The school year is officially underway! And the members of NCSE’s teacher network, NCSEteach, have just received their October newsletter, packed with resources, and event announcements related to teaching evolution and climate change. Why these topics? National teacher surveys show that many science teachers are reluctant to teach evolution and climate change because these topics are perceived as socially divisive. We want to make sure that teachers get the support they need to teach these topics with confidence.

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When I first started at NCSE four years ago, our climate change program was fresh and new, only recently launched by my colleague Mark McCaffrey. The program was conceived on the basis of the thirty years of experience NCSE had working in the socially contentious area of evolution.

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Back when the FDA was testing ads to discourage kids from smoking, they tried arguments based on science: smoking will give you cancer; smoking will give you emphysema; smoking will hurt your unborn child. They tried appealing to kids’ social anxieties: smoking will make your teeth yellow; smoking will give you bad breath. None of these arguments worked very well. What worked was telling kids that the tobacco companies were lying to them, tricking them into smoking so that they could make money off them for the rest of their lives. The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy, by climate scientist Michael Mann and cartoonist Tom Toles, serves the same purpose. It makes it quite clear that the “debate” about climate change has nothing to do with science and everything to do with wishful thinking, exploited by vested economic and political interests. Only when that false debate is put behind us will a productive discussion about what to do about climate change finally begin, returning scientific evidence to its rightful place as a powerful tool, not a punching bag.

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Sure, the Olympics have the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. But do they have the thrill of discovery (Neanderthal fashion, dinosaur armageddon)? And how about the agony of denial (Ark Encounter X 3, and even some flat-earthers)? No, no they don't. That's OK. As a reader of NCSE's blog, you get both.

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