Reports of the National Center for Science Education

NCSE Honors "Friends of Darwin" for 2006

Every year, NCSE honors a few exceptional people for their support of evolution education and/or their service to NCSE. The "Friend of Darwin" awards are proposed by the staff and approved by the board at its annual meeting; the recipients for the award for a given year are thus selected in the spring of the following year. NCSE usually arranges for the awards to be presented to their recipients by their family, colleagues, and friends, so it often takes a while before a public announcement is possible. And then sometimes there are further delays! Here, finally, are the Friends of Darwin for 2006.

Robert Cashner recently retired from the University of New Orleans, where he served, in the course of a thirty-five–year career, as professor of biological sciences, Dean of the Graduate School, and Vice Chancellor for Research and Sponsored Programs. He received the university's Cooper R Mackin Medallion in 2008 in recognition of his outstanding record of teaching, research and publications. A distinguished ichthyologist, he is a past president and a permanent member of the Board of Governors of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. And since 2001, he spearheaded the Darwin Day celebrations at the University of New Orleans, providing space, recruiting sponsors, obtaining publicity, engaging speakers, and arranging — even after his retirement — for the annual celebrations of Darwin's contributions to science to continue.

Steven G Gey, David and Deborah Fonvielle and Donald and Janet Hinkle Professor at the Florida State University College of Law, is one of the nation's foremost scholars on religious liberties and free speech. With Matthew J Brauer and Barbara Forrest, he wrote one of the most important law review articles about creationism, "Is it science yet? Intelligent design, creationism, and the Constitution" (Washington University Law Review 2005; 83 [1]: 1–149). As a member of NCSE's legal advisory committee, he is a constant source of thoughtful advice. Gey was presented with his Friend of Darwin award in March 2007, at a banquet that followed a triathlon to raise funds for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis research in his honor; sadly, Gey was diagnosed with ALS ("Lou Gehrig's disease") in 2006.

John F Haught is a renowned theologian at Georgetown University, where he was formerly Chair and Professor in the Department of Theology and is now a Distinguished Research Professor as well as a Senior Fellow of the Woodstock Theological Center. The author of a number of books on the theology of evolution, including God After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution, second edition (Boulder [CO]: Westview Press, 2007), Responses to 101 Questions on God and Evolution (Mahwah [NJ]: Paulist Press, 2001), and Deeper Than Darwin: The Prospect for Religion in the Age of Evolution (Boulder [CO]: Westview Press, 2003), he also testified effectively on the theological roots of "intelligent design" creationism for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v Dover, the case establishing the unconstitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools.

Victor Hutchison is George Lynn Cross Research Professor Emeritus at the University of Oklahoma. A distinguished zoologist and a former president of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists and of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, he is also a spirited defender of the integrity of science education in Oklahoma, founding Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education in 2004 and serving as its president for four years — a period in which Oklahoma endured a storm of anti-evolution legislation, with four bills appearing in 2006 alone. Thanks to Hutchison's and OESE's work, none of these bills passed. Moreover, OESE promotes the public understanding of evolution through participating in educational and scientific conferences, organizing workshops for science teachers, and operating a bureau of speakers.

M Kim Johnson is a physicist who serves on the board of New Mexicans for Science and Reason and of New Mexico's Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education; he is a past president of CESE as well as of the New Mexico Academy of Science. With his colleagues in those organizations — especially Dave Thomas and Marshall Berman, both of whom received Friend of Darwin awards in 1999 — he helps to defend the teaching of evolution in New Mexico's public schools against legislators introducing anti-evolution bills, lobbyists attempting to undermine the treatment of evolution in the state science standards, and school districts adopting anti-evolution policies. He also works to promote the public understanding of science, especially through posts on The Panda's Thumb blog and broadcasts on NMSR Science Watch, a weekly radio show.

Philip Kitcher is the John Dewey Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University. A leading philosopher of science, he is also a long-time critic of creationism, having debated young-earth creationist Duane Gish in person and "intelligent design" creationist Phillip Johnson on-line. His first book was Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism (Cambridge [MA]: MIT Press, 1983), which Martin Gardner praised as "[a] marvelously lucid summary of the evidence for evolution and the overwhelming case against its enemies." Kitcher returned to the fray twenty-four years later with Living with Darwin: Evolution, Design, and the Future of Faith (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), of which Jerry Coyne wrote, "Kitcher has just the combination of philosophical talent, biological insight, and wonderfully lucid writing needed to address the thorny problem of creationism."

We thank these and all NCSE members for their support of our organization and our mission. We cannot — and do not — do it alone!

By Glenn Branch
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