News

Children’s evolution book that US publishers found too hot to handle wins top Canadian prize

A NEW book about evolution that yellow-bellied publishers in the US were too afraid to publish has won the prestigious Lane Anderson Awardin the young reader category in Canada.

Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be, by Daniel Loxton, won the 2010 Lane Anderson Award in the young reader category for a book published in the field of science and written by a Canadian. The  book was also a finalist in the Silver Birch competition earlier this year – and is in the running for a third book award for Canadian children’s non-fiction.

According to this report, the book – aimed at young readers between eight and 13 – sent publishers in America running for the hills because they thought it might be controversial and was “too hot a topic”.

Loxton said that he has already received angry emails from creationists demanding to know why his book doesn’t give “equal time” to their point of view. He explains that his book is about science, not religion. Furthermore, the Christian creation story is only one of many from various cultures around the world.

No one objects to the Bible or creationism being taught in schools as literature or religion – just not as science.

However, over in Tennessee, educators have been given the green light to bring creationism and “intelligent design” into classrooms under the guise of “encouraging scepticism and evidence-based reasoning”.

Robin Zimmer, a biotechnology consultant and affiliate of the creationist Center for Faith and Science International in Knoxville, said in support of what is being called the Monkey Bill, nicknamed after the notorious ‘monkey trial’ of 1925, in which Tennessee prosecuted high-school science teacher John Scopes for violating a state law against teaching evolution:

Critical thinking fosters good science.

The new bill allows public-school teachers to:

Help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories.

Biological evolution, global warming, the chemical origins of life and human cloning are listed as examples of such theories.

Opponents say that the real goal of the bill is apparent from the list of subjects it singles out. Said Eugenie Scott, Director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) in Oakland, California:

HB 368 and other bills like it are a permission slip for teachers to bring creationism, climate-change denial and other non-science into science classrooms.

Hat tip: Canada Dave and BarrieJohn (Tennessee report)

 

41 Responses to “Children’s evolution book that US publishers found too hot to handle wins top Canadian prize”

  1. Newspaniard says:

    I see Amazon are selling it, let’s hope it becomes a world-wide best seller. I can’t believe how these stupid creationists are “winning” the science vs bible/koran/torah game.

  2. AgentCormac says:

    It seems that students at the University of Tennessee sent a rather intelligent letter to the governor explaining the problems with the bill. Here it is.

    Dear Governor Haslam,

    We are writing to you regarding HB368/SB893. As graduate students at the University of Tennessee, we strongly believe that this Bill represents a step backward for Tennessee and our state’s ascending recognition for Science and STEM education. We are specifically writing to address the nature of the Bill itself, which we feel was not adequately discussed during either the House or Senate hearings and misrepresents the undivided consensus among anthropologists, biochemists, biologists, ecologists, evolutionary biologists, genome scientists, geographers, and molecular biologists.

    If given a cursory reading, this Bill appears to advocate for intellectual freedom in the classroom and hence would seem prudent. However, it is abundantly clear from both a careful reading and from the testimony at hearings that the intent of this Bill is to encourage teachers to call into question universally accepted scientific principles.

    In Section 1(a)(2) of SB893, the generally assembly states “The teaching of some scientific subjects, including, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, can cause controversy;”

    We agree. However, this “controversy” is not scientific. The controversy to which the Bill alludes is the reluctance of non-scientists to accept these principles due to certain religious and political beliefs. This can be the only explanation for the inclusion of human cloning in the Bill. Human cloning is solely an ethical issue. There is no scientific debate on how to clone an organism or whether genetic clones can be created. It is a fact that humans can create genetic clones. Only the ethics of the issue is at stake.

    Scientific evidence supporting the occurrence of biological evolution, global climate change, and the chemical origin of life are not controversial among scientists. Scientists universally accept these principles based on their predictability and the overwhelming evidence supporting them. Among scientists, the controversy exists in the details such as how changes in temperatures will affect biodiversity or what evolutionary forces
    regulate the speciation process. This type of discussion is due to the very nature of science, which requires the constant acquisition and analysis of data.

    However, this is not the controversy to which the Bill speaks. The bill later states, in section 1(c), that “The state board of education . . . shall endeavor to assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies.” This wording seems to imply that the controversy for these aforementioned subjects lies in the scientific realm where in reality they lie only in the political and religious ones.

    We fear that this bill only ostensibly supports “critical thinking” in Tennessee’s classrooms. Instead, by implying that subjects such as evolution and global warming are “debatable”, this bill achieves the exact opposite of its purported goal. This is tantamount to encouraging educators to suggest students in science classes disregard the very nature of the scientific process and ignore factual data in favor of the beliefs of some individuals. Scientists cannot ignore data in favor of personal biases. If they did, they would be discredited as non-objective.

    This Bill is a step backwards and would do irreparable harm to the development of STEM education in this state. As university educators, we continually face the challenge of losing students’ interests in science courses when they arrive at The University of Tennessee because they are frustrated by their lack of sufficient preparation. Many of them know very little about evolution by natural selection or the mechanisms of global climate change. We hope that you see that as with the legislatures who passed this bill, we too are concerned about the education of children in Tennessee.

    This passage of this Bill has the potential to cost the state dearly in terms of lost revenue, a poorly trained scientific workforce, and an exodus of scientists and educators who do not wish to have their discipline diluted with non-scientific biases. We fear that calling into question scientific support of foundations to biological theory will cripple the ability of Tennessee’s students to become functional scientists, doctors, professionals, and contributing members of many growing fields.

    We ask that you please thoughtfully consider our position, and veto this bill. Thank you for your time.

    Signed,

    Graduate Researchers in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolutionary Biology (G.R.E.B.E)
    The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

  3. barriejohn says:

    What has Creationism got to do with “evidence-based reasoning”? The terminology that they are using is ridiculous!

  4. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    The new bill allows public-school teachers to:

    Help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories.

    ID (creationism)isn’t a scientific theory.

    I wonder how all the supporters of this bill would react if a teacher started discussing other creation myths?

    I think that this book and RD’s evolution book aimed at children should be compulsory reading material in all US schools.

  5. barriejohn says:

    GMR: I think that they may be referring to evolutionary theory there. Whatever the case, they are comparing chalk with cheese, and Creationism/ID ideas could not in any way cause anyone to re-evaluate their views regarding evolution, so it’s nonsense to pretend otherwise. This is just aimed at giving spurious validity to mere myths and fantasies.

  6. Newspaniard says:

    How soon will it be before those students at the University of Tennessee are expelled for blasphemy?

  7. Angela_K says:

    Tennessee: the state that evolution forgot. Well it certainly seems that way as so many of its residents haven’t evolved with the rest of us.

    No doubt the creationists will now use the courts to prosecute any teacher who declares the creation myths to have no supporting evidence.

  8. Broga says:

    The USA has a blood lust (religion inspired) for executing many times more people, per capita, than European contries. It is being driven scientifically backwards by religionists. Meanwhile the billionaire Mormon and would be President says he wants to ensure that the USA remains the greatest country in the history of the world. I suppose it depends what you mean by greatest by I think Romney is, like many religionists, on a wishful thinking kick.

    As for dopey creationists, they cannot win based on science, debate and fact so they resort to that great backstop of religionists lies and censorship. TFTD being a UK example.

  9. Alan Mason says:

    Evolutionists should be revolutionist about creationism and fight to remove it from US society! I am from the UK! Creationism makes a laughing stock of your country throughout the educated world! Is that what you want? Get angry and get rid of it now!

    Love and Peace

  10. Ken says:

    “As for dopey creationists, they cannot win based on science, debate and fact … ”

    Why is it then, that it is the evolutionist side that refuses to debate the creationist side? Why not finish it off if it’s such rubbish? Why didn’t Dawkins, often touted as the best the atheist side has got on this, demolish ID in a moderated debate with Behe or someone so we could all forget about it. If William Craig is the buffoon that Dawkins claims (but didn’t bother to check, so much for following the evidence) he could have routed one of the best apologists on the Christian side.

  11. JohnMWhite says:

    @Ken – ‘Evolutionists’ have debated creationists for decades, starting with Darwin. The debate was over long ago, the problem is creationism cannot be finished off purely because its adherents refuse to acknowledge reality. They refuse to accept scientific evidence as saying what it actually says, and they refuse to accept that if their position is valid, every other faith in history has an equally valid position. Creationism is inconsistent with the real world and inconsistent with itself. No wonder Dawkins can’t be bothered to get in yet another debate about it – it’s done to death. And Wllliam Lane Craig really is a complete no-hoper, his arguments are astonishingly simple-minded, even for a creationist. It would be pointless to argue with him because for his entire career any debate with him has been like arguing with a brick wall, except the bricks have a slightly better chance of making a salient point.

    Anyway, for the main story, that US publishers would actually be afraid to handle the subject of evolution is quite frightening. What on Earth are they afraid of? I cannot believe we have come to a place where publishing a children’s book about such an obvious and well-known scientific, biological fact is somehow ‘controversial’. I wonder how many children’s astronomy books were not published in the US for saying the Earth revolves around the Sun.

  12. tony e says:

    @Ken,

    You really are a persistent little sunbeam for jesus, aren’t you?

    Despite not being able to prove the existence of your silly little life crutch (god) you are still trawling for converts.

    No matter how hard you try to deflect my repeated questioning, you are still found wanting.

    I think that, deep down, you realise that the who god based fairy tale is a lie.

    Time to grow up.

  13. Trevor blake says:

    I look forward to the day creationist stories are taught in science class in public schools – as false. Creationist theories are competing theories, they are just discredited. There is no harm in teaching about the aether as a discredited theory replaced by the demonstration of the vacuum. It could be the introduction of this bill will have the exact opposite effect it’s framers intended.

  14. Broga says:

    @Ken: You really are special. And I mean special in your determination to push your superstitions regardless of the truth. The reason Dawkins, entirely rightly, kept clear of debates with these creationist fools is that when he appeared with them he conferred on them some of his considerable prestige as a scientist and a brilliant writer.

    The other reason is that they, like yourself, are fantacists who will twist every comment, ignore every fact and invent whatever suits their squalid purpose. Someone such as yourself is prepared to cheapen themselves, demonstrate their lack of intellectual integrity and support and flatter some of the most asinine humans every to put fingers to a keyboard. In the service of these creationist clowns you inevitably provoke the contempt you deserve.

    Do you really believe the world was created 6000 years ago?

  15. Tim Danaher says:

    Yes, Ken, you scientific illiterate, all it would take to settle the argument would be to let a few barrack-room lawyers have their day in the media spotlight. Actually, you know, understanding the science… well, what good is that?

    Your scientific illiteracy drips out of every post you make on here, but should we really expect anything different? After all, science is difficult (even if the underlying principles can be elegantly simple) and takes years of serious and dedicated study to master. Far easier to have some tin-pot, pork-barrel shyster like William Lane Craig fight your battles for you, whilst simultaneously lapping up the benefits that science and technology actually have delivered provided for you.

  16. Tim Danaher says:

    BTW, some years ago, I had an e-mail exchange with Daniel Loxton, about computer graphics and the like, in his capacity as editor, writer and illustrator of Junior Skeptic. A thoroughly decent and very thoughtful individual. I wish him every success with this book (he works his balls off producing Junior Skeptic, for not much reward).

  17. Broga says:

    @Tim Danaher: I remember, when reading about the Tennessee Monkey Trial in 1925, H.L.Mencken writing that it was so easy to become an expert merely by accepting what the pastors and priests told you. Why bother applying yourself to the hard discipline of years of work to get a science degree when the bible gave it all to you with no effort? I think Mencken, who was scathing about William Jennings Bryan who was a witness against evolution, made the comment after Bryan said that anyone who had read the bible knew more science than all the scientists in the USA. Mencken described Bryan as “a charlatan,a mountebank, a zany without sense or dignity ……deluded by a childish theology, full of an almost pathological hatred of all learning…” (Brings to mind Ken and his sad commentaries here.)

    Clarence Darrow led him on to rant and rave and invited him to destroy himself which he did. He died shortly after the trial.

  18. AgentCormac says:

    For those who are interested, we have a visitor called ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ posting some rather interesting points of view on this previous article about the RCC’s take on Nazism.

    http://freethinker.co.uk/2012/04/09/christianity-is-the-antidote-to-nasty-things-like-nazism-claims-foolish-catholic-bishop/

  19. Matt Westwood says:

    Robin Zimmer: In “Mr. Rome” biz.

  20. Robert Stovold says:

    @Ken
    It’s a lot easier for fundamentalists to misrepresent evolution than it is for scientists to explain Creationist fallacies. Let’s try an example.

    Creationist:
    “Evolution is random” (19 characters)

    Evolutionist:
    “Although mutations ….. Oh Darwin! I’ve run out of characters!”

    Explain the fallacy in less than 19 characters, Ken, and I might start believing in miracles.

  21. Angela_K says:

    Ken, the creationist’s preposterous proposition has been demolished many times before but the creationists refuse to accept the evidence and/or do not understand scientific evidence. They stick fingers in ears and close eyes to anything that challenges their absurd beliefs. We, the scientific community have overwhelming evidence on our side to support our observations and claims and you have your collection of myths that is the bible.

  22. 1859 says:

    Of course the creationists have merely to argue that their superhero created evolution by natural selection. I’ve heard such arguments many times and I’ve never really known how to counter them. You know the ‘retreat-one-step-further-back’ arguments. You know what I mean : (Me):the evidence shows that fairies don’t exist….(They):Yes that’s because the Fairy King has provided the evidence they don’t exist.

    About children’s books – read a good one to my kids recently ‘Ezra & Mr. Bignall’s Disappearing Maths Class’ -it even has the Queen meeting Pythagoras! Crazy but certainly not in the superstitious mould. Think it’s on Amazon too.

  23. Ken says:

    I have never claimed to be scientifically literate above a pretty basic level. That’s why, unsurprisingly, I would like to see a debate between suitably qualified creationists against their evolutionary counterparts. I would like to see Dawkins answer the counter-arguments to his position, especially as he has gone public with a popular anti-religion book like The God Delusion. Things have moved on since Scopes.

    He won’t debate Craig because he is afraid of losing face with his disciples. If he isn’t up to the level of debate, why not write a book each criticising the other’s arguments? He’s good at writing by common consent.

    Of the three main creationist views, young earth, old earth, and theistic evolution, I’m tentatively sympathetic to old earth, though not the billions of years scenario – at least this is not required as it is to make macro-evolution even vaguely plausible.

    I wouldn’t rule out YEC altogether though, as if God exists as creator, the length of ‘time’ needed for an initial creation becomes rather academic. A unique and unrepeatable event.

  24. Broga says:

    Ken: There are no suitably qualified creationists. You start with a position and then, with your brains addled with superstitious, bible based claptrap, makes fools of yourselves trying to justify the nonsense. The BBC takes good care not to let Dawkins confront his more sensible adverseries (I exclude the USA fundamentalist idiots) for the simple reason that he would demolish them.

    That’s why they censor, with Stalinist rigour, any secular opinions of Thought for the Day. Let some rational secularists on that and the exposure of the current crop of banal and patronising religionists would be just too obvious for them to be sustained.

  25. Tim Danaher says:

    Ken, you yet again confirm your utter lack of understanding about what science actually is. When will you get it through your thick skull that what is true in science isn’t decided by debate in the court of public opinion, it’s about understanding the evidence and what it is telling us?

    Try reading the book linked to in the article. It might be pitched at a level you can understand.

    @Broga… must read some more of Mencken’s essays…

  26. Broga says:

    @Tim Danaher: I am a big fan of Mencken and he is such an artist with words. Alistair Cooke described him as “A master craftsman of daily journalism in the twentieth century……the native American Voltaire, the enemy of all puritans, the heretic in the Sunday School, the one man demolition crew of the genteel tradition.”

    My edition of his description of the Scopes trial – borrowed and never returned – is brilliant and often very funny. Shame Ken doesn’t read Mencken.

  27. Ken says:

    “When will you get it through your thick skull that what is true in science isn’t decided by debate in the court of public opinion, it’s about understanding the evidence and what it is telling us?”

    I will probably never get it through my thick skull because I have never maintained that scientific truth is established by public opinion. What I would maintain is that scientific evidence is not self-interpreting, meaning that the same evidence can lead difference scientists to different and even irreconcilable conclusions. Creation/evolution and the different views within them are an example of this.

    If Dawkins would demolish his more sensible critics, then bring it on! Except of course there is not a single qualified creationist scientist alive anywhere on the entire globe.

  28. 1859 says:

    What garbage is this!? Evidence is gathered, evidence is debated, evidence is tested, experiments test the evidence, more experiments test the experiments that test the evidence. Scientists of course disagree – it’s their job – but eventually after a mountain of irrefuable FACTS – a deeper understanding is reached about our world, because all ture scientists just cannot ignore the overwhelming evidence – and it’s an understanding that can in many cases predict what will happen before it happens. Ken – you are not living in the world that was discovered by Copernicus. Your mind is controlled by excessive humours of the bile, so you had better go and apply leeches to your dick!

  29. Sabbag says:

    Ken, what you would or wouldn’t rule out is immaterial. Essentially this is the problem with you and with creationists in general. The evidence for evolution (and by definition against ID or creationism) is out there, all around us, it doesn’t care what you think or more accurately, feel.

  30. Ken says:

    “The evidence for evolution (and by definition against ID or creationism)…”

    ID is not identical with creationism. And unless evolution (macro-evolution) has proved that it is not possible that any intelligence started and organised creation, creation still stands as a possibility. As this deals with the unobservable past, I don’t see how anyone could ever claim that, or in fact has claimed it.

    In the beginning (whatever that means), nothing created the heavens and the earth ….

  31. Angela_K says:

    @Ken “In the beginning (whatever that means), nothing created the heavens and the earth ….”

    There is no such thing as nothing, empty space isn’t actually empty due to quantum fluctuations.

  32. Broga says:

    @Angela: Regarding quantum fluctuations (intriguing – as are multiverses and much else) I don’t think Ken will get it. More than that he doesn’t want to entertain such a concept. What he happily ignores is that if there is a creator, someone must have created the creator and so on. This doesn’t solve anything but merely introduces complexity.

  33. Fred the Ded says:

    I see you all keep responding to this Ken troll.
    Please cease and desist immediately. I like to read intelligent comments, but not ones that feed deliberate trolls like Ken.

  34. Ken says:

    Broga – “What he happily ignores is that if there is a creator, someone must have created the creator and so on”.

    You surprise me saying that. The biblical God has never not existed, but is the cause of the material and spiritual universe. He is uncreated, ‘from everlasting to everlasting’.

    It is not possible for our finite minds to comprehend that, yet even Angela says something as opposed to nothing must have existed for eternity in the past. And if the physical universe hasn’t existed from eternity, something or someone must have brought it into existence. An infinite regress is surely a problem for the atheist, not the theist.

    It intrigues me that Christians are mocked for believing in the existence of a God who is not visible, yet it is OK for scientists to postulate the existence of things that are invisible or even unknowable, like a multiverse.

  35. Matt Westwood says:

    So yours is the “god of the gaps”. That is: we still don’t understand some of the aspects of what started everything off, so therefore “God musta dunnit.”

    How the scientific attitude works is: There’s still stuff we don’t know and we admit to not knowing it. We make some guesses as to what started it (bearing Occam’s Razor in mind) and generally speaking we’re getting closer to an even fuller understanding. The theory of multiverses may be a little difficult for you to get your head round, but for those of us who have followed the mathematics involved, it makes a lot more rational sense than the concept of a conscious entity “just like us except better” which is a barely-evolved holdover from a barbaric bronze-age semi-civilisation in a part of the world where they never stop squabbling.

  36. Broga says:

    @Fred the Ded: After Ken the Clown’s last effort I am going to take your advice and ignore him. He is a fool, unread, unthinking, scientifically illiterate and intellectually suffocated by his fetid superstitions. He is an irritant who cannot understand what is placed before him but still thinks he has something worthwhile to say. To respond to his moronic comments is merely to feed his vanity.

  37. Angela_K says:

    @Ken ” even Angela says something as opposed to nothing must have existed for eternity in the past.” I didn’t say that!

    And like Broga, this is my last post on this thread.

  38. Ken says:

    @Ken ” even Angela says something as opposed to nothing must have existed for eternity in the past.” I didn’t say that!

    Not in so many words I agree, but it was implied.

    Why the sudden personal attack on the trolling superstitious clown? The answer is in Matt Westwood’s post, where he talks of ‘stuff we don’t know and make guesses’. However stupid you may want to think believing in God is, science when it comes to origins doesn’t have the answers either. Some of it is guess work. Faith even. What started the big bang? What happened before that? It’s unknown, probably unknowable.

    This, unfortunately, leaves room for the divine foot to get in the door, not as a God of the gaps, but an all-encompassing answer to the question of why anything is here and where it’s going.