Nicholas Matzke


Research Overview

Nick Matzke started the PhD program in Integrative Biology in Fall 2007. He has a double B.S. in Biology and Chemistry from Valparaiso University, and a Master's degree in Geography from U.C. Santa Barbara. Before coming to Cal, he worked for three years as a Public Information Project Director at Oakland-based National Center for Science Education, a nonprofit devoted to defending the teaching of evolution in the public schools.

During the landmark "intelligent design" case Kitzmiller v. Dover, Nick spent a year working for the Plaintiffs' legal team, providing scientific advice and researching the creationist origins of the ID movement. This work eventually resulted in the discovery of the now-famous creationist drafts of the 1989 ID textbook Of Pandas and People; this episode has been written up in New Scientist, Skeptic, the Contra Costa Times, the popular science magazine Seed, and the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine. Nick also helped to prepare the scientific cross-examination of Michael Behe; one key episode, dealing with the evolution of the immune system, was reviewed in an essay that Nick coauthored for the May 2006 issue of Nature Immunology. Kitzmiller v. Dover was dubbed the "Bacterial Flagellum Trial" by one lawyer, and in September 2006 Nick coauthored an essay in Nature Reviews Microbiology discussing flagellum's role in Kitzmiller, and reviewing the evidence pointing to the evolutionary origin of the flagellum.

At Cal, Nick intends to work on the integration of bioinformatics, biogeography, and macroevolution, focusing in particular on the role that phylogeny and reticulate phylogeny can play in understanding biogeographic patterns and the origin of complex systems. Nick will also maintain an interest in evolution and earth history education, particularly the goal of making the scientific literature accessible and understandable to the public, especially in order to rebut antievolutionist claims about the evolution of biological complexity.

Selected Publications

   (* = peer-reviewed journal)

Matzke, N. (2007). "The Edge of Creationism." Book review of: Michael J. Behe (2007), The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism, New York: Free Press. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, accepted.

Matzke, N., and Elsberry, W. (2007). “The Collapse of Intelligent Design.” Essay for a Greer-Heard Forum anthology, based on the 2006 “Debating Design” forum (submitted).

* Scott, E. C., and Matzke, N. (2007). “Biological design in science classrooms.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 104(suppl. 1), 8669-8676. May 15, 2007. Part of the v. 104 supplement, “In the Light of Evolution I: Adaptation and Complex Design.” Published online before print May 9, 2007. Also submitted for a Special Volume on the Arthur M. Sackler NAS Colloquium “In the Light of Evolution: Adaptation and Complex Design.” Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center, Irvine, CA, November 30 - December 2, 2006. Organized by John C. Avise and Francisco J. Ayala.
(DOI | PNAS | AOP | PT discussion #1 - #2 | NAS pages: description | program
(Additional note: we were informed by PNAS that this was once of the top 20 most downloaded articles for May 2007)

Matzke, N. (2007). “New Creationist Book On the Way (Again)." Reports of the National Center for Science Education, 26(6), 15-16.

Matzke, N., ed. (2007). "The testimony of Kevin Padian in Kitzmiller v. Dover." NCSE Online Kitzmiller, Transcript of Padian's Kitzmiller testimony with corrections, captions for slides, background, and organization and formatting. Padian's slides are also reproduced on a separate webpage without the transcript. (NCSE news story)

Matzke, N. (2007). "But Isn't It Creationism? The beginnings of 'intelligent design' and Of Pandas and People in the midst of the Arkansas and Louisiana litigation." Book chapter for the Updated Edition of But Is It Science?: The Philosophical Question in the Creation/Evolution Controversy, Prometheus Books, edited by Robert Pennock and Michael Ruse. Submitted.

Matzke, N. (2007). "Needs more brimstone [book review]." Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 22(7) p. 335. July 2007. Published online 6 April 2007.
(DOI | PT)
This is a book review of: Wilson, E. O. (2006). The Creation: an Appeal to Save Life on Earth. New York, Norton.
(Library | Publisher | Amazon)

Matzke, N. (2007). The Proper Place of Intelligent Design in the Curriculum [letter]." Chronicle of Higher Education, 53(27), p. B13. March 9, 2007.

* Pallen, M., and Matzke, N. (2006). "From The Origin of Species to the Origin of Bacterial Flagella." Nature Reviews Microbiology. 4(10), 784-790. October 2006.
(NCSE writeup)
This paper is discussed further here: /archives/2006/09/flagellum_evolu.html And in an update to the 2003 essay: flagellum.html#update

Matzke, N., Akyol, M., Yahia, M. (2006). "The Evolution Debate (Part 2)." Live Dialogue at September 3, 2006.

Matzke, N., Akyol, M., Yahia, M. (2006). " Evolution vs. Intelligent Design." Live Dialogue at August 21, 2006.

Matzke, N., and Gross, P. (2006). "Analyzing Critical Analysis: The Fallback Antievolutionist Strategy." Chapter 2 of Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design is Wrong for Our Schools. Scott, E., and Branch, G., eds., Beacon Press, pp. 28-56.

Matzke, N. (ed.) (2006). "Hendren v. Campbell: Decision Against a Creationist Textbook." Talk.Origins Archive. August 20, 2006.

Matzke, N. (2006). "Survival of the Fittest [book review of The Evolution-Creation Struggle, by Michael Ruse]." Free Inquiry, 26(4), pp. 59-60. June/July 2006.

* Bottaro, A., Inlay, M., and Matzke, N. (2006). "Immunology in the spotlight at the Dover 'Intelligent Design' trial." Nature Immunology. 7(5), 433-435. May 2006.
(Online Supplementary Material | Annotated Bibliography | Long Unannoted Bibliography | Press accounts | Cited in ENSIweb)

Matzke, N. (2006). "Design on Trial: How NCSE Helped Win the Kitzmiller Case." Reports of the National Center for Science Education. 26(1-2), 37-44. Jan-Apr. 2006.

Matzke, N. (ed.) (2006). Online archive of all public legal documents in Kitzmiller v. Dover.

Padian, K., and Matzke, N. (2006). "Discovery Institute tries to 'swift-boat' Judge Jones."

Isaak, M. & Matzke, N. (2005). "Rebuttal to Creationist Claim CB200.1: The Bacterial Flagellum is Irreducibly Complex." In The Counter-Creationism Handbook by Mark Isaak, London: Greenwood Press, pp. 61-62.

Matzke, N. (2005). "Design on Trial in Dover, Pennsylvania." Reports of the National Center for Science Education. 24(5):4-9.

Matzke, N. (2005). "Evolution of the Utricularia Bladder Trap: A Short Summary." Bay Area Carnivorous Plant Society Newsletter, Spring 2005.

Scott, E., Branch G., and Matzke N. (2005). "Outside View: Creation sticker shock." Washington Times, January 18, 2005.

Matzke, N., (ed.) (2004). "NCSE Resources page on Of Pandas and People, the foundational work of the 'Intelligent Design' movement." NCSE website, December 2004

Matzke, N. (2004). "Evolution as Religion: Stranger Hopes and Stranger Fears, Revised Edition [by Mary Midgley]" (book review). Reports of the National Center for Science Education. 24(3-4), pp. 46-48.

Gishlick, A., Matzke, N., Elsberry, W. (2004). "Meyer's Hopeless Monster." Posted at the Panda's Thumb blog.
This critical review of Stephen Meyer’s ‘intelligent design’ paper in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington was the first public notice of the paper, and the blog critique was mentioned in news stories in Nature and The Scientist. It was later cited favorably in: Jenner, R. (2004). "The Tainting of Proc. Biol. Soc. Wash." The Paleontology Newsletter. 57, pp. 10-17.

Matzke, N. (2004). "Behe's Blunder: Irreducible Complexity and Change of Function." BASIS: Bay Area Skeptics Information Sheet, 21(2), pp. 7-9, April-June 2004.

Scott, E. C., Matzke, N. J., Branch, G., Steves (2004). "The Morphology of Steve." Annals of Improbable Research. 10(4), pp. 24-29.

* Powell R. L., Matzke N., de Souza C., Clark M., Numata I., Hess L. L., Roberts D.A. (2004). "Sources of error in accuracy assessment of thematic land-cover maps in the Brazilian Amazon." Remote Sensing of Environment, 90, 221-234.

Matzke, N. (2003). "Evolution in (Brownian) space: a model for the origin of the bacterial flagellum." Talk.Origins/TalkDesign Archive.
This essay was cited in the literature in: Pallen et al. (2006), "Evolutionary links between FliH/YscL-like proteins from bacterial type III secretion systems and second-stalk components of the FoF1 and vacuolar ATPases." Protein Science, 15(4), 935-941. It is also linked from the Pallen and Matzke (2006) article (above).

Matzke, N. (2003). "Comparative analysis of DMSP, MODIS, and GLOBSCAR burn area estimation capabilities for Madagascar." Presented at the Remote Sensing Specialty Group Competition, American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting, March 2003.

Matzke, N., (2003). "Remote Sensing and Geostatistical Analysis of Anthropogenic Biomass Burning and Forest Degradation in Madagascar." Master's Thesis, University of California, Santa Barbara, Geography Department, pp. 1-158.

Matzke, N. (2002). "Icon of Obfuscation: Jonathan Wells' book Icons of Evolution and why most of what it teaches about evolution is wrong." Talk.Origins Archive.
This critical review of Icons of Evolution, a pernicious book written by intelligent design advocate Jonathan Wells of the Discovery Institute, was the first detailed critique to come out. The review (originally written under the marginally clever pen name "Nic Tamzek") was cited in Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics (Pennock, R., 2003, "Creationism and Intelligent Design." Ann. Rev. Genomics Hum. Genet., 4: 143-163.)
The web essay was used in a study by Steven D. Verhey, "The Effect of Engaging Prior Learning on Student Attitudes Toward Creationism and Evolution" (2005, BioScience, 55(11): 996-1003). Verhey split his college class split into 2 groups. In the group which read Icons and my rebuttal, 61% reported a change in views, while in the control group only 21% reported a change. Students classified themselves on a 6-step spectrum of evolution/creationism. After the course, in the non-Icons group, only 3 steps towards the evolutionary end of the spectrum were reported, and 0 the opposite direction. In the Icons + rebuttal group, 23 steps towards the evolutionary end were reported, and 5 steps towards the creationism end.

Matzke, N., and Battersby, S. (2001). ArcInfo8 labs. Originally at:, now widely reproduced in other online instructions for Geographic Information Systems courses.