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Michael Zimmerman, Ph.D.
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Michael Zimmerman, Ph.D. is the founder and director of The Clergy Letter Project, an international organization of religious leaders and scientists created to demonstrate that religion and science need not be in conflict. The Clergy Letter Project sponsors Evolution Weekend annually, an opportunity for congregations of all faiths to discuss the compatibility of religion and science.

Zimmerman has been involved with the evolution/creation controversy for almost three decades. He has conducted research on the public’s understanding of evolution and the nature of science. His work has appeared extensively on the op-ed pages of newspapers. He is the author of Science, Nonscience, and Nonsense: Approaching Environmental Literacy (Johns Hopkins University Press).

With a Ph.D. in ecology, Zimmerman has published widely on the relationship between plants and pollinators. As a fierce advocate for the importance of the liberal arts, he has served as an academic dean for 20 years in addition to a professor of biology. His peers have elected him a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Center for Science Education has honored him with their Friend of Darwin award.

He is represented by Ovation Agency for his public speaking engagements.

Additionally, he is Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.

Entries by Michael Zimmerman, Ph.D.

Intelligent Design's Final Days

(123) Comments | Posted March 13, 2014 | 12:03 PM

Are we in the final days of the "intelligent design is science" movement? Thanks to the attention of the Texas Freedom Network, we now know that this weekend should actually put an end to a charade that has gone on for far too long.

An article in the...

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Banning Books in India and Creationism in the United States

(21) Comments | Posted March 11, 2014 | 1:34 AM

What, you might ask, does a book that was recalled and destroyed by its publisher in India have to do with the evolution/creation controversy in the United States? Quite a bit, it turns out.

The book, The Hindus: An Alternative History, was written by Wendy Doniger, a University of Chicago...

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Assessing the "Debate:" Ham Was Wrong On Both Religious and Scientific Grounds

(95) Comments | Posted February 20, 2014 | 2:55 PM

It's probably fair to say that much, and many might say too much, has been written about the "debate" between Ken Ham and Bill Nye on the nature of science and the relationship between religion and science. Nonetheless, I feel it might be useful to provide a bit of context...

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The Adler Planetarium Demonstrates That Religion and Science Don't Need to Debate

(0) Comments | Posted February 10, 2014 | 7:10 AM

The recent "debate" between Ken Ham, the head of the world's largest creationist organization, and Bill Nye, the science guy, was certainly lucrative. Nye was supposedly paid $50,000 for participating and I'm certain that the theme park called The Creation Museum made far more from the...

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Evolution Weekend: Different Ways of Knowing

(9) Comments | Posted February 3, 2014 | 5:38 PM

This weekend marks the ninth year that hundreds of religious leaders all over the world have agreed to celebrate Evolution Weekend. By doing so they are working to create an environment in which meaningful discussion about the nature of religion and science can occur.

Such opportunities are essential...

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Yet Another Call to Ban the Teaching of Evolution: Bad for Science, Worse for Religion and Legally Embarrassing

(901) Comments | Posted August 27, 2013 | 5:28 PM

Science and religion have long been at odds with one another, at least in the eyes of some. Throw a bit of politics into the mix and the situation gets really crazy.

The latest outbreak of weirdness has creationists arguing that a recent governmental ruling means that evolution should be...

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Invest in the Humanities Now

(2) Comments | Posted July 15, 2013 | 5:53 PM

Think the humanities are irrelevant or dead? The Chinese and Russians don't.

Countries actively crushing free speech are introducing Western-style liberal arts education in their universities. Ironic, yes! More importantly, however, we should ask ourselves why we think the humanities are irrelevant when others are so interested.

The humanities...

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Evolution vs. God: Not a Choice Most of Us Have to Make

(1942) Comments | Posted July 3, 2013 | 11:18 AM

Ray Comfort is at it again. He's again willing to spend tons of money to promote his narrow vision of religion while attacking modern science.

In case you don't remember, in 2009 Ray and his Living Waters ministry produced 100,000 copies of a 150th anniversary edition of...

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The Liberal Arts Are Alive and Well in Washington State

(8) Comments | Posted June 19, 2013 | 2:49 PM

Working with educators across the state of Washington, I've helped to create an organization that many might consider an anachronism, a relic from a far simpler time. But that position, as common as it might be, is spectacularly wrong! Let me explain.

The organization is the Washington Consortium...

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The Guardian Falls for Creationist Ploy, Misses Real Story: Peace Between Religion and Science

(82) Comments | Posted April 9, 2013 | 1:26 PM

I recently published a piece about a creationist publicity stunt that was covered in The Guardian. As I noted in my essay, I couldn't imagine why a reputable media outlet like The Guardian would opt to run such a story. So, instead of merely wondering, I...

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Literal Genesis Trial: Creationist Gimmicks Versus the Optimism of Education

(80) Comments | Posted March 27, 2013 | 11:40 AM

At the core of every successful teacher is a sense of optimism. That optimism is absolutely essential because every day, every teacher participates in the hard work of helping students peel back the veil of ignorance. Without that optimism there's no hope that the work being done is of any...

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Pope Promotes Birth Control

(26) Comments | Posted March 22, 2013 | 11:39 AM

Recent media coverage of the papal transition has focused heavily on the past.

For example, when Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, one of the points the media highlighted was the fact that he was the first pope to resign in 600 years.

Similarly, when Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected...

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The Creationist View of Intolerance

(26) Comments | Posted March 20, 2013 | 1:11 PM

Not everything has to be ridiculously complicated. For example, if a good friend were to mention to you that she was planning to take her husband to an expensive restaurant for their anniversary where you received food poisoning the week before, would you mention it to her? Would it be...

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Religious-Based Alternatives to Evolution Promoted by Texas Education Official

(127) Comments | Posted March 5, 2013 | 12:15 PM

Is it too much to ask that those who are attempting to destroy public science education in Texas and beyond at least be consistent? I gave up looking for rational discourse and honesty years ago, but I've been hoping for a modicum of consistency. At least with consistency, a discussion...

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Listen to the Universe and Learn About the Nature of Science

(66) Comments | Posted February 23, 2013 | 7:00 AM

Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.

If you set aside the technological proficiency and the sheer human exuberance embodied in the astronomical work presented by Honor Harger, you're still left with a...

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Evolution Weekend: An Opportunity for Reasoned Debate

(193) Comments | Posted February 5, 2013 | 5:05 PM

Among many memorable lines in President Barack Obama's second inaugural address was the following: "We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate."

To a large extent, it is the last phrase of that sentence, "or treat name-calling as reasoned debate,"...

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Creationists Say the Darndest Things -- And Their True Colors Are Made Clear

(763) Comments | Posted January 25, 2013 | 10:02 PM

Perhaps one of the funniest and most genuine television shows of all times was Bill Cosby's "Kids Say the Darndest Things," which was based on a long-time segment Art Linkletter ran on his radio and television show "House Party." First Linkletter and then Cosby would ask young kids simple questions...

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Science and Awe: With Plenty of Room for Religion if You So Desire

(46) Comments | Posted January 19, 2013 | 1:30 PM

Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.

It's absolutely impossible to watch the amazing pictures captured by Alexander Tsiaras and not be moved. Some, upon seeing such spectacular pictures, turn to religion for...

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Texas and (Part of) Louisiana Square Off in Evolution Debate

(609) Comments | Posted January 8, 2013 | 11:15 AM

Proverbs, like stereotypes, often have at least a hint of truth in them or they wouldn't have staying power. It would be a mistake, however, to attribute too much credibility to either.

Some recent events in the battle between the role creationism should play in public school science classes...

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Creationism Rears Its Ugly Head in Indiana, Then Gets a Makeover

(691) Comments | Posted December 24, 2012 | 10:39 AM

It's unlikely that any of us will ever forget how exquisitely, in a speech in Nashville, Tenn., on Sept. 17, 2002, George W. Bush retold the centuries-old proverb: "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."

I bring this up because the latest political fiasco coming out of Indiana is, in many ways, reminiscent of his screw up.

Indiana Republican State Senator Dennis Kruse is attempting to fool us again, and apparently he is succeeding with some local newspaper reporters and editors. Last year Kruse introduced a bill that was as simple as it was crazy, as anti-intellectual as it was unconstitutional: "The governing body of a school corporation may require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science, within the school corporation." None of this stopped the Republican-controlled Senate from passing the bill and shipping it over to the Republican-controlled House. Happily, saner minds prevailed in that chamber and the bill died in committee.

Kruse isn't just any crazy Republican -- and he's at it again. No, he's the chair of the Senate's Education Committee. This year he's come up with a bill that he claims steers clear of creation science but which actually encourages the teaching of creationism. And in apparent recognition of the fantasyland in which he lives, he's opted to call his new motion "truth in education."

Here's how he's described what he's after: "I would refer to it as truth in education, so students could question what teachers are teaching them and try to make sure it's true what they're teaching."

Josh Youngkin, spokesperson for the Discovery Institute, a well-funded creationist organization advising Kruse, fleshes this insanity out even further. "It frees teachers to teach both sides of scientific controversies in an objective fashion. The teacher would not be barred from saying 'Let's look at both sides of the evidence and you guys can basically make a judgment.'"

Let me repeat the end of that quotation: "you guys can basically make a judgment." So, the new idea in science education from creationists is to let elementary, middle and high school students draw their own scientific conclusions. In Kruse's fantasyland, after a couple of minutes of instruction in biology, students would know as much as, or more than, their teachers and those who conducted the original scientific studies so these precocious students should be well positioned to "make a judgment" about the validity of scientific ideas.

Kruse's intent to use this bill to bring creationism into Indiana's public schools couldn't be clearer. Consider this paragraph from the Indianapolis Star:

Micah Clark, executive director of the conservative lobbying group American Family Association of Indiana, said Kruse's proposal promotes academic freedom. "That doesn't mean you have to talk about creation or intelligent design or anything like that," he said, but instead the legislation is meant to protect teachers if they discuss those issues.

But the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has been fooled again. Their story on Kruse's new bill ran with the headline, "Creationism push scuttled."

The push wasn't scuttled, it was reshaped. It was cynically wrapped in the American flag, bedecked with apple pie and put out for the unwary as a gift. Kruse's bill, if enacted, would make a mockery of science education in Indiana. It would enable teachers to promote one religious world view above others and to do so at the expense of science.

There is an upside to all of this, however. I'm delighted, and frankly somewhat surprised, to say that many of Indiana's newspapers have not been fooled by these efforts. An editorial in the Lafayette Journal and Courier couldn't have been any clearer in its opposition: "Indiana schools don't need this sort of 'academic freedom.' And Indiana doesn't need another reason to look like the backwater hinterlands."

Back in Fort Wayne, the "other" newspaper, wasn't duped by Kruse. The headline chosen for the editorial in the News-Sentinel on the bill said it all: "Still trying to sneak religion in -- But it still doesn't belong in the same classroom as science."

Perhaps George W. Bush was right after all and some of us won't be fooled...

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