Statements from Educational Organizations

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Statements added since the 3rd Edition are denoted with a *

Association for Science Teacher Education *

Introduction:

Many conservative and fundamentalist Christian groups in the United States have consistently opposed the teaching of biological evolution since the 1920s, when states such as Tennessee (Butler Act of 1925) and Arkansas (statute in 1928) passed legislation prohibiting the teaching of human evolution in public schools (Larson, 1997). Arguments over the legality of such a prohibition were settled in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1968 ruling in Epperson v. Arkansas (1968). Laws prohibiting teachers from teaching biological evolution are unconstitutional (Bowman, 2008; Epperson v. Arkansas, 1968; Matsumura & Mead, 2007; Wexler, 2006). In response, biological evolution opponents attempted to “balance” the teaching of evolution in schools with Bible study, “creation science,” and “intelligent design” (Baker, 2013). U.S. federal courts have ruled these attempts unconstitutional. Despite these court decisions, opponents persist in their efforts to undermine the teaching of biological evolution by characterizing it as “controversial” or “only a theory” (Miller, 2008; Scott, 2007). The public controversy regarding the teaching of biological evolution is a reflection of the extensive diversity in society. However, no controversy exists in the scientific community regarding the fundamental claims of biological evolution. Scientists are in near unanimous agreement that biological evolution provides a strong explanatory and predictive foundation for the entire landscape of modern biology (National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine, 2008; Thagard & Findlay, 2010; Wiles & Alters, 2011). While opposition toward teaching biological evolution is particularly pervasive in the United States, ASTE recognizes that this problem is global in scope and concern.

Position Statement:

The Association for Science Teacher Education (ASTE) strongly supports the position that biological evolution provides the theoretical foundation for all modern biology. Biological evolution (hereafter referred to as evolution) states that “all living things have arisen from common ancestors. Some lineages diverge while others go extinct as a result of natural selection, mutation, genetic drift and other well-studied mechanisms” (NABT, 2011). The rapid advances made by science and engineering in areas such as life science, medicine, and agriculture have produced immense benefits for society. Such societal benefits can be directly attributed to scientific understanding and application of evolution (National Academy of Science and Institute of Medicine, 2008). The teaching of evolution is prominently advocated in recent and current U.S. national science education frameworks and standards, in several international standards documents, and is supported by more than 50 Academies of Science throughout the world (AAAS, 1989, 1993 & 2007; Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2012; InterAcademy Panel, 2006; NRC, 2012 & 2013; Waddington, Nentwig, & Schanze, 2007). Preservice and inservice teachers must possess a clear understanding of evolution and how to effectively teach it, an appreciation of the importance of evolution to science and society, and an awareness of actions and organizations that seek to undermine the teaching of evolution in formal and informal science learning environments.

In order to clearly state ASTE’s position about the fundamental importance of teaching evolution in all science learning environments, the Association for Science Teacher Education makes the following declarations:

  • ASTE supports and advocates the effective teaching of evolution in primary, secondary, and post-secondary science classrooms, and informal science learning environments, on the grounds that the science of biological evolution provides the foundation for all modern biology.
  • ASTE supports educational research that fosters a greater understanding of how to effectively teach evolution.
  • ASTE affirms the responsibility of all current and future science educators to teach scientific concepts, laws, and theories accepted by the scientific community as the best scientific explanation based on evidence.
  • ASTE denounces any effort to undermine the teaching of evolution at the local, state, or federal level, as these efforts seek to confuse teachers, students, and members of the community at large about the validity of key scientific theories, the nature of science, and the integrity of scientists.
  • ASTE urges science teacher preparation programs to educate preservice teacher candidates about modern evolutionary concepts.
  • ASTE encourages science teacher preparation programs to educate preservice teacher candidates about the strategies used by, and how to respond to, individuals and organizations seeking to undermine the teaching of evolution.
  • ASTE supports organizations, such as the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), that work to defend the teaching of evolution.

References:

American Association for the Advancement of Science (1989). Project 2061: Science for all Americans. Washington, D.C., Author.

American Association for the Advancement of Science (1993). Benchmarks for science literacy. New York: Oxford University Press.

American Association for the Advancement of Science. (2007). Atlas of science literacy (Vol. 2). Washington, DC: AAAS Project 2061.

Bowman, K. L. (2008). The evolution battles in high school science classes: Who is teaching what? Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 6(2), 69-74.

Baker, J. O. (2013). Acceptance of evolution and support for teaching creationism in public schools: The conditional impact of educational attainment. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 52(1), 216-228.

Common Core State Standards Initiative (2012). Common Core Standards. http://www.corestandards.org/.

Epperson v. State of Arkansas, Supreme Court of the United States (1968). 393 U.S. 97, 89 S. Ct 266. https://bulk.resource.org/courts.gov/c/US/393/393.US.97.7.html.

InterAcademy Panel. (2006). IAP statement on the teaching of evolution. http://www.interacademies.net/File.aspx?id=6150.

Larson, E. J. (1997). Summer for the gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s continuing debate over science and religion. New York: Basic Books.

Matsumura, M. & Mead, L. (2007). Ten major court decisions about evolution and creationism. National Center for Science Education, http://ncse.com/taking-action/ten-major-court-cases-evolution-creationism.

Miller, K. R. (2008). Only a theory: Evolution and the battle for America’s soul. New York: Viking.

National Academy of Sciences (1996). National science education standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine. (2008). Science, evolution, and creationism. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

National Association of Biology Teachers (2011). NABT Position Statement on Teaching Evolution. http://www.nabt.org/websites/institution/?p=92.

National Research Council. (2012). A framework for K-12 science education: Practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

National Research Council (2013). Next generation science standards. http://www.nextgenscience.org/.

Scott, E. C. (2007). What’s wrong with the “teach the controversy” slogan? McGill Journal of Education, 42(2), 307-315.

Thagard, P. & Findlay, S. (2010). Getting to Darwin: Obstacles to accepting evolution by natural selection. Science & Education, 19(6-8), 625-636.

Waddington, D., Nentwig, P. & Schanze, S. (Eds.). (2007). Making it comparable: Standards in science education. Munster, Germany: Waxmann Publishing Co.

Wexler, J. D. (2006). From the classroom to the courtroom: Intelligent design and the constitution. In E. C. Scott & G. Branch (Eds.). Not in our classrooms: Why intelligent design is wrong for our schools (pp. 83-104). Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Wiles, J. R. & Alters, B. (2011). Effects of an educational experience incorporating an inventory of factors potentially influencing student acceptance of biological evolution. International Journal of Science Education, 33(8), 2559-85.

American Association of Physics Teachers

The Executive Board of the American Association of Physics Teachers is dismayed at organized actions to weaken and even to eliminate significant portions of evolution and cosmology from the educational objectives of states and school districts.

Evolution and cosmology represent two of the unifying concepts of modern science. There are few scientific theories more firmly supported by observations than these: Biological evolution has occurred and new species have arisen over time, life on Earth originated more than a billion years ago, and most stars are at least several billion years old. Overwhelming evidence comes from diverse sources — the structure and function of DNA, geological analysis of rocks, paleontological studies of fossils, telescopic observations of distant stars and galaxies — and no serious scientist questions these claims. We do our children a grave disservice if we remove from their education an exposure to firm scientific evidence supporting principles that significantly shape our understanding of the world in which we live.

No scientific theory, no matter how strongly supported by available evidence, is final and unchallengeable; any good theory is always exposed to the possibility of being modified or even overthrown by new evidence. That is at the very heart of the process of science. However, biological and cosmological evolution are theories as strongly supported and interwoven into the fabric of science as any other essential underpinnings of modern science and technology. To deny children exposure to the evidence in support of biological and cosmological evolution is akin to allowing them to believe that atoms do not exist or that the Sun goes around the Earth.

We believe in teaching that science is a process that examines all of the evidence relevant to an issue and tests alternative hypotheses. For this reason, we do not endorse teaching the "evidence against evolution," because currently no such scientific evidence exists. Nor can we condone teaching "scientific creationism," "intelligent design," or other non-scientific viewpoints as valid scientific theories. These beliefs ignore the important connections among empirical data and fail to provide testable hypotheses. They should not be a part of the science curriculum.

School boards, teachers, parents, and lawmakers have a responsibility to ensure that all children receive a good education in science. The American Association of Physics Teachers opposes all efforts to require or promote teaching creationism or any other non-scientific viewpoints in a science course. AAPT supports the National Science Education Standards, which incorporate the process of science and well-established scientific theories including cosmological and biological evolution.

American Association of University Professors

The theory of evolution is all but universally accepted in the community of scholars and has contributed immeasurably to our understanding of the natural world. The Ninety-first Annual Meeting of the American Association of University Professors deplores efforts in local communities and by some state legislators to require teachers in public schools to treat evolution as merely a hypothesis or speculation, untested and unsubstantiated by the methods of science, and to require them to make students aware of an "intelligent-design hypothesis" to account for the origins of life. These initiatives not only violate the academic freedom of public school teachers, but can deny students an understanding of the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding evolution.

The implications of these efforts for higher education are particularly troubling to this Meeting. To the degree that college and university faculty in the field of biology would be required to offer instruction about evolution and the origins of life that complied with these restrictions and was at variance with their own understanding of scientific evidence, their freedom to determine what may be taught and how would be seriously abridged.

This Meeting calls on local communities and state officials to reject proposals that seek to suppress discussion of evolution in our public schools as inimical to principles of academic freedom.

American Association of University Women

The American Association of University Women is committed to the pursuit of knowledge and access to that knowledge by all citizens. AAUW is also committed as a national organization to the doctrine of separation of church and state. We are concerned that the inclusion in the public schools of information on the creationist theory will open the door to rightful requests for equal time by the many individual faiths, thus creating an unmanageable situation. Decisions need to be made relating to questions such as:

Who is qualified to relay this information to students?

Who will decide what texts to recommend for further reading?

Which theories will be included for presentation?

AAUW recognizes that theory will not be taught in the classroom, but we have reservations as to how it will be presented. Is it not better to leave the responsibility of religious thought to individual churches? All knowledge is not gained in the public classroom. AAUW believes citizens have a protected right to avail themselves of education through many sources, and the primary source for religious education must be the church.

American Federation of Teachers — Oregon *

Resolution Against So-Called Academic Freedom Bills that Undermine the Accurate Teaching of Evolution

Whereas, biological evolution is a fundamental underpinning of modern biological thought and research and is not the subject of controversy among scientists; and

Whereas, the unfettered teaching of evolution in public schools has been under attack since the early part of the twentieth century, and before; and

Whereas, the Supreme Court further declared in Edwards v. Aguillard that requirements to teach creation science in schools as an alternative to evolution are unconstitutional; and

Whereas, [a federal court] further declared in Kitzmiller v. Dover that requirements to teach intelligent design in schools as an alternative to evolution are unconstitutional; and

Whereas, a strategy to teach creationism, intelligent design, or evolution denial into public science classrooms has emerged with the passage of laws intended to teach these theories as science under the guise of protecting academic freedom in the classroom; and

Whereas, these laws may include misleading provisions, such as to teach “the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution,” and offers students “protection for subscribing to a particular position on views regarding biological or chemical evolution,” (Discovery Institute, Model Academic Freedom Statute on Evolution, 2007); and

Whereas, these laws may include misleading provisions, such as to help students develop “critical thinking skills” on “controversial issues,” and direct teachers to discuss “the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories,” (Louisiana Science Education Act, 2008); and

Whereas, AFT-Oregon believes that Oregon teachers already endeavor “to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about scientific subjects,” (Tennessee HB 268/SB 893) and indeed all subjects within their curricula; and

Whereas, over 50 of these bills have been introduced in 13 state legislatures since 2004, and more have already been introduced in 2013 than in all of 2012; and

Whereas, two of these bills (Louisiana SB 561/733 in 2008 and Tennessee HB 368 in 2011) have become law in their respective states; and

Whereas, the American Association of University Professors says of these bills: “Such efforts run counter to the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding evolution and are inconsistent with a proper understanding of the meaning of academic freedom;” and

Whereas, the National Center for Science Education declares: “Teachers have no freedom to misinform and miseducate students. It is scientifically inappropriate and educationally irresponsible to present [intelligent design] under its own name or in any guise as scientifically credible. And it is unconstitutional to do so in the public schools;” now

Therefore Be It Resolved, that AFT-Oregon encourages and expects Oregon’s science teachers, in presenting evolution and other topics, to understand, respect, and communicate the consensus of the scientific community, in order to present the science curriculum effectively to their students; and

Be It Further Resolved, that AFT-Oregon will be on alert for, and opposed to, bills at the state or federal level that attempt to use the guise of academic freedom as a means of introducing creationism, intelligent design, or evolution denial into science classrooms; and

Be It Further Resolved, that, as adopted and suitably edited, this resolution will be forwarded to the AFT national convention for consideration.

Arkansas Science Teachers Association (2006)

Arkansas Science Teachers Association (ASTA) members hold various personal views concerning the origin of the universe and of life. As a professional organization, ASTA is opposed to any religious view, such as creationism or intelligent design, being taught in the public schools as science.

ASTA finds science and religion to be complementary rather than contradictory. Science strives to explain the nature of the cosmos while religion seeks to give the cosmos and the life within it a purpose. Human existence is enriched by a knowledge and understanding of both science and religion.

Religious explanations of the origin of the universe and of life are based on faith. Because these explanations vary among different religions, the views are best taught in the home or within the context of religious institutions.

Scientific explanations regarding the origin of the universe and of life are based on experimentation and may change, as new evidence is uncovered. The goal of science is to discover and investigate universally accepted natural explanations. This process of discovery and description of natural phenomena should be taught in public schools. Therefore, both curriculum and selection of instructional materials for public schools must reflect established scientific evidence.

Arkansas Science Teachers Association (2008) *

Introduction

The Arkansas Science Teachers Association strongly supports the position that evolution is a major unifying concept in science and should be included and maintained in the state K–12 science education frameworks and curricula. It should be titled “evolution” and not indirectly called “change over time” or similar wording.

Evolution is not taught in many Arkansas school districts. These students in these districts will not achieve the level of scientific literacy they needed in an increasingly technological and scientific society. They will not understand natural systems, genetics, natural selection, geologic time, population biology, environmental and climate change, medical and microbiological sciences issues or other important concepts related to an understanding of evolution.

This position is consistent with all scientific organizations that support the teaching evolution and an old Earth history as part of science curricula (National Science Foundation, National Science Teachers Association, American Association for the Advancement of Science, National Association of Biology Teachers, National Academy of Science, Geological Society of America, etc.).

Declaration

Evolution should be taught beginning in elementary school and with greater detail in each successive grade. Arkansas K-16 students and teaches should understand:

  • Evolution is a change in allele frequencies across successive generations in a population of organisms. These changes over long periods of time have led to all the life forms that have inhabited our planet.
  • The DNA of an organism will occasionally change, or mutate. A mutation changes the DNA of an organism in a way that affects its offspring, either immediately or several generations down the line.
  • The change brought about by a mutation can be beneficial, harmful or neutral. Such changes will be passed from generation to generation, a process called “decent with modification.” (If the change is harmful, then it is less likely that the offspring will survive to reproduce, so the mutation dies out and goes nowhere. If the change is beneficial, then it is more likely that the offspring will do better than other offspring and so will reproduce more. Through reproduction, the beneficial mutation spreads).
  • The process of culling bad mutations and spreading good mutations is called natural selection. It is a driving force in what life forms exist in a give time and environment.
  • Natural selection acts on the phenotype rather than the genotype of an organism.
  • Alleles that are lethal in a homozygous individual may be carried in a heterozygote and thus maintained in a gene pool.
  • New mutations are constantly being generated in a gene pool.
  • Variation within a species increases the likelihood that at least some members of a species will survive under changed environmental conditions.
  • Evolution is the result of genetic changes that occur in constantly changing environments.
  • Natural selection determines the differential survival of groups of organisms. When a population is split apart, each new population will continue to evolve in different directions. When the two populations are different enough, they are regarded as new species. This process is known as speciation. As populations continue to split and diverge, there will be a branching pattern of descent. As a species diverges over time, the descendants of a common ancestor can be grouped into nested groups: genera, families, orders, classes, phyla, kingdoms, and domains.
  • A great diversity of species increases the chance that at least some organisms survive major changes in the environment.

The Courts

  • Creation science focused on defending a literal reading of the Genesis account with a Biblical God creation all the present species without changes, a few thousand years ago, no recognition of natural selection, and separate ancestry for apes and man. Creation science is illegal to teach in Arkansas and does not follow the Arkansas Science Frameworks. In 1968, in Epperson v. Arkansas, the United States Supreme Court invalidated an Arkansas statute that prohibited the teaching of evolution. The Court held the statute unconstitutional on the grounds that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not permit a state to require that teaching of any particular religious sect or doctrine and the statute did not have a secular purpose. See the Lemon Law below in Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971).
  • In his 1982 decision on ACT 590 in the case of McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, U.S. District Court Judge William R. Overton wrote that creation science is based on foundational beliefs derived from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and the court found the statute did not have a secular purpose. In 1987 a similar case Edwards v. Aguillard did go to the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Louisiana law requiring that creation science be taught in public schools whenever evolution was taught was unconstitutional, because the law was specifically intended to advance a particular religion. This set a binding precedent that creation science should not be taught and that it was a religion concept. Recently, Louisiana's Governor signed Senate Bill 733 into law, this bill may empower school boards to pull religious beliefs into topics like evolution, cloning and global warming by introducing supplemental materials. The legal opinion of many involve in federal litigation is this will cost the state a great deal of much needed education funding after the law is challenged in court and law is struck down. See “Teach the Controversy” and “The Wedge” below.
  • Intelligent design (ID) is an attempt to legislate a particular religious view as science. ID holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.
  • ID advocates make an argument in which no conclusive evidence has ever been offered that "irreducibly complex systems," systems that could not function if they were missing just one of their many parts. It claims that these systems cannot evolve in a Darwinian fashion, because natural selection works on small mutations in just one component at a time. ID concludes that intelligent design must be responsible for these irreducibly complex systems. It is an argument against natural selection.
  • ID does not meet the requirements to be a scientific theory because it does not provide conclusive evidence that can be subjected to the test of observation, experimentation, reasoning and peer review. It does not have the ability to explain what has been observed in nature, or to predict what has not yet been observed, or be able to submit to experimentation and to be modified as required by the acquisition of new data.
  • There is debate about ID and evolution -- but not in the scientific community. Among scientists, ID has also been forcefully rejected on the basis of 1) clear lack of testable hypotheses, 2) misrepresentation of scientific evidence pertinent to both evolution and arguments used in favor of ID, and 3) misrepresentation of motive. There is only one theory of evolution in science.
  • The Discovery Institute introduced two strategies to confuse the public about evolution. They are titled “Teach the Controversy” and “The Wedge”. Teachers will need to investigate these strategies because they can be brought up in their classes.
  • Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District court trial was ruled that intelligent design was not science, that it "cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents", and concluded that the school district's promotion of intelligent design therefore violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and thus illegal to teach it as science in a public school classroom. In Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971), the Court created a three part test for laws dealing with religious establishment. This determined that a law was constitutional if it:
    • Had a secular purpose
    • Neither advanced or inhibited religion
    • Did not foster an excessive government entanglement with religion.
  • School boards, district administrators and teacher need to understand that science and not religious ideas should be taught in science classrooms in our public schools. To do so opens a district to law suits by parents and districts can loose their accreditation for not following the science frameworks which are based on the best current scientific evidence.

Many teachers have found the following chart helpful.

Comparison of the Ways of Knowing

People have several ways that they know about their world. The chart below lists some of the ways of knowing. However, as you read the chart please note that science is a way of knowing that requires the use of certain rules and methods that differs from the other means of knowing. Scientific knowledge is limited to the natural world.

Religious Knowledge Philosophic Knowledge Cultural Knowledge Science Knowledge
Seeks answers to any question that can be posed including answers to the ultimate questions (What is my purpose? What is the meaning of life? Is there a supreme being? etc.). Seeks answers to any question that can be posed including answers to the ultimate (What is my purpose? What is the meaning of life? Is there a supreme being? etc.). Seeks answers to any question that can be posed including answers to the ultimate questions (What is my purpose? What is the meaning of life? etc.), but generally relates to how people treat one another. Can only seek answers about the natural world but cannot answer ultimate questions (Is there a god? What is the meaning of life?).
Seek predictions on any event based on faith and belief. Seek predictions on any event based on point of view. Seek predictions on any event based on belief and cultural history. Seek predictions about future natural events based on observational evidence and testing.
The rules may vary among the different religions. The rules may vary among the different philosophic views. The rules may vary among the different cultures. Has a set of rules that must be followed in order to be called science.
Explanations are based on beliefs and faith and seek to understand and follow an ultimate purpose. Explanations are based on logic or viewpoint and seek to understand and follow an ultimate purpose and may undergo some type of testing. Explanations are based on beliefs and seek to understand and follow an ultimate purpose. Explanations are based on observation, evidence, and testing.
Explanations can include supernatural forces. Explanations can include supernatural forces and viewpoints. Explanations can include supernatural forces and other historical viewpoints. Explanations cannot include supernatural forces.
Hypotheses need not be part of the religion, nor do hypotheses have to be tested nor proved or disproved. Hypotheses may be a part of the philosophic view and hypotheses may or may not have to be tested and proved or disproved. Hypotheses need not be part of the cultural view, nor do hypotheses have to be tested nor proven. The hypothesis used in tests must be able to be disproved.
Is a belief system and seeks truths. Is a point of view and seeks truths. May be a belief system rooted in historical views and seeks truths. Is not a belief system nor seeks truths.
Knowledge may not change greatly over time, but may be swayed by culture. Knowledge may not change greatly over time and may be influenced by culture.

May be a belief system rooted in historical views and seeks truths.

Knowledge may or may not change slowly over time.

Knowledge may change as new data arises.
Accepted knowledge does not need peer review or verification. Accepted knowledge may seek peer review or verification, but conclusions may differ among individuals. Accepted knowledge may seek review or verification, but conclusions may differ among individuals. All knowledge must have peer review and verification.

Association for Science Education *

The purpose of this statement

This statement has been issued against a backdrop of concern about the teaching of controversial issues in science, in particular Intelligent Design and Creationism. The statement has been agreed by ASE Council. However the statement does not necessarily represent the views of all ASE members. ASE recognises that the science teaching profession includes individuals with a range of religious and non religious perspectives and that there will be some members, albeit a small number, whose personal perspectives might not resonate fully with these messages. It is, however, our intention that all members and others who are concerned about this controversial issue will find guidance and direction herein.

An important professional challenge for science teachers is the need to develop a sensitivity to the many belief systems which will permeate a group of learners and to ensure that, should questions of belief arise, they are well prepared to offer an appropriate level of engagement which retains a focus on science and what constitutes a viable scientific theory, whilst respecting the personal belief systems of individual learners.

What is meant by Intelligent Design?

Intelligent Design is a claim that many living organisms are so complex that their existence cannot be explained by natural evolutionary processes. Intelligent Design also claims that the complexity of such organisms can be accounted for only by invoking the intervention of an agent of design — a designer.

Should Intelligent Design find a place in school science education?

The rationale for science education involves the stimulation and motivation of young people towards appreciating and understanding some of the key ideas in science. It aims to engage them in exploring first hand the processes of science through experimentation, investigation, argument, and modelling thereby teaching them how science works in both an historical context and within the social community which is science. In doing so, science education explores the relationships between evidence and theory whilst appreciating the provisional nature of scientific 'knowledge'. Such an education should prepare learners to be confident in engaging with scientific issues and be able to take a critical approach when evaluating claims which are 'scientific', thereby making an assessment of what might be seen as 'good science' and 'poor science'.

When set against this rationale it is clear to us that Intelligent Design has no grounds for sharing a platform as a scientific 'theory'. It has no underpinning scientific principles or explanations to support it. Furthermore it is not accepted as a competing scientific theory by the international science community nor is it part of the science curriculum. It is not science at all. Intelligent Design belongs to a different domain and should not be presented to learners as a competing or alternative scientific idea. As such, Intelligent Design has no place in the science education of young people in school.

Should Intelligent Design be presented as an example of a controversy in science?

There are many examples which teachers might use to illustrate controversial issues in science. Some are competing ideas such as the nature of light — waves or particles or heliocentric v geocentric notions of the solar system, others might be examples of poorly planned and inadequately tested science such as the claim for 'cold fusion' or even examples of 'dishonest or biased science', such as the case of the midwife toad. All these examples deserve a place in science education as they are founded to a greater or lesser degree on aspects of scientific methodology. Their study will better enable learners to take a more critical and informed view of claims which purport to be 'scientific'. Intelligent Design, with no foundation in scientific methodology, cannot be classed as science, not even bad or controversial science.

Should Intelligent Design be included in other areas of the curriculum?

The ASE does not claim to have any authoritative voice regarding religious and moral education or other areas of the curriculum. However we recognise that an idea which suggests the existence of an 'intelligent designer' is more likely to find a place in a course which deals explicitly with belief systems. Should Intelligent Design find such a place, we strongly argue that it should not be presented as an alternative scientific theory.

Doesn't Creationism sit alongside theories of creation such as the 'big bang'?

The concept of Intelligent Design is only one of many religious views concerning the nature of the universe. A related idea is Creationism (or 'Young Earth Creationism') which takes the view that the universe was created very recently. Not all religious believers hold these or similar views and many find it perfectly possible to combine their faith with a scientific description of the universe. When ideas about the origin of the universe are covered in science lessons it is appropriate that teachers share with learners the tentative nature of a theory such as the 'big bang'. There is mounting evidence to support the idea that the universe at one time underwent a singularity which we call a 'big bang'. However the context of such teaching would also explore alternative theories, many in existence in the mid 20th century and which were supported by evidence at the time, which offered competition to the big bang notion. This is an example of how evidence and theories coexist and interact in the culture of science and how they drive the direction of scientific endeavour. Creationism, like Intelligent Design, is not based on scientific evidence and, as such, is not a scientific theory.

Additional statements

Statements which are aligned with this ASE position have been made by the Interacademy Panel; a global network of the world's science academies, and by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF). These can be obtained from:

Interacademy Panel statement www.royalsoc.ac.uk/document.asp?tip=1&id=4926
DCSF guidance on the place of creationism and intelligent design in science lessons www.teachernet.gov.uk/docbank/index.cfm?id=11890

Association of College and University Biology Educators (1999)

Resolution:

Whereas the science of evolution stands as a well formed discipline which meets the rigorous standards of scientific theories and the application of scientific methods;

Whereas the states of Illinois, Kansas and Kentucky are promoting the false dilemma of religion versus the sciences and evolution

And whereas the states of Illinois, Kansas and Kentucky are blurring the lines between science and religion

Be it resolved that the Association of College and University Biology Educators, at its annual meeting publicly condemns the decisions of the legislatures and/or boards of education which have caused these states to weaken the public understanding of the sciences and we further urge these states to recognize that there may be further long-term consequences on their students from these decisions. We direct the secretary of ACUBE to send a letter to each of the Boards of Education in the aforementioned states.

Association of College and University Biology Educators (2000)

Evolution is good science. Understanding evolution and the nature of science is essential to a well-educated society. Thus, ACUBE supports the teaching of evolution.

Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Biologists

Throughout the United States, "Scientific Creationism," a religious doctrine based upon the literal interpretation of the Bible, is being proposed as a valid scientific alternative to the Theory of Evolution. Creationists who represent this fundamentalist Christian religious movement are seeking "equal time" in science classrooms and science textbooks.

The Creationists' movement is an attempt to persuade, mislead, and pressure legislators, public school officials and the general public that since evolution is "only" a theory, implying opinion or conjecture, it is therefore open to any alternative. They propose that their alternative, the "Theory of Special Creation," is scientific and therefore is just as valid as the Theory of Evolution. Creationists reject the evolution of life from a single line of ancestors through chance mutation and natural selection and hold that the universe and all living things were divinely created beginning six to ten thousand years ago. They cite as their "scientific evidence" the biblical story of Genesis as written in the King James version of the Bible. Although Creationists are attempting to equate "Special Creation" as a scientific theory, they in fact claim absolute truth for their belief. Science, which does not deal with beliefs based on faith and does not claim absolute truth for its findings, utilizes an organized method of problem solving in an attempt to explain phenomena of our universe.

The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Biologists together with other scientific associations such as the National Association of Biology Teachers, the National Academy of Science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Institute for Biological Sciences agrees that "Scientific Creationism" does not meet the criteria of science and cannot be considered a scientific theory. Scientists of these associations agree that Creationism can be neither verified nor refuted through scientific investigation, and the models or beliefs which involve the supernatural are not within the domain of science. However, to support the Theory of Evolution is not to be "antireligious" as Creationists propose. The majority of religions in America find no basic conflict between religion and science, and most accept the Theory of Evolution and reject Creationism. Throughout the U.S. scientists as well as clergy have opposed the Creationists' attempt to legislate the teaching of "Scientific Creationism" in science classrooms. During the December 1981 trial in Arkansas, in which a Creationist "equal time" law was contested and overturned, a great majority of witnesses in support of the Theory of Evolution were clergy of the Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish faiths.

The Theory of Evolution meets the criteria of science and the criteria of a scientific theory and is not based on faith, mere speculation or dogma. Evolution as a scientific theory is supported by a vast body of scientifically scrutinizable evidence coming from such sources as anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, genetics and the fossil record. To state, as Creationists do, that the Theory of Evolution is "only" a theory illustrates ignorance of science and the scientific method. The Theory of Evolution will be accepted and supported by the scientific community unless another theory which is based on science and the scientific method takes its place.

The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Biologists recognizes that the move to equate a non scientific belief with science is a threat to the very integrity of science. APSCUB respects the religious beliefs held by Creationists and others pertaining to the origin and diversity of life and does not oppose the teaching of those concepts as religion or philosophy. However, APSCUB members as scientists and educators are in opposition to any attempt to introduce Creationism or any other nonscientific or pseudoscientific belief as science in the public school system in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. APSCUB further recommends the following:

1. All public school science teachers in the Commonwealth should reject science textbooks which treat Creationism as science. The inclusion of nonscientific material as science in a science textbook reflects on the credibility of the teacher who uses it. Textbooks which deal with the diversity of life but do not mention the Theory of Evolution or restrict its discussion should also be rejected.

2. Biology teachers in the public school system of Pennsylvania should teach the Theory of Evolution not as absolute truth but as the most widely accepted scientific theory on the diversity of life. Biology teachers of the Commonwealth should not be intimidated by pressures of the Creationists and simply avoid the issue by not teaching the Theory of Evolution. Avoiding established concepts in science is pseudoscience which also threatens the integrity and credibility of science. Avoiding the teaching of evolution is a victory for the Creationists.

Members of APSCUB will, when possible, give advice and support to teachers, legislators, public school officials, and the general public where matters of "Scientific Creationism" or other nonscientific beliefs concerning the diversity of life arise in their local community within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Association of Science-Technology Centers *

The theory of evolution by natural selection is a unifying concept that explains the incredible diversity of living things, their genetic relationship, and evidence that living things change over time. Evolutionary theory is central to modern science.

In response to public inquiries regarding the presentation of Darwinian evolution in science centers and museums, ASTC's Executive Committee issued the following "Statement on Science" in September 2005:

"ASTC and its members — science centers and museums around the world — present information based on scientific evidence. ASTC's members are committed to advancing the public understanding of science and contributing to the development of a scientifically literate society. Science is a human endeavor that uses observations and experimentation to develop explanations of the natural world. Scientific theories are grounded in and compatible with evidence, internally consistent, and demonstrably effective in explaining a wide variety of phenomena. Science is based on hundreds of years of scientific observation and experimentation and many thousands of peer-reviewed publications."

In science centers and museums, evolution is often presented in paleontology exhibitions, such as Prehistoric Journey at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Lone Star Dinosaurs at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, and Dinosphere at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. Explore Evolution, developed under the leadership of the University of Nebraska State Museum, features scientists investigating the evolution of life. However, evolutionary theory also underlies many other exhibits and programs, including those about emerging research areas such as biotechnology.

In response to public discussion about evolution and creationism in museums, Jeffrey Kirsch, Director of the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, San Diego, California, wrote in the May 3, 2005 issue of the online newspaper Voice of San Diego:

"Scientists parse the unanswerable into something they can answer through experiment, reasoning, or observational discovery. And, in general, the new "answers" lead to other questions that provide the basis for future studies and...future questions. Seen this way, science is a seemingly never-ending human quest to understand how living and non-living things work. It is quintessentially open-ended, and curiosity is the universal prerequisite for a working scientist...

"Belief-based explanations have one aspect in common: they cannot be tested the way a scientific model can be. The scientific understanding of biological development on earth, usually referred to as evolution, is derived from the search for natural explanations for phenomena such as the fossil record, the geological record, and our planet's biosphere. And these explanations must be tested again and again until they become generally accepted or changed to fit the facts. So, when an institution uses the word "science" in its name...it is understood by all to be concerned with natural and verifiable explanations for the way things work."

For additional information and perspectives on the presentation of evolution and related subjects, see the following resources:

Understanding Evolution, an extensive new website by the University of California Museum of Paleontology and the National Center for Science Education.

National Center for Science Education: Defending the Teaching of Evolution in the Public Schools

Evolution Resources, National Science Teachers Association.

Evolution and Creationism: A Guide for Museum Docents (PDF), by the Museum of the Earth at the Paleontological Research Institution, Ithaca, NY.

Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion: Evolution, American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The Evolution Controversy in Our Schools. Letter to Academy members from President Bruce Alberts. National Academy of Sciences. March 4, 2005.

Explore Evolution, a new exhibit at the University of Nebraska State Museum.

Evolution: constant change and common threads, Howard Hughes Medical Institute on-demand webcast of 2005 Holiday Lectures and student discussion session on reconciling religion and evolution.

Thomas Jefferson Fossil Collection, The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia.

Australian Museum *

The Australian Museum supports the teaching of evolution as the scientifically tested and verifiable theory for the origin and development of all species on Earth. In doing so, the Australian Museum's position is that creationism or intelligent design should not be taught as part of the science curriculum.

Authors of Biology Textbooks

Evolution and Science

The coverage of evolution in biology textbooks we have written reflects the broad consensus in the scientific community. As noted in a booklet issued by the National Academy of Sciences, "Evolution pervades all biological phenomena. To ignore that it occurred or to classify it as a form of dogma is to deprive the student of the most fundamental organizational concept in the biological sciences" (Science and Creationism, National Academy Press, 1985, p. 22).

Our textbooks are written from this point of view. Evolution occupies a prominent position, and is covered explicitly. Many sections use evolutionary concepts to explain the diversity of living and fossil organisms, the adaptations of organisms to their environments, and similarities of structure and function shared by related organisms. In this way, we present students with the understanding of biology shared by the overwhelming majority of working scientists in the United States and throughout the world.

What Do States Require of Biology Textbooks?

Although state requirements vary, the majority require that biology curricula must include extensive coverage of evolution. The few states where standards or curriculum guidelines do not mention evolution by name nonetheless require the coverage of evolutionary topics. If we omitted proper coverage of evolutionary facts and theories, we would not be in compliance with these and other curricula that require complete, accurate, up-to-date, and conceptually-based educational materials.

Our Message to Textbook Adopters

As scientists and teachers, we find it unacceptable that school districts considering our books for adoption would be encouraged to choose one book over another based on the perception that teachers should avoid the topic of evolution. We encourage school districts deciding among our books to use genuine scientific and educational criteria.

We also deplore the efforts made in some states and districts to require that evolution be disclaimed. Such disclaimers single out evolution from all other scientific ideas as somehow less reliable or less accepted by scientists, or as "only a theory." Evolution is a normal part of science, and should be treated the same way as all other scientific ideas. It does a disservice to students to mislead them about the important position that evolution holds in biological and other sciences.

Those who have joined in this statement do so as individuals. We do not speak on behalf of our publishers, but for ourselves, as biologists, authors, and educators.

(In alphabetical order; institutions are listed for purposes of identification only).

Bruce Alberts, National Academy of Sciences
Sandra Alters, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Gerald Audesirk, University of Colorado, Denver
Teresa Audesirk, University of Colorado, Denver
Alton Bigg, Biggs Educational Consulting, Allen TX
Neil Campbell, University of California, Riverside
Helena Curtis, Sag Harbor NY
Michael Dougherty, Hampton-Sydney College
Jennie Dusheck, Santa Cruz CA
Carol Gontang, Mountain View High School, Mountain View CA
H. Craig Heller, Stanford University
Paul Hummer, Hood College
Alexander Johnson, University of California, San Francisco
George Johnson, Washington University
David Krogh, Kensington CA
William Leonard, Clemson University
Joseph Levine, Concord MA
Ricki Lewis, Scotia NY*
Marilyn Lisowski, Eastern Illinois University
Linda Lundgren, Bear Creek High School, Lakewood CO
James McLaren, Newton South High School, Newton Center MA
Joseph Mclnerney, National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics
Kenneth Miller, Brown University
Raymond Oram, Peddie School, Hightstown NJ
Gordon H. Orians, University of Washington
John Penick, North Carolina State University
William K. Purves, Harvey Mudd College
Peter Raven, Missouri Botanical Garden
Joseph Raver, Three Rivers Local Schools, Cleves OH
David Sadara, Claremont McKenna College
Gerald Skoog, Texas Tech University
Cecie Starr, Belmont CA
Eric Strauss, Boston College
Ralph Taggart, Michigan State University
Albert Towle, Auburn CA
Peter Walter, University of California, San Francisco

* Added in 2005.

Baylor University Department of Biology *

Evolution, a foundational principle of modern biology, is supported by overwhelming scientific evidence and is accepted by the vast majority of scientists. Because it is fundamental to the understanding of modern biology, the faculty in the Biology Department at Baylor University, Waco, TX, teach evolution throughout the biology curriculum. We are in accordance with the American Association for Advancement of Science's statement on evolution. We are a science department, so we do not teach alternative hypotheses or philosophically deduced theories that cannot be tested rigorously.

Baylor University Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry *

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Baylor University is committed to the highest standards of scientific inquiry in the search for objective truth about the natural universe. From the time of Francis Bacon, this search for truth has been through the scientific method, in which the veracity of a hypothesis is tested by experimentation.

Evolution, a foundational principle of modern biological sciences, is supported by overwhelming scientific evidence. It is fundamental to the understanding of modern biochemistry, and our faculty incorporate the principle of evolution throughout the biochemistry curriculum. We are a science department, and we do not teach alternative hypotheses or philosophically deduced theories that cannot be tested rigorously.

Information on other departmental websites: Department of Biology

Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (1971)

Dr. Addison E. Lee, Professor of Science Education and Biology, and Director of the Science Education Center, The University of Texas at Austin, serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study. His distinguished accomplishments as science educator and biologist enable him to write with authority in support of the BSCS position on the teaching of evolution. Dr. Lee's many publications as author or editor include Laboratory Studies in Biology and a monograph series entitled Research and Curriculum Development in Science Education.

The BSCS program began in 1959 amid considerable debate about the approach to be taken in the teaching of biology. Should it be molecular, organismal, developmental, ecological, or other? Should it include one textbook or several? How much and what kind of attention to laboratory work should be given? Amidst all these debates, however, it was an early consensus that certain themes should be included in all biology programs, no matter what approach is selected, and whatever attention may be given to various details. These themes were identified and have consistently pervaded the several approaches and different materials developed by the BSCS during the past twelve years. They are:
  1. Change of living things through time: evolution
  2. Diversity of type and unity of pattern in living things
  3. The genetic continuity of life
  4. The complementarity of organism and environment
  5. The biological roots of behavior
  6. The complementarity of structure and function
  7. Regulation and homeostasis: preservation of life in the face of change
  8. Science as inquiry
  9. The history of biological conceptions
It should be noted that these unifying themes were identified and accepted by a large group of distinguished scientists, science teachers, and other educators. And although members of this group represented many interests, specialties, and points of view, there was and has continued to be general agreement concerning the importance, use, and nature of these themes.

It should also be noted that evolution is not only one of the major themes but is, in fact, central among the other themes; they are inter-related, and each is particularly related to evolution.

The position of the BSCS on the importance of evolution in teaching biology has been clearly stated in both the first (1963) and second (1970) editions of the Biology Teachers' Handbook:

It is no longer possible to give a complete or even a coherent account of living things without the story of evolution. On the other hand, many of the most striking characteristics of living things are "products" of the evolutionary process. We can make good sense and order of the similarities and differences among living things to the particular environments in which they live, their distribution over the surface of the earth, the comings and goings of their parts during development, even the chemistry by which they obtain energy and exchange it among their parts -- all such matters find illumination and explanation, in whole or in part, from the history of life on earth.

On the other hand, another great group of characteristics of living things can be fully understood only as the means and mechanisms by which evolution takes place. There are first, and conspicuously, the events of meiosis and fertilization, universal in sexual reproduction. It is only in terms of the contribution of these processes to the enhancement and sorting out of a vast store of heritable variations that we make sense of them. The same point applies to the complex processes that go under the name of mutation. Similarly, we see everywhere the action and consequences of natural selection, of reproductive isolation of populations, of the effects of size and change on intrabreeding groups.

Evolution, then, forms the warp and woof of modern biology...*


Evolution is a scientific theory in the sense that it is based on scientific data accumulated over many years and organized into a unifying idea widely accepted by modern biologists. The BSCS is concerned with any scientific theory relevant to the biological sciences that can be dealt with in terms of scientific data accumulated and organized. It is not, on the other hand, concerned with religious doctrines that are based only on faith or beliefs, nor does it consider them relevant to the teaching of biological science.

The BSCS program was carried through an extensive tryout period during its early development; feedback and input from hundreds of scientist and science teachers were used in the initial edition that was made available to biology teachers in the United States. A revised second edition of the three major textbooks produced has been published, and a revised third edition is nearing completion. In spite of efforts of various groups to force changes in the content of the texts by exerting pressures on textbook selection committees and on local and state governments, throughout the last twelve years the BSCS position on using the unifying themes of biology remains unchanged.

Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (1995)

BSCS, founded in 1958, was largely responsible for reintroducing evolution into the high school biology curriculum, following a four-decade period during which evolution virtually disappeared from high school biology textbooks. From its inception, BSCS has treated evolution as the central organizing theme of biology, listing it first, for example, among the biological principles that guided the development of all early BSCS programs.

The Biology Teachers' Handbook, published by BSCS in 1963, stressed the importance of concentrating on major principles in biology and gave special attention to evolution, stating: " It is no longer possible to give a complete or even a coherent account of living things without the story of evolution." The intervening three decades have affirmed that assertion, with progress in genetics, molecular biology, behavior, development, neuroscience, and other sub-disciplines reinforcing and expanding evolutionary perspectives originally based on gross morphological data.

The recent and rapid growth of knowledge in all areas of biology makes it ever more important — and difficult — to focus curriculum and teaching on major principles. To that end, BSCS recently published Developing Biological Literacy: A Guide to Developing Secondary and Post-secondary Biology Curricula (1993). This document identifies six unifying principles of biology that should pervade the teaching of biology, and it states the BSCS position on evolution quite clearly:

How can one simultaneously account of the extraordinary diversity and observable unity of living systems in the world today? The answer, in a word, is evolution. Evolution is the unifying theory of biology because it has played a role in the history and lives of all living organisms on Earth today — and of those that are now extinct. Evolution is the major conceptual scheme of biology because it helps us understand relationships between organisms, past and present, and the many ways organisms have succeeded in different habitats.

We recognize that there are other ways of knowing, but ours is the scientific pursuit of knowledge. As BSCS approaches its fortieth anniversary of service to science education, it remains committed to the accurate and thorough representation of evolution as the conceptual keystone to our understanding of life on Earth. Furthermore, BSCS will continue to defend scientific integrity and will resist all attempts to influence its materials in ways that portray non-scientific explanations of life on Earth as scientifically valid.

Biotechnology Institute *

Recent attacks on the teaching of evolution in science classrooms are of grave concern to the Biotechnology Institute. For years, the Institute has sought to educate the public — especially young people and those who teach them — about the science of biotechnology and its tremendous potential for solving health, foodrelated, and environmental problems. Evolution, the evidence-based theory that all living organisms have descended from common ancestors, is a cornerstone principle of the biological sciences on which biotechnology is based. There is overwhelming consensus in the scientific community on the validity of evolution: the National Academy of Sciences and more than 50 other scientific associations endorse the concept of common ancestry among living organisms. While hundreds of papers and books are published every year discussing and debating the details of evolution, there is no serious scientific debate about whether this basic process occurs in nature.

Our understanding of evolution has already improved our lives in undeniable ways. Biotechnological research depends on insights built on the concept of evolution for discoveries that make us healthier, safer, and better fed. Vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, and many other life-threatening diseases are developed through “directed evolution,” the alteration and selection of certain viruses to force a desired immune response. Because disease germs constantly adapt to survive, following the principles of evolution, vaccines must be continually updated using those principles. Outbreaks of new lethal viruses such as SARS are potentially predictable through evolutionary studies of gene-exchanging patterns among such viruses. Comparative studies of the immune systems of humans and chimpanzees have already provided major insights into therapies for AIDS, malaria, and other fatal diseases. In addition, the race to develop new antibiotics and antiviral drugs to combat rapidly-evolving bacteria and viruses is a well-known example of evolution-based research in action. Epidemiologists must take into account evolutionary relationships among disease-causing organisms when they track the transmission of diseases over time and geographic space. The same scientific techniques are also used to trace the spread of bioweapons, thus contributing to our national security. In agriculture, genetically modified crops show great promise for relieving human hunger. Ensuring the long-term safety of such products for both humans and the environment requires an in-depth understanding of the modified genes’ effects on other, related species. In these and many other ways, knowledge gained from evolutionary biology informs and directs biotechnological research which, in turn, improves — and often saves — our lives.

The Institute observes that many members of the scientific academic community and biotechnology industry maintain strong personal commitment to religious beliefs. In fact, many scientists and biotechnology leaders find their faith and their life’s work mutually reinforcing. Thus the Institute sees no inherent conflict between religious faith and the pursuit of evolutionary science.

But some individuals and groups obviously disagree. Some believe evolution should be either explicitly excluded from the classroom or at the very least “balanced” by the teaching of some form of creationism, including its variant “Intelligent Design.” These alternatives may not reasonably be called “science.” Science is based on the testing of theoretical explanations against meticulous observations of the natural world; explanations that fail such tests are rejected, while those that pass are accepted provisionally. By appealing to unseen or supernatural forces to explain the origin of life, creationism is by definition untestable via scientific methods, and thus inappropriate for science classrooms.

Policymakers considering issues of science in general, and of biotechnology in particular, should certainly respect nonscientific viewpoints. But they must ultimately uphold the standard of science in order to evaluate the implications their decisions carry for our society’s future in a global economy. In our global, science-based economy, nations that value open inquiry and use scientific criteria in research, industry, and education will outperform those that don’t — in several dimensions. The US must continue to train scientists and engineers who will dedicate themselves to research that will enable the American science-based industries to grow and compete successfully with foreign counterparts. Many of these are housed in nations whose students routinely outperform ours on standardized science tests. The development of scientific literacy and the successful completion of training in the sciences demand a clear understanding of evolution as scientists understand it.

For these reasons, the Biotechnology Institute urges state boards of education, local school districts, and individual teachers to support the teaching of evolution and leave discussions concerning issues of faith to their appropriate settings in classes on religion and in our nation’s churches, synagogues and mosques.

California Science Teachers Association

Our planet is billions of years old, and life has existed on it for a large part of that time. Through the eons, the Earth and its life have changed in an unending procession of new forms and vistas. This history and the mechanisms that bring about these changes are what is known as evolution.

Evolution occurred in the past and is still occurring today. To fully appreciate and acquire an understanding of life on Earth, one must know a great deal about present-day forms and their history. For this reason, evolution is a necessary part of everyone’s education. It makes as little sense for a biology teacher to present life on Earth as a collection of static entities as it would for a social studies teacher to present civics and geography without their historical contexts.

Biological evolution refers to the scientific understanding that living things share ancestors from which they have diverged — descent with modification. It is the consensus of the scientific community that evolutionary theory best explains the history of life and accounts for the similarities among living things, as well as life's diversity. As living communities profoundly affect the composition of Earth's atmosphere, weather, soils, and temperature, evolutionary theory also explains many features of the physical world in which we live. Evolutionary biology also contributes to society in more practical ways, including increased understanding of drug resistance by human pathogens, alternatives to pest controls, use of fossil fuels, and conservation.

Teaching evolution in our science classrooms is essential. As noted in Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science, issued by the National Academy of Sciences, "Evolution pervades all biological phenomena. To ignore that it occurred or to classify it as a form of dogma is to deprive the student of the most fundamental organizational concept in the biological sciences." Evolution is identified as a unifying principle in the National Science Education Standards and is integral to the California Science Content Standards.

The California Science Teachers Association endorses the teaching of evolution at all levels of our students' education. Furthermore, we do not endorse teaching the "evidence against evolution," as there is no scientific evidence that evolution has not occurred. Nor can we condone teaching "scientific creationism," "intelligent design," or other non-scientific explanations as valid scientific theories. These beliefs ignore empirical data and fail to provide testable hypotheses. They should not be a part of the science curriculum.

California State Board of Education

The domain of the natural sciences is the natural world. Science is limited by its tools — observable facts and testable hypotheses.

Discussions of any scientific fact, hypothesis, or theory related to the origins of the universe, the earth, and life (the how) are appropriate to the science curriculum. Discussions of divine creation, ultimate purposes, or ultimate causes (the why) are appropriate to the history-social science and English-language arts curricula.

Nothing in science or in any other field of knowledge shall be taught dogmatically. Dogma is a system of beliefs that is not subject to scientific test and refutation. Compelling belief is inconsistent with the goal of education; the goal is to encourage understanding.

To be fully informed citizens, students do not have to accept everything that is taught in the natural science curriculum, but they do have to understand the major strands of scientific thought, including its methods, facts, hypotheses, theories, and laws.

A scientific fact is an understanding based on confirmable observations and is subject to test and rejection. A scientific hypothesis is an attempt to frame a question as a testable proposition. A scientific theory is a logical construct based on facts and hypotheses that organizes and explains a range of natural phenomena. Scientific theories are constantly subject to testing, modification, and refutation as new evidence and new ideas emerge. Because scientific theories have predictive capabilities, they essentially guide further investigations.

From time to time natural science teachers are asked to teach content that does not meet the criteria of scientific fact, hypothesis, and theory as these terms are used in natural science and as defined in this policy. As a matter of principle, science teachers are professionally bound to limit their teaching to science and should resist pressure to do otherwise. Administrators should support teachers in this regard.

Philosophical and religious beliefs are based, at least in part, on faith and are not subject to scientific test and refutation. Such beliefs should be discussed in the social science and language arts curricula. The Board's position has been stated in the History-Social Science Framework (adopted by the Board).1 If a student should raise a question in a natural science class that the teacher determines is outside the domain of science, the teacher should treat the question with respect. The teacher should explain why the question is outside the domain of natural science and encourage the student to discuss the question further with his or her family and clergy.

Neither the California nor the United States Constitution requires that time be given in the curriculum to religious views in order to accommodate those who object to certain material presented or activities conducted in science classes. It may be unconstitutional to grant time for that reason.

Nothing in the California Education Code allows students (or their parents or guardians) to excuse their class attendance on the basis of disagreements with the curriculum, except as specified for (1) any class in which human reproductive organs and their functions and process are described, illustrated, or discussed; and (2) an education project involving the harmful or destructive use of animals. (See California Education Code Section 51550 and Chapter 2.3 of Part 19 commencing with Section 32255.) However, the United States Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion, and local governing boards and school districts are encouraged to develop statements, such as this one on policy, that recognize and respect that freedom in the teaching of science. Ultimately, students should be made aware of the difference between understanding, which is the goal of education, and subscribing to ideas.

Notes

1 History-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools (Updated edition with content standards). Sacramento: California Department of Education, 2001.

Carnegie Museum of Natural History *

Carnegie Museum of Natural History is a scientific institution and strongly supports evolution as the only scientifically rigorous and strongly corroborated explanation for the amazing diversity of life on Earth—now and in the past. Evolution is a process of inherited change that takes place over time. Evolution explains both the diversity of life on Earth as well as universal similarities among all living things. It is based on observable evidence from the fields of biology, paleontology, and geology. We join with our colleagues at natural history, academic, and science institutions worldwide in affirming evolution.

Our Mission: Carnegie Museum of Natural History collects and cares for specimens and artifacts that document the history of life on Earth. Through field studies and collections-based scientific research, we generate new knowledge and promote stewardship of the Earth and its natural resources. Through public exhibitions, programs, and educational partnerships, we share the results of our scientific research, in order to enhance scientific literacy by illuminating the processes of evolution and adaptation that have shaped the diversity of our world and its inhabitants.

Carnegie Museum of Natural History will continue to provide public engagement activities that explore and explain evolution. We affirm that all organisms on Earth share a common ancestry and that life's unfolding has encompassed billions of years of time. Our educational goal is to help visitors understand and explore the theory of evolution, the observable evidence that supports it, and the scientific questions and debates that are taking place at the edge of exploration about the mechanisms of evolution and its consequences.

The museum does not involve itself in matters of individual or institutional religious beliefs or practice. We respectfully leave those concerns to institutions dedicated to the study and practice of spiritual and religious matters.

Central Connecticut State University Department of Biology *

The Department of Biology at Central Connecticut State University comprises a community of students and professors of the biological sciences. We are committed to the highest standards of scientific inquiry in the search for objective truth about the universe. As members of the worldwide scientific community, we use the theory of evolution and other scientific principles to study the natural world. Evolution, a foundational principle of modern biological sciences, is supported by overwhelming scientific evidence. It is fundamental to the understanding of modern biology, and our faculty incorporate the principle of evolution throughout the curriculum. As we are a science department, we do not teach alternative hypotheses or philosophically deduced theories that cannot be tested rigorously. Evolutionary theory has greatly enhanced progress in the fields of medicine, anatomy, archaeology, biology, biochemistry, geology, neuroscience, and many other disciplines. Without an understanding of evolutionary biology, our perception of the natural world would be greatly diminished.

Therefore, the Department of Biology at Central Connecticut State University joins with the broader scientific and academic community devoted to science education and research in affirming the centrality of evolution to biology and in opposing attempts to introduce the concepts of creationism or intelligent design as viable, alternative scientific theories. To read more about the teaching of evolution in the United States go to http://ncseweb.org/.

Da Vinci Science Center *

The Da Vinci Science Center and a preponderant majority of scientists recognize that evolution through natural selection is the central organizing principle of the life sciences. One of the Da Vinci Science Center's most fundamental goals is to encourage curiosity about nature and an investigation of the natural world. The Center provides those who participate in its programs an opportunity to inquire about the relationships and patterns they observe in the natural world. The Center recognizes that there are persons who embrace faith-based views about the creation of the world and humanity that differ from scientific accounts. While the Center respects those views, those views are not reflected in the Da Vinci Science Center's exhibits and programs because they are not derived from well-established scientific conclusions and evidence.

Ecsite, the European Network of Science Centres and Museums *

Statement on Science

Ecsite is the European network that links science centres and museums and other science communication institutions across Europe. Science centres and museums play a crucial role in presenting major issues of our times related to the technological and natural world, our position within it and our impact upon it. They are leading institutions for encouraging engagement and dialogue between the scientific community and society as a whole.

The world needs to enhance the scientific culture of its citizens. This is our new frontier for building a cultural dimension and for building a democratic society.

Ecsite members promote the advancement of knowledge and human endeavour based on scientific principles. We advocate that science is the most successful way of describing and understanding the phenomena of the world around us.

Science centres and museums rely on the objective use of scientific evidence to present science. They encourage an understanding of the world based on sound theory which is internally consistent and which has been tested and validated by the accumulation of empirical evidence from different sources. They recognize that science is based on a process of peer review where research findings are published and subjected to scientific debate, and where evidence must be repeated, corroborated or otherwise validated through a process which is vigorously maintained by the scientific community.

Statement on Evolution

In recent years, the theory of evolution has drawn criticism from sectors outside of science.

Ecsite asserts that the theory of evolution by natural selection has been thoroughly challenged and tested by vast amounts of accumulated independent empirical verifications in many disciplines and that none has been shown to refute it.

Ecsite's policy for public engagement is to present the theory of evolution as the best explanation for the ongoing generation of diversity of life on Earth.

Ecsite strongly endorses the teaching of the theory of evolution in European schools as a core part of the science curriculum and we urge that views such as creationism and intelligent design should not be taught as science.

Evolution is a scientific theory based on evidence. Religious beliefs fall outside the realm of science, since they are a matter of faith, not of proof. While we encourage freedom of speech and the need for a broad cultural debate in our societies, religious beliefs should not be brought into a scientific debate as scientific evidence. Science centres and museums may promote a cultural exchange between various stakeholders but they will always refer to science in their programmes and contents.

Empire State Association of Two Year Community Biologists

Whereas: A popular movement to compromise the teaching of Evolution exists, and

Whereas: any compromise in the teaching of evolution weakens the teaching of biology in general, and

Whereas: efforts on the part of textbook publishers to accommodate special interest groups, such as the popular anti-evolution movement, contributes to the weakening of biology instruction, and

Whereas: this practice is most pronounced at the pre-college level, be it

Resolved: that the E.S.A.T.Y.C.B. opposes anything less than the full textbook presentation of evolution as it is currently accepted by the biological community, and be it further

Resolved: that the E.S.A.T.Y.C.B. opposes the introduction of non-biological ideas as alternatives to evolution, and be it further:

Resolved: that the E.S.A.T.Y.C.B. recommends that its members become aware of the publishers' policies concerning exclusion of sound scientific information to accommodate special interest groups and that these policies be considered when selecting a text.

Idaho Science Teachers Association

Evolution, in the broadest sense, can be defined as the idea that the universe has a history: that change through time has taken place. If we look today at the galaxies, stars, the planet Earth, and the life on planet Earth, we see that things today are different from what they were in the past: galaxies, stars, planets, and life forms have evolved. Biological evolution refers to the scientific theory that living things share ancestors from which they have diverged; it is called "descent with modification". There is abundant and consistent evidence from astronomy, physics, biochemistry, geochronology, geology, biology, anthropology, and other sciences that evolution has taken place.

As such, evolution is a unifying concept for science. The National Science Education Standards recognizes that conceptual schemes such as evolution "unify science disciplines and provide students with powerful ideas to help them understand the natural world" (p. 104) and recommends evolution as one such scheme. In addition, Benchmarks for Science Literacy from AAAS's Project 2061, as well as other national calls for science reform, all name evolution as a unifying concept because of its importance across the disciplines of science. Scientific disciplines with a historical component, such as astronomy, geology, biology, and anthropology, cannot be taught with integrity if evolution is not emphasized.

There is no longer a debate among scientists about whether evolution has taken place. There is considerable debate about how evolution has taken place: What are the processes and mechanisms producing change, and what has happened specifically during the history of the universe? Scientists often disagree about their explanations. In any science, disagreements are subject to rules of evaluation. Scientific conclusions are tested by experiment and observation, and evolution, as with any aspect of theoretical science, is continually open to and subject to experimental and observational testing.

The importance of evolution is summarized as follows in the National Academy of Sciences publication Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science: "Few other ideas in science have had such a far-reaching impact on our thinking about ourselves and how we relate to the world" (p. 21).

The National Science Education Standards note that, "[e]xplanations of how the natural world changes based on myths, personal beliefs, religious values, mystical inspiration, superstition, or authority may be personally useful and socially relevant, but they are not scientific" (p. 201). Because science limits itself to natural explanations and not religious or ultimate ones, science teachers should neither advocate any religious interpretation of nature nor assert that religious interpretations of nature are not possible.

Some policy makers continue attempts to distort the teaching of evolution through mandates that would require teachers to teach evolution as "only a theory" or that require a textbook or lesson on evolution to be preceded by a disclaimer. Regardless of the legal status of these mandates, they are bad educational policy. Such policies have the effect of intimidating teachers, which may result in the de-emphasis or omission of evolution. As a consequence, the public will only be further confused about the nature of scientific theories. Furthermore, if students learn less about evolution, science literacy itself will suffer.

The Idaho Science Teachers Association (ISTA) strongly supports the position that evolution is a major unifying concept in science and should be included in the K-12 science education curricula. Furthermore, if evolution is not taught, students will not achieve the level of scientific literacy they need. This position is consistent with that of the National Academies, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and many other scientific and educational organizations.

ISTA also recognizes that evolution has not been emphasized in science curricula in many locations in a manner commensurate to its importance because of official policies, intimidation of science teachers, the general public's misunderstanding of evolutionary theory, and a century of controversy. In addition, some teachers are being pressured to introduce creationism, "creation science," intelligent design and other nonscientific views, which are intended to weaken or eliminate the teaching of evolution.

Within this context, ISTA recommends that:
  • all teacher certification institutions require courses in the nature of science and evolution.
  • evolution be taught as an essential unifying concept in science that should be included in the K-12 curricula. Teachers of science should be supported in the teaching of evolution and the strong body of scientific evidence supporting it, and not be pressured to present nonscientific views.
  • science curricula, Idaho state science standards, and teachers should emphasize evolution in a manner commensurate with its importance as a unifying concept in science and its overall explanatory power.
  • science teachers should not advocate any religious interpretations of nature and should be nonjudgmental about the personal beliefs of students.
  • policy makers and administrators should not mandate policies requiring the teaching of "creation science" or related concepts, such as so-called "intelligent design," "abrupt appearance," and "arguments against evolution." Administrators also should support teachers against pressure to promote nonscientific views or to diminish or eliminate the study of evolution.
  • Administrators and school boards should provide support to teachers as they review, adopt, and implement curricula that emphasize evolution. This should include professional development to assist teachers in teaching evolution in a comprehensive and professional manner.
  • Parental and community involvement in establishing the goals of science education and the curriculum development process should be encouraged and nurtured in our democratic society. However, the professional responsibility of science teachers and curriculum specialists to provide students with quality science education should not be compromised by censorship, pseudoscience, inconsistencies, faulty scholarship, or unconstitutional mandates.

References:

NSTA Position Statement — The Teaching of Evolution: National Congress on Science Education — 8/05CNG9, 8/05CNG10.

Illinois Community College Faculty Association

WHEREAS it is the responsibility of the academic community to preserve the integrity of science, and

WHEREAS science is a systematic method of investigation based on continuous experimentation, observation, and measurement leading to evolving explanations of natural phenomena, explanations which are continuously open to further testing, and

WHEREAS evolution fully satisfies these criteria, irrespective of remaining debates concerning its detailed mechanisms, and

WHEREAS we the faculty respect the right of people to hold diverse beliefs about creation that do not come within the definitions of science, and

WHEREAS specific references to evolutionary biology have been omitted from the public schools science standards, and

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED the Illinois Community College Faculty Association urges citizens, educational authorities, and legislators to encourage the Illinois State Board of Education to include specific reference to evolutionary biology in the public school science standards.

Illinois Federation of Teachers *

WHEREAS, science is a systematic method for investigating natural phenomena through experimentation, observation and measurement leading to falsifiable explanations that are open to continuous testing; and

WHEREAS, science proceeds on the basis of methodological naturalism and assumes observed phenomena of the universe are real, nature is consistent and understandable, and nature is explainable in terms of laws and theories; and

WHEREAS, a scientific theory is consistent with evidence from multiple and independent sources of evidence, explains many different facts and allows predictions of subsequent discoveries; and

WHEREAS, the theory of evolution satisfies these criteria fully, is the foundation of biological science, is supported by a coherent body of integrated evidence from other disciplines in science and is consistent with theories from other scientific disciplines including anthropology, geology, physics, astronomy and chemistry; and

WHEREAS, there have been attempts in some states to include supernaturalism in the science curriculum as an alternative to scientific explanations of nature, particularly as an alternative to evolutionary theory; and

WHEREAS, arguments that invoke supernaturalism are grounded in religious or philosophical considerations outside the realm of science; and

WHEREAS, attempts to subvert the validity or teaching of evolutionary theory are also attacks on all scientific inquiry and, therefore, also attacks on the validity of using reason and experimentation to understand the universe; and

WHEREAS, legislation that conflates supernaturalism, or limits, or prohibits the teaching of any scientific theory negatively impacts our ability to make informed decisions; and

WHEREAS, it is the responsibility of the Illinois Federation of Teachers to preserve the integrity of science in the classroom; therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the Illinois Federation of Teachers affirm, through a positional statement on its website, the validity of science as a methodology for understanding the nature of the universe, and affirm the validity and foundational importance of organic evolution to science as a whole and biology, specifically; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the IFT affirm, through a positional statement on its website, that supernaturalism is not a scientific endeavor and, therefore, is inappropriate for inclusion in the science curriculum; and be it further

RESOLVED, that this resolution does not make it the official position of the IFT that there is no God and should not be interpreted as a statement either for or against religion or belief in God; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the IFT call upon its members to assist those engaged in overseeing science education policy to understand the nature of science, the content of contemporary evolutionary theory and the inappropriateness of including non-science subjects (e.g., intelligent design and creationism) in our science curriculum; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the IFT communicate to the local, regional and national public media, to educational authorities and to appropriate legislators its opposition to the inclusion of non-science approaches and subjects (e.g., creationism and intelligent design) into the science education curricula of our public school system; and be it finally

RESOLVED, that the IFT members also promote these concerns and help resolve these issues in their home communities among educators, parents, school boards and students in appropriate public forums.

Indiana Department of Education *

The Department of Education provides science academic standards that define what Indiana students should know and be able to do in the area of science. Content regarding evolution is included.

The Indiana Academic Standards 2000 - Science were developed by a committee selected from a pool of more than 100 concerned educators and citizens from around the state who had applied to participate in this process. The committee is composed of approximately sixty, K-12 science teachers, science educators and scientists from Indiana's universities, administrators, parents, and representatives from business and industry.

The Department of Education does not identify science content that should not be taught. Curriculum directors in Indiana schools may choose to supplement their local curriculum as they respond to the desires of the community. However, content taught in the area of science must be consistent with the nature of science (see the Indiana Academic Standards 2000 - Science), as science itself is the connection between theory and experiment.

This means that the explanations for how the world works must be based upon physical evidence and subjected to experimental verification as well as peer review. If better explanations for the evidence arise, older explanations are left behind, which is the belief system upon which science is founded. This does not mean that belief systems based upon sacred texts or traditions are to be discounted, for they are not lesser or greater than a "scientific" viewpoint. Understanding the difference and the nature of science itself is the key, and it is something of which students should be made aware.

Should a community decide that it would be in the better interests of its students to supplement instruction by exposing the students to various accounts of the origin of the universe from cultural, mythological, or religious sources, it may do so in a comparative format that does not espouse a specific doctrine or belief system from a particular faith tradition. The espousing of one faith tradition or set of beliefs over another or others is inappropriate in a public school context.

Inter-University Council of Ohio

Members of the Ohio State Board of Education
c/o Susan Tave Zelman, Board Secretary
25 South Front Street, 7th Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215-4183

Dear Members of the Ohio State Board of Education:

We, the presidents of the Inter-University Council of Ohio, request that you adopt elementary through high school science standards that indicate students' understanding of the explanatory and predictive power of science. Such understanding is required for completing a degree at all of our institutions and for functioning as a member of a scientifically literate work force and electorate.

While we recognize the great value of spirituality and faith in today's society, we urge you to reject the concept of intelligent design creationism as a part of the science curriculum. We also request that you establish the foundation for a preeminent science curriculum in Ohio dedicated to rigorous testing and experimentation, strengthened with thorough teaching of evolution in our science requirements.

We have entered a remarkable new era in genetics and biotechnology, one in which we have the opportunity to benefit from the greatest wave of scientific achievement in human history. As Ohio strives to become a leader in this knowledge-based economy, Governor Taft is promoting a multi-billion-dollar "Third Frontier Project" to rejuvenate Ohio's economy through advances in biotechnology and other areas of science and technology. The federal government and private industry are investing heavily in research and development, and our state is dedicating hundreds of millions of dollars to improve science and math education in public schools. Such initiatives rely on the application of basic scientific knowledge and fact-based inquiry to fields as diverse as agriculture, health care, and environmental protection. To adopt intelligent design creationism in our state science standards — or to imply that evolution and intelligent design are equally valid as scientific theories — will sabotage these educational and economic development efforts at the very time when our children and state need them most.

Evolution is the single unifying scientific theory of life and an essential element of scientific literacy. As noted scientist Theodosius Dobzhansky observed, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."

The proposed science standards that the State Board of Education received in December made substantial advances by making evolution a central subject in the curriculum. Now, however, instead of building upon this important step, we risk pushing science education in Ohio back to the 19th century. House Bill 481 and other curriculum recommendations being debate would require public schools to teach concepts such as intelligent design creationism when they teach evolution, or would provide little guidance on the issue, leaving decisions up to local schools. Because no data support the belief of intelligent design, such policies could, in essence, bring creationism into science class and equate supernatural beliefs with scientific theory, which by its very nature is based on testing and rigorous observation of nature. This misrepresents both science and religion and is a disservice to both.

Ohio's young people who are denied a basic understanding of evolution or who are taught the "scientific" validity of non-scientific "theories" will enter college far behind students from other states. A new generation of K–12 teachers that we are now training — and that must pass certification exams — will have significant misconceptions about basic science and scientific methods. Furthermore, if Ohio is perceived as one of the nation's intellectual backwaters, our universities — as well as private industry — will be severely handicapped in trying to recruit and retain top researchers in the biological sciences, as well as other fields. As a result, Ohio will be ill equipped to develop the innovative businesses that will help create the "Third Frontier" envisioned by Governor Taft.

Perhaps most important, in a world in which rapid technological advancement affects nearly every aspect of our lives, Ohio's citizens must possess a solid scientific literacy in order to make intelligent decisions ranging from whether to buy a genetically engineered vegetable at the grocery store to how to determine national policy issues related to human genetics. Understanding the primacy of evolution in the development of such options and the decision to exercise them is fundamental.

Clearly, we must acknowledge and respect the faiths of students and other citizens. Parents and clerics play a crucial role in teaching matters of religious philosophy, and education plays a role in teaching about the history of these ideas. The role of diverse faiths likely belongs in our K–12 curricula in courses on comparative religions and the history of science. However, our public schools and science teachers owe it to our children to pass on to them the very best scientific knowledge available and to instill in them a method of learning based on close observation, thorough testing, and impartial analysis.

For the future well being of Ohio and its citizens, we strongly urge the Ohio State Board of Education to adopt rigorous science curriculum that makes evolution an integral part of our biological science requirements and that limits scientific endeavors to observable and definable phenomena subject to thorough scientific testing and experimentation.

Sincerely,
Robert Glidden
President, Ohio University
Chair, Inter-University Council

On behalf of IUC presidents:
Luis Proenza, University of Akron
Sidney Ribeau, Bowling Green State University
John Garland, Central State University
Joseph Steger, University of Cincinnati
Michael Schwartz, Cleveland State University
Carol Cartwright, Kent State University
Frank McCullough, Medical College of Ohio
James Garland, Miami University
Robert Blacklow, Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine
William Kirwan, Ohio State University
Michael Field, Shawnee State University
Daniel Johnson, University of Toledo
Kim Goldenberg, Wright State University
Daniel Sweet, Youngstown State University

International Council of Museums Natural History Committee *

ICOM NATHIST is the organisation of natural history museums around the world who are members of ICOM.

ICOM NATHIST considers evolution as the best current explanation for how the diversity of life around us came to exist. It remains the only compelling scientifically rigorous account of how life evolved on our planet for which a great deal of empirical evidence has been accumulated in natural history collections.

ICOM NATHIST endorses the study of evolution from past, present and developing natural history collections and supports evolution being presented in public engagement activities.




The participants of the ICOM-NATHIST annual conference in Moscow discussed at length "evolution" and its importance for the role and mission of natural history museums, represented by the International Committee for museums and collections of natural history (NATHIST) within ICOM.

It was a common opinion and understanding that Evolution is a Fact and a Theory:

  • Evolution is a continuous process since life began on earth, still ongoing today, and is well documented by fossils in museums and collections and today's biodiversity is a result of this process.
  • The interpretation of the mechanisms of evolution — the evolution theory — has been subject to a continuous development in the past and keeps on developing continuously.

In 2009 there are two important anniversaries celebrating evolution:

  • 200th anniversary of "Philosophie zoologique, ou Exposition des considérations relatives à l'histoire naturelle des animaux." [vol 1-3] 1809 by Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet de Lamarck
  • 150th anniversary of "On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life." 1859 by Charles Darwin

The participants reached a consensus on evolution and this position statement was the conclusion.

International Planetarium Society *

Many independent lines of scientific evidence show that the Earth and Universe are billions of years old. Current measurements yield an age of about 4.6 billion years for the Earth and about 14 billion years for the Universe.

How ages are measured

The age of the Earth is measured by studies of radioactive elements. Radioactive elements are unstable and "parent" atoms decay into other "daughter" elements at a steady rate. For example, through a series of steps, atoms of uranium decay into atoms of lead. By measuring the abundance of "parent" and "daughter" atoms in rock samples and knowing the decay rate, geologists can calculate the age of the rock. Using several different sets of parent and daughter elements, geologists have measured the age of a variety of rocks, including terrestrial and lunar rocks as well as meteorites, which originate primarily from asteroids. The results consistently indicate an age of about 4.6 billion years for the Earth.

The age of the Universe is measured in several ways. One method is based on the rate of expansion of the Universe. By measuring the distance to remote galaxies and the rate at which they are expanding away from us, astronomers can calculate how much time the galaxies have needed to get as far away as they are. This tells how long the Universe has been expanding, or how old it is. These studies yield an age of about 14 billion years.

The age of the Universe can also be determined by investigating the oldest clusters of stars. This is done by measuring the brightness and temperature of stars in a cluster and comparing those measurements with models of how the brightness and temperature of a star change as the star ages. It is somewhat like estimating the age of a person by looking at features of his or her face and knowing how our faces change as we age. These studies show that the oldest star clusters are about 12 billion years old. The Universe must be older than its stars, so this method establishes a minimum age for the Universe. Similar studies show that the Sun is about 5 billion years old, consistent with the age of the Earth measured by radioactive studies.

A third way to determine the age of the Universe involves measuring the ages of long-lived dying stars. As stars like the Sun age, they eventually become very small, faint objects about the size of the Earth. These stellar corpses are called "white dwarf" stars and have no remaining sources of new energy. Astronomers can calculate the rate at which white dwarfs get fainter and cooler, so when they then measure the brightness and temperature of a white dwarf star, they can recognize how old it is. These studies show that the oldest white dwarf stars are at least 10 billion years old. As above, this establishes a minimum age for the Universe since the Universe must be older than its stars.

Why these measurements are accepted by the scientific community

These measurements of age are accepted by nearly all astronomers, including both research astronomers and planetarium educators. These astronomers come from nations and cultures around the world and from a very wide spectrum of religious beliefs.

A fundamental reason why these ancient ages are so widely accepted by the scientific community is that they are derived from several independent lines of evidence accumulated by independent and often competing teams of researchers. Each method involves different measurements and the application of different physical principles to derive ages from those measurements. The physical principles include the same thoroughly-proven principles that underlie the technology that runs the modern world. Hence the fact that the independent methods all yield similar ages reinforces confidence that the methods are sound and accurate despite their complexity and do not contain major fundamental flaws.

A second reason why these ages are so widely accepted is that for scientific results to be published in research journals, they must be critically reviewed by other scientists who are experts in the same research area. This process is called peer review and is employed in nearly all research journals in the physical and biological sciences and in the humanities and social sciences. Often the reviewers are competitors of the author and thus are especially keen to find flaws in the proposed publications. As a consequence of such review, nearly every paper must be revised and improved before it is published, and some papers are rejected because the review exposes flaws in the measurements or in their analysis and interpretation.

A third reason why these ages, and other scientific paradigms such as Einstein's theory of relativity, are so widely accepted is that by the nature of its acquisition — through independent lines of evidence and always subject to scrutiny — scientific evidence is built up only very slowly, one step at a time. Only when a very large and diverse body of evidence has been accumulated is a broad conclusion accepted. Even then, a broad conclusion remains subject to inspection, as further evidence may reinforce or refine it, or in rare cases, overthrow it.

Conclusion

Evidence that the Earth and Universe are billions of years old is based on diverse lines of research that have been rigorously examined and which yield concordant results. Therefore, IPS accepts that these results provide an accurate description of our Universe.

Planetariums are based on science and education and as such reflect the ideals and principles of these disciplines. Planetarium educators seek to present both scientific results and an understanding of how these discoveries are made. IPS respects the personal views and opinions of planetarium patrons and of individual planetarium educators and recognizes that in some cases those views may differ from the material presented in this statement.

Related statements

The American Astronomical Society has a statement on the age of the Universe on its web site at http://www.aas.org/governance/council/resolutions.html#create. It has also, in conjunction with the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, published a booklet An Ancient Universe: How Astronomers Know the Vast Scale of Cosmic Time. This booklet is available in PDF form at www.aas.org/education/ancientuniverse.html.

The American Physical Society has a statement on creationism on its web site at www.aps.org/statements/81_1.cfm and a statement on the nature of science at www.aps.org/statements/99_6.cfm.

Iowa Council of Science Supervisors

Because of the insistence that special creation be taught in Iowa science courses as an alternative concept to evolution, we, the Iowa Council of Science Supervisors, as representatives of the science educators in Iowa, make the following statement:

Science educators are responsible for interpreting the spirit and substance of science to their students. Teachers are bound to promote a scientific rationale based upon carefully defined and objective judgments of scientific endeavors. When conflicts arise between competing paradigms in science, they must be resolved by the scientific community rather than by the educators of science.

Based upon court decisions in Indiana and Tennessee, and in the creationists' own statements of beliefs, the Creation Research Society is premised upon the full belief in the Biblical record of special creation.

"The Bible is the Written Word of God, and because it is inspired throughout, all its assertions are historically and scientifically true in all original autographs. To the student of nature this means that the account of origins in Genesis is a factual presentation of simple historical truths."*

Science is tentative and denies an ultimate or perfect truth as claimed by scientific creationism. We suggest that creationists submit their creation theories and models to recognized science organizations such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) or their affiliated scientific societies. The claims of these paradigms should be substantiated with validated objective evidence. The scientific organizations would assume responsibility for analyzing the materials, making their findings available for national review through AAAS scientific journals.

Until "scientific creation" receives substantial support from such organizations as AAAS, American Anthropological Association, state academies of science, National Academy of Science, and national paleontological and geological associations, it is recommended that this organization and the science teachers of Iowa reject further consideration of scientific creationism as an alternative approach to established science teaching practices.

*Membership application forms for the Creation Research Society. Corrections of spelling and punctuation by editors.

Iowa Department of Public Instruction

The Controversy

In Iowa and other states, "creationism" has recently been advanced as an alternative to the theory of evolution. Attempts have been made to legislatively mandate "equal time" for creationist concepts in science classrooms, materials, and textbooks.

Interviews and surveys conducted by the Iowa Department of Public Instruction show that most Iowa religious leaders, science educators, scientists and philosophers contacted support the present patterns of teaching science in Iowa's schools. In addition, due to the nature of scientific and theological concepts, these authorities feel that the specifics of each discipline should be confined to their respective houses.

The National Academy of Science has stated that religion and science are "separate and mutually exclusive realms of human thought whose presentation in the same context leads to misunderstanding of both scientific theories and religious beliefs."1

Creationism

In America, religion is usually defined as the expression of man's belief in, and reverence for, a metaphysical power governing all activities of the universe. Where there is not belief in metaphysical power, religion is a concern for that which is ultimate. Generally, creationism is a religious concept. It proposes that all living things were created by a Creator. According to the creation model, "all living things originated from basic kinds of life, each of which was separately created."2

There are many versions of creation. Generally, creationists advocate that all permanent, basic life forms originated thousands of years ago through directive acts of a Creator — independent of the natural universe. Plants and animals were created separately with their full genetic potentiality provided by the Creator. Any variation, or speciation, which has occurred since creation has been within the original prescribed boundaries. Since each species contains its full potentiality, nature is viewed as static, reliable and predictable. Based on alleged gaps in the geologic record, creationists reject the theory of the descent of plants and animals from a single line of ancestors arising through random mutation and successively evolving over billions of years. It is further alleged that, through analysis of geologic strata, the earth has experienced at least one great flood or other natural global disaster accounting for the mass extinction of many biological organisms. Following such extinctions there followed sudden increases in the number, variety and complexity of organisms.

Having all Biblical accounts of creationism placed in comparative theology courses with other religious accounts of origins will not placate ardent creationists. They require that creationism be presented as a viable scientific alternative to evolution.3 More zealous creationists argue that "it is only in the Bible that we can possibly obtain any information about the methods of creation, the order of creation, the duration of creation, or any other details of creation."4

Science

Science is an attempt to help explain the world of which we are a part. It is both an investigatory process and a body of knowledge readily subjected to investigation and verification. By a generally accepted definition, science is not an indoctrination process, but rather an objective method for problem solving. Science is an important part of the foundation upon which rest our technology, our agriculture, our economy, our intellectual life, our national defense, and our ventures into space.

The formulation of theories is a basic part of scientific method. Theories are generalizations, based on substantial evidence, which explain many diverse phenomena. A theory is always tentative. It is subject to test through the uncovering of new data, through new experiments, through repetition and refinements of old experiments, or through new interpretations. Should a significant body of contrary evidence appear, the theory is either revised or it is replaced by a new and better theory. The strength of a scientific theory lies in the fact that it is the most logical explanation of known facts, principles, and concepts dealing with an idea which does not currently have a conclusive test.

Evolution

The theory of evolution meets the criteria of a scientific theory. It can explain much of the past and help predict many future scientific phenomena. Basically, the theory states that modern biologic organisms descended, with modification, from pre-existing forms which in turn had ancestors. Those organisms best adapted, through anatomical and physiological modification to their environment, left more offspring than did non-adapted organisms. The increased diversity of organisms enhanced their ability to survive in various environments and enabled them to leave more progeny.

The theory of evolution is designed to answer the "how" questions of science and biological development; it cannot deal effectively with the "who" or "why" of man's origin and development. It is, however, an effective means of integrating and clarifying many otherwise isolated scientific facts, principles and concepts.

There have been alternatives proposed to the theory of evolution (i.e., creationism, exo-biology, spontaneous generation); however, none are supported by the amount of scientific evidence that presently supports the theory of evolution.

It is evident that the process of evolution occurs. Successful species of living organisms change with time when exposed to environmental pressures. Such changes in species have been documented in the past, and it can be confidently predicted that they will continue to change in the future. Evolution helps explain many other scientific phenomena: variations in disease, drug resistance in microbes, anatomical anomalies which appear in surgery, and successful methods for breeding better crops and farm animals. Modern biological science and its applications on the farm, in medicine, and elsewhere are not completely understandable without many of the basic concepts of evolution.

There are many things that evolution is not. It is not dogma. Although there is intense dispute among scientists concerning the details of evolution, most scientists accept its validity on the ground of its strong supporting evidence.

Department of Public Instruction Decision

Teaching religious doctrine is not the science teacher's responsibility. Teachers should recognize the personal validity of alternative beliefs, but should then direct student inquiries to the appropriate institution for counseling and/or further explanation. Giving equal emphasis in science classes to non-scientific theories that are presented as alternatives to evolution would be in direct opposition to understanding the nature and purpose of science.

Each group is fully entitled to its point of view with respect to the Bible and evolution; but the American doctrine of religious freedom and the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution forbid either group — or any other religious group — from pressing its point of view on the public schools. An Indiana court decision declared: "The prospect of biology teachers and students alike forced to answer and respond to continued demand for 'correct' Fundamentalist Christian doctrines has no place in p, ublic schools."5

The science curriculum should emphasize the theory of evolution as a well-supported scientific theory — not a fact — that is taught as such by certified science teachers. Students should be advised that it is their responsibility, as informed citizens, to have creationism explained to them by theological experts. They must then decide for themselves the merits of each discipline and its relevance to their lives.

The Iowa Department of Public Instruction feels that public schools cannot be surrogate family, church and all other necessary social institutions for students, and for them to attempt to do so would be a great disservice to citizens and appropriate institutions.

Footnotes in original:

1 Resolution adopted by the National Academy of Science and the Commission of Science Education of the American Academy [sic] for the Advancement of Science (Washington, D.C. 17 October 1972).

2 Bliss, R. B., Origins: Two Models: Evolution, Creation (San Diego: Creation Life Publishers, 1976), p. 31.

3 Morris, Henry M. The Remarkable Birth of Planet Earth (San Diego: Creation Life Publishers, 1972).

4 National Association of Biology Teachers, A Compendium of Information on the Theory of Evolution and the Evolution-Creationism Controversy (June 1977).

5 Hendren vs Campbell, Supreme [sic] Court No. 5, Marion County, Indiana (1977), p. 20

Lehigh University Department of Biological Sciences *

The faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences is committed to the highest standards of scientific integrity and academic function. This commitment carries with it unwavering support for academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas. It also demands the utmost respect for the scientific method, integrity in the conduct of research, and recognition that the validity of any scientific model comes only as a result of rational hypothesis testing, sound experimentation, and findings that can be replicated by others.

The department faculty, then, are unequivocal in their support of evolutionary theory, which has its roots in the seminal work of Charles Darwin and has been supported by findings accumulated over 140 years. The sole dissenter from this position, Prof. Michael Behe, is a well-known proponent of "intelligent design." While we respect Prof. Behe's right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific.

Maryland Association of Science Teachers

Position Statement:

The Maryland Association of Science Teachers and the Maryland Science Supervisors Association hereby affirm that biological evolution and scientific concepts of earth history should be taught in Maryland science classes. We support the position that evolution is, and should remain, a cornerstone concept in the science content standards adopted by the state of Maryland. We also support and agree with the positions stated by the National Science Teachers Association in its position paper The Teaching of Evolution, which is attached herewith, and with the expectations on this subject found in the National Science Education Standards by the National Research Council.

Supporting statements:

1. Evolution is a well documented and well-established scientific explanation that unifies many pieces of evidence gathered by earth scientists and biologists. Though evidence which continues to accumulate through scientific study will refine our understanding of the mechanisms and the changes that have come about through evolution, the scientific community has no doubts that it has occurred, is occurring now, and will continue to occur.

2. Evolution meets the definition of a theory in science, which is an integrated understanding of a concept supported by numerous lines of evidence; it should not be confused with the more common definition of a theory as a guess or hypothesis. Other scientific theories such as atomic theory, or the theory of plate tectonics, are examples of other validated conceptualizations of how the world works, similar in nature to the status of the theory of evolution.

3. Throughout the science education community, evolution is seen as an important, required topic. If students are to understand the larger themes of how the world works, and indeed if they are to understand how science works, evolution is at once a critical unifying concept and a classic example of the scientific process.

4. Other doctrines that have been proposed to be taught instead of or in addition to evolution, variously called "creationism," "intelligent design," and other terms, have repeatedly been found by the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts to be unconstitutional for public schools because these ideas are based on religious doctrines, and so violate church-state separation. Scientists and science educators recognize that these ideas fall outside the realm of science, which requires evidence for all understandings, and so have no place in the subject matter of a science class.

5. Science as a discipline neither supports nor refutes religious doctrines or beliefs, because such beliefs are not proper topics of study for science. Science and religion are not opposites or mutually exclusive, instead they concentrate on different facets of existence and so have different matters within their purview. For more information, readers may examine statements by religious organizations for the opinions of those organizations on the place of evolution in classroom education.

6. Evolution is a part of Maryland's and other states' education standards, and is expected to be part of all students' learning. NSTA and many other organizations have stated their support for the teaching of evolution. This support comes from scientific organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and many other state science organizations. It also includes many education organizations such as the National Association of Biology Teachers, various state Departments of Education, and national and state associations of science supervisors and science teachers. These statements of support may be examined by contacting these organizations.

Michigan Science Teachers Association (1981)

Scientific creation, special creation, and creation-science are terms used synonymously when referring to the thesis that the universe and all forms of life were brought into existence by sudden acts of a Divine Creator. Supporters of this thesis are creationists, some of whom are campaigning vigorously in favor of the inclusion of creation-science in the science classrooms of the nation's public schools. In effect, such inclusion would constitute a two-model approach to questions of origins. One of these models is the theory of evolution; the second model is creation-science.

The theory of evolution is the theory or model presented in the life sciences curricula of public school science classrooms. Evolution theory is taught because its existence as a developing network of observations, hypotheses, predictions, facts, principles, and sub-theories is the result of scientific inquiry free of any a priori design.

In comparison, the creation-science model is not an observation-hypothesis-prediction-fact-principle-accessory theory sequence. It does not encourage open-ended questioning because any raising of questions must produce answers that converge on the Divine Creator thesis. As a result, the creation-science model cannot generate information and ideas useful in the development of new areas of scientific investigation. Thus, creation-science is not acceptable as a scientific theory. Even so, the necessity exists for public school science educators to consider certain causal concerns of creationists. A major concern is that students from creationist backgrounds are exposed to theories regarding questions of origins not consonant with their religious training; a second concern is that many science teachers teach the theory of evolution as fact.

Therefore, in consequence of the creationists' concerns and in consequence of the need to maintain the integrity of science education, the Michigan Science Teachers Association adopts the following position with respect to the evolution/creation issue:

1. The Michigan Science Teachers Association affirms the necessity of rejecting the teaching of non-scientific theories in the science classrooms of Michigan's public schools.

2. The Michigan Science Teachers Association recommends that its professional development committee be responsible for the design of an inservice model for helping science teachers learn how to work sensitively and objectively with the evolution/creation concerns expressed by students, parents, and boards of education.

3. The Michigan Science Teachers Association reaffirms its goals of
(a) helping students acquire useful science knowledge and skills
(b) helping students progress in the understanding and use of processes of scientific inquiry, and (c) helping students separate scientific thought and activity from thought rightfully the province of humankind's diverse ways of spiritual expression and responsiveness to the need for authoritarian guidance.

4. The Michigan Science Teachers Association recommends the establishment of procedures for the dissemination of the position expressed herein to Michigan Science teachers, to the Michigan Department of Education through its science specialist, and to Michigan Boards of Education and to science specialists of other states on request.

Michigan Science Teachers Association (2003)

In adopting the position statement of the National Science Teachers Association (1997) regarding the teaching of evolution, the Michigan Science Teachers Association (MSTA) supports the position that evolution is a major unifying concept of science and should be included as part of K-College science frameworks and curricula. The MSTA recognizes that evolution has not been emphasized in science curricula in a manner commensurate to its importance because of official policies, intimidation of science teachers, the general public's misunderstanding of evolutionary theory and a century of controversy. Furthermore, teachers are being pressured to introduce creationism, creation "science", and other nonscientific views, which are intended to weaken or eliminate the teaching of evolution.

In accordance with the Michigan State Board of Education's March 10, 1982 resolution regarding the "Teaching of Religion and Creationism in Michigan Public Schools," the MSTA agrees with the position that the "...State Board of Education oppose the teaching, in public educational institutions, of any course in religion which is outside of the realm of a secular program of education and be it further resolved that the State Board of Education recommend that any school district currently teaching creationism or any course in religion in an attempt to indoctrinate toward any particular belief or disbelief cease and desist such teaching."

In recognition of the Michigan State Board of Education's resolution on the teaching of evolution and the MSTA adoption of the NSTA position statement on teaching evolution, the Michigan Science Teachers Association advocates that HB 4946 & HB 5005 be removed from any further consideration by the House of Representatives.

Michigan Science Teachers Association (2005)

Michigan House of Representatives Bill #5251 (2005) would require the amendment of "The Revised School Code" (PA 451, 1976; Sect. 1278 (MCL 380.1278)) in order to "...revise the recommended model core academic curriculum content standards in science to ensure that pupils will be able to do the following: a) use the scientific method to critically evaluate scientific theories including, but not limited to, the theories of global warming and evolution b) use relevant scientific data to assess the validity of those theories and to formulate arguments for or against those theories."

Whereas the Michigan Department of Education's (MDOE) "Content Standards and Benchmarks for Science Education" (1995, 2002) already require students to "use scientific knowledge to make decisions about real-world problems" and to be "able to make informed judgments on statements and debates claiming to have a scientific basis", the Michigan Science Teachers Association (MSTA) can identify no valid reason for legislative intervention that would modify the existing standards as developed and adopted by the MDOE working in collaboration with Michigan’s professional science education community.

Whereas global warming and evolution are the only two theories selected for mandatory "critical evaluation" in HB 5251, it is the position of the MSTA that this requirement is inappropriate both pedagogically and scientifically. If the true academic and pedagogical intent of HB 5251 is to teach the critical evaluation of scientific theory, it is the position of the MSTA that global warming and evolution should not be isolated for mandatory student review. A legislative mandate that includes only evolution and global warming in such an evaluation may suggest to students and the public that these theories are somehow less robust or less scientific than are other scientific theories that were not selected for mandatory evaluation e.g., plate tectonics, atomic theory, cell theory, relativity. Such inference would be in clear contrast to the preponderance of scientific evidence supporting both of these theories and would represent a dishonest and unprofessional approach to the sciences and science education in Michigan.

In adopting the position statement of the National Science Teachers Association (1997) regarding the teaching of evolution, The Michigan Science Teachers Association supports the position that evolution is a major unifying concept of science and should be included as part of K-College science frameworks and curricula. The MSTA recognizes that evolution has not been emphasized in science curricula in a manner commensurate to its importance because of official policies, intimidation of science teachers and the general public's misunderstanding of evolutionary theory and the nature of science in general.

Furthermore, the MSTA recognizes that science teachers may feel pressured to modify or eliminate their presentation of scientific topics that may have socio-political or economic implications e.g., evolution, global warming, stem-cell research and cloning.

In recognition of the aforementioned, it is the position of the Michigan Science Teachers Association that HB 5251 be removed from any further consideration by the Michigan House of Representatives.

HB 5251 Sponsors:

John Moolenaar (Primary Sponsor), Brian Palmer, Jim Plakas , Scott Hummel , Judy Emmons, Joel Sheltrown, John Stahl, John Gleason, Rick Baxter, Roger Kahn, Gary Newell, Richard Ball, Fulton Sheen, Shelley Taub, Michael Sak, David Farhat, Robert Gosselin, Jacob Hoogendyk, Howard Walker, Tom Pearce.

Michigan Science Teachers Association (2007)

It is the mission of the Michigan Science Teachers Association (MSTA) to support and provide leadership for the improvement of science education throughout Michigan. In fulfillment of this mission, the MSTA recognizes that it is essential that students be introduced to the most contemporary scientific scholarship available. The MSTA recognizes that evolutionary theory is representative of this contemporary scientific scholarship as is evident by the scientific community's resounding consensus on the validity and robustness of evolutionary theory.

However, in spite of the scientific community's repeated validation of evolutionary theory, there continues to be socio-political pressure to eliminate, mitigate or weaken the instruction of evolution theory and/or to introduce non-scientific ideologies into the science classroom. Opponents of evolution education have suggested that evolutionary theory does not represent an empirically (tested) derived body of knowledge. This assertion demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of the nature and process of science.

Scientists view and seek to explain the natural world through the empirical lens of science. The nature of scientific investigation is to ask a question and then to work to find the answer. While philosophy and theology are valuable forms of human inquiry that also seek to explain our world, science is unique in its approach by relying exclusively upon empirical natural law (e.g., the laws of physics, chemistry, geology, etc.) in its explanation and not upon supernatural intervention or untestable conjecture. It is this testability that is a hallmark of the nature and process of science. Scientific hypotheses and theory must be testable against the natural world and therefore at least potentially falsifiable. Furthermore, any conclusions formulated from these tests are tentative pending new data to the contrary. As our scientific knowledge expands and provides us with better insights into the natural world, science is able to modify previous conclusions and theory to incorporate this new knowledge. Like all scientific theories, evolutionary theory is dynamic and will be modified as new information becomes available.

It is these properties of the nature of science that separates scientific inquiry from theology or philosophy and therefore excludes such non-scientific ideologies as "creation science", "creationism", "intelligent design" or other non-scientific "alternatives to evolution" from the science classroom as they do not meet the characteristics and rigor of scientific empiricism.

Although scientists continue to discuss and even disagree on some of the finer details of natural selection, the process that governs evolution, there is an overwhelming consensus in the scientific community that evolution has happened in the past and is occurring today and that furthermore, evolutionary theory is the best and only scientific explanation for the diversification of life on Earth. By the very nature of science, there will always be questions that remain unanswered because in the process of answering a question or solving a problem, more questions arise; an admirable quality of science.

The scientific community's strong advocacy for evolution theory is a result of the preponderance of corroborating empirical data originating from virtually all disciplines of the physical and biological sciences. The scientific community regards evolutionary theory as one of the most robust and well-substantiated scientific theories to date as evolutionary theory represents the convergence of corroborating evidence from independent lines of scientific investigation.

The goal of science is the establishment of scientific theory which is then employed as a predictive tool. In colloquial usage, theory implies a guess or a hunch. However; in science, theory represents the complete opposite. The National Academy of Sciences defines theory as a "…well substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that incorporates facts, laws, inferences and tested hypotheses". Scientific theory and therefore evolutionary theory is the antithesis of a guess.

It is the position of the Michigan Science Teachers Association that evolutionary theory is an integral, validated and therefore essential component of modern scientific inquiry and should therefore be taught in a manner commensurate with this importance. Furthermore, it is the position of the MSTA that teachers should teach only evolutionary theory as a scientific explanation of the development and diversification of life on Earth. Evolution should be taught unaccompanied by non-scientific ideologies offered as "alternatives" to evolution. Teaching theological or philosophical explanations alongside or in place of evolution theory would not make the classroom presentation "fair or equal" but would result in the offering of false scientific alternatives to our students which would be a violation of academic honesty and our professional responsibilities as trustees of our student's academic development and science literacy.

Museum of the Earth *

The Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth, as institutions of science and education, embrace the theory of evolution, which is the unifying concept of all biological sciences. While there remains ongoing lively debate about the processes and mechanisms of evolutionary change — that is, how evolution occurs — essentially all qualified scientists fully endorse the idea that all organisms on earth share a common ancestry and that life’s unfolding has encompassed billions of years of time. Evolution is one of the cornerstones of modern science, and is therefore one of the key elements of our institutional mission.

The evolution of life is a central unifying principle of modern science, and it is integrally connected to much of our understanding of how Earth systems work and evolve. PRI’s world-class collections of fossils help tell the story of the evolution of the Earth, and our programming helps educators, students, and the public understand what evolution is and how scientists study it.

National Association of Biology Teachers (1980)

The procedures and processes of science are well defined within the discipline. The facts and theories of science have been established through experiment and synthesis of subject, peer review, and acceptance for validity within the scientific community. Materials that do not meet the test of science or are not directly derivative from the accepted norms for the discipline should not be a part of the science curriculum.

Science deals with material things and the consequences of their application. As such, it is not in conflict with other means of knowing about the universe. There are those who see the facts and theories of science as a threat either to their belief systems or to their interpretations which may be at variance with scientific data. While science is moot on these issues, attempts are made to intercalate into the scientific enterprise conclusions neither based on scientific data nor verified by the scientific process. These conclusions, arising outside the field of science and resulting from ignoring or misinterpreting scientific data, have no place in the science classroom as a part of the body of scientific knowledge.

The NABT, through its obligation to biological education, will make every effort to educate the public as to the unscientific nature of efforts to equate non-science with the scientific enterprise. NABT will resist attempts to place non-scientific dogma into the classroom as science. Wherever such efforts are attempted, NABT should correct the record and provide adequate scientific evidence designed to allow decision-makers full access to the facts by means of which to judge the efforts to intercalate non-scientific material into science classrooms or to remove or change the data of science to accommodate a given set of conclusions derived from outside the scientific enterprise.

The credibility and usability of science depends on maintenance of the integrity of science as a discipline. While no feature in this policy is to be construed as preventing the full range of applications of science and the elucidation of its social and humanistic implications, there is an obligation to insure that the scientific data thus used is both accurate and derived within the accepted procedures of the discipline. Without the maintenance of the integrity of the initial data with which one works, any subsequent applications or derivations may be ill-conceived and of little service to the human enterprise.

NABT has an obligation to maintain the integrity of biology as a scientific discipline. To this end it must act to resist efforts to include in the science classroom materials derived outside the scientific process. It must insist that the data and concepts of science as presented to students meet the accepted standards of the discipline, and data which can best be described as para-scientific (creationism, astrology, anti-germ theory, etc.) cannot be condoned as science within classrooms.

National Association of Biology Teachers (1995)

The ongoing procedures and processes of science are well defined within each scientific discipline, including biology. The principles and theories of science have been established through repeated experimentation and observation and have been refereed through peer review before general acceptance by the scientific community. Acceptance does not imply rigidity or constraint, or denote dogma. Instead, as new data become available, scientific explanations are revised and improved, or rejected and replaced. Materials, methods, and explanations that fail to meet these ongoing tests of science are not legitimate components of the discipline and must not be part of a science curriculum.

Science may appear to conflict with other ways of knowing about the universe, unfortunately leading some groups to see selected theories of science as a threat to their belief systems. This is not the case; science does not, in fact cannot, study, explain, or judge, non-scientific issues or supernatural belief systems.

Science is but one way of making sense of the world, with internally-consistent methods and principles that are well described. Among these principles is the notion that proposed causes and explanations must be naturalistic. Any attempt to mix or contrast supernatural beliefs and naturalistic theories within science misrepresents the scientific enterprise and debases other, non-scientific, ways of knowing. These attempts, which commonly result from a misunderstanding of the nature of science itself, have no place in science, or in the science classroom or laboratory.

The credibility and utility of science, and therefore biology, depend on maintaining its integrity. NABT has a special obligation, to promote this integrity in life science education. The data, concepts, and theories of science presented to students must meet the accepted standards of the discipline. To this end, NABT will not support efforts to include in the science classroom materials or theories derived outside of the scientific processes. Nonscientific notions such as geocentricism, flat earth, creationism, young earth, astrology, psychic healing and vitalistic theory, therefore, cannot legitimately be taught, promoted, or condoned as science in the classroom.

National Association of Biology Teachers (2000)

As stated in The American Biology Teacher by the eminent scientist Theodosius Dobzhansky (1973), "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." This often-quoted assertion accurately illuminates the central, unifying role of evolution in nature, and therefore in biology. Teaching biology in an effective and scientifically-honest manner requires classroom discussions and laboratory experiences on evolution.

Modern biologists constantly study, ponder and deliberate the patterns, mechanisms and pace of evolution, but they do not debate evolution's occurrence. The fossil record and the diversity of extant organisms, combined with modern techniques of molecular biology, taxonomy and geology, provide exhaustive examples and powerful evidence for genetic variation, natural selection, speciation, extinction and other well-established components of current evolutionary theory. Scientific deliberations and modifications of these components clearly demonstrate the vitality and scientific integrity of evolution and the theory that explains it.

This same examination, pondering and possible revision have firmly established evolution as an important natural process explained by valid scientific principles, and clearly differentiate and separate science from various kinds of nonscientific ways of knowing, including those with a supernatural basis such as creationism. Whether called "creation science," "scientific creationism," "intelligent-design theory," "young-earth theory" or some other synonym, creation beliefs have no place in the science classroom. Explanations employing nonnaturalistic or supernatural events, whether or not explicit reference is made to a supernatural being, are outside the realm of science and not part of a valid science curriculum. Evolutionary theory, indeed all of science, is necessarily silent on religion and neither refutes nor supports the existence of a deity or deities.

Accordingly, the National Association of Biology Teachers, an organization of science teachers, endorses the following tenets of science, evolution and biology education:

  • The diversity of life on earth is the outcome of evolution: an unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent with genetic modification that is affected by natural selection, chance, historical contingencies and changing environments.
  • Biological evolution refers to changes in populations, not individuals. Changes must be successfully passed on to the next generation. This means evolution results in heritable changes in a population spread over many generations. In fact, evolution can be defined as any change in the frequency of alleles within a gene pool from one generation to the next.
  • Evolutionary theory is significant in biology, among other reasons, for its unifying properties and predictive features, the clear empirical testability of its integral models and the richness of new scientific research it fosters.
  • The fossil record, which includes abundant transitional forms in diverse taxonomic groups, establishes extensive and comprehensive evidence for organic evolution.
  • Natural selection, the primary mechanism for evolutionary changes, can be demonstrated with numerous, convincing examples, both extant and extinct.
  • Natural selection—a differential, greater survival and reproduction of some genetic variants within a population under an existing environmental state—has no specific direction or goal, including survival of a species.
  • Adaptations do not always provide an obvious selective advantage. Furthermore, there is no indication that adaptations—molecular to organismal—must be perfect: adaptations providing a selective advantage must simply be good enough for survival and increased reproductive fitness.
  • The model of punctuated equilibrium provides another account of the tempo of speciation in the fossil record of many lineages: it does not refute or overturn evolutionary theory, but instead adds to its scientific richness.
  • Evolution does not violate the second law of thermodynamics: producing order from disorder is possible with the addition of energy, such as from the sun.
  • Although comprehending deep time is difficult, the earth is about 4.5 billion years old. Homo sapiens has occupied only a minuscule moment of that immense duration of time.
  • When compared with earlier periods, the Cambrian explosion evident in the fossil record reflects at least three phenomena: the evolution of animals with readily-fossilized hard body parts; Cambrian environment (sedimentary rock) more conducive to preserving fossils; and the evolution from pre-Cambrian forms of an increased diversity of body patterns in animals.
  • Radiometric and other dating techniques, when used properly, are highly accurate means of establishing dates in the history of the planet and in the history of life.
  • Recent findings from the advancing field of molecular genetics, combined with the large body of evidence from other disciplines, collectively provide indisputable demonstration of the theory of evolution.
  • In science, a theory is not a guess or an approximation but an extensive explanation developed from well-documented, reproducible sets of experimentally-derived data from repeated observations of natural processes.
  • The models and the subsequent outcomes of a scientific theory are not decided in advance, but can be, and often are, modified and improved as new empirical evidence is uncovered. Thus, science is a constantly self-correcting endeavor to understand nature and natural phenomena.
  • Science is not teleological: the accepted processes do not start with a conclusion, then refuse to change it, or acknowledge as valid only those data that support an unyielding conclusion. Science does not base theories on an untestable collection of dogmatic proposals. Instead, the processes of science are characterized by asking questions, proposing hypotheses, and designing empirical models and conceptual frameworks for research about natural events.
  • Providing a rational, coherent and scientific account of the taxonomic history and diversity of organisms requires inclusion of the mechanisms and principles of evolution.
  • Similarly, effective teaching of cellular and, molecular biology requires inclusion of evolution.
  • Specific textbook chapters on evolution should be included in biology curricula, and evolution should be a recurrent theme throughout biology textbooks and courses.
  • Students can maintain their religious beliefs and learn the scientific foundations of evolution.
  • Teachers should respect diverse beliefs, but contrasting science with religion, such as belief in creationism, is not a role of science. Science teachers can, and often do, hold devout religious beliefs, accept evolution as a valid scientific theory, and teach the theory's mechanisms and principles.
  • Science and religion differ in significant ways that make it inappropriate to teach any of the different religious beliefs in the science classroom.
Opposition to teaching evolution reflects confusion about the nature and processes of science. Teachers can, and should, stand firm and teach good science with the acknowledged support of the courts. In Epperson v. Arkansas (1968), the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 1928 Arkansas law prohibiting the teaching of evolution in state schools. In McLean v. Arkansas (1982), the federal district court invalidated a state statute requiring equal classroom time for evolution and creationism.

Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) led to another Supreme Court ruling against so-called "balanced treatment" of creation science and evolution in public schools. In this landmark case, the Court called the Louisiana equal-time statute "facially invalid as violative of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, because it lacks a clear secular purpose." This decision—"the Edwards restriction"—is now the controlling legal position on attempts to mandate the teaching of creationism: the nation's highest court has said that such mandates are unconstitutional. Subsequent district court decisions in Illinois and California have applied "the Edwards restriction" to teachers who advocate creation science, and to the right of a district to prohibit an individual teacher from promoting creation science in the classroom.

Courts have thus restricted school districts from requiring creation science in the science curriculum and have restricted individual instructors from teaching it. All teachers and administrators should be mindful of these court cases, remembering that the law, science and NABT support them as they appropriately include the teaching of evolution in the science curriculum.

References and Suggested Reading

Aguillard, D. (1999). Evolution education in Louisiana public schools: a decade following Edwards v. Aguillard. The American Biology Teacher, 61, pp. 182-188.

Brack, A. (Ed.). (1999). The Molecular Origins of Life: Assembling Pieces of the Puzzle. Cambridge: Camnbridge University Press.

Futuyma, D. (1986). Evolutionary biology, 2nd ed. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, Inc.

Futuyma, D. (1995). Science on Trial. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, Inc.

Gillis, A. (1994). Keeping creationism out of the classroom. Bioscience, 44, pp. 650-656.

Gould, S. (1994, October). The evolution of life on earth. Scientific American, 271, pp. 85-91.

Gould, S. (1995). Dinosaur in a Haystack. Reflections in Natural History. New York: Harmony Books.

Kiklas, K. (1997). The Evolutionary Biology of Plants. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Matsumura, M. (Ed.). (1995). Voices for Evolution. Berkeley, CA: The National Center for Science Education.

Mayr, E. (1991). One Long Argument: Charles Darwin and the Genesis of Modern Evolutionary Thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Moore, J. (1993). Science as a Way of Knowing—The Foundations of Modern Biology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Moore, R. (1999). Creationism in the United States: VII. The Lingering Threat. The American Biology Teacher, 61, pp. 330-340. See also references therein to earlier articles in the series.

National Academy of Sciences. (1998). Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

National Academy of Sciences. (1999). Science and creationism—A View from the National Academy of Sciences. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

National Center for Science Education. P.O. Box 9477, Berkeley, CA 94709. Numerous publications such as Bartelt, K. (1999), A Scientist Responds to Behe's Black Box.

National Research Council. (1996). National Science Education Standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Pennock, R.T. (1999). Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Weiner, J. (1994). The Beak of the Finch—A Story of Evolution in our Time. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Wilson, E. (1992). The Diversity of Life. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

National Association of Biology Teachers (2008) *

As stated in The American Biology Teacher by the eminent scientist Theodosius Dobzhansky (1973), "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." This often-quoted declaration accurately reflects the central, unifying role of evolution in biology. The theory of evolution provides a framework that explains both the history of life and the ongoing adaptation of organisms to environmental challenges and changes.

While modern biologists constantly study and deliberate the patterns, mechanisms, and pace of evolution, they agree that all living things share common ancestors. The fossil record and the diversity of extant organisms, combined with modern techniques of molecular biology, taxonomy, and geology, provide exhaustive examples of and powerful evidence for current evolutionary theory. Genetic variation, natural selection, speciation, and extinction are well-established components of modern evolutionary theory. Explanations are constantly modified and refined as warranted by new scientific evidence that accumulates over time, which demonstrates the integrity and validity of the field.

Scientists have firmly established evolution as an important natural process. The nature of science, experimentation, logical analysis, and evidence-based revision based on detectable and measurable data are procedures that clearly differentiate and separate science from other ways of knowing. Explanations or ways of knowing that invoke metaphysical, non-naturalistic or supernatural mechanisms, whether called "creation science," "scientific creationism," "intelligent design theory," "young earth theory," or similar designations, are outside the scope of science and therefore are not part of a valid science curriculum.

The selection of topics covered in a biology curriculum should accurately reflect the principles of biological science. Teaching biology in an effective and scientifically honest manner requires that evolution be taught in a standards-based instructional framework with effective classroom discussions and laboratory experiences.

National Association of Biology Teachers (2011) *

The frequently-quoted declaration of Theodosius Dobzhansky (1973) that “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” accurately reflects the central, unifying role of evolution in the science of biology. As such, evolution provides the scientific framework that explains both the history of life and the continuing change in the populations of organisms in response to environmental challenges and other factors. Scientists who have carefully evaluated the evidence overwhelmingly support the conclusion that both the principle of evolution itself and its mechanisms best explain what has caused the variety of organisms alive now and in the past.

The principle of biological evolution states that all living things have arisen from common ancestors. Some lineages diverge while others go extinct as a result of natural selection, mutation, genetic drift and other well-studied mechanisms. The patterns of similarity and diversity in extant and fossil organisms, combined with evidence and explanations provided by molecular biology, developmental biology, systematics, and geology provide extensive examples of and powerful support for evolution. Even as biologists continue to study and consider evolution, they agree that all living things share common ancestors and that the process of evolutionary change through time is driven by natural mechanisms.

Evolutionary biology rests on the same scientific methodologies the rest of science uses, appealing only to natural events and processes to describe and explain phenomena in the natural world. Science teachers must reject calls to account for the diversity of life or describe the mechanisms of evolution by invoking non-naturalistic or supernatural notions, whether called “creation science,” “scientific creationism,” “intelligent design theory,” or similar designations. Ideas such as these are outside the scope of science and should not be presented as part of the science curriculum. These notions do not adhere to the shared scientific standards of evidence gathering and interpretation.

Just as nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution, nothing in biology education makes sense without reference to and thorough coverage of the principle and mechanisms provided by the science of evolution. Therefore, teaching biology in an effective, detailed, and scientifically and pedagogically honest manner requires that evolution be a major theme throughout the life science curriculum both in classroom discussions and in laboratory investigations.

Biological evolution must be presented in the same way that it is understood within the scientific community: as a well-accepted principle that provides the foundation to understanding the natural world. Evolution should not be misrepresented as ‘controversial,’ or in need of ‘critical analysis’ or special attention for any supposed ‘strength or weakness’ any more than other scientific ideas are. Biology educators at all levels must work to encourage the development of and support for standards, curricula, textbooks, and other instructional frameworks that prominently include evolution and its mechanisms and that refrain from confusing non-scientific with scientific explanations in science instruction.

National Association of Geoscience Teachers *

The National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) recognizes that the scientific theory of evolution is a foundational concept of science, and therefore must also be a cornerstone of science education. Evolution in the broadest sense refers to any change over time. The study of Earth's evolution provides society with the time and space perspectives necessary to understand how Earth's physical and biological processes developed, provides insight into the natural processes active on Earth, and shapes our view of Earth's future.

Evolutionary studies apply to most branches of science, including organic evolution, cosmic evolution, geologic evolution, planetary evolution, and cultural evolution. Each of these subdisciplines of science provides evidence that evolution is pervasive: galaxies have changed, stars and planets have changed, Earth has changed, life forms on Earth have changed, and human culture has changed. Evolution is therefore factual and is a unifying concept of the natural sciences. For this reason, the National Science Education Standards (NRC), Benchmarks for Science Literacy (AAAS), numerous national education policy documents, and individual states, through their published science education frameworks, all recognize that evolution is a unifying concept for science disciplines and provides students with the foundation to help them understand the natural world. NAGT fully agrees with and supports the scientific validity of evolution as reflected in the position statements of the numerous scientific societies that unanimously support evolution on scientific grounds. NAGT further maintains that the scientific theory of evolution should be taught to students of all grade levels as a unifying concept without distraction of non-scientific or anti-scientific influence.

Published and reaffirmed position statements on the scientific validity of evolution by all of the scientific societies clearly demonstrate that the modern scientific community no longer debates whether evolution has occurred. Scientific investigation of the mechanisms of evolution and the interconnected "details" of mechanism, process, history, and outcome remain at the current scientific forefront of evolutionary studies. This is the nature of scientific inquiry itself: to continually evaluate scientific theories with an eye towards improving our scientific models and adding more details to our understanding of the natural world. Scientists often disagree about explanations of how evolution works, the importance of specific evolutionary processes, or the patterns that are observed, but all agree that evolution has occurred and is occurring now. Global change will be the future projection of past and ongoing evolutionary processes. While evolution is factual, evolution is also a "scientific theory", which is an explanation for the observed changes. This usage of theory should not be confused with the non-scientific usage of theory as an ad-hoc idea unsupported by testing or evidence.

In science, disagreements are subject to rules of scientific evaluation, and this includes the methodologies of teaching scientific concepts. Scientific conclusions are tested by experiment, observation, and evaluation. Sound practices of scientific education are tested and evaluated much the same way. NAGT recognizes that invoking non-naturalistic or supernatural events or beings, often guised as "creation science," "scientific creationism," or "intelligent design theory," are not scientific in character, do not conform to the scientific usage of the word theory, and should not be part of valid science curricula.

As stated in NAGT's Constitution, the purpose of the NAGT is to foster improvements in the teaching of the earth sciences at all levels of formal and informal instruction, to emphasize the relevance and cultural significance of the earth sciences, and to disseminate knowledge in this field to educators and the general public. The NAGT fully accepts its role in the evaluation and betterment of the teaching of scientific evolution in formal and informal educational settings, with the explicit goal of helping everyone to understand the scientific merit this fundamental concept has in modern science. The Journal of Geoscience Education publishes papers related to research concerning the pedagogy, assessment, history, philosophy and culture of teaching and learning about the geosciences, especially of fundamental concepts like geologic time and faunal and stratigraphic succession, all aspects of evolution.

National Conference on Teaching Evolution

Setting an historic precedent, representatives from over 45 scientific, educational, and media organizations gathered at the University of California at Berkeley, October 5-8, 2000 to develop strategies for improving public understanding of evolution. The first National Conference on the Teaching of Evolution (NCTE) was supported by the National Science Foundation, the University of California Museum of Paleontology, and the Geological Society of America.

Emphasizing evolution as a unifying theme across scientific disciplines and the benefits to society of teaching evolution, discussions focused on developing recommendations that individuals and organizations can employ to support quality science education — in the classroom, in the informal science setting, and as part of life-long learning. Evolution is good science and is economically and socially relevant. Modern research in agriculture, medicine and human health, and global environmental change depend on understanding evolutionary concepts.

The conference was a catalyst for building alliances among organizations, generating new strategies for supporting evolution education, and widely sharing the wealth of existing resources. The participants agreed that it is important that societies increase their efforts in support of teaching evolution. Societies may consider the following statement to be a starting point in developing a resolution:

Evolution is good science. Understanding evolution and the nature of science is important to society. [Our society] supports teaching evolution and the nature of science in our nation’s classrooms and informal science centers.

Further, the participants developed a list of actions that societies might consider implementing. Some of these are
  • Develop outreach efforts that build off the momentum that will be generated by the fall, 2001 release of the WGBH television series Evolution.
  • Emphasize evolution at annual and regional meetings by holding symposia focusing on evolution, teacher workshops, short courses, incentives for student research in evolution, etc.
  • Provide information and crash-courses for journalists who write about evolution.
  • Link web pages related to evolution education across scientific disciplines and among scientific and educational organizations.
  • Partner among scientists and educators to develop teaching modules and resources that have an evolutionary theme.
  • Provide useful informational resources to members who want to help with local efforts to support the teaching of evolution.
  • Reach out to scientific, educational, political, governmental, religious, philanthropic, and private sector partners to accomplish the goals of support the teaching of evolution.
The participants endorsed the overall principle that societies should expand their knowledge base and inform each other of their activities. They realized that this may involve putting time, effort, and dollars into actions, and that societies need to work together for the long-term common good.

National Council for the Social Studies (1981)

Whereas public schools and legislatures nationwide are being pressured to give "equal time" to the scientific creationism interpretation of creation in science and social studies courses; and

Whereas the pressures are perceived as part of a much larg- er problem;

Be it resolved that the NCSS affirms that, although community values should be an integral consideration in the establishment of the goals of education, curriculum decision-making regarding instructional method and specific content ultimately should be the responsibility of certificated personnel; and

Be it further resolved that NCSS affirms that through- out the curriculum, educators should make explicit the foundations from which conclusions about the world are drawn, including religious, philosophical, and other ideological systems, as well as the basic assumption underlying the academic disciplines themselves; and

Be it further resolved that the NCSS reaffirms that social studies is a logical curricular area in which to examine the societal issues which arise when persons have different world views and sets of assumptions about life; and

Be it further resolved that NCSS commit itself to use existing programming and publishing vehicles to provide professional development opportunities to better enable social studies educators to deal with these issues.

National Council for the Social Studies (2007)

Introduction

There have been efforts for many decades to introduce religious beliefs about the beginning of life on Earth into the science curriculum of the public schools. Most recently, these efforts have included "creation science" and "intelligent design." Following a number of court decisions finding the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in the public school science curriculum to be unconstitutional, there have been efforts to introduce these beliefs into the social studies curriculum. Although the National Council for the Social Studies believes in the open and thoughtful discussion of ideas, public school classrooms are not the place for the teaching of religious beliefs. Social studies is the forum for open analysis and discussion of historical, social, economic, geographic, political and global issues. Thus our recommendations seek to include the study of intelligent design within that framework.

Background

The American Heritage Dictionary (2007) defines intelligent design as the "belief that physical and biological systems observed in the universe result from purposeful design by an intelligent being rather than from chance or undirected forces." Attempts to introduce this doctrine, originally termed "creationism," then "creation science," and most recently, intelligent design," into public school curricula have been found unconstitutional in state and federal courts. The first Supreme Court decision regarding the issue came in Epperson v. Arkansas in 1968, when the Court ruled that an Arkansas anti-evolution law was unconstitutional. Twenty years later in Edwards v. Aguillard, the Court held that a Louisiana law which required equal time for the teaching of "creation science" along with the teaching of evolution, was unconstitutional. Most recently, a district court in Pennsylvania struck down an intelligent design policy adopted by the Dover Area School Board in Dover, Pennsylvania (Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District).

These decisions have struck down state attempts to interfere with the teaching of evolution in the public school science curriculum. In the Kitzmiller decision, for instance, the judge found that the policy of the Dover school board, which called for teachers to discuss problems with the theory of evolution and make students aware of intelligent design, failed the test of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, since the policy's primary purpose was to advance a religious belief.

Because federal courts, to date, have ruled against the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in the science curriculum, an approach called "critical analysis" has been introduced to get around these decisions. This approach seeks to incorporate what the courts have ruled to be religious belief into the public school curriculum by contending that public schools should take a critical view of the theory of evolution. In this critical view, particular attention is to be focused on any uncertainties in the fossil record as well as what are contended to be examples of "irreducible complexity." This view then introduces intelligent design as an explanation addressing these uncertainties.

This "critical analysis" approach to teaching intelligent design has attracted political support in several states and districts. It was a motivating force behind former Senator Rick Santorum's unsuccessful attempt to include a statement that evolution was a controversial scientific theory into the original No Child Left Behind legislation. It has also figured prominently in the much-publicized battle over the treatment of evolution in the Kansas science standards. In Ohio, the state board of education has suggested that although a critical analysis of the theory of evolution with the teaching of intelligent design should not be put into the science curriculum, "social studies appears to be a good fit" (Columbus Dispatch, September 2002).

Rationale for Recommendations

Social studies may, at first glance, seem to be a better fit for this approach to teaching intelligent design, but the same constitutional issues arise whether religious beliefs are taught in science or in the social studies curriculum. While the social studies classroom is the proper forum for the discussion of controversial issues, educators should be wary of being used to promote a religious belief in the public schools. This unintended outcome can be the result of teaching students that a scientific controversy exists between intelligent design and the theory of evolution when, in fact, no such controversy exists.

Teaching about religion in human society is an important component of many social studies courses (see the NCSS position statement "Study about Religions in the Social Studies Curriculum," revised and approved by the Board of Directors in 1998). However, teaching religious beliefs as the equivalent of scientific theory is not consistent with the social studies nor is it allowed under the First Amendment. Evolution is a scientific theory subject to testing by the scientific method. In contrast, religious teaching based on the existence of a supreme being does not allow for the scientific processes of hypothesizing, gathering evidence or questioning as they are based on faith, not scientific observations or experimentation.

Nonetheless, social studies may have to contend with these issues because of local or state mandates. The curricular recommendations that follow allow for substantive discussion of the issues surrounding intelligent design, while avoiding First Amendment problems. Most significantly, these recommendations prevent the social studies curriculum from being a repository for intelligent design instruction in the public schools, while still allowing students to analyze the political, legal, and historical issues involved.

Teaching Recommendations

Prior to teaching about intelligent design, social studies teachers should check their district's policies related to teaching controversial issues and teaching about religion. There are a number of ways in which social studies teachers might introduce the issues surrounding intelligent design in their curriculum. The following recommendations examine the issues from a social studies, rather than a religious, perspective.
  • Constitutional perspective: A teacher using this approach would focus on court cases that consider policies requiring the teaching of intelligent design in public schools and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
  • Historical perspective: A teacher adopting this perspective would focus on the historical conflict between science and religion since the Middle Ages, with particular attention to public debates over the teaching of evolution in the United States in the past century.
  • Sociological perspective: A teacher using this lens would focus on competing organizations and social forces involved in the attempts to teach about intelligent design in the schools.
  • Anthropological perspective: A teacher choosing this perspective would have students analyze creation stories and beliefs of many cultures as well as scientific theories dealing with the origin and development of human life.
  • Public issues perspectives: A teacher using this approach would encourage students to research intelligent design and debate whether intelligent design should be taught in the public schools.

Concluding Statement

The National Council for the Social Studies believes that a free and open discussion of ideas is essential to a healthy democracy. However, the social studies classroom should not and cannot be used for teaching any specific religious belief, as this is antithetical to the First Amendment. The National Council for the Social Studies recommends analysis, and thoughtful discussion, not indoctrination.

National Education Association

The National Education Association (NEA) was founded in 1857, two years before Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species. Although these two events remain unrelated, Darwinism and evolution came to play prominent roles over the next fifty years in the science curricula in our nation's public schools.

But like so many scientific theories that challenge established orthodoxy, evolution is still being contested. The issue of evolution versus creationism, unresolved by the weight of case law, is still the subject of debate.

NEA's position in this debate has been firm. Most recently, our 1982 Representative Assembly made clear that NEA opposes all efforts to alter the science curricula in any way that would place the teaching of scientific creationism on an equal footing with the teaching of evolution.

While the National Education Association believes that educational materials should accurately portray the influence of religion in our nation and throughout the world, we also believe that for American education to flourish, religious dogma must neither guide nor hamper the pursuit of knowledge by students and teachers in our public schools.

National Science Supervisors Association

The National Science Supervisors Association is opposed to the teaching of "creationism" in the science curricula of the nation's schools. Creationism, and other pseudo-sciences, are premised upon supernatural explanations of natural phenomena and therefore are outside the realm of science.

We therefore stand with such organizations as the National Association of Biology Teachers, the Council of State Science Supervisors, the National Science Teachers Association, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science in opposing the inclusion of such pseudo-sciences in the science curricula of the schools of the nation.

National Science Teachers Association (1973, 1982)

Throughout recorded history, man has been vitally concerned in finding out all that he can about his universe. He has explored it in many ways, raised questions about it, designed methods by which he could increase and organize his knowledge, and developed systems to aid him in understanding and explaining his origin, and nature, and his place in the universe. Among these systems are philosophy, religion, folklore, the arts, and science.

Science is the system of knowing the universe through data collected by observation and controlled experimentation. As data are collected, theories are advanced to explain and account for what has been observed. The true test of a theory in science is threefold: (1) its ability to explain what has been observed; (2) its ability to predict what has not yet been observed; and (3) its ability to be tested by further experimentation and to be modified as required by the acquisition of new data.

The National Science Teachers Association upholds the right and recognizes the obligation of each individual to become informed about man's many endeavors, to understand and explain what each endeavor has contributed to mankind, and to draw his own conclusions in each area.

The National Science Teachers Association also recognizes its great obligation to that area of education dealing with science. Science education cannot treat, as science, those things not in the domain of science. It cannot deal with, as science, concepts that have been developed in other than scientific ways. Moreover, the National Science Teachers Association vigorously opposes all actions that would legislate, mandate, or coerce the inclusion in the corpus of science, including textbooks, of any theories that do not meet the threefold criteria given above.

National Science Teachers Association (1985)

People have always been curious about the universe and their place in it. They have questioned, explored, probed, and conjectured. In an effort to organized their understandings, people have developed various systems that help them explain their origin, e.g., philosophy, religion, folklore, the arts, and science.

Science is the system of exploring the universe through data collected and controlled by experimentation. As data are collected, theories are advanced to explain and account for what has been observed. Before a theory can be included in the system of science, it must meet all of the following criteria: (1) its ability to explain what has been observed, (2) its ability to predict what has not yet been observed, and (3) its ability to be tested by further experimentation and to be modified as required by the acquisition of new data.

NSTA recognizes that only certain tenets are appropriate to science education. Specific guidelines must be followed to determine what does belong in science education. NSTA endorses the following tenets:

1. Respect the right of any person to learn the history and content of all systems and to decide what can contribute to an individual understanding of our universe and our place in it.

2. In explaining natural phenomena, science instruction should only include those theories that can properly be called science.

3. To ascertain whether a particular theory is properly in the realm of science education, apply the criteria stated above, i.e., (1) the theory can explain what has been observed, (2) the theory can predict that which has not yet been observed, (3) the theory can be tested by further experimentation and be modified as new data are acquired.

4. Oppose any action that attempts to legislate, mandate, or coerce the inclusion in the body of science education, including textbooks, of any tenets which cannot meet the above stated criteria.

National Science Teachers Association (1997)

Introductory Remarks

The National Science Teachers Association supports the position that evolution is a major unifying concept of science and should be included as part of K–College science frameworks and curricula. NSTA recognizes that evolution has not been emphasized in science curricula in a manner commensurate to its importance because of official policies, intimidation of science teachers, the general public's misunderstanding of evolutionary theory, and a century of controversy.

Furthermore, teachers are being pressured to introduce creationism, creation "science," and other nonscientific views, which are intended to weaken or eliminate the teaching of evolution.

Within this context, NSTA recommends that:

  • Science curricula and teachers should emphasize evolution in a manner commensurate with its importance as a unifying concept in science, and its overall explanatory power.
  • Policy makers and administrators should not mandate policies requiring the teaching of creation science, or related concepts such as so-called "intelligent design," "abrupt appearance," and "arguments against evolution."
  • Science teachers should not advocate any religious view about creation, nor advocate the converse: that there is no possibility of supernatural influence in bringing about the universe as we know it. Teachers should be nonjudgmental about the personal beliefs of students.
  • Administrators should provide support to teachers as they design and implement curricula that emphasize evolution. This should include inservice education to assist teachers to teach evolution in a comprehensive and professional manner. Administrators also should support teachers against pressure to promote nonscientific views or to diminish or eliminate the study of evolution.
  • Parental and community involvement in establishing the goals of science education and the curriculum development process should be encouraged and nurtured in our democratic society. However, the professional responsibility of science teachers and curriculum specialists to provide students with quality science education should not be bound by censorship, pseudoscience, inconsistencies, faulty scholarship, or unconstitutional mandates.
  • Science textbooks shall emphasize evolution as a unifying concept. Publishers should not be required or volunteer to include disclaimers in textbooks concerning the nature and study of evolution.

NSTA offers the following background information:

The Nature of Science, and Scientific Theories

Science is a method of explaining the natural world. It assumes the universe operates according to regularities and that through systematic investigation we can understand these regularities. The methodology of science emphasizes the logical testing of alternate explanations of natural phenomena against empirical data. Because science is limited to explaining the natural world by means of natural processes, it cannot use supernatural causation in its explanations. Similarly, science is precluded from making statements about supernatural forces, because these are outside its provenance. Science has increased our knowledge because of this insistence on the search for natural causes.

The most important scientific explanations are called "theories." In ordinary speech, "theory" is often used to mean "guess," or "hunch," whereas in scientific terminology, a theory is a set of universal statements that explain the natural world. Theories are powerful tools. Scientists seek to develop theories that
  • are internally consistent and compatible with the evidence
  • are firmly grounded in and based upon evidence
  • have been tested against a diverse range of phenomena
  • possess broad and demonstrable effectiveness in problem-solving
  • explain a wide variety of phenomena.
The body of scientific knowledge changes as new observations and discoveries are made. Theories and other explanations change. New theories emerge and other theories are modified or discarded. Throughout this process, theories are formulated and tested on the basis of evidence, internal consistency, and their explanatory power.

Evolution as a Unifying Concept

Evolution in the broadest sense can be defined as the idea that the universe has a history: that change through time has taken place. If we look today at the galaxies, stars, the planet Earth, and the life on planet Earth, we see that things today are different from what they were in the past: galaxies, stars, planets, and life forms have evolved. Biological evolution refers to the scientific theory that living things share ancestors from which they have diverged: Darwin called it "descent with modification." There is abundant and consistent evidence from astronomy, physics, biochemistry, geochronology, geology, biology, anthropology and other sciences that evolution has taken place.

As such, evolution is a unifying concept for science. The National Science Education Standards recognizes that conceptual schemes such as evolution "unify science disciplines and provide students with powerful ideas to help them understand the natural world," and recommends evolution as one such scheme. In addition, the Benchmarks for Science Literacy from the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Project 2061, and the NSTA s Scope, Sequence, and Coordination Project as well as other national calls for science reform, all name evolution as a unifying concept because of its importance across the discipline of science. Scientific disciplines with a historical component such as astronomy, geology, biology, and anthropology, cannot be taught with integrity if evolution is not emphasized.

There is no longer a debate among scientists over whether evolution has taken place. There is considerable debate about how evolution has taken place: the processes and mechanisms producing change, and what has happened during the history of the universe. Scientists often disagree about their explanations. In any science, disagreements are subject to rules of evaluation. Errors and false conclusions are confronted by experiment and observation, and evolution, as in any aspect of science, is continually open to and subject to experimentation and questioning.

Creationism

The word "creationism" has many meanings. In its broadest meaning, creationism is the idea that a supernatural power or powers created. Thus to Christians, Jews, and Muslims, God created; to the Navajo, the Hero Twins created. In a narrower sense, "creationism" has come to mean "special creation": the doctrine that the universe and all that is in it was created by God in essentially its present form, at one time. The most common variety of special creationism asserts that
  • the Earth is very young
  • life was originated by a creator
  • life appeared suddenly
  • kinds of organisms have not changed
  • all life was designed for certain functions and purposes.
This version of special creation is derived from a literal interpretation of Biblical Genesis. It is a specific, sectarian religious belief that is not held by all religious people. Many Christians and Jews believe that God created through the process of evolution. Pope John Paul II, for example, issued a statement in 1996 that reiterated the Catholic position that God created, but that the scientific evidence for evolution is strong.

"Creation science" is an effort to support special creationism through methods of science. Teachers are often pressured to include it or synonyms such as "intelligent design theory," "abrupt appearance theory," "initial complexity theory," or "arguments against evolution" when they teach evolution. Special creationist claims have been discredited by the available evidence. They have no power to explain the natural world and its diverse phenomena. Instead, creationists seek out supposed anomalies among many existing theories and accepted facts. Furthermore, creation science claims do not provide a basis for solving old or new problems or for acquiring new information.

Nevertheless, as noted in the National Science Education Standards "Explanations on how the natural world changed based on myths, personal beliefs, religious values, mystical inspiration, superstition, or authority may be personally useful and socially relevant, but they are not scientific." Because science can only use natural explanations and not supernatural ones, science teachers should not advocate any religious view about creation, nor advocate the converse: that there is no possibility of supernatural influence in bringing about the universe as we know it.

Legal Issues

Several judicial rulings have clarified issues surrounding the teaching of evolution and the imposition of mandates that creation science be taught when evolution is taught. Th First Amendment of the Constitution requires that public institutions such as schools be religiously neutral; because special creation is a specific, sectarian religious view, it cannot be advocated as "true," accurate scholarship in the public schools. When Arkansas passed a law requiring "equal time" for creationism and evolution, the law was challenged in Federal District Court. Opponents of the bill included the religious leaders of the United Methodist, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, African Methodist Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Southern Baptist churches, and several educational organizations. After a full trial, the judge ruled that creation science did not qualify as a scientific theory (McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, 529 F. Supp. 1255 (ED Ark. 1982)).

Louisiana's equal time law was challenged in court, and eventually reached the Supreme Court. In Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987) the court determined that creationism was inherently a religious idea and to mandate or advocate it in the public schools would be unconstitutional. Other court decisions have upheld the right of a district to require that a teacher teach evolution and not to teach creation science (Webster v. New Lennox School District #122, 917 F.2d 1003 (7th Cir. 1990); Peloza v. Capistrano Unified School District, 37 F.3d 517 (9th Cir. 1994)).

Some legislatures and policy makers continue attempts to distort the teaching of evolution through mandates that would require teachers to teach evolution as "only a theory," or that require a textbook or lesson on evolution to be preceded by a disclaimer. Regardless of the legal status of these mandates, they are bad educational policy. Such policies have the effect of intimidating teachers, which may result in the de-emphasis or omission of evolution. The public will only be further confused about the special nature of scientific theories, and if less evolution is learned by students, science literacy itself will suffer.

References

Aldridge, Bill G. (Ed.). (1996). Scope, Sequence, and Coordination: A High School Framework for Science Education. Arlington, VA: National Science Teachers Association (NSTA).

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Project 2061. (1993). Benchmarks for Science Literacy. New York: Oxford University Press.

Daniel v. Waters, 515 F.2d 485 (6th Cir. 1975).

Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987).

Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97 (1968).

Laudan, Larry. (1996). Beyond Positivism and Relativism: Theory, Method, and Evidence. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, 529 F. Supp. 1255 (ED Ark. 1982).

National Research Council. (1996). The National Science Education Standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). (1993). Scope, Sequence, and Coordination of Secondary School Science. Vol. 1. The Content Core: A Guide for Curriculum Designers (Rev. ed). Arlington, VA: Author.

Peloza v. Capistrano Unified School District, 37 F.3d 517 (9th Cir. 1994).

Ruse, Michael. (1996). But Is It Science: The Philosophical Question in the Creation/Evolution Controversy. Amherst, NY: Prometheus.

Webster v. New Lennox School District #122, 917 F.2d 1003 (7th Cir. 1990).

National Science Teachers Association (2003)

Introduction

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) strongly supports the position that evolution is a major unifying concept in science and should be included in the K-12 science education frameworks and curricula. Furthermore, if evolution is not taught, students will not achieve the level of scientific literacy they need. This position is consistent with that of the National Academies, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and many other scientific and educational organizations.

NSTA also recognizes that evolution has not been emphasized in science curricula in a manner commensurate to its importance because of official policies, intimidation of science teachers, the general public's misunderstanding of evolutionary theory, and a century of controversy. In addition, teachers are being pressured to introduce creationism, "creation science," and other nonscientific views, which are intended to weaken or eliminate the teaching of evolution.

Declarations

Within this context, NSTA recommends that
  • Science curricula, state science standards, and teachers should emphasize evolution in a manner commensurate with its importance as a unifying concept in science and its overall explanatory power.
  • Science teachers should not advocate any religious interpretations of nature and should be nonjudgmental about the personal beliefs of students.
  • Policy makers and administrators should not mandate policies requiring the teaching of "creation science" or related concepts, such as so-called "intelligent design," "abrupt appearance," and "arguments against evolution." Administrators also should support teachers against pressure to promote nonscientific views or to diminish or eliminate the study of evolution.
  • Administrators and school boards should provide support to teachers as they review, adopt, and implement curricula that emphasize evolution. This should include professional development to assist teachers in teaching evolution in a comprehensive and professional manner.
  • Parental and community involvement in establishing the goals of science education and the curriculum development process should be encouraged and nurtured in our democratic society. However, the professional responsibility of science teachers and curriculum specialists to provide students with quality science education should not be compromised by censorship, pseudoscience, inconsistencies, faulty scholarship, or unconstitutional mandates.
  • Science textbooks shall emphasize evolution as a unifying concept. Publishers should not be required or volunteer to include disclaimers in textbooks that distort or misrepresent the methodology of science and the current body of knowledge concerning the nature and study of evolution.
Adopted by the NSTA Board of Directors July 2003; adopted with slight modifications by the South Carolina Science Council on January 7, 2006

NSTA offers the following background information:

The Nature of Science and Scientific Theories

Science is a method of explaining the natural world. It assumes that anything that can be observed or measured is amenable to scientific investigation. Science also assumes that the universe operates according to regularities that can be discovered and understood through scientific investigations. The testing of various explanations of natural phenomena for their consistency with empirical data is an essential part of the methodology of science. Explanations that are not consistent with empirical evidence or cannot be tested empirically are not a part of science. As a result, explanations of natural phenomena that are not based on evidence but on myths, personal beliefs, religious values, and superstitions are not scientific. Furthermore, because science is limited to explaining natural phenomena through the use of empirical evidence, it cannot provide religious or ultimate explanations.

The most important scientific explanations are called "theories." In ordinary speech, "theory" is often used to mean "guess" or "hunch," whereas in scientific terminology, a theory is a set of universal statements that explain some aspect of the natural world. Theories are powerful tools. Scientists seek to develop theories that
  • are firmly grounded in and based upon evidence;
  • are logically consistent with other well-established principles;
  • explain more than rival theories; and
  • have the potential to lead to new knowledge.
The body of scientific knowledge changes as new observations and discoveries are made. Theories and other explanations change. New theories emerge, and other theories are modified or discarded. Throughout this process, theories are formulated and tested on the basis of evidence, internal consistency, and their explanatory power.

Evolution as a Unifying Concept

Evolution in the broadest sense can be defined as the idea that the universe has a history: that change through time has taken place. If we look today at the galaxies, stars, the planet Earth, and the life on planet Earth, we see that things today are different from what they were in the past: galaxies, stars, planets, and life forms have evolved. Biological evolution refers to the scientific theory that living things share ancestors from which they have diverged; it is called "descent with modification." There is abundant and consistent evidence from astronomy, physics, biochemistry, geochronology, geology, biology, anthropology, and other sciences that evolution has taken place.

As such, evolution is a unifying concept for science. The National Science Education Standards recognizes that conceptual schemes such as, evolution "unify science disciplines and provide stud, ents with powerful ideas to help them understand the natural world" (p. 104) and recommends evolution as one such scheme. In addition, Benchmarks for Science Literacy from AAAS's Project 2061, as well as other national calls for science reform, all name evolution as a unifying concept because of its importance across the disciplines of science. Scientific disciplines with a historical component, such as astronomy, geology, biology, and anthropology, cannot be taught with integrity if evolution is not emphasized. There is no longer a debate among scientists about whether evolution has taken place. There is considerable debate about how evolution has taken place: What are the processes and mechanisms producing change, and what has happened specifically during the history of the universe? Scientists often disagree about their explanations. In an, y science, , , disagreements are subject to rules of evaluation. Scientific conclusions are tested by experiment and observation, and evolution, as with any aspect of theoretical science, is continually open to and subject to experimental and observational testing.

The importance of evolution is summarized as follows in the National Academy of Sciences publication Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science: "Few other ideas in science have had such a far-reaching impact on our thinking about ourselves and how we relate to the world" (p. 21).

Creationism and Other Non-Scientific Views

The National Science Education Standards note that, "[e]xplanations of how the natural world changes based on myths, personal beliefs, religious values, mystical inspiration, superstition, or authority may be personally useful and socially relevant, but they are not scientific" (p. 201). Because science limits itself to natural explanations and not religious or ultimate ones, science teachers should neither advocate any religious interpretation of nature nor assert that religious interpretations of nature are not possible.

The word "creationism" has many meanings. In its broadest meaning, creationism is the idea that the universe is the consequence of something transcendent. Thus to Christians, Jews, and Muslims, God created; to the Navajo, the Hero Twins created; for Hindu Shaivites, the universe comes to exist as Shiva dances. In a narrower sense, "creationism" has come to mean "special creation": the doctrine that the universe and all that is in it was created by God in essentially its present form, at one time. The most common variety of special creationism asserts that
  • the Earth is very young;
  • life was created by God;
  • life appeared suddenly;
  • kinds of organisms have not changed since the creation; and
  • different life forms were designed to function in particular settings.
This version of special creation is derived from a literal interpretation of Biblical Genesis. It is a specific, sectarian religious belief that is not held by all religious people. Many Christians and Jews believe that God created through the process of evolution. Pope John Paul II, for example, issued a statement in 1996 that reiterated the Catholic position that God created and affirmed that the evidence for evolution from many scientific fields is very strong.

"Creation science" is a religious effort to support special creationism through methods of science. Teachers are often pressured to include it or other related nonscientific views such as "abrupt appearance theory," "initial complexity theory," "arguments against evolution," or "intelligent design theory" when they teach evolution. Scientific creationist claims have been discredited by the available scientific evidence. They have no empirical power to explain the natural world and its diverse phenomena. Instead, creationists seek out supposed anomalies among many existing theories and accepted facts. Furthermore, "creation science" claims do not lead to new discoveries of scientific knowledge.

Legal Issues

Several judicial decisions have ruled on issues associated with the teaching of evolution and the imposition of mandates that "creation science" be taught when evolution is taught. The First Amendment of the Constitution requires that public institutions such as schools be religiously neutral; because "creation science" asserts a specific, sectarian religious view, it cannot be advocated in the public schools.

When Arkansas passed a law requiring "equal time" for "creation science" and evolution, the law was challenged in Federal District Court. Opponents of the bill included the religious leaders of the United Methodist, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, African Methodist Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Southern Baptist churches, along with several educational organizations. After a full trial, the judge ruled that "creation science" did not qualify as a scientific theory (McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, 529 F. Supp. 1255 [ED Ark. 1982]).

Louisiana's equal time law was challenged in court, and eventually reached the Supreme Court. In Edwards v. Aguillard [482 U.S. 578 (1987)], the court determined that "creation science" was inherently a religious idea and to mandate or advocate it in the public schools would be unconstitutional. Other court decisions have upheld the right of a district to require that a teacher teach evolution and not teach "creation science" (Webster v. New Lennox School District #122, 917 F.2d 1003 [7th Cir. 1990]; Peloza v. Capistrano Unified School District, 37 F.3d 517 [9th Cir. 1994]).

Some legislators and policy makers continue attempts to distort the teaching of evolution through mandates that would require teachers to teach evolution as "only a theory" or that require a textbook or lesson on evolution to be preceded by a disclaimer. Regardless of the legal status of these mandates, they are bad educational policy. Such policies have the effect of intimidating teachers, which may result in the de-emphasis or omission of evolution. As a consequence, the public will only be further confused about the nature of scientific theories. Furthermore, if students learn less about evolution, science literacy itself will suffer.

References

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Project 2061. (1993). Benchmarks for science literacy. New York: Oxford University Press.

Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987).

McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, 529 F. Supp. 1255 (ED Ark. 1982).

National Academy of Sciences (NAS). (1998). Teaching about evolution and the nature of science. Washington, DC: Steering Committee on Science and Creationism, National Academy Press.

National Research Council. (1996). National science education standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Peloza v. Capistrano Unified School District, 37 F.3d 517 (9th Cir. 1994).

Webster v. New Lennox School District #122, 917 F.2d 1003 (7th Cir. 1990).

Additional Resources

Laudan, Larry. (1996). Beyond positivism and relativism: Theory, method, and evidence. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

National Academy of Sciences (NAS). (1999). Science and creationism: A view from the National Academy of Sciences, Second Edition. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Ruse, Michael. (1996). But is it science: The philosophical question in the creation/evolution controversy. Amherst, NY: Prometheus.

Skehan, James W., S.J., and Nelson, Craig E. (1993). The creation controversy and the science classroom. Arlington, VA: National Science Teachers Association.

New Mexico Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education

The Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education (CESE) has been directly involved in the promotion of the teaching of the Theory of Evolution since 1997. CESE encourages and supports all efforts to promote sound science teaching and curriculum in American Public schools while opposing any attempt to undermine that purpose.

CESE recognizes that the United States of America is severely underperforming compared with the rest of the industrialized nations of the world in science, math and engineering education and literacy. The scientific literacy of the general American population is being further eroded by the attempts of a small, but highly motivated and relatively well financed group of mostly religiously driven people. These people denounce the Theory of Evolution and would substitute a non-scientific, supernatural explanation of the origins of life forms on earth. This explanation is called creationism. Other forms of creationism include creation science or a recent variant called intelligent design that is intended to bypass the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution. All forms of creationism are an attempt to redefine or eliminate evolution, which is one of the central theories of all science. Such attacks on scientific theory impact all major fields of science, including biology, physics, geology, astrophysics, chemistry, etc.

The creationist goal is to allow supernatural explanations into science in order to change the very basis of science. Science deals with natural explanations for natural phenomena. Creationism or intelligent design, if allowed, would change this to promote supernatural explanations for natural phenomena — a contradiction in terms with regard to science. Intelligent design is also sterile as far as science is concerned. To be considered as real science, it must be able to explain and predict natural phenomena. Intelligent design proponents simply say that life is too complex to have arisen naturally. Therefore, an intelligent being (God) must have directly intervened whenever it chose to cause the diversity of the species. This explains everything and it explains nothing; it is not science.

The creationist groups attempt to masquerade their ideas as science simply by calling the concept "intelligent design theory". No testable hypotheses or any form of scientific research has been presented to support their attempts to insert religion into science. Furthermore, it is suspected that the aim of these religiously motivated people is to redefine the meaning of science; if they were successful, science would become useless as a method for learning about the natural world. CESE decries the very usage of science terminology where there is no sound use of science. CESE also decries any political attempt to discredit the Theory of Evolution. Creationists present false statements concerning the validity of observed evidence for evolution such as: "there is no fossil evidence for evolution," "it is impossible to obtain higher complexity systems from lower complexity systems," etc. They call into question the motives and beliefs of scientists with claims such as, "if you believe in evolution, you are an atheist," etc. They have even invented an imaginary scientific "controversy" to argue their agenda.

The Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education respectfully asks that the citizens of this country and, in particular, those public officials responsible for educational policy be aware of the fact that these creationist groups does not represent mainstream science or religion and that their actions are contrary to the facts and to the welfare of the country. We also understand that no one should be forced to believe in something that his specific religious doctrine forbids. We ask that this group not be allowed to force their religious beliefs into public education science classrooms.

New York State Museum *

The New York State Museum is an internationally recognized research and education institution. Our research legacy can be traced to our founding as the New York State Geological and Natural History Survey in 1836. The primary focus of the research mission of the New York State Museum has been the investigation of the diversity and history of life on earth. The central concept guiding this effort since 1859 has been the scientific theory of evolution. A scientific theory unifies explanations of observed phenomena and provides a framework for the formulation and evaluation of hypotheses that ask questions related to those explanations. The theory of evolution is central to the scientific understanding of how life originated on earth and how it continually changes and diversifies.

Through research, collections, publications and exhibitions in biology, geology, and paleontology, the Museum has contributed substantively to the collective evidence for evolution and the testing of hypotheses derived from the general theory of evolution. As an educational institution, the Museum supports and encourages the teaching of evolution in schools as a fundamental component of scientific competency and literacy.

New York State Science Supervisors Association

The New York State Science Supervisors Association concurs with the position taken by the Science Bureau of the State Education Department concerning the teaching of evolution. The study of supernatural accounts of origins by science teachers in science classrooms as part of the science curriculum is not a recommended procedure. Questions related to scripture, revelation and the supernatural should be directed to the religious authorities.

North Carolina Math and Science Education Network

Introduction

The UNC Mathematics and Science Education Network's position on the theory of evolution is that it is indeed a valid scientific theory substantiated by irrefutable evidence. The theory of evolution should therefore be supported and taught as a major unifying concept of science within all North Carolina K-12 science frameworks and curricula.

Scientific Theory

Human beings are engaged in a constant search for explanations as to the nature of the universe and their place within it. Out of this quest for reason and order the process of science was developed - a set of controlled, replicable guidelines allowing for the accumulation of hard data as evidence to support or reject a hypothesis. Hypotheses are proposed and tested repeatedly over time by numbers of scientists. When evidence in support of a hypothesis has accumulated, hypotheses are then elevated to scientific theories. Scientific theories are then logical constructs widely accepted as factual among the scientific community. As were the theories of gravity and the atom, the theory of evolution has been formulated in the described manner. The overall consensus of the scientific community is that evolution is indeed a valid theory.

Evidence for Evolution

Science as we know it today is a dynamic process... a body of knowledge based on observable, testable, pragmatic evidence. Scientific theories are therefore never irrevocably proven; they are only increasingly or decreasingly supported by evidence. The theory of evolution is continuously subject to further experimentation, investigation and question, much like any other scientific theory. Yet, it remains the responsibility of scientific endeavor to continue to rely on what is now known as scientific method to construct, test, support or debunk all scientific theories or hypotheses.

While today's scientists may utilize the scientific method to debate the pace and patterns of evolution, they do not debate evolution's occurrence. The fossil record and the diversity of existing organisms, combined with modern techniques of molecular biology, taxonomy and geology, provide exhaustive example and powerful evidence for the well established components of current evolutionary theory.

Evolution and the Science Curriculum

The primary goal of science teaching is to produce a scientifically competent citizenry, one which knows how to distinguish between theories substantiated with sound evidence and theories which cannot be substantiated through evidence. Evolution is identified as being the central unifying role in the biological sciences. If we teach our students that the theory of evolution is not accepted fact, we also put into question scientific advancement in chemistry, physics, astronomy, and all other related fields, as all of these disciplines are built according to similar intellectual stratagems.

School curricula should therefore be determined, not by the political mood of the moment, but by scholarly and academic consensus. North Carolina students deserve an engaging, enriching science curriculum based on the process of the scientific method. Any action opposing the tenets which honor the methodologies of scientific investigation should be viewed as a disservice to North Carolina students and science educators.

For more information please refer to the website: www.unc.edu/depts/msen

North Carolina Science Teachers Association

The North Carolina Science Teachers Association stands for and supports the cause of science education. It opposes attempts by individuals or groups to offer, advocate, or require non-scientific explanations of natural phenomena in science classes in North Carolina Public Schools.

The primary goal of science teaching is to produce scientifically literate citizens. Science is both a process and a body of knowledge. It is pragmatic, observational, experimental and replicable. To be acceptable as science, explanations, statements, and theories must be capable of test by observation and experiment. Science is used in an attempt to explain the world about us. Courses in science should be concerned only with scientific knowledge and theories.

Attempts are being made by individuals and groups to have included in the public school science curriculum non-scientific explanations of the origin and development of living organisms. Efforts are being made to have special creation (Biblical accounts) presented in science classes as scienti, fic account, s of creation. These efforts are an attempt to counteract or replace the teaching of the evolutionary theory of the origin and development of living organisms.

In general, creationism is a religious concept. Religion is based on one's belief or faith, not on scientific evidence. Evolution is a scientific theory based on scientific data accumulated over many years and organized, by logic and reason, into a unifying idea. The theory of evolution is, as all theories are, tentative in that it cannot produce a conclusive answer.

Religion and science are two important and exclusive realms of human, thought. Efforts to present both in the same context lead to misunderstanding of both. Therefore, science instruction and materials in our public schools should be limited to matters of science.

The NCSTA recommends that the theory of evolution be taught as a scientific theory — not a fact — in our public schools by teachers certified in science. The NCSTA is sensitive to, and understanding of, the various religious beliefs of students and in no way wishes to change their religious beliefs. The theory of evolution should be taught, primarily, for awareness and understanding and for use in further scientific study — not for acceptance.

Oklahoma Science Teachers Association

The scientific content of science courses should be determined by scientists and science educators and not by political directives. In particular, science teachers should not be required to teach, as science, ideas, models and theories that are clearly extra-scientific. An extra-scientific hypothesis, as such, might legitimately be discussed in a science class when examination of its logical construction and criteria for acceptance would illuminate the corresponding features of a scientific hypothesis and scientific method. Any requirement for equal time for such hypotheses is not justifiable.

Scientific hypotheses have a number of distinguishing properties, the foremost of which is that one should be able to deduce, from the basic postulates, logical consequences that can be tested against observation. Attention should be paid to the possible kinds of evidence that would falsify the hypothesis, rather than just the evidence that might confirm it. Other properties include:
  1. The hypothesis should have more general consequences than those observations which initially suggested it. Thus it should be independently testable and not ad hoc.
  2. It should be fruitful, suggesting new lines of research to pursue, raise new questions to by investigated by future research.
  3. It should be logically consistent.
  4. It should be consistent with the general scientific philosophy that the observed phenomena of the universe are real and that nature is consistent and understandable, that is, describable and explainable in terms of laws and theories.
Hypotheses that postulate miracles or supernatural events are falsified scientifically because they explicitly admit they cannot explain phenomena within their sphere of application. Furthermore, they are extra-scientific and non-explanatory because those phenomena are declared to be beyond human understanding. Thus they can not be considered alternate explanation to any scientific hypothesis because, by their very nature, they are anti-explanatory, seeking only to establish and perpetuate a mystery or mysteries.

All such hypotheses, models and theories that claim to be scientific should be required to meet the same criteria as do those hypotheses commonly considered to be scientific by the scientific community at large.

Oklahoma State University Department of Zoology

Evolution has nearly 150 years of empirical support from diverse disciplines of scientific inquiry, ranging from biogeography and paleontology to genetics and molecular biology. This rigorously tested and overwhelmingly supported scientific theory is the central unifying principle in biology, and understanding evolution is thus a critical component of any sound education in a scientific discipline.

In spite of the vast consensus view among trained scientists and science educators, there continue to be political attempts in numerous states including Oklahoma to force a so-called alternative to evolution — "Intelligent Design" (ID) — into the science curriculum of public schools. ID is not a scientific theory and its claims cannot be addressed by scientific means. These political actions severely undermine the accurate and thorough understanding of the nature of science. Furthermore, they threaten to put our state at a competitive disadvantage in attracting and retaining jobs in an increasingly technologically-oriented society.

Therefore, the Department of Zoology at Oklahoma State University joins with numerous other organizations devoted to science education and research in affirming the centrality of evolution to biology and in opposing attempts to introduce the teaching of ID into any science curriculum.

Oregon Department of Education (2007)*

We have been getting a number of questions about the teaching of "creationism" and "intelligent design." Here's the state's position:

The Oregon Science Content Standards adopted in April of 2001 clearly require the teaching of evolution. All content standards are adopted through the legislative process and are required in the public schools in Oregon. In addition, each of these standards has underlying benchmarks and eligible content that can be addressed in statewide testing.

The following Oregon Common Curriculum Goals (CCG) and Content Standards (CS) relate most directly to evolution:

Life Science
CCG: Heredity and CS: Understand the transmission of traits in living things.
CCG: Diversity/Interdependence: Understand the relationships among living things and between living things and their environments.
CS: Describe and analyze diversity of species, natural selection and adaptation

Earth and Space Science
CCG: The Dynamic Earth: Understand changes occurring within the lithosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere of the Earth.
CS: Explain and analyze changes occurring within the lithosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere of the Earth.

The Oregon Department of Education’s reference handbook, Science Teaching and Learning to Standards, includes the Oregon science standards and provides resources for science educators. In the section on Teaching Evolution in Oregon Classrooms (pages 21-23), we include the following excerpt from the document, "Religion in the Public Schools: A Joint Statement of Current Law," published by the U.S. Department of Education.

"Schools may teach about explanations of life on earth, including religious ones (such as "creationism"), in comparative religion or social studies classes. In science class, however, they may present only genuinely scientific critiques of, or evidence for, any explanation of life on earth, but not religious critiques (beliefs unverifiable by scientific methodology). Schools may not refuse to teach evolutionary theory in order to avoid giving offense to religion nor may they circumvent these rules by labeling as science an article of religious faith. Public schools must not teach as scientific fact or theory any religious doctrine, including "creationism," although any genuinely scientific evidence for or against any explanation of life may be taught. Just as they may neither advance nor inhibit any religious doctrine, teachers should not ridicule, for example, a student’s religious explanation for life on earth."

The full text of the report can be found on the Internet at www.ed.gov/Speeches/04-1995/prayer.html The Teaching and Learning to Standards: Science reference handbook is published annually and available to the public on the Oregon Department of Education website at www.ode.state.or.us/search/results/?id=246

There are no plans to incorporate Intelligent Design in the Oregon science standards. The current Oregon science standards were adopted by the State Board of Education in April 2001. Student accountability on statewide assessments for these standards began in 2002-03.

Saint Louis Science Center *

The Saint Louis Science Center considers science literacy a cornerstone of both personal and national success in the 21st century. Our mission to ignite and sustain lifelong science and technology learning supports this value. We present currently accepted scientific thought, emerging scientific thinking and innovative technologies. Through planning and delivery, we are committed to aiding public understanding of the critical science topics of our time.

In keeping with this, the Saint Louis Science Center presents evolution as a central, unifying concept in biology. Our exhibits and programs will reflect new scientific discoveries as they emerge and shape our understanding of biological diversity.

Saint Louis University Department of Biology *

The most comprehensive definition of biology is that it is the investigation of the emergent process that we call evolution. Evolutionary theory's seamlessly coherent explanatory power for the phenomena that biology investigates at every level of complexity, in the myriad fields that biology encompasses, and in the interrelationships between and among those fields, is unrivaled and presents evolutionary theory as the grand unifying theory of biology. The theory of evolution has been repeatedly tested for over a century for inconsistency. While new findings continue to illuminate the dimensions and consequences of the evolutionary process, the central tenets of evolutionary theory remain unchanged. It is accepted by scientists — religious believers and non-believers alike — in their refereed scientific publications, and transcends theory. For educators to pretend that biology is anything else than the study of the process and outcomes of evolution, or that evolution is not an accepted scientific theory, would misrepresent the vast body of knowledge that has accumulated over the past century and a half. Such misrepresentation would be a gross disservice to the human community.

The theory of biological evolution does not conflict with religious faith in God Who is ground of all existence, or with faith in Jesus as Messiah. This is so since biological evolution is an existent, testable truth, as are all truths that have been discovered by the empirical methodology of science. It is not within the scope of either biology or any other scientific discipline to investigate questions that lie within the realm of religion, such as why there is existence.

There is no conflict between the theory of biological evolution and religious faith in God. Evolution is an existent, testable truth, as are all truths that have been discovered through the empirical methodology of scientific inquiry. It is not within the scope of biology or any other scientific discipline to investigate questions that rightly lie within the purview of religion.

Since first proposed, the theory of evolution has transformed the study of life by providing a framework for understanding natural processes. In the words of the renowned evolutionary geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky, "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." Empirical studies over the past 150 years have provided tightly interwoven evidence for evolution and effectively serve as a guiding light for current and future biological inquiry. To confront students with untestable alternatives would not only misrepresent the significance of evolutionary theory and the legitimacy of the scientific method, but would also jeopardize future achievements.

We, the faculty of the Department of Biology at Saint Louis University, a Jesuit Catholic institution of higher learning, accept the above statement as basic to our mission of teaching, in order to further the goal of investigating and promoting the truth.

Science Museum of Minnesota (2005) *

The Science Museum of Minnesota is committed to presenting the most scientifically sound principles in our exhibits, educational programs, and films. Therefore, throughout the museum and in our classes, we practice and encourage the teaching of evolution as fundamental to the teaching of sound science and critical thinking.

The theory of evolution is grounded in well-substantiated, testable hypotheses that have stood the tests of time and peer review. The word "theory" as it is used here, does not mean a mere speculation or a best guess. Rather, in referring to a scientific theory, it is a set of firmly established scientific principles supported by research. Evolutionary theory serves as a foundation for natural history including the museum's core competencies in paleontology, anthropology, and biology.

To compromise the explanations of evolution or to permit unscientific alternative explanations into our galleries or our programs would misrepresent the principles of science.

We will continue to provide the best available research and exhibits that have made us a trusted science resource for nearly a century.

Science Museum of Minnesota

As an institution whose mission is to invite learners of all ages and backgrounds to experience the world through science, this museum must be consistent in the meaning given to "science". By definition, science is knowledge derived from observation, study, and experimentation. Science encompasses a wide variety of disciplines. Each discipline has a characteristic focus but all are united by use of the scientific method, and all are affected by censorship.

There are few areas of life in which one will not encounter a degree of censorship. But since each of the various disciplines of science is bound indissolubly to the others, if one topic is omitted through censorship, the ability to study any of them is inhibited. While the study of biology focuses on organisms, it is forever dependent on chemistry, chemistry on physics, physics on mathematics, and so on. All scientific disciplines are united in demonstrating the evolution of life on this planet.

In every area of scientific research and education, one strives to remain consistent in vocabulary. "Theory" is just one of many words that has a different meaning in the world of science from the meaning it has in daily life. In daily life, one definition of "theory" is, "a mere guess at something." However, a scientific theory reflects an enormous amount of study that has gone into accounting for some natural phenomenon, and in science the word "theory" is not used lightly. As for the theory of evolution, it is widely accepted within the scientific community that evolution itself is fact. It is theory about the mechanisms of evolution that continues to be refined.

The Science Museum of Minnesota is currently undergoing the process of developing internal policies concerning discussion of evolution. Appropriate information is provided for staff in order to educate them and allow them to conduct informed discussions on the topic. In instances where creationists visit the museum, they are not discouraged providing they are not disruptive to the staff or other visitors. Leafleting of any kind is not allowed within this institution. Following is a list of critical issues scientific institutions must decide upon when striving to fulfill their missions in research, practice and education.

The Age of the Earth

In order to carry on consistent conversations on a variety of topics, scientiststs must agree on the age of the earth. An educational institution cannot seriously discuss topics such as geology, biodiversity, human biology, embryology, ecology, paleontology, anthropology, and so forth, without first establishing a timeline of events. Since creationist doctrine provides a myriad of options as to the age of the earth, it does not lend itself to this process and therefore cannot be used. Based on current research, scientists generally agree that the age of the earth is approximately 4.5 billion years. An institution of scientists and science educators are obliged to use this date until further study finds otherwise.

Educational Objectives

Being true to educational objectives requires honesty. If science educators are to compare the enormous variety of life forms which have inhabited the planet, they must account for both the similarities and differences in those animals. Evolution is the framework within which these topics can be discussed. In addition, evolution applies to all life forms, not just some. It is the scientific institution's responsibility to the public not to negate pertinent information on the basis that it may not be acceptable to all.

Speaking Freely about Science

If an institution is bound by censorship of topics fundamental to its work, it is of little use in either the educational or the scientific arena. If instead, the bounds of censorship are lifted, the quality of information that can be provided to the public becomes unlimited. Evolution is fundamental in the scientific discussion of life on earth and of the earth itself.

Providing Clear Guidelines to Staff

An institution owes its staff clear guidelines on controversial topics so that they may convey the institution's position. However, it must also respect the rights of its staff to live by whatever ideology or doctrine they choose. An institutional policy statement does not prevent controversy, but since front line staff are the ones most likely to encounter difficulties, institutional support will aid in their handling of situations that arise. Staff are not required to agree with evolution, but they are expected to be able to provide direct answers to the public as to why the institution supports evolution. Staff should not be expected to defend their personal beliefs to visitors.

Being Honest with Visitors

An institution has a responsibility to its visitors to provide a simple, concise and unbiased explanation as to why it accepts the evidence for evolution. While some visitors may disagree, they will not be led astray or told untruths. In an institution of science, visitors should expect to see all aspects of science within that institution's programs. The institution should be free to discuss science without regret or apology.

Science Teachers Association of New York State

Move that we reject the proposal made by the Scientific Creationist movement that creationism be taught in our schools as a scientific alternative to Darwinian evolution. This clearly oversteps the separation of church and state as outlined in the Constitution of the United States. Another reason we must reject this proposal is that creationism is not science and therefore has no place in the science classroom.

The Science Teachers Association of New York State supports the theory of evolution as outlined in the New York State Biology Syllabus (September 1968, pages 86-90: Unit 6, Parts II B and C), and the evidence for evolution as outlined in the New York State Biology Syllabus (September 1968, pages 84-85; Unit 6, Part I A, B, C, D, and E).

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History *

Summary Statement

All living beings have developed over time from ancestors through a series of changes. That life has evolved over long periods of time, with all forms of life related to one another, is a scientifically well-established fact. Along with researchers throughout the world, scientists at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History have contributed significantly to understanding the patterns and processes of evolution in humans and other species of animals and plants.

As one of the world’s leading research museums, the National Museum of Natural History has the responsibility to share with the public the latest research on the process of evolution. It is not the Museum’s responsibility or intent to determine how visitors relate this information to their own religious or personal views.

The Science of Evolution

In informal language, the word “theory” often implies an idea without much factual substantiation. But a “scientific theory” is different: Based on repeated observations, experiments, measurements and discoveries, a scientific theory represents the most logical and best-tested available explanation for natural phenomena. A scientific theory examines and explains why and how specific natural phenomena occur—for example, why there are differences among species, how lineages of species have changed over time and how species are related to each other.

Evolutionary theory provides a logical framework for making sense of the great diversity of organisms on earth—for understanding both differences and similarities among them. For example, the theory of evolution (sometimes referred to as descent with modification) helps explain three distinct patterns that we see in the world around us:

  1. The diversity of life (biodiversity)—there are millions of different kinds of organisms and life forms, and millions have existed for varying lengths of time during Earth’s long history
  2. The similarity of life—even species that look very different and are only remotely related share remarkable aspects of anatomy and molecular chemistry, such as DNA shared by nearly all life forms
  3. The history of life—fossilized remains of ancient organisms found embedded in successive layers of rock of different ages show many sequential, step-like changes that have occurred over more than three billion years

Evolution is not a matter of mere chance or random change. It is shaped by the process of genetic change, the production and survival of new adaptations and organisms, changes in the frequency of genetic variations, and results in the wide variety of ways in which organisms adapt to and survive in their diverse and changing surroundings. Genetic variation—amply documented in nature—is the raw material for how living beings change.

Scientists have learned how humans have developed over time from examining fossil remains of earlier humans, archeological finds, and the evidence of genetics. All of the resulting information supports the idea that humans have emerged by a process of change over time, and that humans are related to all other lifeforms.

Although there is no scientific controversy about the fact that evolution occurs, our understanding of the details progresses as scientists continue to learn more from combined geological, morphological, and molecular data. Continued research has filled in many of the earlier gaps in the explanation of evolution; for example, many of the gaps in the fossil record have now been filled in by new discoveries. Today’s rapidly increasing understanding of molecular biology and genetics also now provides a much more complete understanding of the evolutionary process.

Society for College Science Teachers

The Society for College Science Teachers (SCST) recognizes the centrality of evolutionary theory to modern science, and encourages the teaching of evolution at an appropriate level throughout primary, secondary, and higher education science curricula. Along with many other scientific and science education societies (e.g., AAAS, NRC, NABT, and NSTA), SCST strongly endorses the position that no science curriculum, especially at the high school and college level, is complete unless it acknowledges evolutionary theory as the core scientific explanation for the diversity of life on Earth and, wherever possible, educates students about the processes and patterns of evolution. While such discussions will most often be a part of life science courses, evolution is also often an appropriate topic in disciplines such as astronomy, chemistry, geology, and physics.

In the nearly 150 years since Darwin first suggested that living things share a common ancestry, a voluminous and robust body of evidence in support of evolutionary theory has accumulated. That living things on Earth have descended with modification from a common ancestry is not a point of scientific dispute. Science teachers are therefore obligated to present the topic in an accurate and thorough fashion as part of their classes. Indeed, because of the fundamental role that evolution plays in tying together scientific disciplines, teachers do their students a great disservice by not making evolution a key component of their teaching. The obligation to include evolution in the science classroom requires that accurate and complete information be taught, and also that non-scientific "alternatives" to evolution such as creation science and intelligent design not be presented as legitimate science or a valid replacement for evolutionary theory. Suggesting to students that such non-scientific ideas qualify as legitimate alternatives to evolution undermines science, prevents students from understanding one of the most important ideas in human history, and constitutes inappropriate educational practice. If teachers encounter situations where colleagues are teaching inaccurate content about evolution or promoting non-scientific explanations in its place, or experiencing pressure to do so, SCST encourages those teachers to seek advice from local, state, and national organizations (e.g., the National Center for Science Education) about how best to address the situation and to elevate the overall quality of science education at their institution.

SCST advises science teachers at all levels, but especially those involved with developing and delivering high school and college curricula, to be well versed in evolutionary theory and to include it as a core theme within their science courses. To do otherwise is to deprive students of essential scientific knowledge that they will need to be thoughtful, productive citizens, and to successfully compete for jobs in the increasingly scientific workplace of the 21st century.

Adopted March 2007
To find out more about SCST, please visit www.scst.org.


For further information about evolutionary theory, the role of evolution in science education, and the problems with non-scientific "alternatives" to evolution, SCST recommends the following print and online resources:

Southeastern Oklahoma State University Department of Biological Sciences *

Evolution is supported by overwhelming scientific evidence and is accepted by the vast majority of scientists. It is fundamental to understanding all areas of biology, including medicine and conservation. Therefore the Department of Biological Sciences at Southeastern Oklahoma State University teaches evolution throughout the biology curriculum. We are in accordance with the American Association for Advancement of Science's statement on evolution. We are a science department, so we do not teach alternative hypotheses or philosophically deduced theories that cannot be tested rigorously.

Syracuse Parent-Teacher Association

Whereas minimum standards for curriculum in the public school system are set by the New York State Board of Regents; and

Whereas the board of education or such body or officer as performs the functions of such boards shall designate textbooks to be used; and

Whereas textbook publishers are under continuous pressure by special interest groups to alter textbooks to specific beliefs and/or religious points of view; and

Whereas such pressure has led to a remarkable reduction in the amount of information on evolution, biology, and related sciences in the textbooks; and

Whereas some groups have organized a sophisticated propaganda campaign to influence school boards and textbook publishers that scientific creationism should be included in the science curriculum of the public school system; and

Whereas creationism is a belief and not a science and will blur the distinction between scie, nce and religious beliefs; and

Whereas the teaching of creationism amounts to establishing the practices and beliefs of particular religious groups under the aegis of the go, vernment which is a violation of the First Amendment; therefore be it

Resolvedthat the Syracuse Parent-Teacher Association agrees with the New York State Board of Regents Biology Syllabus that evolution should be taught not as fact, but as a scientific theory which has substantial support from the scientific community, and be it further

Resolved that the Syracuse Parent-Teacher Association strongly opposes any attempts to insert in the science curriculum any philosophical theories not substantiated by scientific data, and be it further

Resolvedthat the Syracuse Parent-Teacher Association recommends that Districts, Councils, and Local Units urge School Boards and teachers' organizations to discourage any such materials in a science curriculum, and redirect it to its appropriate discipline, thereby maintaining freedom of information in textbooks; and be it further

Resolved that the Syracuse Parent-Teacher Association urge Boards of Education to establish procedures for dealing with challenges to curriculum and content of school textbooks, and be it further

Resolvedthat this resolution be forwarded to the New York State Congress of Parents and Teachers for consideration at its next convention.

The Biology Faculty of Oklahoma City Community College *

Like all scientific theories, Evolutionary Theory is a set of tested explanations for observed natural phenomena. Also like other scientific theories, Evolutionary Theory is potentially falsifiable. However, since the seminal work of Charles Darwin in 1859, Evolutionary Theory has been strengthened by over a century of observation and experimentation. Recently, major scientific contributions from modern genetics have confirmed the basis of Darwin's ideas. Scientific agreement about the facts of evolutionary biology is now stronger than ever. Evolutionary Theory answers so many questions within biology that omitting it from biological study drastically reduces the meaning and importance of this science.

It is the position of the Biology Faculty of Oklahoma City Community College that this topic is a crucial component of life science education. While the College respects the right of individuals to hold personal or opposing views, the biology program will teach Evolutionary Theory as the central concept of modern biological science. It is our intent that the explanatory power of this subject will contribute greatly to our students' understanding of biology.

The College of New Jersey Department of Biology *

The faculty of the Department of Biology at The College of New Jersey is unequivocal in its support of the contemporary theory of biological evolution. Evolutionary theory has been supported by data collection and analysis conducted over the past 150 years. No credible evidence has been presented to date in support of any alternative scientific theory to explain the origin of organic diversity. The faculty of the Department of Biology fully endorses the resolution by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2002/1106id2.shtml) on this issue.

The Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science *

The Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science comprises a community of students, professors, and researchers of natural history. As members of the worldwide scientific community, we use the theory of evolution and other scientific principles to study the natural world.

Evolutionary theory has greatly enhanced progress in the fields of medicine, anatomy, archaeology, biology, biochemistry, geology, neuroscience and many other disciplines. Without an understanding of evolutionary biology, our perception of the natural world would be greatly diminished.

The Manchester Museum, The University of Manchester *

In science, the word ‘theory’ means a well supported and tested explanation of available evidence. The theory of evolution states that the diversity of life has developed over time. The Museum’s official position is to accept the following as scientific facts:

  • Planet Earth, along with the other planets in the Solar System, was formed approximately 4,560 million years ago.
  • Life has existed on Earth for thousands of millions of years and has evolved through random genetic changes and natural selection.

These facts are accepted by the overwhelming majority of scientists and are established beyond reasonable doubt as the simplest explanations of the physical and biological evidence.

The theory of evolution is central to the field of biology; the relationship between this scientific theory and religious belief has varied enormously and has sometimes been the cause of confusion and conflict. While The Manchester Museum has taken a definite position on the science of evolution, we support the right of freedom of belief for all and acknowledge that there is a range of perspectives on this subject.

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County *

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is a collections-based research and educational institution that relies on science to enhance our knowledge of the natural world.

The goal of science is to acquire ever-increasing understanding of the objects and events we encounter. Such understanding is obtained through the continual critical evaluation of testable hypotheses and theories.

Evolution is a central concept in modern science. Evolutionary theories are supported by evidence from such diverse fields as genetics, paleontology, chemistry, and physics. The use of evolutionary biology as a means of acquiring understanding is consistent with the overall goal of science, as the theories involved are available to critical evaluation. Evolutionary biology allows us to explain the amazing diversity of life on Earth today and how diversity has changed over time.

Because understanding evolution is important for both scientists and the public, the Natural History Museum emphasizes that evolutionary biology belongs in school curricula and textbooks as well as in public museums. Although the topic is sometimes portrayed as controversial, it is no more controversial among scientists than are the theories explaining gravity, light, sound, or electricity.

The Natural History Museum, with its mission to inspire wonder, discovery, and responsibility, recognizes that evolutionary biology is fundamental to understanding biological diversity and is critical for both scientific research and museums. The Museum welcomes people of all beliefs and backgrounds to join us as we explore, through science, the wonders of the natural world.

Good starting places for finding additional information about evolution and its relation to other concepts and issues include:

The University of Queensland Board of the Faculty of Science

...I fully support the decision of the Board of Secondary School Studies and its Science Advisory Committee to include the teaching of evolution as a component of the core syllabus for Senior Biology, and the decision not to include "Creation Science" as a compulsory component of Senior Biology. Indeed "Creation Science" as it is espoused by its supporters has no place in the syllabus of any science subject....

University System of Georgia Biology Academic Advisory Committee

Biological evolution is a major unifying concept in modern biology and provides a conceptual framework that helps make biology a unified science. The centrality of evolution to modern biology has been acknowledged by a number of major scientific organizations including the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Sciences. As the appointed representatives of college and university biology professors from around the state, we expect that all students entering our colleges and universities have a clear and accurate understanding of the basic tenets of biological evolution so that they will be prepared for college-level biology classes.

Furthermore, we oppose attempts to have creationism (or its variants such as "scientific creationism" or "intelligent design") taught as science because these ideas are outside the scope of science. In order to properly prepare scientifically literate citizens/students, it is necessary for schools to teach biological evolution.

As professional scientists and educators, we offer our services to any faculty, administrator or school board who needs advice about how to best teach biological evolution.

Adopted on 07 November 2003 by the USG Biology Academic Advisory Committee represented by:

Ray Barber, Ph.D. — Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College
Kenneth Relyea, Ph.D. — Armstrong Atlantic State University
Emil K. Urban, Ph.D. — Augusta State University
Greg Hampikian, Ph.D. — Clayton College & State University
Eugene Keferl, Ph.D. — Coastal Georgia Community College
William S. Birkhead, Ph.D. — Columbus State University
John Lugthart, Ph.D. — Dalton State College
Steve Schenk, M.S. — Darton College
Jimmy Wedincamp, Ph.D. — East Georgia College
Donna Daugherty, Ph.D. – Floyd College
Bill Wall, Ph.D. — Georgia College & State University
Jung H. Choi, Ph.D. – Georgia Institute of Technology
Sheryl Shanholtzer, Ph.D. — Georgia Perimeter College
Stephen Vives, Ph.D. — Georgia Southern University
Steven Kudravi, Ph.D. — Georgia State University
Theresa L. Stanley, Ph.D. – Gordon College
Ronald H. Matson, Ph.D. — Kennesaw State University
Eric L. Sun, Ph.D. — Macon State College
John Pasto, Ph.D. — Middle Georgia College
Terry Schwaner, Ph.D. — North Georgia College & State University
Gene Mesco, Ph.D. — Savannah State University
Carl Quertermus, Ph.D. — State University of West Georgia
Timothy Rhoads, Ph.D. — South Georgia College
Bill Burnett, Ph.D. — Southern Polytechnic State University
William Barstow, Ph.D. – University of Georgia
David L. Bechler, Ph.D. — Valdosta State University

University of Alabama at Huntsville Faculty Senate

Whereas we understand that the Alabama legislature is considering a requirement that "Scientific Creationism" be included as an alternative to evolutionary theory during discussions in Alabama public schools of the origin and development of life; and

Whereas we consider the theory of scientific creationism to be neither scientifically based nor capable of performing the roles required of a scientific theory; and

Whereas we agree with the statement of the National Academy of Sciences that "religion and science are separate and mutually exclusive realms of human thought whose presentation in the same context leads to misunderstanding of both scientific theory and religious belief"; and

Whereas the proposed action would impair the proper segregation of teaching of science and religion to the detriment of both; and

Whereas we favor the continued observance of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion by assuming separation of Church and State; and

Whereas the inclusion of the theory of creation represents dictation by a lay body, of what shall be included within science;

Therefore, The University of Alabama in Huntsville Faculty Senate resolves both that:
  1. It is opposed to the requirement of teaching of special creation in Alabama public schools and to its presentation as a scientific theory; and
  2. It is opposed to the passage of the scientific creationism bills (H-526 and S-353) before the Alabama legislature.

University of California Academic Council of the Academic Senate

It is our understanding that within the next few months the California State Board of Education will be approving many science textbooks for use in California public schools, grades K through 8. The text of the Science Framework for California Schools, prepared in 1969, suggests that one criterion for the board's approval of a text may be the extent to which, in the discussion of the origins of life, a "special theory of creation" is treated as a scientific theory in a manner parallel to an account of evolution. We believe that a description of special creation as a scientific theory is a gross misunderstanding of the nature of scientific inquiry.

To provide the basis of a scientific theory, an hypothesis must make testable predictions. Our ideas of biological evolution are continually being tested in the process of an enormous amount of investigation by thousands of professional biological scientists throughout the world. As in all sciences, there are many facets of the evolution picture that are not yet thoroughly understood, and researchers at the frontier of knowledge, often in disagreement with each other concerning details, continually revise their thinking. Thus, evolutionary theory itself has evolved considerably since the time of Darwin. But virtually all biological scientists are agreed on the broad features of the theory of evolution of life forms, the evidence for which is completely overwhelming.

University of Central Oklahoma Department of Biology *

Science is the disciplined, logical search for knowledge about all aspects of the universe. It is based on the observation of natural phenomena and seeks to explain these natural phenomena through hypothesis testing and experimentation. A scientific hypothesis is a proposed explanation of a natural event. This hypothesis must be, above all else, testable and falsifiable. If an explanation does not meet these two requirements, it is not a scientific hypothesis. A scientific theory, in comparison to a hypothesis, is broader in scope and composed of a set of hypotheses that have been thoroughly tested. The term theory in the general public is synonymous with a guess. This is not so for a scientific theory. A scientific theory is supported by a large body of evidence and is continually tested and refined through the generation of new hypotheses. This is true for the theory of evolution.

Evolution is defined simply as the change in allele frequencies (genetic makeup) in a population through time. These changes can be small in scale, resulting for example in a population of bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics, or large in scale, giving rise to a new species through a speciation event. The theory of evolution explains the mechanisms that lead to these changes. These mechanisms include non-random natural selection, random mutation events, random genetic drift, and gene flow. Each of these mechanisms has been and continues to be subjected to hypothesis testing. The theory is modified as new information is acquired through these tests; however, the overall theory of evolution continues to be upheld. Support for this theory comes from a variety of disciplines (e.g., paleontology, morphology, genetics, molecular biology, ecology, developmental biology, and biogeography). The theory of evolution is the unifying theory in biology and the fact of evolution is not controversial in the scientific community.

University of New Mexico History Department

The faculty of the History Department at the University of New Mexico objects to the new Content Standards in Science for New Mexico's public schools (K-12), adopted by the State Board of Education (SBE) in August 1996. Our objection centers on
  • The Standard's deletion of all specific references to biological evolution
  • The Standard's encouragement to teach alternative theories through "critical scientific analysis of theories of biological origin based on direct observations, investigations, or historical data that accounts for the present form and function of objects, organisms, and natural systems."
We urge the SBE to reconsider the Content Standards in Science, to restore the specific references to biological evolution, and to refrain from encouraging teachers to include non-scientific theories of biological origin in science classes.

Discussion

While the Standards adopted by the State Board of Education in August 1996 do not explicitly encourage the inclusion of "scientific creationism" in New Mexico's public school science classes, this is clearly the intent of the last-minute revisions to the Standards. Boardmember Roger X. Lenard, one of the architects of the new Standards and a self-described anti-evolutionist, has written that the Standards provide "a rigorous, principled environment where various theories about the age of the earth and t he universe and biological origins will be studied" (Albuquerque Journal, 21 September 1996, p. A9). State schools Superintendent Alan Morgan, a supporter of the new Standards, has stated that they are designed to affect

"schools that are focusing on one view, one theory, and one set of facts ... because those systems aren't helping students develop critical analytical skills. So if science classes discuss only the theory of evolution, there may be trouble." (Albuquerque Journal, 31 August 1996, pp. A1-A2).

Superintendent Morgan also stated that many people believe that there is a "modicum, if not more, of scientific evidence to support creationism" (Ibid.).

There are many good reasons not to allow, much less encourage, the teaching of non-scientific theories like creationism in public school science classes. The technical and practical arguments against the practice have been articulated very well by scientists and scientific organizations around the state since the SBE adopted the new Standards.

However, rather than repeat the many scientific objections to the Standards, we, as a faculty in the humanities, would like to offer a different argument against them. We oppose these Standards for reasons that are based not on the technical issues involved, but on our belief in the value of liberal arts education and its ability to illuminate diverse and distinct ways of studying and understanding the world. Our argument is two-fold.

First, to include creationist ideas within a science curriculum is a serious and detrimental distortion of the historical definition of science in the western world. As it has evolved since Greek antiquity, and especially since the scientific revolution of the 17th century, science has come to refer to a method of articulating certain kinds of explanations about natural phenomena. Historically, scientific explanations have exhibited several characteristics. They tend to be mechanical in nature. They often tend to include descriptions that can be articulated using mathematics. And, they have always been devoid of supernatural agents. In this regard, all forms of creationism, with their implicit reliance on a supernatural creator, are non-scientific by definition, regardless of any appropriation of scientific or science-like language. Calling one form of creationism "scientific" does not make it so, because it still entails the action of a supernatural deity or deities.

It is important to realize that our desire to protect the integrity of science as a distinct intellectual discipline is not an attempt to elevate science above all other intellectual endeavors; quite the contrary. Science is one way of knowing the world ; it is not the only way of knowing, and it is certainly not the only way of knowing everything. Indeed, in the grand scheme of human thought and action, the domain of science is modest — the realm of natural phenomena. Science, as it has developed historically, will not and can never tell us anything about the nature of beauty, or the attributes of justice, or the qualities of goodness. There are many ideas and many truths (like the belief that all people are created equal, or that they have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) upon which science must remain mute. Supernatural creation stories may, in fact, be true; but science, as only one way of knowing, will never tell us this. Science is simply not equipped to speak on supernatural issues, and it would be a mistake to try to force it to do so.

The second part of our argument addresses why it would be a mistake to try to change the definition of science to include supernatural entities. To insist that religious creation stories be considered scientific (and included in science classes) would reinforce the dangerous myth that science is the only way of knowing. Other ways of knowing the world — through art, or literature, or philosophy, or religion — are valuable and meaningful in their own right; treating them all merely as science would diminish their status as important and alternative methods of understanding by forcing them to surrender to the criteria of one particular intellectual discipline. It is precisely because we should not subsume all other ways of knowing under science that we should keep religious or literary stories distinct from it.

In short, we should actively keep non-scientific or religious creation stories out of the public school science curriculum in order to maintain the intellectual integrity of science as well as the intellectual integrity of all other disciplines. Such ideas can and should be examined critically, with value and honor, in humanities or social science classes that focus on the disciplines of history, philosophy, comparative religion, or literature.

On these grounds, in addition to the many others being voiced by the scientific community, we urge the State Board of Education to reconsider and revise the new Content Standards for Science.

University of Oklahoma Department of Zoology

Biological evolution, defined as genetic change in species over time, is an observable fact. It is a fact that insects evolve resistance to pesticides, that new diseases arise when viruses evolve the ability to invade new hosts, and that humans have created new species using the same mechanisms that produce species naturally. Furthermore, the evidence based on facts from molecular biology and geology (i.e. gene sequences, dated fossils) clearly indicates that all living species, including our own, share a common ancestor, which is over 3 billion years old.

The theory of evolution explains the mechanisms (e.g. non-random natural selection acting on random mutation) by which organisms change over time (microevolution), become more complex, and diversify into new species (macroevolution). Evolution is the central unifying theory of biology, supported by independent evidence from paleontology, geology, genetics, molecular biology and genomics, developmental biology, biogeography and behavioral ecology. Even though new information from nearly every field of science has been applied, attempts to falsify evolutionary theory using the scientific method have failed. As is true for any active science, the details of the theory are continually debated as new data are collected. However, there is no controversy in the scientific community about the fact of evolution.

Although in popular speech the word 'theory' means 'a guess', in science 'theory' refers to an explanation so well supported by facts that it is as close to the truth as science can come. Although even the most successful theory can never be proven, any scientific theory can be refuted by facts that are at odds with its predictions. In fact, the most useful theories are those that generate many testable predictions and thus leave themselves particularly susceptible to being proven wrong. It is this quality that most distinguishes a scientific concept from a non-scientific one.

In science, not all explanations are equal. By the rigorous criteria of science, supernatural mechanisms, including Intelligent Design creationism, are not scientific because they do not generate testable predictions about how species change or diversify. To argue that supernatural explanations merit discussion in science classrooms so that 'both sides' of the issue are taught is to advocate that non-science be legitimized as science. In an era where scientific solutions to complex problems are of first priority, this is dangerous logic.

We thus oppose any attempt to weaken scientific standards with respect to evolution, or to broaden the science curriculum to include the supernatural. In this, we stand with our colleagues in the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and other scientific organizations. We urge all citizens to learn about science and work to assure that our children receive a first-class science education.

Utah Museum of Natural History *

The Utah Museum of Natural History is an institution of science. As such, we accept the theory of evolution, which the unifying concept of all biological sciences. While there remains ongoing lively debate about the processes of evolutionary change — that is, how evolution occurs —the overwhelming majority of biologists fully endorse the idea that all organisms on earth share a common ancestry and that life's unfolding has encompassed billions of years of time. Like gravity, evolution is one of the cornerstones of modern science, and it represents one of the key themes of our institutional mission.

Utah Science Teachers Association

Whereas, the science teachers of the State of Utah are being subjected to increasing pressure to teach non-science material in their science classrooms, and,

Whereas, the Utah Science Teachers Association supports the wisdom and constitutionality of the separation of church and state,

The Utah Science Teachers Association hereby affirms that the science teachers of the State of Utah should*
  1. 1. Teach science and related disciplines (technology, societal implications of science and technology, etc.) in their science classrooms, and not teach religion as science.
  2. Teach students that science is a dynamic, self-correcting discipline based on empirical data and reasonable analyses thereof.
  3. Teach the theory of evolution as the major organizing theory in the discipline of the biological and geological sciences.
  4. Teach the students to distinguish between various types of evidence; to distinguish "fact," "theory," "hypothesis," "inference," etc.; and to recognize that in its strict sense, "theory" (as a generalization organizing massive amounts of diverse and repeatedly-tested data), is the most useful statement that life science can make.
  5. Help students understand that accepting the theory of evolution by natural selection, and other biological phenomena, is not equating science with atheism and that the theory of evolution by natural selection does not rule out the possibility of the involvement of a divine Creator.
  6. Help students understand that accepting the theory of evolution by natural selection need not compromise their religious beliefs, whatever their religion may be, since science and religion are based on separate premises and use different methodologies.
  7. Help students understand that creationism, as taught by prominent creationist organizations of the day, is pseudoscience and not science.
  8. Help students understand that religion is a belief system based on faith and religious experience, and that religious principles can still be followed without conflict while accepting the premises and methodology of science.
  9. Help students understand that both science and religion, as two among several human endeavors, have strengths and limits in pursuing human knowledge and action; that neither alone is a sufficient guide for either individual or group conduct. It has never been an endeavor of science, nor is it appropriate for individual scientists, to falsely apply the methodology of science to undermine matters of religious faith.
*Statements 1 through 4 refer to actual classroom teaching recommendations. Statements 5 though 9 refer to suggestions teachers may want to consider in helping students outside of class.

Utah State Board of Education

The Theory of Evolution is a major unifying concept in science and appropriately included in Utah's K-12 Science Core Curriculum.

This position is consistent with that taken by the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and most other scientific and educational organizations. The Utah State Board of Education and these organizations affirm science as an essential way of understanding for all students and the importance of evolution as a unifying concept in science.

Science: A Way of Knowing

Science is a distinctive way of understanding the natural world. Science seeks to increase our understanding through empirical evidence. As a way of knowing, science assumes that anything that can be observed or measured is amenable to scientific investigation. By the very nature of scientific inquiry, there are infinite possibilities for further refinement of current knowledge and understanding.

Understanding may be derived from sources and perspectives other than science such as historical and logical analyses, art, religion and philosophy. These sources rely upon other ways of knowing, such as emotion and faith. While these ways of understanding and creating meaning are important to individuals and society, they are not amenable to scientific investigation and thus not appropriate for inclusion in the science curriculum. Science relies nearly exclusively on observation and empirical evidence. Since progress in the modern world is tied so closely to this way of knowing, scientific literacy is essential for a society to be competitively engaged in a global economy.

Evolution: A Unifying Concept

Evolution in the broadest sense can be defined as the idea that the universe has a history and has changed over time. Observation of the galaxies, stars, planet Earth, and life on Earth clearly demonstrates that significant changes have occurred. There is abundant and consistent evidence from astronomy, physics, biochemistry, geochronology, geology, biology, anthropology, and other sciences that evolution has taken place. This evidence is found in widely divergent areas, from the geologic fossil record to DNA analysis.

Evolution is an ongoing process with crucial implications for disciplines such as medicine, agriculture, and conservation biology. The Theory of Evolution provides a unifying basis upon which the elements of life are understood and upon which predictions can be made. Moreover, viewing present-day organisms as products of evolution provides the most productive framework for investigating and understanding their structure and function. As such, evolution is a unifying concept for science and provides the foundation for understanding nature. The National Science Education Standards from the National Academies of Science and Benchmarks for Science Literacy from the American Association for the Advancement of Science identify evolution as a unifying concept across the major disciplines of science. Scientific disciplines with strong historical components — such as astronomy, geology, biology, and anthropology — rely upon the concepts of evolution to understand the nature of changes that have occurred or can be predicted.

There is little or no debate among credible scientists about whether evolution has taken place. However, since our understanding is still incomplete, there is considerable and productive debate about processes of evolution. Research questions remain, and scientists often disagree about their explanations, as they should. The nature of science encourages ongoing and meaningful investigation of all assertions made by science. Scientific conclusions are tested by experiment and observation as all scientific theories are subject to continued evaluation.

While some describe the principle of evolution as "just a theory," the scientific definition of a theory is far more rigorous than may be commonly understood. In science, a theory is a systematic explanation of observed phenomena. It must be consistent with all natural laws and withstand the scrutiny and inquiry of the scientific community. The National Academy of Sciences has stated, "Evolution is one of the strongest and most useful scientific theories we have." As a fundamental scientific concept, evolution is a necessary part of science classroom instruction, and it will continue to be taught and progressively refined as a key scientific principle.

Student Beliefs and Teaching Evolution

Teachers should be aware that students bring with them a set of beliefs. Teachers and students should respect and be nonjudgmental about students' beliefs, and teachers should help students understand that science is an essential way of knowing. Teachers should encourage students to discuss any seeming conflicts with their parents or religious leaders. Science teachers should make available to interested parents their planned instruction and the context for that instruction.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (1982)

The incorporation of creation science within the science curriculum raises serious legal issues in light of the constitutional doctrine requiring separation of the church and state and sec. 115.28(2), Wis. Stats. This statute requires the State Superintendent to exclude all sectarian instruction and materials from the public schools of this state. In the context of science teaching, the only federal court to consider the question has ruled that the creation science view is inherently religious in character and, accordingly, cannot constitutionally be presented as a scientific explanation of origins in public schools. Under the circumstances, the rationale behind the Arkansas Creation Science Case (McLean vs Arkansas Board of Education) cannot be ignored in approaching science curriculum development and organization at the local school district level.

The primary goal of the public schools is the transmission of knowledge from one generation to the next through disciplined study. On the specific issue of science teaching and its relation to creation science and evolution, it should be recognized that science and religion have different theoretical bases; that is, that they are two different areas of knowledge which address different questions in different ways.

Science

Science is concerned with studying nature and the world of which we are a part and yields testable hypotheses. It is both an investigatory process and a body of knowledge which can be subjected to verification by investigation, observation and logical analysis. Science is fundamentally non-dogmatic and is self-correcting. The process is ongoing and developmental. Science is also calculated to encourage the development of new propositions and ideas about nature and to lead ad infinitum toward new vistas and frontiers of further scientific inquiry.

The formulation of theories, or generalizations based upon substantial evidence which explain phenomena occurring in the natural world, is a fundamental component of scientific inquiry. The "answers" to questions which scientists address must be confirmed by evidence, and these answers are always tentative, awaiting new interpretations which can better explain the evidence. Where a significant body of contrary evidence appears as a result of this process, a scientific theory is subject to revision or replacement by a new theory which offers a better explanation of that evidence. The strength of science is that it is a systematic process for developing the most logical and plausible explanations of known facts, principles, concepts and probabilities relating to any phenomenon. For these reasons, no scientific theory, including evolution, should be presented to students as absolute and unchanging fact. Indeed, dogma and indoctrination are incompatible with an understanding of science; accordingly, the tentative and theoretical nature of the subject matter must be stressed by science instructors. Proper teaching requires presentation of science as open-ended and without preset conclusions.

Religion

Religion is based upon knowledge and wisdom believed to be revealed by a divine creator or through a supernatural order. Unlike tentative scientific knowledge, religious knowledge remains customarily unchallengeable by observable evidence. Religion deals with meanings of life and death and is based ultimately upon faith. Faith precedes prediction and explanation. Because science and religion have different structural bases, one cannot replace the other, for they serve different functions. Due to the fundamental differences in these areas of knowledge, the presentation of religious concepts is inappropriate to the science curriculum. While science instructors should respect and recognize the personal validity of alternative religious beliefs, their responsibility in this regard should be limited to directing student inquiries to the appropriate institutions, including church and family, for further explanation and clarification of religious alternatives. The exclusion of religious explanations from the science class does not amount to telling students that they should not maintain those beliefs — only that those beliefs are not acceptable as science. Giving comparable emphasis in science, which are advanced as alternatives to evolution would be in direct opposition to understanding the nature and purpose of science.

Position of the Department of Public Instruction

1. Alternate scientific theories may be compared in the science classroom, but only those that best explain evidence which has been validated by repeated scientific testing should be accepted, and that only tentatively.

2. Years of intensive geological, biological and other scientific studies have provided the most acceptable explanations of the origin and development of the earth and life on the earth. The theory of evolution has the general consensus of the scientific community because it integrates and clarifies many otherwise isolated scientific facts, principles and concepts in a manner which is consistent with known evidence and 3. Like any scientific theory, evolution remains subject to modification and revision as new evidence is discovered. Therefore, evolution should never be presented to students as absolute fact. Good teaching dictates that students be reminded of the tentative nature of conclusions resulting from scientific inquiry.

Science can only answer certain kinds of questions. I, f questions are posed outside of the scientific domain, then other disciplines must be employed but not in the guise of science. Science is not superior in explanatory power to religion . . . only different. Educators should be certain that science is not asked to deal with ideas which are beyond its domain and processes. If attempts are made to force all knowledge, including religious doctrine, into a scientific mode, a great part of our cultural heritage may be lost.

Religious beliefs and writings, including accounts of creation, comprise a body of human knowledge and may properly be addressed in their own right in other areas of the public school curriculum. There is no legal prohibition against the non-sectarian academic study of such matters where appropriate to locally established curricular goals in such disciplines as literature, philosophy, history or religious studies.

In Wisconsin, the decisions regarding the goals of the science curriculum and its more specific teaching objectives, as well as the goals and objectives for religious studies in the curriculum, are legally and properly a responsibility of local boards of education. However, local districts dealing with these decisions may wish to consult the Department of Public Instruction for technical assistance relative to both legal and curricular problems and issues.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction *

The Department of Public Instruction affirms:

  • The nature of science is a way of knowing about the natural world. Wisconsin's Model Academic Standards for Science, Standard B states:
    "Science is ongoing and inventive, and that scientific understandings have changed over time as new evidence is found."
    Science is the quest for knowledge that takes the form of naturalistic concepts and the laws and theories related to those concepts.[1] The knowledge gained from scientific endeavors is expected to be reliable, replicable, and based on empirical evidence. It is also tentative but durable.[2] A primary goal of science is to develop and test new laws and theories that form those naturalistic concepts. Those theories and laws are defined as:
    Scientific laws are patterns found in nature, generalizations about nature, or relationships related to the way the natural world behaves.[3]

    Scientific theories are explanations that have been robustly tested and supported through several lines of evidence.[4]
  • Evolution is a fundamental and important unifying concept in science. Wisconsin's Model Academic Standards for Science presents evolution as one of the themes found in Standard A and provides this definition:
    "Evolution. A series of changes, some gradual and some sporadic, that accounts for the present form and function of objects. "
    Evolution in its broadest interpretation can be explained by the idea that the universe has a lengthy past, a history. Biological evolution or "descent and modification" is the scientific theory that living things share ancestors from which they have emerged.[5] Evolutionary evidence is found in geologic, meteorological, astronomical, and oceanographic events. Additional evidence is found in paleontology, comparative anatomy, biogeography, embryology, and molecular biology. This broad evolutionary evidence explains why evolution is one of the unifying themes for science.

  • Significant Background and Historical Events:

    In 1982, the Department of Public Instruction issued the position statement, Evolution, Creation, and the Science Curriculum. That position statement included:

    "The incorporation of creation science within the science curriculum raises serious legal issues in light of the constitutional doctrine requiring separation of church and state and sec. 115.28(2), Wis. Stats. This statute requires the state superintendent to exclude all sectarian instruction and materials from the public schools of this state."

    "The primary goal of the public schools is the transmission of knowledge from one generation to the next through disciplined study. On the specific issue of science teaching and its relation to creation science and evolution, it should be recognized that science and religion have different theoretical bases; that is, there are two different areas of knowledge which address different questions in different ways."

    On January 13, 1998, Executive Order 326 was issued by the governor. The order stated that Wisconsin's Model Academic Standards for Science:

    "may be used as a reference resource to assist districts in developing their own rigorous standards by the fall of 1998."
    The Planning Curriculum in Social Studies guide explains when international religious studies can be included as a part of the school setting and social studies curriculum. The guide states:
    "Through the study of philosophy and religion students learn to understand different patterns and perspectives, building on their prior knowledge to reconstruct or replace their earlier misconceptions of the world."

    National Perspective:

    The White House: President George W. Bush's science advisor, John H. Marburger, III stated on March 5, 2004:

    "Evolution is a cornerstone of modern biology," adding, "much of the work supported by the National Institutes of Health depends heavily on the concepts of evolution."

    National Academy of Sciences (NAS): NAS released the second edition of Science and Creationism, A View of the National Academy of Science. It states:

    "The theory of evolution has become the central concept of biology and is a critical component of many related scientific disciplines. In contrast, the claims of creation science lack empirical support and cannot be meaningfully tested."

    End Note:

    The Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers (WSST) and its affiliate member organizations by WSST board actions have endorsed the department's position.

    1. Adopted from NSTA position statement on the Nature of Science, (2000).

    2. Adopted from "Keys to Teaching the Nature of Science[,]" The Science Teacher, (2004).

    3. Adopted from NSTA position statement on the Nature of Science, (2000).

    4. Adopted from Education Week, December 1, 2004.

    5. Adopted from NSTA position statement on The Teaching of Evolution, (2003).

    References:

    Cavanagh, Sean. PA. School Officials, Science Groups Split Over New Biology Curriculum. Education Week. (Vol. 23.) December 1, 2004. Bethesda, MD: Education Week.

    DPI (Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction). 1982. Evolution, Creation, and the Science Curriculum. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

    DPI (Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction) 1998. Wisconsin's Model Academic Standards for Science. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

    DPI (Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction) 2001. Planning Curriculum in Social Studies. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

    DPI (Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction) 2002. Planning Curriculum in Science. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

    (NCSE) National Center for Science Education. 1995. Voices for Evolution. Berkeley CA: The National Center for Science Education, Inc.

    (NCSE) National Center for Science Education. 2004. White House Science Advisor: Evolution a Cornerstone of Modern Biology. www.ncseweb.org.

    NRC (National Research Council). National Science Education Standards. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

    NSTA (National Science Teachers Association). 2000. NSTA Position Statement: The Nature of Science. Arlington, VA: National Science Teachers Association Press.

    NSTA (National Science Teachers Association). 2003. NSTA Position Statement: The Teaching of Evolution. Arlington, VA: National Science Teachers Association Press.

    McCo[m]as, William. "Keys to Teaching the Nature of Science." The Science Teacher Vol. 71(9). Arlington, VA: National Science Teachers Association Press.

    Paty, Alma Hale, Sharon Smith, and Julia A. Jackson. Evolution in Earth History. American Geological Institute. Alexandria, VA: www.agiweb.org.

    Quammen, David. "Was Darwin Wrong? No. The Evidence for Evolution is Overwhelming." National Geographic. November, 2004. Washington, D.C.: The National Geographic Society.

    The National Academy of Sciences. 1998. Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

    The National Academy of Sciences. 1998. Evolution in Hawaii: A Supplement to: Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

    The National Academy of Sciences. 1999. Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.