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28 September 2009
GSA Release No. 09-46
Contact:
Christa Stratton
Director - GSA Communications & Marketing
+1-303-357-1093
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GSA Honors Judge Jones for Upholding Science in the Classroom

Jones to participate in 5-member panel discussion on evolution as part of Annual Meeting Darwin Day celebration

Boulder, CO, USA - Geological Society of America (GSA) Past President Judith Totman Parrish recently named Judge John E. Jones, III, as the 2009 recipient of GSA’s prestigious President's Medal. Parrish will present the award at the GSA Annual Meeting Presidential Address & Awards Ceremony on Saturday, 17 October, 7–9 p.m., at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland.

“It is particularly fitting that Judge Jones receive this medal in 2009, the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Darwin, whose work forms the basis of modern evolutionary theory,” notes Parrish in citing Jones for this award.

She explains that “the theory of evolution is one of the foundations of geosciences. Through the study of fossils and living organisms and the changes they have undergone through time, scientists are revealing not only the history of life, but the history of the Earth itself. The theory of evolution was established by careful, diverse, and revealing tests carried out by scientists in a wide array of disciplines. Yet despite the strength of the evidence for evolution and its practical importance to society, it is unique among the great scientific theories in being under nearly constant attack.” Proponents of religious creationism and more recently, intelligent design theory, object to the teaching of evolutionary theory in schools because it contradicts literal interpretation of the biblical description of Earth’s history.

Judge Jones had been serving on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania for four years when, in 2005, he was assigned to the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case (informally known as the Dover trial). The Dover, PA school board was being sued over their decision to require that a disclaimer be read to 9th grade biology classes about the validity of intelligent design as an alternative to the theory of evolution. A group of parents argued that the disclaimer was an unconstitutional promotion of religion, in violation of the separation of church and state. In his 139-page decision, Judge Jones handed science a landmark victory.

“Using thorough analysis of the law, in-depth analysis of the history and origin of intelligent design theory and acute powers of reasoning, Judge Jones’ opinion decisively laid to rest the notion that intelligent design should be taught in science classes, alongside evolution, as an alternative theory to the evolution of life,” said Parrish.

Jones’ background includes clerking for the Honorable Guy A. Bowe, Schuylkill County President Judge, private practice, a stint as Schuylkill County Assistant Public Defender, and Pottsville City Solicitor, as well as political roles as the co-chairman of Governor-elect Tom Ridge’s transition team and chairman of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. He is a member of the American, Pennsylvania, and Schuylkill County bar associations and of the Federal Judges’ Association. His education was at Dickinson College, where he received a BA in 1977 and a JD in 1980.

GSA’s silver President’s Medal was established in 2007 to recognize individuals whose impact has profoundly enhanced the geosciences profession. “Our recipient’s work qualifies as such an enhancement,” said Parrish. “By following the law separating religion and public education he, by extension, defended the study of evolution as science and the teaching of evolution.”

Information about the GSA President’s Award, including past recipients, is available at http://www.geosociety.org/awards/aboutAwards.htm#pres.

Jones to speak at GSA Annual Meeting

Judge Jones will also participate in a 5-member panel discussion on Monday, 19 October, from 11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m., as part of “Darwin Day” — a day-long 200th birthday celebration of Charles Darwin in conjunction with the meeting. The session, titled “Overcoming Resistance to the Reality of Evolutionary Change in Nature,” will take place at the Oregon Convention Center, and members of the media are invited.

Studies show that a majority of Americans accept or deny evidence of evolution, geologic processes and the age of the Earth to the extent that they can be reconciled with their religious or other core beliefs. Therefore, accuracy, clarity and engaging modes of presenting scientific knowledge are essential to enhancing public understanding of science and enabling more people to accommodate concepts they find challenging, without compromising the integrity of the science itself.

Jones will explore these issues along with:

More information on this and other Darwin Day activities is available at http://www.geosociety.org/meetings/2009/DarwinDay.htm.

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The Geological Society of America, founded in 1888, is a scientific society with more than 22,000 members from academia, government, and industry in more than 95 countries. Through its meetings, publications, and programs, GSA enhances the professional growth of its members and promotes the geosciences in the service of humankind. Headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, GSA encourages cooperative research among earth, life, planetary, and social scientists, fosters public dialogue on geoscience issues, and supports all levels of earth science education.

www.geosociety.org