward, Josh Rosenau, public information project director of the National Center for Science Education, and Ed Brayton, president of Michigan Citizens for Science, will address the issue at a national level.