The U.S. has plenty of problems these days, but what's the biggest one? Is it political partisanship and deadlock, the national debt, energy dependence, or crumbling roads? No, it's none of these. The biggest problem that the U.S. faces is that we are dreadfully and frighteningly ignorant. Would you like proof?
* Only two of five voters can name the three branches of the federal government.
* Only one-third of Americans know that the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)--the bank bailout--was enacted by the Bush administration.
* 40% of us believe that dinosaurs lived at the same time as people.
* 40% of Americans believe that Obamacare has death panels.
* One out of eight high school biology teachers in the U.S. presents creationism as scientifically credible.
I could go on and on. It's bad enough that we Americans are appallingly ignorant; it's worse that we act on these nonsensical beliefs by voting, harassing science teachers, making Sarah Palin a national figure, and attending Glenn Beck rallies.
The Envelope, Please
Fortunately, there are forces that are fighting to enlighten our benighted citizenry. One of them is the 2011 BUDDIE Winner ... do not look ahead. Wait for the announcement. For new Information Today readers, the BUDDIE award is bestowed for the Best Unknown Database. The BUDDIE has three criteria; the database must conform to each of the following:
* It must contain information that is important or valuable to a large number of people.
* It must be well-designed, well-maintained, and user-friendly.
* It must be unknown or, at least, less well-known than it deserves.
And now, the envelope. The 2011 BUDDIE winner is the National Center for Science Education.
Yes, you're right. It surely is unknown. And it surely sounds boring. But if your kid comes home from biology class with an assignment on intelligent design, you'll change your mind quickly. The National Center for Science Education (NCSE; http:// ncse.com) is an informational and advocacy group for teaching evolution. NCSE is a leading force in today's culture wars because the spread of faith-based "science" damages our country's ability to advance in science and in human understanding generally.
The NCSE Profile
A collection of state-based citizen groups created the NCSE in 1981. This group was fighting the incursion of creationism in the public schools. The organization, which was incorporated in 1983, now has 15 employees. It has a national presence with its publications and website, but it retains its grass-roots character with involvement in evolution/creationism battles at state and school board levels. It provides organizing assistance to locals and groups who are resisting creationist encroachments (and there are more of them than you might think), including providing expert testimony at school board hearings. NCSE, a nonprofit that is supported by member dues and grants, has 4,000 members.
The NCSE site contains a variety of NCSE publications, news content, reference information, and advocacy guidance. It is attractive as well as clearly and logically organized. All content is open without the need for registration or login. There is a site search, and individual departments can be searched by date, location, and keyword. It has no ads except for notices about NCSE publications and events. Afew of the news sections are not updated as often as BUDDIE standards would like, but the site is well-maintained otherwise.
Mini-Library on Evolution and Its Teaching
Reference: NCSE is a handy, concise mini-encyclopedia on evolution and creationism. It has short, clearly written, nontechnical backgrounders on the theory and key points of both evolution and creationism, with links to authoritative websites for additional research. Related subjects such as religious perspectives, the science/ religion debate, and teaching resources receive similar treatment. …