The Loom

Who Gets On the Shelf?

Panda’s Thumb has an update on the ongoing drama over teaching creationism in public schools taking place in York, Pennsylvania. Last year a group of residents donated 58 copies of a creationst book called Of Pandas and People to the local school. The board of education reviewed them and gave them the green light. The books are now available in the school library.

Now someone has donated 23 science books, many of which deal with evolutionary biology, to see how the board deals with them. So far, the board has said it will review them as to their "educational appropriateness," and has left it at that.

It’s an honor for my book Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea to be on a list that includes work by luminaries such as Stephen Hawking and Ernst Mayr. But if the donor wants to make his point–that evolution is well-established science–even more clearly, I’d suggest adding a few extra items: some of the leading college textbooks in biology, botany, microbiology, genetics, zoology, and developmental biology. Open any of them up and you’re likely to find evolution acting as the backbone for all of the knowledge they have to offer. Would the board balk at them? If they did, you’d have to wonder whether they actually want their students to succeed in college.


  1. There is no wonder that Europeans’ stereotype of Americans is of an ignorant bible-believer who still thinks it is all right to kill all the bad guys. 😉 Don’t get me wrong, I sait stereotype, not fact. But it is a fact that your public image is not so good here…

  2. There is no wonder that Europeans’ stereotype of an American is of an ignorant bible-believer who still thinks it is all right to kill all the bad guys. 😉 Don’t get me wrong, I said stereotype, not fact. But it is a fact that your public image is not so good here…

  3. #3 Ken Shackleton
    March 21, 2005

    I agree with the first poster…and I am from Canada. The stereotypical American [which certainly does not apply to all Amercians] is loud, bible-thumping, gun-totin’, and cannot find their own country on a map of the world.

    Their definition of “Rights” seems a little skewed too…I see rights as something you should respect in others, they see rights as something to insist for oneself….often at the expense of the rights of others.

    Hopefully the neo-cons will fall from power and sanity will once again be popular in Washington.

  4. #4 Greg Peterson
    March 21, 2005

    I’m sure I don’t actually have to say this, but many Americans, me included, are deeply embarrassed by this stereotype and do what little we can every day to undermine it. I read science, support museums, write letters to corporations, governments, media outlets, etc. Resources like talkorigins and theloom and pandasthumb are invaluable. A day might come when the rational and courteous American displaces the all-too-well-deserved stereotypical ugly American. In the meantime, on behalf of my fellow citizens, I apologize. I am profoundly proud of what America stands for ideologically, and deeply ashamed of how poorly we often live up to those ideals. Don’t give up on us. America has a way of being surprising.

  5. #5 Fred Golden
    March 21, 2005

    Nice piece on computer studies of evolution in the February Discover. But, sorry, Hermann J. Muller wasn’t a German. He was born in New York and studied at Columbia.

  6. #6 Ian Robinson
    March 21, 2005

    Hi, I’m a member of the group of people that donated the 23 science books. I’m from Europe and would just like to say that neither I, nor most of my friends, think that what is happening in Dover is a good model for the rest of the USA.

    Everywhere has it’s kooks.


  7. #7 Barry Sylva
    March 21, 2005

    Sadly, our country is following the American politic into simplicity and fundamentalism regarding complex spiritual and ethical problems.
    We have evolved this simplistic, materialistic, and immoral society ourselves, and rational educated people do not blame the American people for the cultural morass we are sinking into. However, there is a definite very negative assessment of the American Government by certain groups especially writers etc and academics.
    Regards,Confused Barry Sylva, Australia.
    Personally, I am very disappointed (and amazed), to say the least, that an information,intellectual, and rich powerhouse of a country like America cannot do better.I conceed that we as humans are unique, like everybody else.

  8. #8 Paul K.
    March 23, 2005

    I work with a lot of “stereotypical Americans”. It’s disturbing to me as an American to watch our country do its best to flush science education and critical thinking skills down the proverbial toilet. I fight the good fight to educate those around me willing to listen.

  9. #9 D.Domander
    March 23, 2005

    USA is a very divided country, just look at the clear cut between so called blue and red states. For some reason people remember bad things better than the good, so nowadays we europeans mostly perceive the… red state side of the US of A.

  10. #10 mark
    March 25, 2005

    The school superintendent said the 23 books had to be reviewed for scientific accuracy–which I thought was a novel approach for them, considering how uncritically they accepted “Pandas” (see )

  11. #11 Kim
    March 27, 2005

    Why are people so hostile to the thought (and evidence) of human evolution? I would have thought it was much more beautiful and fascinating than the idea of some deity just plonking us here. Any theories?

  12. #12 Pete Dunkelberg
    April 2, 2005

    Not everyone across the pond is like correspondents above:,6000,1434400,00.html

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