National Center for Science Education:

The scientific resource for creation/evolution information

   By Jeanine DeNoma   

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE), an educational nonprofit founded in 1983 and located in Berkeley, California, is the only national organization devoted exclusively to assuring that public schools will continue to teach evolutionary biology and that the religious doctrine of "scientific creationism" will not be included as part of science curriculum.

Evolutionary teaching essentially ceased after the Scopes trial in 1925 and did not to reappear in classrooms or textbooks until science education reform was instituted following Sputnik's launch. Since evolution's reintroduction, creationists have attempted to pass legislation to prohibit its teaching in public schools in many states around the nation. In case after case, however, the courts have struck down these laws. In 1968 the US Supreme Court ruled (Epperson v. Arkansas) that an Arkansas statute which prohibited teaching evolution violated the First Amendment's clause of separation of church and state. In 1982 the US Supreme Court ruled (McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education) Arkansas's "balanced treatment" statute unconstitutional. The statute had required "creation science" and "evolution science" be given "balanced treatment" in public schools. In this ruling the courts defined science and declared "creation science" is religion, not science. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 1990 (Webster v. New Lenox School District) that a school district may prohibit a teacher from teaching creation science. In 1997 the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana struck down a policy which required teachers to read students a disclaimer before teaching evolution (Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish Board of Education). In this ruling the court also identified "intelligent design theory" as equivalent to "creation science."

After having repeatedly lost in the courts, creationists moved from writing state statutes to grassroots efforts to influence or take over local school boards, sometimes with outstanding success. They have used euphemisms for creationism which makes it sound less like religion, and infused their pseudoscience with scientific buzzwords which makes it sound scientific while still leaving out the science. The sophistication of their tactics has often led non-creationists to think "creation science" is real science.

Creationists have played upon the public's ignorance of science to promote the notion that evolution is only a "theory" and, therefore, should not be taught as fact. And they have played upon people's sense of fairness by advocating that students should be presented with both "theories."

NCSE stands alone as a resource for creation/evolution information for parents, teachers, and citizens concerned about attempts to include creationism in their school district's science curriculum. NCSE provides grassroots guidance and experience to counter creationists' challenges. They provide assistance to educators developing evolutionary-based curriculums, including workshops on how to teach evolution, evaluations of textbooks and teaching materials, and assistance to teachers inquiring about teaching methods and materials.

NCSE has been at the forefront of the media debate over evolution, acting as a resource for journalists covering creation/evolution controversies and providing speakers on related issues. Dr. Eugenie Scott, NCSE Executive Director, is an exceptionally articulate spokesperson for science education and evolution. She appears frequently on national television and radio, speaks at scientific meeting and education workshops, and writes articles for general and scientific journals about the problems with creationism.

Information - loads of information - is available through NCSE's books, pamphlets, journal, reports, recordings and videotapes. NCSE carries resource guides for evolution education; recommended reading lists; position statements by scientific, educational, religious and civil liberties organizations; current information on local controversies; even reviews of creationist books and scholarly refutations of "scientific evidence against evolution." The journal Reports of the National Center for Science Education (RNCSE), which now combines two previous journals, NCSE Reports and Creation/Evolution, is published bimonthly. It carries updates on creationist activities, education news such as new textbook adoptions and education standards, and scholarly reports on evolution education.

NCSE membership, which includes a subscription to RNCSE, is $30.00 per year and can be obtained from:
NCSE at P.O. Box 9477
Berkeley, CA 94709-0477

Questions may be addressed to NCSE through their toll-free number at 1-800-290-6006 or by email at ncse@natcenscied.org. And check out their webpage at: http://www.natcenscied.org.

REFERENCES

Gillis, Anna (1994). Keeping creationism out of the classroom. BioScience44(10):650

NCSE (1997). Seven significant court decisions regarding evolution/creation issues. NCSE fact sheet.

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 2000 Oregonians for Rationality