Reports of the National Center for Science Education

NCSE Board Members: The Active Type

NCSE has received many offers for books and seminars that promise to help nonprofit organizations get members of their boards of directors to do something besides lending their names. We skip all that advice because we don't need it! NCSE is blessed with committed and caring board members who don't wait to be asked before they swing into action. Here's just a bit of what some of them have been up to.

John R Cole

Since retiring as NCSE editor, John has continued to serve as a contributing editor and book reviewer; he even returned as guest editor for our last issue. He has been first to find many of the news items and reprints you see in these pages. He has also
  • served as an advisor to many participants of the Internet "anticreationist" listserve who are coping with evolution/creation conflicts or seeking information on "creation science" arguments;
  • conducted research on possible investment opportunities as NCSE seeks to build an endowment fund;
  • written press releases on the activities of NCSE Board members and others working on NCSE issues;
  • continued building a library of evolution-related art from the 19th and early 20th centuries for use in NCSE publications.

Jack Friedman

Jack Friedman has a long career as a science educator and for the past 22 years has been involved with an annual conference for high school students. With a committee of 15 college and high school teachers he arranges a one-day meeting at which approximately 70 "experts" (college professors, physicians, and others) speak on a scientific topic that is of special interest to them. A brochure is prepared and mailed to schools located within an hour of the college campus where the conference will be held. Students pick the sessions they wish to attend and are grouped into classes of 25 which meet during four "periods" on the conference day. This is an enrichment opportunity for above-average high school students. And, he adds, "If any college or high school teacher wishes to put on such a conference, I would be pleased to offer advice and answer any questions that they may have. Our conference was awarded a state 'Program of Excellence'."

Michael McIlwrath

McIlwrath, the newest member of NCSE's board (see RNCSE 1997; 1 7(5):4-5), generously makes himself available to answer inquiries about case law affecting evolution and creation controversies. Besides having advised teachers who appealed to NCSE for help with problems arising from their commitment to evolution, he submitted a brief on NCSE's behalf in connection with the Tangipahoa, LA oral disclaimer case. He is still working on this case and will present oral arguments if the appeals court decides to hear further arguments (see Updates p 7). Meanwhile, Mcllwrath is helping NCSE staff explore the possibility of a special fund-raising event.

Kevin Padian

Kevin Padian, the current NCSE President, is a professor at the University of California's Berkeley campus, not far from NCSE's office. This proximity is a big help when NCSE staff want input from a board member. He has been taking advantage of a sabbatical this term to try to catch up on a lot of projects. Of these he comments, "Few of them are directly related to the creation-evolution issues at the moment. However, one hopes that by getting some science out to the public, issues can be clarified that are often misinterpreted or miscommunicated by anti-evolutionists. Primary among these, perhaps, is the origin of birds from small carnivorous dinosaurs. I have just finished two papers examining why this is a false controversy."

He has also worked with a colleague to write several papers summarizing and clarifying the evidence about bird origins for the public, including the February 1998 cover story of Scientific American and an article in Biological Reviews. (This topic is also covered in an entry in The Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs [Academic Press, 1997], a comprehensive and well-received book which Padian co-edited with Phil Currie.) He is also making progress on a variety of more technical projects, such as research on theropod dinosaur taxonomy and a paper on Darwin's view of classification which has just been accepted for publication in Systematic Biology.

Padian has always taken a strong interest in science education as well, actively contributing to development of science education standards in California. He has recently written chapters on natural selection for a book on evolution for teachers and on the origin of birds for an ornithology textbook. He has also given many public lectures at universities and for other organization, and been named a Distinguished Lecturer for 1999 by Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society of North America. Details of Sigma Xi's program selecting scientists, engineers, technologists, and pubhc policy analysts for a special lecture series are available in the November-December issue of American Scientist.

Then there are the things that get done for fun. Padian reports: "I also translated a very nice book by Philippe Taquet, who has been Director of the Institute of Paleontology and of the National Museums of Natural History in Paris, recounting over thirty years of his travels around the world in search of dinosaurs and their world. Dinosaur Impressions has just been published by Cambridge University Press, and it is a wonderful combination of paleontology, travelogue, history of science, and amusing stories. It provides a nicely Gallic perspective on our field and on science in general, and this is why I thought it would be fun to bring to an anglophonic audience."

Andrew J Petto

Does the name sound familiar? It should! Anj is the editor of Reports of NcSE. But that's not all. Anj constantly works for the improvement of evolution education, both in the academic arena and as a citizen. So far in 1998, Anj
  • worked with NCSE members and friends in Wisconsin to respond to a visit by Duane Gish and a "seminar" series entitled "Understanding the Times: A Worldview Weekend" and sponsored by Summit Ministries and the American Family Policy Institute;
  • worked with NCSE members for final acceptance of the Wisconsin Model Standards in Science (and social science) which contained a firm commitment to evolution in all areas of the sciences. (It was in the course of these efforts that Anj heard a supporter of "creation science" decry the influence of evolution on the children's book Horton Hatches The Egg (see RNCSE 1998; 18[1]: 24);
  • ran teacher workshops on "science as a way of knowing" (and evolution), including a half-day session on the Afar hominid fossil site with a featured speaker from the University of Wisconsin at Madison;
  • worked with a committee from the Society for the Study of Evolution to plan and carry out a workshop on teaching evolution for the SSE meetings in June 1999;
  • co-directed an invited workshop at a series of "Communicating Science" workshops at Hamilton College in upstate New York;
  • established a new course on "Science and Pseudoscience at the End of the 20th Century" at Philadelphia's University of the Arts;
  • completed an application for a Templeton grant for a new course called "Place in the Universe" which explores indigenous narratives and scientific explanations, discussing both cultural and cosmological implications;
  • and last but not least, since his move to Pennsylvania, Anj has begun building a whole new network of evolution supporters.

Elizabeth Stage

Elizabeth Stage is director of science for New Standards, a partnership of districts and states interested in standards-based reform. Last academic year she worked with a group of science educators from the Chicago Public Schools, led by NCSE member Melanie Wojtulewicz, Manager of Science Support. This group drafted programs of study for high school science courses based on the Chicago Academic Standards and Framework for Science, to be used as the basis for city-wide examinations. The Biology Program of Study has four areas of concentration, one of which is biological evolution.

This year Elizabeth is working with educators from New York City to assemble a collection of student work that shows teachers, students, and parents the quality of work that is expected at elementary, middle, and high school levels. Five themes have been selected for the life sciences: interdependence, structure and function, change over time, responding to changes, and reproduction and heredity.

Robert M West

"Mac" West contributes a vital link between NCSE and the world of "informal science" — museums, nature centers, and other science education facilities that are not school based. He reports that one of his most significant recent activities has been work on the "signature" film for the 3-D IMAX theater at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. The film, to be completed in 1999, features the Galapagos. West's consulting firm is working on educational materials to accompany the film.

He is also involved in the carly stages of planning the Space Science Initiative at the Denver Museum of Natural History, helping both to develop the storyline and to make sure that a full spectrum of educational opportunities are available. He comments, "An item of discussion always is ultimate origins, extraterrestrial life, and the statistical certainty that we are not alone."
By Molleen Matsumura
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.