Scientists Discover The Power of Steve
Scientists discover the power of Steve
By ANNA DAVISON
NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER
Steves around the country are taking a stand -- to keep "creationist
pseudoscience" out of science classes in public schools.
More than 200 Stevens, Stephens, Stefans and Stephanies with impressive
academic credentials -- including three UCSB faculty members -- have signed
a pro-evolution declaration.
Why only Steves?
This list is meant to poke fun at creationists and their tallies of
Organizers recruited only Steves for their campaign, but within a few weeks,
there were 220 of them registered on the "Steve-O-Meter."
They say that makes a mockery of a few hundred pro-creation Bills, Duanes,
Janes and so forth.
"Creationists seem to be very fond of assembling lists of scientists who
doubt evolution, doubt Darwinism. It's very misleading for the public," said
Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science
Education (NCSE), an organization that defends the teaching of evolution in
public schools. "I talk to teachers all over the state and the country who
are afraid to teach evolution or who don't want to teach evolution."
The to-teach-or-not-to-teach debate heated up in 1999, when the Kansas Board
of Education voted to scratch evolution from the state's standardized
testing, allowing individual school districts to stop teaching evolution or
to introduce creationism. That decision was reversed in 2001 after three
members of the board were voted out of office.
Ms. Scott is hoping her band of pro-evolution Steves will help ensure that
students get taught evolution and that creationism is kept out of science
Creationism, in this context, is the belief that God, or a supreme being,
created the world in the last few thousand years and that he also created
all life on earth as it exists today.
Ms. Scott called on Steves, not Sues or Sams, as a tribute to the late
zoologist and geologist Stephen Jay Gould -- an NCSE supporter and "perhaps
the most famous Steve in evolutionary biology."
"This is a good-natured way of making a point," said Stephen J. DeCanio, a
professor of economics at UCSB, who says evolutionary models can explain
many economic phenomena.
Dr. DeCanio's name appears on the "Project Steve" T-shirt, along with two
other UCSB Steves: zoology professor Stephen I. Rothstein and Steve Gaines,
director of the Marine Science Institute.
The point, Dr. DeCanio says, is that "science doesn't proceed by getting
votes or signing petitions."
"Science is done by scientists doing hard work," Ms. Scott said. "Not by
assembling lists. ... Not by 'my list of scientists is bigger than your
But to make the point, albeit lightheartedly, NCSE folks did a little
They checked census figures and found that around 1 percent of U.S.
residents are named Steve, Stephen, Stefan, Stephanie, Etienne or Esteban.
>From that, they say, it's reasonable to infer that their tally of 220
pro-evolution Steves translates into the support of about 22,000 Steve and
non-Steve scientists in this country.
Ms. Scott and the NCSE Steves worry that creationist campaigns are giving
people the idea that many scientists are moving into the pro-creation camp.
"They trying to make this case that it's a building movement," said Stephen
Baird, professor of clinical pathology at UC San Diego's School of Medicine
and leader of the "scientific gospel" band The Opossums Of Truth. Their
latest CD, "Ain't Gonna Be No Judgment Day" (the follow-up to "Hallelujah!
Evolution!") includes numbers like "Randomness is Good Enough for Me," "We
Might Have Been Dinosaurs" and "We're 99.9 Percent the Same."
Sure, there are some scientists who don't believe in evolution, Dr. Baird
says, but "they're very, very unusual."
Creationists, though, say their ideas should be given space in school
John D. Morris, president of the San Diego-based Institute for Creation
Research -- one of the groups that has put together lists of pro-creation
scientists -- recently wrote that proponents of evolution were "fighting to
maintain their total monopoly on evolution teaching and propaganda in the
"It's fun to see how readily young people intuitively accept true creation
teaching," he continued. "Somehow students know that evolution isn't true.
Even students from secular backgrounds are not silly enough to believe their
ancestors were fish."
Dr. DeCanio said: "There's a lot more evidence for evolution. ... I don't
think God was a trickster who would have covered the earth with all kinds of
Dr. Baird doesn't object to creationism being taught in public schools, just
as long as it's kept out of science classes.
"To teach that in school would be fine if you're doing it in a comparative
religion course," he said. "It's not science. It's mythology."