This page is a work in progress, but for now, it houses some basic information about the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) and how to respond to some of their basic arguments against intelligent design and general creationism.
First, a bit about the NCSE:
The NCSE is, "a nonprofit, tax-exempt membership organization working to defend the teaching of evolution against sectarian attack."1 The NCSE sees itself as "a nationally-recognized clearinghouse for information and advice to keep evolution in the science classroom and 'scientific creationism' out."1 However, the NCSE makes it clear that its primary activity is devoted to political activism and lobbying against those who challenge the teaching of evolution as it says that, "most of NCSE's work involves defending evolution against attacks,"1 while it states that as its secondary goal, "we also work to increase public understanding of evolution and science."1
The NCSE has its roots in "correspondence committes," primarily organized around the late 1970's and early 1980's "to keep an eye on creationist doings"2 and work together to fight scientific creationism around the country. The NCSE was founded in 1983 after a number of these "correspondence committees" joined together and incorporated to form the NCSE, which now has its headquarters in Oakland, California.
Because the NCSE was conglomerated out of a pre-existing network, they have contacts with organized groups that have been operating in in many areas of the country for quite some time. Thus, they have a network of "eyes and ears" so to speak, which keeps them aprised of locations where origins educational policies are in question at the national level. The NCSE (working with the National Association of Biology Teachers) also has a system of listserves set up in each state where educators and citizens notify one-another about areas where educational curriculums are being challenged or changed.
What does the NCSE do?
Officially, the NCSE is an educational organization that tries to teach people about what they think are reasons that evolution-only educational curriculums are appropriate and necessary in education. What the NCSE effectively does, is coordinate the effort to fight people who want to prevent schools from one-sidedly teaching evolution (OSToE). Anything that would hinder the OSToE in schools is a target for the NCSE.
What is the NCSE's strategy?
When the NCSE finds out that a group is challenging the one-sidedness of a curriculum in an area (note the previously mentioned "eyes and ears"), the NCSE immediately contact local university professors, scientists, and local clergy who support OSToE in that area. The NCSE then gets these local clergy, faculty, and scientists to write letters, send e-mails, make phone-calls, create petititions, and testify before a school board that any anti-OSToE ideas:
That's it. That's their strategy. When effective, it is because they get local individuals of both high religious and high academic standing in the community to come testify before the school boards that any attack against the one-sided-teaching of evolution is both morally and scientifically wrong. Appeals to authority usually then quash any mention of scientific evidence in the process.
NCSE representatives particularly try to bring in the local clergy that support OSToE, because it seems to be an effective way of convincing school boards that if the religious people are OK with the OSToE, then there must be no scientific problem with evolution. This tends to make school board members people feel that they are doing the right thing for the community when they stop listening to those who oppose the OSToE.
Dealing with the issues:
It should be recognized that those on all sides of the debate do have some common goals:
The important part of this FAQ is thus to analyze some of the common arguments used by the NCSE and provide some responses which may help you defend your answers to the "3 questions?". The NCSE and public defenders of evolution use stock arguments which are repeated over and over. Some of these arguments prove to be effective on unsuspecting and uneducated members of the public--especially upon those who are already looking for an excuse to uphold an OSToE curriculum. However, these arguments can also be responded to.
While we also recommend that you take a look at our Intelligent Design FAQs, for now, we have here listed a few hopefully helpful articles which respond to some of the common arguments used by the NCSE:
1. NCSE website at http://www.natcenscied.org/default.asp (accessed 7/20/02).
2. Described as such by Richard P. Aulie, founder of the Chicago area chapter of the committes of correspondence, which were primarily organized by Stanley L. Weinberg.