[Taxacom] evolutionary biology missing

Michael McAloon michael.mcaloon at gmail.com
Fri Aug 25 09:07:05 CDT 2006

Please see the following press release from the US dept of ed:


On 8/25/06, John Grehan <jgrehan at sciencebuff.org> wrote:
> I found the following article in NY Times to be of concern.
> John Grehan
> Evolution Major Vanishes From Approved Federal List
> <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/d/cornelia_d
> ean/index.html?inline=nyt-per>
> Published: August 24, 2006
> Evolutionary biology has vanished from the list of acceptable fields of
> study for recipients of a federal education grant for low-income college
> students.
> The omission is inadvertent, said Katherine McLane, a spokeswoman for
> the Department of Education, which administers the grants. "There is no
> explanation for it being left off the list," Ms. McLane said. "It has
> always been an eligible major."
> Another spokeswoman, Samara Yudof, said evolutionary biology would be
> restored to the list, but as of last night it was still missing.
> If a major is not on the list, students in that major cannot get grants
> unless they declare another major, said Barmak Nassirian, associate
> executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars
> and Admissions Officers. Mr. Nassirian said students seeking the grants
> went first to their college registrar, who determined whether they were
> full-time students majoring in an eligible field.
> "If a field is missing, that student would not even get into the
> process," he said.
> That the omission occurred at all is worrying scientists concerned about
> threats to the teaching of evolution.
> One of them, Lawrence M. Krauss, a physicist at Case Western Reserve
> University, said he learned about it from someone at the Department of
> Education, who got in touch with him after his essay
> <http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/15/science/sciencespecial2/15essa.html>
> on the necessity of teaching evolution appeared in The New York Times on
> Aug. 15. Dr. Krauss would not name his source, who he said was concerned
> about being publicly identified as having drawn attention to the matter.
> An article about the issue was posted Tuesday on the Web site of The
> Chronicle of Higher Education.
> Dr. Krauss said the omission would be "of great concern" if evolutionary
> biology had been singled out for removal, or if the change had been made
> without consulting with experts on biology. The grants are awarded under
> the National Smart Grant program, established this year by Congress.
> (Smart stands for Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent.)
> The program provides $4,000 grants to third- or fourth-year, low-income
> students majoring in physical, life or computer sciences; mathematics;
> technology; engineering; or foreign languages deemed "critical" to
> national security.
> The list of eligible majors (which is online at
> ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/attachments/GEN0606A.pdf
> <http://ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/attachments/GEN0606A.pdf> ) is drawn from
> the Education Department's "Classification of Instructional Programs,"
> or CIP (pronounced "sip"), a voluminous and detailed classification of
> courses of study, arranged in a numbered system of sections and
> subsections.
> Part 26, biological and biomedical sciences, has a number of sections,
> each of which has one or more subsections. Subsection 13 is ecology,
> evolution, systematics and population biology. This subsection itself
> has 10 sub-subsections. One of them is 26.1303 - evolutionary biology,
> "the scientific study of the genetic, developmental, functional, and
> morphological patterns and processes, and theoretical principles; and
> the emergence and mutation of organisms over time."
> Though references to evolution appear in listings of other fields of
> biological study, the evolutionary biology sub-subsection is missing
> from a list of "fields of study" on the National Smart Grant list -
> there is an empty space between line 26.1302 (marine biology and
> biological oceanography) and line 26.1304 (aquatic biology/limnology).
> Students cannot simply list something else on an application form, said
> Mr. Nassirian of the registrars' association. "Your declared major maps
> to a CIP code," he said.
> Mr. Nassirian said people at the Education Department had described the
> omission as "a clerical mistake." But it is "odd," he said, because
> applying the subject codes "is a fairly mechanical task. It is not
> supposed to be the subject of any kind of deliberation."
> "I am not at all certain that the omission of this particular major is
> unintentional," he added. "But I have to take them at their word."
> Scientists who knew about the omission also said they found the clerical
> explanation unconvincing, given the furor over challenges by the
> religious right to the teaching of evolution in public schools. "It's
> just awfully coincidental," said Steven W. Rissing, an evolutionary
> biologist at Ohio State University
> <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/o/ohi
> o_state_university/index.html?inline=nyt-org> .
> Jeremy Gunn, who directs the Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief
> at the American Civil Liberties Union
> <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/a/ame
> rican_civil_liberties_union/index.html?inline=nyt-org> , said that if
> the change was not immediately reversed "we will certainly pursue this."
> Dr. Rissing said removing evolutionary biology from the list of
> acceptable majors would discourage students who needed the grants from
> pursuing the field, at a time when studies of how genes act and evolve
> are producing valuable insights into human health.
> "This is not just some kind of nicety," he said. "We are doing a
> terrible disservice to our students if this is yet another example of
> making sure science doesn't offend anyone."
> Dr. Krauss of Case Western said he did not know what practical issues
> would arise from the omission of evolutionary biology from the list,
> given that students would still be eligible for grants if they declared
> a major in something else - biology, say.
> "I am sure an enterprising student or program director could find a way
> to put themselves in another slot," he said. "But why should they have
> to do that?"
> Mr. Nassirian said he was not so sure. "Candidly, I don't think most
> administrators know enough about this program" to help students overcome
> the apparent objection to evolutionary biology, he said. Undergraduates
> would be even less knowledgeable about the issue, he added.
> Dr. Krauss said: "Removing that one major is not going to make the
> nation stupid, but if this really was removed, specifically removed,
> then I see it as part of a pattern to put ideology over knowledge. And,
> especially in the Department of Education, that should be abhorred."
> Dr. John R. Grehan
> Director of Science and Collections
> Buffalo Museum of Science1020 Humboldt Parkway
> Buffalo, NY 14211-1193
> email: jgrehan at sciencebuff.org
> Phone: (716) 896-5200 ext 372
> Panbiogeography
> http://www.sciencebuff.org/biogeography_and_evolutionary_biology.php
> Ghost moth research
> http://www.sciencebuff.org/systematics_and_evolution_of_hepialdiae.php
> Human evolution and the great apes
> http://www.sciencebuff.org/human_origin_and_the_great_apes.php
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F. Michael McAloon

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of Connecticut
75 N. Eagleville Road, U-43
Storrs, CT 06269-3043
Tel: (860) 486-5508
Fax: (860) 486-6364

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