NCSE letter

This is the letter referred to in the post “TH Huxley’s legacy, a campus building renaming controversy, and appeal for signatures”

Legacy Review Task Force 
Western Washington University 

Dear members of the Legacy Review Task Force, 

May 20, 2021 

I write on behalf of the National Center for Science Education, a non-profit organization affiliated with  the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Science Teachers 
Association that works to promote and defend the integrity of science education.  

NCSE applauds Western Washington University’s thoughtful and considered approach to studying the  question of the naming of its Huxley College and appreciates the invitation to the public to offer input.  

On the basis of its extensive experience and expertise with organizing opposition to pseudoscientific  attacks on science education, particularly evolution and climate change, NCSE wishes to emphasize  the importance of attending only to reliable and objective scholarship in considering Thomas Henry  Huxley’s significance.   

Because Huxley was so important in the history of science, his beliefs and actions have often been 
misrepresented, taken out of context, or exaggerated by ideologues with axes to grind. Unfortunately,  especially in the era of the Internet, it is easy for well-intentioned but ill-informed readers to be misled  by the writings of such ideologues. 

In particular, Laura Wagner’s “Why is TH Huxley Problematic?” (to be found on the Research and 
Resources section of the Legacy Review Task Force material) cites the following problematic 
resources: 

· “Richard Owen and Charles Darwin on Race: A study in contrast,” a blog post that appeared on 
a website styling itself Evolution News & Science Today. That website is operated by the 
Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, the de facto institutional home of 
“intelligent design,” the latest incarnation of creationism. 

· “T. H. Huxley’s Hideous Revolution in Science,” an essay that appeared in Executive Intelligence 
Review, a newsletter published by the political movement founded by Lyndon LaRouche, 
infamous for, among other things, denying the harmful effects on the environment of DDT, 
chlorofluorocarbons, and greenhouse gases. 

· The Darwin Effect, a book published by a creationist publisher and written by a young-earth 
creationist who himself, in 1985, complained that he was the victim of reverse discrimination in 

a letter to the newsletter of David Duke’s National Association for the Advancement of White 
People (see http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/bergman-and-racism.html). 

To be sure, the fact that the authors of these problematic resources have scientifically indefensible  views and a record of promoting them through assassinating the characters of their opponents 
does not, of itself, show that their specific claims about Huxley are mistaken. But it strongly 
suggests that they are not worth taking seriously. 

Instead, what ought to be taken seriously are the views of qualified scholars, and it is laudable that  the Legacy Review Task Force solicited observations about Huxley’s significance from such 

scholars as White, Lyons, Reidy, and Rupke. These observations do not of themselves settle the 
question of the naming of Huxley College, but they, and similarly reliable and objective scholarship,  rather than ideologically motivated attacks on Huxley, should be at the basis of any decision. 

NCSE would be happy to discuss the provenance of the problematic resources with you further if 
needed. In any case, we hope that the Legacy Review Task Force arrives at a satisfactory resolution  to the question it faces. 

Sincerely,  

Glenn Branch 

Deputy Director, NCSE  branch@ncse.ngo 

About Paul Braterman

Science writer, former chemistry professor; committee member British Centre for Science Education; board member and science adviser Scottish Secular Society; former member editorial board, Origins of Life, and associate, NASA Astrobiology Insitute; first popsci book, From Stars to Stalagmites 2012

Posted on May 22, 2021, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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