“Friends of Darwin” take center stage

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From the NCSE:

OAKLAND, CA February 23, 2010

They came from Texas. Big, brawny men, with big, brawny brains. They had a mission: To make evolution education safe for kids throughout the Republic of Texas.

These three men–David Hillis, Gerald Skoog and Ron Wetherington—stood tall for evolution!

In recognition of their decades of defending and promoting evolution, the National Center for Science Education has bestowed the 2010 “Friend of Darwin” award on three Texans who have fought the good fight for science. (To get a taste of what they’ve faced, go to http://ncse.com/news/texas.)

The winners:

  • Dr. David Hillis, Alfred W. Roark Centennial Professor in Natural Sciences Section of Integrative Biology, College of Natural Sciences, at the University of Texas at Austin. An expert in biotic diversity, Dr. Hillis has written several textbooks (including Life: The Science of Biology) and over 170 papers for journals ranging from Science to Journal of Heredity.

Says Dr. Eugenie C. Scott, NCSE’s executive director: “David has inspired countless teachers about the importance of teaching evolution. When we anticipated problems with the Texas board of education’s adoption of high school biology textbooks in the early 2000s, we turned to David. He was brilliant in his response then, and in the most recent battles in Texas in the rewriting of the science education standards.”

  • Dr. Gerald Skoog, Director of the Center for Integration of Science Education & Research (and Dean Emeritus), College of Education at Texas Tech University. Dr. Skoog has been a tireless advocate for evolution education, working with myriad local Texas communities and professional organizations. And he’s contributed hundreds of articles, essays, and reviews for such journals as Science Education, Education Week, Science and Children, Journal of Teacher Education, and The American Biology Teacher.

Says Dr. Scott: “Dr. Skoog’s lifelong scholarship in evolution education has had a huge impact for 40 years. He literally wrote the book on the coverage of evolution in textbooks. We all depend on Gerry for his scholarship. And he has served NCSE in very important ways–when we’ve needed help, especially in Texas, he’s always been there for us. He’s been a wonderful ally and leader in the field of evolution education.”

  • Dr. Ronald Wetherington, Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Southern Methodist University. An expert in evolutionary theory, Dr. Wetherington has taught human evolution and forensic anthropology to thousands of students, is the author of Understanding Human Evolution and 4 other books on anthropology and archaeology, and has developed and conducted numerous educational seminars for kids and for teachers. The Texas Freedom Network named Dr. Wetherington its 2009 “Grassroots Hero.”

Says Dr. Scott: “Ron is second to none when it comes to the time, energy, skill, and enthusiasm he’s brought to the battle over Texas science standards. His honesty and his ability to earn the trust of school board members has paid huge dividends in the struggle for good science education standards in Texas. We owe him a lot.”

Doctors Hillis, Skoog, and Wetherington join the rarefied ranks of past FODers which include Carl Zimmer, Steven Schafersman, Lawrence Krauss, Ken Miller, and Barbara Forrest.

The awards ceremony, hosted by NCSE and emceed by Scientific American’s Steve Mirsky, took place in San Diego on Friday the 12th during last week’s American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference.



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