Reports of the National Center for Science Education

NCSE Honors "Friends of Darwin" for 2007

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 2007.

Ed Brayton is cofounder and president of Michigan Citizens for Science, a grassroots organization that works to prevent non-scientific and faith-based ideologies from entering Michigan's public school curricula. MCFS lobbied effectively against a series of anti-evolution bills in Michigan, ranging from a bill requiring that teachers tell their students about "the theory that life is the result of the purposeful, intelligent design of a creator" to a pair of "academic freedom" bills, and for improvements in the treatment of evolution in the state's content expectations.With MCFS, on The Panda's Thumb blog, which he helped to found, and on his popular blog Dispatches from the Culture Wars (, Brayton has been a consistent, forceful, cogent — and frequently hilarious — voice defending the integrity of science education.

Robert T Dillon Jr is associate professor in the Department of Biology at the College of Charleston and president of South Carolinians for Science Education, a grassroots organization dedicated to improving the quality and defending the integrity of science education in the schools of South Carolina. Contending with a steady stream of anti-evolution legislation and sporadic attempts to undermine the treatment of evolution in the state science standards, Dillon was instrumental in testifying, and recruiting colleagues to testify, for the importance of teaching evolution. After Dillon received his award, Rodney Wilson of SCSE commented, "without Rob stepping up to lead and put a face (and voice) on our organization, we'd still be a loosely knit group of folks outraged at what people try to pass as science in our state."

Brandon Haught is the communications director of Florida Citizens for Science,which defends and promotes good science in Florida. In 2007 and 2008, during the furor over the place of evolution in Florida's state science standards and the following spate of anti-evolution legislation, Haught worked tirelessly to inform the media, post blog entries, and maintain the FCS website. When the creationist activity dwindled, he remained active, writing a report on the battle for RNCSE and op-eds for local newspapers, organizing a program to coordinate donations to benefit science education in Florida's public schools and contributing a fascinating series of posts about the history of anti-evolutionism in Florida to the FCS blog ( he accomplished all of this while working full-time and attending college part-time! Haught is training to become a science teacher.

A distinguished theoretical physicist now at Arizona State University (where he leads the new Origins Initiative), the author of popular books such as The Physics of Star Trek (New York: Basic Books, 1995) and Hiding in the Mirror (New York: Viking Penguin, 2005), and a leading commentator on issues of science and society, Lawrence M Krauss nevertheless finds the time to defend the integrity of science education against creationism, too. His advocacy during the fight over the place of evolution in Ohio's state science standards, from 2002 to 2006, was unparalleled, and his response to Cardinal Schönborn's 2005 op-ed in The New York Times, which included a response in the Times and a letter to the Pope, helped to convince the Vatican to reaffirm its commitment to the compatibility of evolution with Catholicism.

As a writer, editor,and columnist for Scientific American and the host of its weekly "Science Talk" podcast, Steve Mirsky has been outspoken in defense of evolution. Particularly appreciated were his profile of NCSE's executive director Eugenie C Scott in the February 2006 issue of Scientific American (294: 36–8); his extensive coverage of the creationist propaganda film Expelled, including a podcast and a column listing "Six things in Expelled that Ben Stein doesn't want you to know"; his presentation of the kilosteve award to Steven P Darwin, Steve 1000 in NCSE's ongoing Project Steve; and his podcast on Ray Comfort's version of the Origin of Species. Mirsky's columns have been collected as Anti Gravity: Allegedly Humorous Writing from Scientific American (Guilford [CT]: Lyons Press, 2007).

Joe Wolf is president of Florida Citizens for Science. Wolf retired to Florida after a career in operations research and service on a local school board in Ohio. Rather than devoting his retirement years to his passion for botany and gardening, Wolf took the reins of Florida Citizens for Science. He spearheaded FCS's efforts to ensure that Florida's old science standards, regarded as among the worst in the nation, were replaced with standards that accurately reflected evolution's central role in modern biology. Wolf worked tirelessly to organize rallies, press conferences, movie screenings, citizen outreach to the state board of education and the legislature, and a statewide network of energized activists. Wolf and FCS have now turned to the task of providing teachers with the resources they need to implement those standards.

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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