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Public Policy Report for 12/13/2000

EVOLUTION TOWN MEETING AT AIBS ANNUAL MEETING, 24 MARCH 2001 - A special session on the teaching of evolution will be held at the next AIBS Annual Meeting (24 - 26 March 2001, in Washington DC). Scheduled for 24 March 2001 at 7:30 p.m., the town meeting is a collaboration with the National Center for Science Education (note new website: and the National Association of Biology Teachers. Panelists will include Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, Irene Eckstrand of the Society for the Study of Evolution, and others who will focus on how educators can meet the challenges of teaching about evolution and keeping up-to-date with state and national events affecting science education. The importance of building grass-roots communication networks among educators and researchers will be discussed. The new U.S.-wide AIBS evolution listserver network will be featured.

NOTE: Registration is now open for the 2001 AIBS Annual Meeting (24 - 26 March 2001, in Washington DC); the theme is "From Biodiversity to Biocomplexity." The AIBS meeting website at allows for online registration as well as online poster submissions.

COALITION OF PROFESSIONAL SOCIETIES TO UNDERTAKE VARIETY OF EVOLUTION INITIATIVES - Several scientific societies/umbrella groups with professional staff have decided to move forward with an effort to address some aspects of the evolution issue. At this point, the participating organizations are: the American Institute of Biological Sciences, Ecological Society of America, American Geological Institute, American Geophysical Union, National Association of Biology Teachers, the Tri-Societies (Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, and American Society of Agronomy) and American Physical Society. We hope to grow. At our first meeting, in late September, we agreed that scientific societies with professional staff have an obligation to contribute to the efforts of the National Council for Science Education, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and others to safeguard the teaching of evolutionary sciences in the schools. The premise of this new effort, which is nameless at this point, is that there are many pro-active measures that can be taken to assure that the attacks on the teaching of evolution do not succeed. The reactionary approach requires a very rapid response, relies on the energies of a small number of people, and places huge demands on the teachers and scientists in the state where the action is taking place. While there will (unfortunately) always be a need for this type of effort, we hope to approach the problem from the other direction. Rather than taking on every challenge from the anti-evolution/creationism/intelligent design sector, we will instead craft a positive message that can be disseminated in a variety of ways.

At a second meeting, held on November 17, we decided to review the list of action items generated by the National Conference on the Teaching of Evolution (held at UC Berkeley in October; see and select those items that we are well-suited to undertake and that do not duplicate efforts already underway by other organizations. We have also discussed several specific initiatives that we hope to undertake in the next year.

AIBS AND THE NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR SCIENCE EDUCATION COSPONSOR EVOLUTION LISTSERVES IN THE 50 STATES - AIBS is undertaking a project to support the teaching of evolution in the schools. This project consists of the establishment of a listserve in each of the 50 states. The National Council on Science Education has agreed to co-sponsor these listserves. AIBS 2001 President Judy Weis conceived of the project when she followed the efforts to oppose the Kansas school board's plan to adopt science tests that eliminated questions about evolution, the big bang theory, and the age of the earth. The scientists and teachers in Kansas had to scramble to organize to oppose these efforts. Weis recognized that since this is an issue that will not go away, teachers and scientists need to be prepared to mobilize quickly. They also need assistance, support, and advice from other teachers and scientists around the country. These e-mail listserves will allow scientists, teachers, and other concerned people to stay in touch with each other. The listserves can function as support groups for teachers trying to teach evolution in a hostile atmosphere. They can also allow for rapid communications when school boards or state legislatures are considering actions that would hinder the teaching of evolution or promote the teaching of creationism.

There are already list managers for many states. Their names and email addresses appear below and are also online with hyperlinks at (or follow the links from the opening page of Some of these have already set up their listserves, and the address to write to and message to send in order to subscribe are provided. Please subscribe! If your state has a contact person, but no list name, please write and encourage them to get their listserve set up. If your state does not appear at all, that means no one has volunteered to run the listserve. Usually staff at the computer center should know how to set up listserves, and the time commitment should not be great, unless there is some urgent issue being debated. Please contact Judy Weis at if you are willing to host a list for your state.

Evolution Listserve Managers (see also , or follow the links from the opening page of

AL - Bruce Stallsmith
Send him an e-mail message to subscribe to evolistal

AR-Jim Murray -
Message: subscribe

AZ - John Lynch
message: SUBSCRIBE EVOLVEAZ firstname lastname

CA - Patrick Foley:
message: subscribe calevolved-l firstname lastname

CO - Mike Antolin:
Message:subscribe SCIENCE-EDUCATION 1stnmLastn

CT - Ross Koning:
Message: subscribe EVOLEDCT firstname lastname

FL - Brent Nichol:
Message: subscribe evolistfl firstname lastname

GA - Sarah Pallas:
Message: subscribe EVOLISTGA

IA - David Mccalley :
To subscribe send name and address to

IL - Steve Mullin : put something in subject line.
Message: subscribe evoledil

IN - George Bakken:
Message: Subscribe EVOLVE_IN

KS - Steve Case:
Message: subscribe EVOLVE-LEAD-L name

KY - Patrick Crumrine:
Message: subscribe evolistky firstname lastname

LA - Arlene Billock:
Message: subscribe evolist your email address

MA - John Dennehy:
Message: subscribe evolistma

MD - Eric Scully:
Message: subscribe evolvemd-l

ME - Bryan Dail:

MI - G. Forbes:
Website - has announcements and can sign up

MN - Kirk Wythers:

MO -
Send him an email message to subscribe, giving name and email address

MS - Larry Shaffer:

MT - Fred Allendorf:
Message: subscribe evolistmt your emailaddress

NC - James Balhoff:
Message: subscribe evolistnc

NE Jim Platz:
Message: subscribe evolution-ne

NH - Larry Spencer:

NJ - Jack Gaynor:
Message: Subscribe evolistnj

NM - Wenda Trevathan:
James Botsford:

NV - Julie Ellsworth:
Message: subscribe evolistnv

NY - Steven Schimmrich: or
Message: subscribe evolistny

OH - Steve Edinger:
Message: SUBSCRIBE sciedu-l

OK - Victor Hutchison:

OR - Reed Noss:
Message: sub orevol Firstname Lastname

PA - Lisamarie Windham:
Message: Subscribe evolistpa-l email address, full name

PR - Eduardo Rosa-Molinar:
Subject: subscribe Message: your name & email address

RI - Kenneth Miller:
Message: subscribe evolistRI firstname lastname

SC - Rob Dillon:
Message: subscribe chs-sci-net Firstname Lastname

TN - Timothy Gaudin :
Message: subscribe evolisttn firstname lastname

TX - Wendee Holtcamp:
Message: subscribe texevol-ed Firstname Lastname

UT - Duane Jeffery :
Message: subscribe sciedutah firstname lastname

VA - David Lawrence :
Message: subscribe VAEVOLVE

VT - Rick Murphy :
message: subscribe EVOLUTIONVT

WA - Sergio Martinez:
Send an email message to subscribe, giving name and email address

WI - Fred Anapol:
Message: subscribe evolistwi Firstname Lastname

WV - Richard Bady:
Message: evolve-wv-list

WY - Christine Wade -
"subscribe" on subject line

PARTNERSHIPS WITH AIBS MEMBER SOCIETIES AND ORGANIZATIONS AND INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS TO SUPPORT THE TEACHING OF EVOLUTION - AIBS is looking forward to working with its member societies and organizations to help them develop and implement individual or collaborative projects to support the teaching of evolution. If your society is interested in undertaking one or more projects, and needs ideas or wants to find other societies to work with, please contact Ellen Paul at AIBS will have a menu of activities at different scales and will provide resources and support. We will also help societies to develop their own projects and programs by providing resources, advice, and other logistical support.

Among the activities we are considering is a training program to help scientists and scientific societies to address efforts to prevent the teaching of evolution. When faced with an attack on the theory or teaching of evolution, the temptation to debate is overwhelming. Surely, we reason, if they only knew the scientific evidence, they would come to see the light. Not so! The challenges to evolution are not about scientific evidence. To be sure, there are challenges to the scientific evidence and there is nothing the anti-evolution forces like more than to draw biologists into arguments about scientific evidence, knowing that any one experiment or set of observations raises as many questions as it answers. But the real basis of the attacks on evolution, however, is not scientific. It is based on the false premise that evolutionary theory and religious beliefs are inapposite and that evolutionary theory precludes the belief in divine creation. Essentially, the anti-evolution groups of today are the same as those of the Scopes era, with new rhetoric and strategy designed to end-run the myriad Supreme Court decisions that bar the teaching of religious doctrine in the public schools.

Even if scientists understand the terms of the debate, these debates are at best fruitless those committed to creationism or intelligent design and opposed to evolutionary science are unlikely to change their minds. At worst, these debates are counterproductive for science, because the large number of people who are not opposed to evolution may come away with the impression that there is no scientific evidence or that religion and science are mutually exclusive.

To help scientists learn a productive, positive way to support the teaching of evolution and to address challenges to the teaching of evolutionary theory, AIBS is attempting to develop a training program to teach members how to communicate with the media and government bodies such as school boards and state legislatures as well as with students, parents, faculty members, university administrators, and members of the public. We are particularly interested in having a corps of scientists willing to serve as contacts for the media who are sure to come calling next fall when NOVA airs its series on evolution. Please contact Ellen Paul at if you are interested in this training. We anticipate conducting this training via the internet, so no travel will be required.

PENNSYLVANIA'S PROPOSED TEACHING STANDARDS UNDERMINE THE TEACHING OF EVOLUTION - A draft of new standards for teaching science and technology in Pennsylvania schools seems to open the door to teaching creation theory alongside the theory of evolution. The new standards for teaching science in Pennsylvania propose treating evolution as a theory and presenting alternative theories as part of schools' science curriculum. The draft language, which is expected to go before the state legislature for approval early next year, has raised alarms among some scientists and education groups who worry that the new standards would give legitimacy to teaching creationist views. An earlier draft of the science standards received good reviews from scientists and educators. But in July, the state Board of Education inserted several changes. The Philadelphia Inquirer on 3 December 2000 quoted education officials who denied that the changes made in July were inserted to placate creationists. "For the first time, we've mandated the teaching of evolution in Pennsylvania classrooms," State Secretary of Education Eugene Hickok said. "The standards were refined based on input from people at [a series or public hearings and workshops]," said Karl Girton, chair of the Board of Education Council of Basic Education. "The language in the latest draft of the academic standards does not promote the teaching of creationism," said James Gallagher, chairman of the state Board of Education. "The standards do, however, give clear guidance to teachers to initiate intellectually stimulating dialogue about the scientific theory of evolution."

Examples of the changes demonstrate how this seemingly innocuous intent to initiate "intellectually stimulating dialogue about the scientific theory of evolution" invite the discussion of creationism and intelligent design:

Existing (1988) text: Explain concepts and processes of the theory of evolution.

Original proposed text: Analyze evidence of fossil records, similarities in body structures, embryological studies and DNA studies that support the theory of evolution.
New proposed text: Analyze evidence of fossil records, similarities in body structures, embryological studies and DNA studies that support or do not support the theory of evolution.

Original proposed text: Compare modern-day descendants of extinct species and account for their present appearance.
New proposed text: Compare modern-day descendants of extinct species and propose possible accounts for their present appearance.

Existing (1988) text:
Know the theory of evolution. Know that present earth features and organisms arose from materials and life forms of the past. Discuss changes in the theory of evolution as new scientific facts have been discovered.

Original proposed text: Analyze the theory of evolution.
New proposed text: Analyze the impact of new scientific facts on the theory of evolution.


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