Case Studies in Earth & Environmental Science Journalism
Session 1: Evolution and Creationism, in general.
1999 Kansas decision to remove evolution from state education standards
2002 Debate on introducing Intelligent Design into Ohio state education
Session 3: Guest Scientist: O. Roger Anderson, Lamont & Teachers College.
• What do Genesis and the Origin of the Species have in common?
• Summarize the observations and lines of reasoning which persuaded Darwin that “species have changed and are still slowly changing by the preservation and accumulation of successive slight favorable variations.”
• Darwin acknowledged that “all the most eminent living naturalists and geologists [have] rejected this view of the mutability of species.” Why did he think this was so?
• Compare chapter 14 of Darwin’s Origin of Species with the Alvarez et al Science paper we read in the K/T Extinction case.
• Darwin recognized that his new way of thinking was going to open up important and fascinating new directions of inquiry for future scientists. What were some of the examples of his predictions, and was he correct in his predictions?
• Darwin got around to mentioning “the Creator” in the next to last paragraph of his book. What was his view of the role of the Creator?
• If you had been reporting for the Times of London when Darwin’s Origin of the Species came, how would you have covered it?
• Many scientific and educational organizations have issued policy statements or position statements supporting the teaching of evolution and/or deploring the teaching of creationism in the schools. As an example, the position statement of the American Geophysical Union is included in the reading book. Under what circumstance would you cover the issuing of such a policy statement? How would you cover it?
• Critique the papers from the Creation Research Society Quarterly and the CEN Technical Journal. Who do you think the intended audience for these papers is?
• Demastes et al, 1995, in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching, consider the effectiveness of various pedagogical approaches to teaching evolution in high school and college. Although this isn’t the point of their article, what struck me about their data is how ineffective all of the approaches are (see their table 1 and table 5). Why do you think education on evolution is so ineffective? Or, conversely, why do you think evolution is so hard to teach? How could you incorporate these kind of educational research results into a journalistic article?
• Sinatra et al, 2003, in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching, find that students’ acceptance of photosynthesis depends on their understanding of photosynthesis; however, their acceptance of evolution does not depend on their understanding of evolution. Is there any implication here for science journalists?
• The Creationists are good communicators. What lessons can be learned from their approaches?
• In the general Popular articles section, we have a magazine called Creation Ex Nihilo. Who do you think is the audience for this magazine?
• Look at the chapter called “Why Teach Evolution?” from the book Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science. This chapter, and subsequent chapters in the same book, use a device that we haven’t seen before to reach the audience. Can you think of any use you might make of this device in your own writing?
• The Why Files are an NSF-supported attempt to create a popular science magazine on-line. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this approach relative to a paper science magazine like Discovery?
• July-August 1999, the Skeptical Inquirer: Eugenie Scott describes the hard core creationists as existing in a “parallel universe”, with separate conferences, etc. Do you agree with this characterization? A voyage to a parallel universe has powerful story potential. How might you do such a story?
• Critique the article by Robert Wright (The Accidental Creationist, The New Yorker, Dec 99). What can we learn about writing an effective profile from this article?
• ABC News presents polls showing that more Americans believe in creationism than in other western industrialized nations, and other polls also show strong support for creationism. Why do you think this is?
• EOS August 2000, reports on an article called 'The Democratization of Science" by Brian Harvey. The article discusses the relationship of science/evolution to populism, the "notion that the judgment of everyday men and women is better than that of the cultural and intellectual elites," and suggests that populism as applied to science may be playing a role in the debate about teaching of creationism/evolution. Do you see any evidence in the journalistic readings to support this interpretation?
• Lawrence Lerner of Cal State University has created an evolution report card, grading states on the quality of the coverage of evolution in their state science standards, as reported in Geotimes and Scientific American. How could you use this report card as a basis for a local NY metro story?
• The Kansas City Star ran back to back editorials on May 4 and 5, 1999, from a scientist against evolution and from a historian in favor of evolution. Which do you find more compelling?
• If the English editorial in the Kansas City Star is not compelling, what article in the Kansas press might have been capable of changing people’s minds?
• Look at the photograph by Jeff Roberson accompanying the May 5, 99 article in the Kansas City Star. What message does this photograph convey?
• Critique Kate Beem’s coverage for the Kansas City-Star.
• Contrast the Kansas and the national coverage of the Kansas decision.
• Strategies and devices: humor is hard to handle, and it takes a brave writer to use humor in the context of such an emotionally charged issue. Look at Gene Weingarten, Washington Post, Style section. 8/14/99. Also, Arthur Hoppe, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/27/99. Does humor work? When does humor work?
• What do you think of the op/ed piece by Michael Behe, author of Darwin’s Black Box in the NYT op-ed 8/13/99? What about the lead article in the NYT Week in Review 8/15/99 by George Johnson?
• Contrast the editorial by Philip E. Johnson in the Wall Street Journal (Aug 16, 1999) with that in the Washington Post by Maxine Singer (two days later, Aug 18, 1999). Which is more effective, and why?
• The Nation, Katha Pollitt, 9/20/99: “Throughout the world, one way or another most Christian denominations have managed to reconcile belief in God with belief in the mechanisms of natural selection. A French or German or Scandinavian politician who called for students to entertain as a reasonable deduction from existing evidence the proposition that Earth is at most 10,000 years old would be bundled off to a mental hospital.”
Wall Street Journal, Phillip E. Johnson, Aug 16, 1999: “A Chinese paleontologist …. When this conclusion upsets American scientists, he wryly comments, ‘In China we can criticize Darwin but not the government. In America you can criticize the government but not Darwin.”
Why, do you think, is the creationism/evolution controversy so strong in the U.S., but absent or muted in most other developed countries?
• Maggie Gallagher, Skagit Valley Herald, Aug 20, 1999: “of course, the debate over evolution in schools is not just a debate about truth; it is a debate about the authority of the scientific community in American life.”
Mona Charen, Stars & Stripes, Aug 20, 1999: “The battle over whether to teach evolution is really a battle about the nature of man,.” Other examples?
• Lee Allison, Kansas State Geologist, says “scientists are easy targets, they aren’t organized to lead political battles, they aren’t media savvy, and they are easily pigeon-holed as members of a liberal elite.” And “The fight is a political one—one that scientists are ill-equipped to win.” (Nature, 23/30 Dec 1999; Geotimes, Dec 2000). Do you agree? If so, how does this impact your job as science journalists?
• National Center for Science Education News Archive (http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?branch=statement) is the best organized and most informative web-based archive I have found. The select by date and select by locality features worked well for my needs, but what really made it work were the well-written narratives for each time/place intersection. Who do you think the audience for this is? What other controversial issues would benefit from such a site?
• The book Of Pandas and People was central to the case. Compare and contrast the presentation of this book to that of a standard high school Biology textbook.
• Columbia Journalism Review, Sept/Oct 2005, says that when evolution is covered by general reporters, or political/opinion pieces, rather than science reporters, there is a focus on the controversy, and a de-emphasis of the strength of the scientific arguments for evolution. Does this remind you of any other issue we have discussed this year?
• Columbia Journalism Review, Sept/Oct 2005, predicted that the “spectacle [of the Kitzmiller trial] will lend an entirely undeserved p.r. boost to the carefully honed issue-framing techniques employed by today’s anti-evolutionists.” Do you think this is what happened?
• During the trial, evidence was presented that there had been multiple editions of the Pandas book throughout the 1980’s, and that in earlier drafts the terms “creationism” and “creationist” had been used, and that these terms had been replaced with “intelligent design” in 1987, after the Edwards v Aguillard decision in 1987. This evidence was assembled by Nick Matzke of the National Center for Science Education and Dr. Barbara Forrest, Department of Philosophy, Southeastern Louisiana University. Our reading book includes “The Story of the Panda Drafts (2006) by Nick Matzke, a graph of word counts based on data from Dr. Forrest, and a document called “Missing Link Discovered” by Nick Matzke (2005). How could you have used these documents to develop a story for an audience who might not otherwise be following the evolution/creationism controversy?
• Critique the coverage by the local paper, the York Daily Record/Sunday News. (Population of York, PA is about 40,000).
• How did the national coverage differ from the local coverage?
• The support of Michael Behe is central to the Intelligent Design movement, and was central to the Dover case. Who is he? What is his case? How was he portrayed by the press?
• 14 Dec 2004, the Discovery Institute issued a press release calling Dover evolution policy “misguided” and calling for its withdrawal. The Discovery Institute is an Intelligent Design advocacy organization. Why did they call for withdrawal of Dover’s policy?
• 30 May 2005, The New Yorker, “Devolution” by H. Allen Orr. What strategies or devices does Orr use to help reader understand what Intelligent Design adherent believe, and why he thinks their ideas are flawed?
• 5 Dec 2005, The New Yorker, Margaret Talbot, reporting on the Dover trial, works hard to give reader a strong sense of the personalities and background of the key players, notably Judge John Jones, defense witness Michael Behe, and teacher Bertha Spahr. Is this useful? Why or why not?
• On Oct 25, 2005, the York Daily Record covered testimony from philosophy of science expert Steve Fuller, stating that the scientific community is often hostile to new theories, that it is hard for radical views to gain a following, and that dominant paradigms (e.g. the neo-Darwinian synthesis) don’t get criticized because science gathers new recruits who agree with the paradigms. Do you agree with this criticism?
• In closing arguments, the lawyer for the plaintiffs said that ID is based entirely on “a meager little analogy that collapses immediately upon inspection.” This refers to “seeing a watch, and implicitly knowing that it had a designer.” See NYT Nov 5, 2006. Journalists use analogy frequently. What can we learn about the strengths and weaknesses of analogy from this example?
• January 3, 2007, editorial in EOS, John Geissman urges his fellow scientists to help their local journalists and reporters to understand that Intelligent Design is not a “theory” in the definition of the National Academy of Sciences. Do you think that Geissman has put his thumb on a major source of the problem of why the public is so accepting of ID?
Genesis, 1-11, The Bible.
Darwin, Charles, The Origin of the Species, Introduction; Chapter 4, Natural Selection; and Chapter 14, Recapitulation and Conclusion.
Purrington, Colin and Felix Sockwell, The descent of dissent, from www.swarthmore.edu/NatSci/cpurrin1, accessed March 15, 2007.
Scott, Eugenie, The creation/evolution continuum, National Center for Science Education, December 7, 2000.
National Center for Science Education, Links to Further Readings. Accessed March 10, 2007.
“Misconceptions about Evolution” from University of California Museum of Paleontology Understanding Evolution website, Accessed March 12, 2007.
DeWolf, David, and Seth Cooper, Teaching about evolution in the public schools: A short summary of the law, Discovery Institute, June 20, 2006.
Vardiman, L. 1997. Rapid changes in oxygen isotope content of ice cores caused by fractionation and trajectory dispersion near the edge of an ice shelf. CEN Tech J., 11: 52-60.
Watson, J. A. 1997. The division of the earth in Peleg's days: Tectonic or linguistic. CEN Tech J., 11: 71-75.
Wieland, C. 1998. A shrinking date for ‘Eve’. CEN Tech J., 12: 1-3.
Scott, Eugenie, 1997, Antievolutionism and creationism in the United States, Annual reviews of Anthropology, Vol. 26: 263-289, October 1997. (doi:10.1146/annurev.anthro.26.1.263)
Demastes, S., Settlage, J. Jr,, and R. Good, 1995, Students’ conceptions of natural selection and its role on evolution: Cases of replication and comparison, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 32 (5): 535-550, 1995.
Sinatra, G. M., Southerland, S. A., McConaughy, F. and J. W. Demastes, 2003, Intentions and beliefs in students’ understanding and acceptance of biological evolution, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 40 (5): 510-528, 2003.
Selected Readings from:
Creation Ex Nihilo magazine, March-May 1996 issue, selected articles:
• Grand Canyon: Monument to the world-wide Flood
• Volcanoes Surprise Message: Rocks do not take millions of years to form
• The case of the 31 Iguandons
• Weird and Wonderful Clownfish
• God doesn’t need TIME
• Ernst Haeckle: Evangelist for evolution and apostle of deceit., by Russell Grigg
Working Group on Teaching Evolution, 1998. Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science, National Academy Press, Washington DC. Chapter 1, Why Teach Evolution?
The Why Files: Can Science Conquer Kansas, posted 27 Sept. 1999. http://whyfiles.news.wisc.edu/095evolution
Scott, Eugenie, 1999. The 'Science and Religion Movement'. Skeptical Inquirer, 29-31.
Wright, Robert, 1999. The accidental creationist: Why Stephen Jay Gould is bad for Evolution. The New Yorker, 56-65.
Chang, Kenneth, 1999. Evolutionary Beliefs, What American’s Believe, ABC News, August 16, 1999.
Glanz, James, 2000, Survey Finds Support is Strong for teaching 2 Origin Theories, The New York Times, March 11, 2000, A1, A10.
Stern, Gary, 2000, What We Believe: Survey of Rockland, Westchester and Putnam residents find faith, tolerance strong. Rockland Journal News, April 26, 2000, A1.
Lin, Johnny Wei-Bing, 2000. Forum: teaching Evolution, the Kansas Board of Education, and the Democratization of Science, EOS, 81(34):382-387.
Applegate, David. 2000. The Evolution debate: Evolution Grades for the States. Geotimes, December 2000, 20-21.
Fountain, J. W. 2001. Kansas Puts Evolution Back Into Public Schools. The New York Times, February 15, 2001, A18.
Doyle, Rodger, 2002. Down with evolution!: Creationists are changing state educational standards. Scientific American, p. 30.
Goodnough, Abby. 2004. Darwin - Free fun for creationists. NY Times, May 1st, 2004.
Harris, W., May 4, 1999, Scientific facts do not support theory of evolution, Kansas City Star.
English, J. May 5, 1999, Public schools should avoid 'creation science', Kansas City Star.
Beem, K. May 9, 1999, At odds over education: Kansas reflects nation's struggle over school control, Kansas City Star, p.A1.
Krishtalka, L., June 8, 1999. Yokel's approach to science, Lawrence Journal-World.
Beem, K., August 9, 1999, New plan softens evolution standards. Kansas City Star: B1-B2.
Carroll, D., August 12, 1999, Evolution question left to schools, Kansas City Star, A1, A12.
Detweiler, J., August 12, 1999, Local school districts: Evolution stays. Manhattan Mercury: Manhattan Kansas, p. A1, 3.
Appino, S., August 12, 1999, Coffman: Change may hurt students. Manhattan Mercury. Manhattan, Kansas, p. A1.
Editorial, August 13, 1999, Evolution blunder opens Kansas to ridicule. Kansas City Star, p. B6.
Sullinger, J., August 13, 1999, The quiet man in the middle of the Kansas evolution controversy, Kansas City Star.
Kurche, J., August 24, 1999, de-emphasizing education: Creationism classification create credibility problems in Kansas' education system, KSU Collegian.
Seba, E.. Sept. 9, 1999, Evangelist preaches evolution, Lawrence Journal-World.
Diuguid, L., Sept. 9, 1999, Those rebellious Kansans, Kansas City Star.
Long, H., Sept. 10, 1999, An evolving argument, Kansas City Star.
Letters to the Editor, Sept. 11, 1999, Media pulpit for deception/Evolution dispute is real, Kansas City Star.
Krishtalka, L., Sept. 11, 1999, Kansas schools must demand real science, Lawrence Journal-World, p.7B.
Anonymous, 2007, Evolution returns to Kansas, National Center for Science Education, February 14, 2007.
Hanna, John, 2007, Science Standards Evolve Again, Lawrence Journal World, LJWorld.com, February 14, 2007.
Rosin, H., August 8, 1999, Creationism Evolves, Washington Post, p.A1, A22.
Belluck, P., August 12, 1999, Board for Kansas deletes evolution from curriculum, New York Times, p.A1, A13.
Anonymous, August 13, 1999, Willful Ignorance on Evolution, New York Times.
Anonymous, August 13, 1999, The tree of knowledge, Philadelphia Inquirer.
Behe, M. J., August 13, 1999, Teach Evolution: And ask hard questions, New York Times, p. Op-Ed A19.
Weingarten, G., August 14, 1999, And God Said, Let There Be Light in Kansas, Washington Post, p. C1, 3.
Johnson, G., August 15, 1999, It's a fact: Faith and theory collide over evolution, New York Times, p. Section 4: 1, 4.
Herblock, August 15, 1999, Political Cartoon, Washington Post.
Chang, K., August 16, 1999, Evolutionary Beliefs, ABC News.com, http://www.abcnews.go.com/sections/science/DailyNews/evolutionviews990816.html
Johnson, Phillip E., August 16, 1999, The church of Darwin, Wall Street Journal.
Singer, M., August 18, 1999, Believing is not understanding, Washington Post.
DeHart, R., August 20, 1999, Classroom teaching based on science, Skagit Valley Herald, p. WA: A4.
Gallagher, M., August 20, 1999, Don't teach creation, but don't teach science as dogma, either, Skagit Valley Herald: WA.
Charen, M., August 20, 1999, Creationists bark up wrong family tree. Stars & Stripes, p. Opinion, 15.
Richards, J, August 21, 1999, Darwinism and design, Washington Post.
Gould, S. J., August 23, 1999, Dorothy, Its Really Oz, Time, p.59.
Hoppe, A., August 27, 1999, Creationism is for the apes, San Francisco Chronicle, p.A25.
Pollitt, K., September 20, 1999, Weird Science, The Nation, 9/20/99, p.10.
Larson, E. and L. Witham, 1999, Inherit an Ill Wind, The Nation, 10/4/99, 25-29.
Anonymous, December 23/30 2000, Combating the exploiters of creationism, Nature v. 402, p. 843.
Allison, M. L. 2000, The Evolution Debate: The Politics of Education in Kansas, Geotimes, Dec. 2000, 16-17.
Mooney, Chris and Matthew Nisbet, 2005, Undoing Darwin: When the coverage of evolution shifts to the political and opinion pages, the scientific context falls away, Columbia Journalism Review, September/October 2005, p. 31-39.
National Center for Science Education, 2007, Defending the teaching of Evolution in the Public Schools: Events from Pennsylvania, Web News Archive, accessed March 10, 2007, http://www.ncseweb.org/
Anonymous, Poll: Creationism trumps evolution, CBS News Online, November 24, 2004.
Mapquest: Dover Map
Davis, P. and D. H. Kenyon , 1993. Excursion Chapter Four: The Fossil Record. In: C. B. Thaxton (Ed.), Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins. Haughton Publishing Company, Dallas, Texas, pp. 91-114.
Miller, Kenneth R. “ Of Pandas and People: A Brief Critique” http://www.kcfs.org/pandas.html
Matzke, Nick, 2006, ‘9.0. Matzke (2006): The story of the pandas drafts’, National Center for Science Education, accessed March 10, 2007, http://www.ncseweb.org/
US District Court, 2005, Tammy Kitzmiller et al., V. Dover Area School District: In the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Case 4:04-cv-02688-JEJ, Document 342, Filed 12/20/2005, selected pages of total 139.
West, John, 2006, Dover in Review, Discovery Institute (originally published as a blog on Evolutionnew.org Dec. 2005), January 6, 2006, p. 12.
Maldonado, Joseph, 2004, Biology book squeaked by, York Daily Record, June 15, 2004.
Maldonado, Joseph, 2004, Book is focus of more debate, York Daily Record, August 4, 2004.
Brown, Jim, 2004, School district debates adopting Darwi-debunking text, Agape Press, October 1, 2004.
Maldonado, Joseph, 2004, Controversial bio book allowed, York Daily Record, October 5, 2004.
Maldonado, Joseph, 2004, Dover curriculum move likely a first, York Daily Record, October 20, 2004.
Maldonado, Joseph, 2004, Creation debate draws in teachers, York Daily Record, October 24, 2004.
Badkhen, Anna, 2004, Anti-evolution teachings gain foothold in U. S. schools: Evangelicals see flaws in Darwinism, San Fransisco Chronicle, November 30, 2004.
Maldonado, Joseph, 2004, Dover science faculty uneasy, York Daily Record, December 5, 2004.
Staff, 2004, Discovery calls Dover evolution policy misguided, calls for its withdrawal, Discovery Institute, December 14, 2004.
Riley, John, 2005, PA school board at the center of evolution debate, Newsday, January 14, 2005.
Banerjee, Neela, 2005, An alternative to evolution splits a Pennsylvania town, The New York Times, January 16, 2005.
Brown, Jim and Jody Brown, 2005, Intelligent design introduced in PA town while ACLU watches, Agape Press, January 24, 2005.
Orr, H. Allen, 2005, Devolution: Why intelligent design isn’t, The New Yorker, May 30, 2005.
Anonymous, 2005, Wall Street Journal – Scopes, 2005: ‘Design’ theory faces legal test, Wall Street Journal, September 22, 2005.
Anonymous, 2005, Court tackles ‘Intelligent Design’, CBSNews.com, September 26, 2005.
Lebo, Lauri, 2005, Witness: Movement’s roots in creationism, York Daily Record, October 6, 2005.
Associated Press, 2005, ‘Intelligent Design’ advocate: Evolution can’t fully explain life, FoxNews.com, October 17, 2005.
Anonymous, 2005, Expert witness sees evidence in nature for intelligent design, The New York Times, October 18, 2005.
Argento, Mike, 2005, Of Behe and mammary glands, York Daily Record, October 20, 2005.
Slack, Gordy, 2005, Intelligent designer – the chief defender of intelligent design in the Dover evolution trail insists he has science and God on his side, Solon.com, October 20, 2005.
Starr, Michelle, 2005, Intelligent design won’t vanish, York Record Daily, October 23, 2005.
Lebo, Lauri, and Michelle Staff, 2005, Witness: intelligent design needs boost, York Daily Record, October 25, 2005.
McMinn, Teresa, 2005, Facts or smear?, York Daily Record, October 27, 2005.
Lebo, Lauri, 2005, Word use still at issue, York Daily Record, October 29, 2005.
Argento, Mike, 2005, Did we mention that Dover’s clueless?, York Daily Record, November 3, 2005.
Lebo, Lauri, 2005, In the judge’s hands, York Daily Record, November 3, 2005.
Argento, Mike, 2005, It’s all about bacterial flagella, York Daily Record, November 4, 2005.
Goldstein, Laurie, 2005, Closing arguments made in trail on Intelligent Design, New York Times, November 5, 2005.
Lebo, Lauri, 2005, What makes Dover unique?, York Daily Record, November 6, 2005.
Joyce, Tom, 2005, Reality of wins still sinking in, York Daily Record, November 10, 2005.
Lebo, Lauri, 2005, Depositions refer to creationism, York Daily Record, November 15, 2005.
Lebo, Lauri, 2005, Dover’s battle: What’s at stake during trial?, York Daily Record, November 15, 2005.
Talbot, Margaret, 2005, Darwin in the dock, The New Yorker, December 5, 2005.
Joyce, Tom, 2005, Judge: Ex-members lied in testimony, York Daily Record, December 21, 2005.
Anonymous, 2005, Intelligent design derailed, The New York Times, December 22, 2005.
Joyce, Tom, 2005, One ‘sexy geek’, York Daily Record, December 30, 2005.
Geissman, John W., ‘Intelligent Design’ Poses Continued Threat to Science, EOS Transactions American Geophysical Union, 87:1, January 3, 2006, p. 1-2.
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