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Statements added since the 3rd edition are denoted with a *
Can creation science or intelligent design be taught in schools?
Yes, but not in science classes. Creation science and intelligent design represent worldviews that fall outside of the realm of science that is defined as (and limited to) a method of inquiry based on gathering observable and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. Creation science, intelligent design, and other worldviews that focus on speculation regarding the origins of life represent another important and relevant form of human inquiry that is appropriately studied in literature or social sciences courses. Such study, however, must include a diversity of worldviews representing a variety of religious and philosophical perspectives and must avoid privileging one view as more legitimate than others.
The scientific consensus around evolution is overwhelming. Those opposed to the teaching of evolution sometimes use quotations from prominent scientists out of context to claim that scientists do not support evolution. However, examination of the quotations reveals that the scientists are actually disputing some aspect of how evolution occurs, not whether evolution occurred.1Such debates about the mechanisms and details of evolution are a normal part of the scientific process, and gradually have led to a consensus about the history of life on Earth. The ability to alter explanations when new evidence or theory is encountered is one of the strengths of a scientific way of knowing. Religious or philosophical interpretations should be distinguished from scientific knowledge per se, to the extent that it is possible to delineate such distinctions. Science describes and explains the natural world: it does not prove or disprove beliefs about the supernatural.
WHEREAS, the mission of the American Fisheries Society is to improve the conservation and sustainability of fishery resources and aquatic ecosystems by advancing fisheries and aquatic science and promoting the development of fisheries professionals; and
WHEREAS, effective conservation and sustainable management of aquatic resources must be based on sound scientific principles that incorporate physical, biological and ecological processes; and
WHEREAS, science is a systematic method of continuing investigation based on observation, measurement, hypothesis testing, experimentation, and theory building; and
WHEREAS, the body of knowledge encompassed by the theory of evolution is the foundation and unifying principle of the biological and ecological sciences and is supported by a vast body of interdisciplinary evidence; and
WHEREAS, the theory of evolution satisfies the scientific criteria of being understood through scientific scrutiny, revision and evaluation through testable hypotheses; and
WHEREAS, many local, state and national organizations continue to argue for inclusion of creationism, intelligent design or other political or faith-based doctrines alongside evolution in the science curricula of public schools; and
WHEREAS, none of the various faith-based doctrines have proposed scientifically testable hypotheses or rest upon a credible foundation of scientific evidence; and WHEREAS, the lack of scientific foundation or scientifically testable structure of faithbased doctrines make them improper for inclusion in scientific curricula; and
WHEREAS, scientific organizations have a duty to demand and ensure scientific principles in research and education,
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, The American Fisheries Society, in accordance with more than 70 other scientific societies, affirms that the theory of evolution is the only current scientific explanation for the diversity of life on earth for inclusion in the science curricula of public schools.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the American Fisheries Society opposes policies that would allow the teaching of creationism, intelligent design or other political or faithbased doctrines in public school science classes and encourages citizens, educational authorities and legislators to oppose such policies at the appropriate federal, state and local levels of government.
AGU affirms the central importance of including scientific theories of Earth history and biological evolution in science education. Within the scientific community, the theory of biological evolution is not controversial, nor have "alternative explanations" been found. This is why no competing theories are required by the U.S. National Science Education Standards. Explanations of natural phenomena that appeal to the supernatural or are based on religious doctrine — and therefore cannot be tested through scientific inquiry — are not scientific, and have no place in the science classroom.
Evolution through natural selection is one of the great unifying theories of biology. It explains the myriad forms of life — including human — that have originated from simple beginnings early in Earth’s four and a half billion year history, and it emphasizes the interrelatedness of all living things. It is a theory in the scientific sense — a body of knowledge that has accumulated through testing of hypotheses, by observation and by experiment over a long period, so as to become accepted by the scientific community as an explanation of natural phenomena. Although there is broad agreement within the scientific community, the theory of evolution, like any scientific theory, is subject to revision as our understanding improves. Indeed, science seeks to unravel innumerable unsolved problems in the natural world, including the evolution of the universe itself.
An increasingly complex and competitive international economy calls for a scientifically literate public. The theory of biological evolution is one of the most important foundations of the science enterprise, and therefore education of the future workforce in evolution and other pillars of science is essential.
In addition to the practical benefits of understanding evolution, there is an aesthetic one: the gaining of a sense of awe and wonder at the beautiful complexity of our dynamic planet and the integral role of its evolving biological component throughout much of its history. To deny students a full understanding of the theory of evolution in the context of Earth history is to deprive them of an important part of their intellectual heritage.
AGU urges its members to help the public better understand the scientific process, including biological evolution and the history of the Earth, as foundations of science.
Darwin’s great insight that the vast diversity of life on earth arose over time from a common ancestor revolutionized scientific understanding, with substantial benefit to our economy and our well being. Today, evolutionary principles are the foundation of all of modern biology and have led to major advances in fields as diverse as molecular biology, developmental biology, genetics, behavior, and paleontology. Understanding evolution also allows us to identify genes underlying human illness, combat infectious diseases, mitigate impacts of invasive species, and control pathogens and pests of our crops and livestock.
The importance of evolution to science and society is outlined in “Evolution, Science, and Society,” a document representing the broad consensus of eight major scientific societies, in which the American Society of Naturalists played an important role. Evolution is at the heart of the mission of the American Society of Naturalists to enhance the conceptual unification of the biological sciences.
Evolution is supported by overwhelming scientific evidence from many disciplines. Like all scientific theories, evolutionary theory generates explicit hypotheses about the world around us, and these hypotheses are then tested against the facts through observation and experimentation. Hypotheses supported by results from multiple lines of inquiry are used to extend the theory, whereas hypotheses not supported by facts are discarded. This scientific process has yielded a robust, empirically supported theory of evolution, which continues to be developed and rigorously tested.
Science is only science when it can empirically test hypotheses and discover whether the facts support or refute them. Science cannot refute or support hypotheses concerning the existence, actions, or methods of God or any other intelligent designer. Such articles of faith should not be part of the science curriculum in public schools simply because they cannot be empirically tested and thus they fall outside the purview of science. In contrast, evolution is a rigorously tested and ever-expanding body of scientific knowledge that underlies and integrates our understanding of all areas of the biological world — from our cells and DNA to our lakes and forests. As such, evolution must be an integral part of any science curriculum.
With a solid science education that includes evolutionary biology, today’s students will find better solutions to tomorrow’s problems.
The American Society of Plant Taxonomists fully endorses the use of evolution in the scholarship of its members and supports teaching this theory in schools, colleges and universities. Evolution includes both statements of fact and evidence to support these statements. Evolution has been variously defined as changes in gene frequencies over time, descent with modification and the existence of a common ancestor from which all life descends. Much of the evidence for these definitions is found in the universality of the genetic code, homologous structures within groups of related taxa, and the fossil record.
As scholars, many members of ASPT study evolution in order to shed light on how the evolutionary process works. Others use the scientific basis of evolution to define historical relationships among taxa, to understand how certain characters have evolved within a group of taxa, and to study coevolutionary relationships such as those between plants and their pollinators or plants and seed dispersers. As educators, we believe that evolution is an essential component of science education. In the absence of an evolutionary context, our understanding of the origin and complexity of the earth’s biodiversity and our ability to realize critical advances in medicine and agriculture would not be possible. Acknowledging our obligations as scientists and educators, we join the many other scientific societies that have endorsed the role of evolution as a unifying principle both in scientific scholarship and science curricula at all educational levels.
It is the mission of the American Statistical Association to promote excellence in statistical practice and to work for the improvement of statistical education at all levels. Statistics, as the science of data, is embedded within the broader scientific enterprise, and as statisticians, we have a responsibility to help safeguard its integrity and that of science education generally.
ASA takes no position on whether intelligent design is right or wrong. Nevertheless, it is clear that intelligent design is not a scientific theory subject to empirical testing, and thus has no place in science education.
Therefore, the Board of Directors of ASA adopts the following resolution:
Intelligent design should not be taught as part of any science curriculum. Further, the Association urges its members to continue to support vigorously those principles of inquiry and verification that characterize sound scientific practice.
Evolution is a central concept in modern science, including biology, geology, and astronomy. The California Academy of Sciences, with its broad mission to explore, explain, and protect the natural world, recognizes that evolution is fundamental to understanding biological diversity and is a critical organizing principle for both scientific research and science museums.
In biology, the basic facts of evolution, including the extinction and emergence of new species over time, were understood and accepted by the end of the nineteenth century. Charles Darwin identified natural selection as a primary mechanism driving evolution (that some organisms are more likely to survive and reproduce, thus their genetic traits will be inherited by future generations while other traits will be lost). Through selection, some life-forms thrive, reproduce, and adapt as conditions change, whereas others disappear. The detailed processes that create variation and drive natural selection became evident during the twentieth century with the discoveries of DNA and molecular inheritance. Twentieth century geologists also learned to use radioactivity to determine the age of the Earth (4.5 billion years), and astronomers discovered the expansion of the universe, measuring its age as approximately 14 billion years. Change is an inherent property of stars, planets, and life.
Scientists in many fields use evolutionary concepts daily in their research. In pharmacology and agriculture, these concepts are central to efforts to overcome the evolution of harmful organisms that have become resistant to antibiotics or pesticides. Evolution as the organizing principle for science museums has transformed the eighteenth-century collections of "curiosities" into modern museums of natural history. The California Academy of Sciences recognizes the importance of understanding evolution for both scientists and the public, and we emphasize that evolution belongs in school curricula and textbooks as one of the fundamental concepts of modern science.
Canadian media report growing public pressure to introduce Creationism and its equivalent Intelligent Design (ID) in school curricula, hinting that Creationism/ID is a ‘theory’, thus suggesting that it shares common ground with science-based theories. Such reporting ignores the fundamental difference between faith and measurable facts. CFES-FCST is extremely concerned about this trend, and not only because of the demonstrated importance of science to Canadian society.
Science progresses through the application of the scientific method in which hypotheses are supported or falsified. Hypotheses are tested through meticulous observation and experimentation. Results are reported in articles which are reviewed thoroughly by more than one expert in the field (peer review). When experts conclude that it is no longer possible to refute a hypothesis, it becomes a theory. The road from hypothesis to theory is long and arduous and may take decades, even centuries. A theory is therefore an extremely well-substantiated explanation of certain aspects of the natural world, incorporating facts and tested hypotheses. Thus, proper use of the scientific method results in the discovery of universal truths from which all of humanity, irrespective of religious leanings, may benefit. Unlike common vernacular sometimes suggests, a theory is anything but a vague, speculative idea.
The theory of plate tectonics for example explains the motion of continental plates which form the Earth’s crust. It explains why and where earthquakes occur, and why mountain chains, mineral assemblages and fossil fuels are where we find them. Similarly, the theory of evolution explains how species evolve through genetic mutation over time. Both are solid theories in the sense that that there are no measurable and observable facts that indicate that they are wrong. In addition, we know the age of the earth (ca. 4.5 billion years) and we can date events that took place between the time of origin of the earth and today by measuring the remaining amounts of naturally occurring radio-active elements of which the half lives (the time during which the element changes its properties so that half of its original mass remains) can be reliably and accurately calculated.
Creationism and ID do not qualify as science, because the scientific method is not deployed and these ideas are therefore not theories or hypotheses in universally accepted scientific sense. Hence, Creationism and ID do not belong in any K-12 science curriculum. CFES-FCST strongly recommends that science education is limited to those subjects to which the scientific method applies.
There is overwhelming evidence that life has evolved over thousands of millions of years. The ancestors of modern organisms, as well as whole groups that are now completely extinct, have been found in great abundance as fossils. The main processes responsible for evolutionary change, such as variation and natural selection, have been repeatedly observed and verified in natural populations and in laboratory experiments. All the features of living organisms, including those discovered in the recent advances in molecular biology, are readily explained by the principles of evolution. Any scientific theory that provides a clear mechanism, offers a broad explanation of natural phenomena, receives strong support from observation and experiment and that is never refuted by careful investigation is usually called a “fact”. The cell theory of organisms, the germ theory of infection, the gene theory of inheritance and the theory of evolution are all facts. Teaching alternative theories as though they had equivalent scientific status is a perversion of education that damages children’s ability to understand the natural world. In particular, creationism is a religious doctrine long since known to be a fallacious account of Earth history that has no scientific standing and cannot be represented as a credible alternative to evolution. Evolution is the single most important principle of modern biology and the foundation of any sound biology curriculum.
WHEREAS, entomology, the scientific study of insects and their relatives, aims to increase knowledge of the biology of this largest group of animals on Earth and apply that knowledge toward improving human health and well-being. Advances in entomology depend upon rigorous and widely accepted scientific methods that include the development of hypotheses based on observations that are tested and either falsified or incorporated into the body of knowledge that constitutes the discipline. Any hypothesis that cannot be rejected based on evidence is inherently unscientific.
AND WHEREAS, in all other sciences, the knowledge that accumulates from the testing of various hypotheses can lead to the development of scientific theories, which offer the most comprehensive explanations of natural phenomena and predict the characteristics of as yet unobserved phenomena. Evolution is one of the most robust theories in the biological sciences and has been integral to the conduct of entomological science since it was first articulated some 150 years ago. Indeed, entomologists were among the first North American scientists to incorporate evolutionary theory into their work and have successfully used its explanatory and predictive power to elucidate aspects of the systematics, ecology, physiology, and genetics of insects and their relatives.
AND WHEREAS, no meaningful or significant controversy exists within the biological sciences — entomology included — about the centrality and legitimacy of evolutionary theory. Ongoing study and refinement of evolutionary theory are reflections of the manner in which all areas of science advance.
AND WHEREAS, in contrast, intelligent design — with its central tenet of irreducible complexity (i.e., aspects of living systems are too complex to ascribe to biological processes and therefore must have been designed by some intelligent force) — is neither predictive nor falsifiable and therefore does not meet the standards of science. Accordingly, intelligent design has no utility in entomology and — for the same reason — has no legitimate place in science classrooms at any level of instruction.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that for the United States to remain intellectually and economically competitive in the 21st century, its science must be conducted according to time-tested and globally acceptable standards. Evolutionary theory meets those standards and provides the foundation on which the biological sciences can most productively continue to advance. We should expect no less in the quality of science education in this country.
Whereas, entomological science is firmly based on the theory of evolution by natural selection, which is the robust, well-proven and congruent foundation of biological science, and
Whereas, proponents of Creationism and so-called Intelligent Design have promoted the teaching in public schools of explanations of natural phenomena based on religious faith or political positions, while denying evolutionary theory, without offering evidence of convincing arguments, and
Whereas, Creationism and Intelligent Design further undermine science education in general, by presenting misleading arguments, invalid methods, and false definitions, for example regarding what constitutes theory, fact, and hypothesis, and
Whereas, scientific organizations have a duty to maintain the high quality of science in research, education and service to society,
Therefore, be it resolved that the Entomological Society of Canada, like other scientific societies and their members, affirms that the body of knowledge referred to as the theory of evolution is the foundation and unifying principle of biological sciences, and further that the Entomological Society of Canada opposes policies that would allow the teaching of Intelligent Design and other faith-based beliefs in public school sciences classes.
The Geological Society of America strongly supports teaching evolution and the directly related concept of deep time as part of science curricula. GSA opposes teaching creationism alongside evolution in any science classroom. The evolution of life on Earth stands as one of the central concepts of modern science. During the past two centuries, research in geology, paleontology, and biology has produced an increasingly detailed and consistent picture of how life on Earth has evolved.
Science, by definition, is a method of learning about the natural universe by asking questions in such a way that they can be answered empirically and verifiably. If a question cannot be framed so that the answer can be tested, and the test results can be reproduced by others, then it is not science. Creationism, whether in its earlier form as creation "science" or its more recent guise of intelligent design, attempts to explain complicated phenomena of the natural world by invoking a creator or designer. Creationism is not science because it invokes supernatural phenomena that cannot be tested. It therefore has no place in a science curriculum. Because science is limited to explaining natural phenomena through the use of empirical evidence, it cannot provide religious or ultimate explanations. Science teachers should not advocate any religions interpretations of nature and should be nonjudgmental about the personal beliefs of students.
This position statement (1) summarizes GSA's views regarding the teaching of evolution; (2) defines evolution and discusses the physical and biological evidence for evolution; (3) describes the concepts of intelligent design and creation science, and why they are not science; and (4) provides a communications tool for GSA member use.
The rock record provides a treasure trove of fossils, and by the early 1800s, geologists had used physical relationships among rocks to establish the basis for the geologic time scale. They understood that the fossil record shows major changes in life forms over time. In 1859, Darwin's On the Origin of Species showed that these changes can be explained by natural selection operating on random variations in organisms — the process we now know as biological evolution. Since then, we have continued to uncover details of life's history, and biologists have elucidated the genetic and molecular basis for evolution. Evolution is not a static idea but a growing concept added to by scientific observation, testing, and debate. Scientific discoveries in these fields and related disciplines have progressively sharpened our understanding of evolution, which is now well established as a well-tested fact. Evolution is accepted by the scientific community because all available evidence supports the central conclusions of evolutionary science: that life on Earth has evolved and species share common ancestors and genomes.
The discovery of radioactivity in the twentieth century and its use for measuring ages of rocks has made it possible to quantify the age of Earth and to estimate rates of many geologic processes. Many rocks of over a billion years in age can now be dated with great precision. The ages of many rocks have been confirmed by repeated tests in multiple laboratories, often using different isotopic decay schemes. The results are consistent with the processes that uplift the land and cause the erosion and deposition of sediments. Geologists can now identify rocks that record hundreds of millions of years of sedimentation by the slow layer-by-layer accumulation of mud, the rhythmic rise and fall of tides on ancient continental margins, or the slow back-and-forth meandering of rivers in ancient valleys. Organisms that grow only a few millimeters each year have formed reefs hundreds of meters thick. Additionally, techniques that date more recent deposits have been repeatedly and accurately compared to known historical events.
Studies of Earth's history, including the evolution of life on Earth, aid not only in the search for natural resources, but also in the quest to understand how the Earth-life system functions. The geologic record reveals how forms of life have responded to past environmental change, sometimes migrating, sometimes evolving, and sometimes becoming extinct. Understanding evolution has made possible many of the medical advances that save human lives and has furthered agricultural developments that feed the world.
The short-term adaptive evolution demonstrated by the ability of viruses to evolve and adapt to new vaccines, or simply to new environmental conditions, is readily comparable to longer-termed evolution of more advanced species.
From before the time of Darwin, some people have objected to and challenged those findings of science that were considered to conflict with certain traditional religious beliefs about creation. Creation "science" and intelligent design have emerged from religious thought, and because they invoke supernatural phenomena, they cannot frame questions that can be tested scientifically. Therefore, by definition, the notions of creation "science" and intelligent design are not science. The immensity of geologic time and the evolutionary origin of species are concepts that pervade modern geology, biology, and other sciences that support human life. These concepts must therefore be treated as central themes of science courses. Without an adequate knowledge of geologic time and the evolutionary origin of species, students will not understand the processes that shape the natural environment in which they live. As a result, they will lack the understanding that is essential for making wise decisions regarding the environment upon which our survival depends.
The Geological Society of Australia observes a basic policy of non-discrimination and affirms the right of scientists to adhere to or associate with scientific activity without restrictions based on nationality, race, colour, age, religion, political philosophy, ethnic origin, citizenship, language or sex. The Society endorses the universality of science within the natural world.
Scientists, like many others, are touched with awe at the order and complexity of nature. Science seeks to explain natural phenomena using natural laws, verifiable and reproducible observations and logical analysis; it reaches explanations that are always subject to amendment with new evidence.
The Geological Society of Australia considers that notions such as Fundamental Creationism, including so called "Flood Geology", which disregard scientific evidence such as that based on repeatable observations in the natural world and the geological record, are not science and cannot be taught as science.
An essential element in the teaching of science is the encouragement of students and teachers to critically appraise the evidence for notions being taught as science. The Society states unequivocally that the dogmatic teaching of notions such as Creationism within a science curriculum stifles the development of critical thinking patterns in the developing mind and seriously compromises the best interests of objective public education. This could eventually hamper the advancement of science and technology as students take their places as leaders of future generations.
In some parts of Australia, the advocacy of notions like Creationism is confronting the integrity and effectiveness of our national education system and the hard-won evidence based foundations of science. The Geological Society of Australia cannot remain silent. To do so would be a dereliction of our responsibility to intellectual freedom and to the fundamental principles of scientific thought. As a consequence, the Society dissociates itself from Creationist statements made by any member.
This Policy statement sets out the views of a learned Society dedicated to scientific investigation in earth science, including research, resources exploration, and education. It is made with the agreement of the Society's Executive Committee and the below-listed Past Presidents of the Society, which are taken collectively to reasonably represent the sustaining wisdom of the Society in this matter.
Prof A J Gleadow (2006-2008)
Prof A J Crawford (2004-2006)
Prof J D Foden (2002-2004)
Prof E C Leitch (2000-2002)
Prof R A Henderson (1998-2000)
Dr D Denham (1996-1998)
Prof D I Groves (1994-1996)
Mr P J Legge (1992-1994)
Prof D H Green (1990-1992)
Mr I R Johnson (1988-1990)
Prof D M Boyd (1986-1988)
Dr J B Waterhouse (1984-1986)
Dr M J Rickard (1983-1984)
Dr R D Gee (1981-1983)
Dr C D Branch (1980-1981)
Prof J F Lovering AO (1978-1980)
Prof S W Carey (1977-1978)
Dr N H Ludbrook (1968-1969)
Dr M R Banks (1966-1967)
Dr J A Dulhunty (1964-1965)
Dr N H Fisher (1959-1961)
Prof R T Prider (1958-1959)
* ‘Creationism’ includes 'Intelligent Design’.
This Society upholds the right of freedom of belief for all. The freedom scientists enjoy to investigate the nature and history of the Earth is the same freedom that allows individuals to believe — or not — in a deity.
Science's business is to investigate the constitution of the universe, and cannot pronounce on any concept that lies "beyond" nature. This is the meaning of “agnostic”, the word coined by former GSL President Thomas Henry Huxley, to describe a scientist’s position of being “unable to know”. This Society has therefore long operated according to the view that religion and science only become incompatible with each other when one attempts to trespass upon the domain of the other.
The idea that the Earth was divinely created in the geologically recent past ("Young Earth Creationism"); attempts by Young Earth Creationists to gain acceptance for what they misrepresent in public as corroborative empirical evidence for this view ("Creation science"); and the allied belief that features of the universe and of living things are better explained as the direct result of action by an intelligent cause than by natural processes ("Intelligent Design"), represent such a trespass upon the domain of science.
The Geological Society of London is the oldest national learned society for the Earth sciences in the world, and embodies the collective knowledge of nearly 10,000 Earth scientists worldwide. On their behalf it wishes, during the United Nations International Year of Planet Earth, to place on record the following facts as being long established beyond doubt.
Whereas science is defined as and limited to explanations based on natural, observable and testable phenomena and, therefore, is explicitly distinguished from other types of explanations that depend on concepts relating to the supernatural (for example,” intelligent design”, “creation science", and” informed debate” paradigms); and
Whereas, learning and inquiry are severely inhibited if teachers are placed in a position where they may feel pressured to alter their teaching of the fundamental concepts of science in response to demands external to scientific disciplines; and,
Whereas, evolution theory is fundamental to a thorough understanding of biological concepts as reflected in the Indiana teaching standards,
Therefore be it resolved that the Indiana Academy of Science, as a part of its commitment to educational excellence in science instruction, opposes any restriction or imposition on the teaching of biological and cosmic evolution in the curricula of Indiana's educational institutions.
Indiana scientists and educators recognize the critical importance of a strong grounding in the fundamental principles of science for all of Indiana's youths. The extensive reasoning and consideration that has gone into the official position of the Indiana Academy of Science on this issue (described in the resolution above) parallels that of all significant scientific and science education organizations across North America. If you are interested in more details on the justification for this important and unanimous stance across these institutions, we strongly recommend that you go to the WWW links provided below for the National Academy of Science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Science Teachers Association and the National Center for Science Education.
These organizations provide helpful background information on science, science education, and the distinction between scientific and supernatural explanations of life. The fact that this information is typically highlighted on the front pages of their web sites is an indication of the importance placed on this issue. The Indiana Academy of Science fully endorses the resolutions and policies of these prominent institutions in order to promote instruction in science unencumbered by non-scientific explanations of life and the cosmos.
The scientific content of science courses should be determined by scientists and science teachers 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 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 be investigated by future research.
3. It should be logically consistent.
4. It should be consistent with 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 the 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.
On November 13, 1999, the membership of the Oklahoma Academy of Science passed two resolutions in response to the November 5 actions of the State Textbook Committee. This committee had decided to require that a disclaimer be affixed to every post-elementary, pre-college biology textbook purchased with state funds. This disclaimer would warn students to beware of the theory of evolution, although not claiming it to be false. The Academy's first resolution states, “We disagree with the action of the Oklahoma State Textbook Committee to affix a disclaimer to any textbook.” The second resolution states, “We affirm that the theory of evolution is the current best explanation for a large body of facts and that no other theory adequately explains these observations.” These resolutions were supported by an overwhelming majority of the general membership attending the Annual Meeting. Reasons for the Academy's objections are several. Among them are the following:
1. The Academy believes that the Committee affixed the disclaimer without adequate background research. They did not consult any scientists at any of Oklahoma's state universities before making their decision. As scientists, members of the Academy object strongly to having political appointees proclaim their version of scientific theories which they have not thoroughly studied.
2. The Academy fears that further disclaimers could be affixed to other textbooks. For example, a small but not insignificant number of citizens, including some who are well-educated, reject medical science and refuse to participate in such programs as vaccination. Should the textbook committee affix a disclaimer to human biology textbooks, urging students to consider whether medical science is "only a theory"?
3. The Academy considered several statements within the disclaimer to be inaccurate, in particular the disclaimer's assertion that transitional forms are absent from the fossil record. Intermediate forms are indeed found in the fossil record, e.g., the recently discovered fossils of primitive birds and feathered dinosaurs from Liaoning Province, China. There also is no real distinction between the processes of macro- and microevolution; the driving force of adaptive mutation is the same, and macroevolution is evident in the fossil record. The complete, complex set of instructions for forming living things can be explained as the cumulative result of physical forces and chemical reactions acting over billions of years.
The Academy believes that the fundamental unity of life is evident in the common building blocks of our cellular structures, the same four nucleotides in our genes, and the same code by which our proteins are made. This unity reinforces the fossil record in indicating that all organisms — plants, bacteria, and animals — are related. Such fundamental unity also inspires in many scientists an awe of the power and beauty of the physical universe that may reinforce a personal belief in a spiritual universe.
The Academy believes that the acceptance of the general theory of evolution and a belief in God are compatible. We regret that such actions as the affixing of a disclaimer on textbooks promotes, even if not intentionally, the incorrect idea that scientists are atheists who are trying to undermine religious beliefs in this state. A wide diversity of religious faiths and belief systems are celebrated in the community of science, and the majority of scientists accept the principles of evolutionary theory without compromising their individual faiths in a Creator. This includes even many evangelical Christians today and in the past who have accepted both the Judeo-Christian Bible and evolutionary theory, such as Harvard botanist Asa Gray, who was Charles Darwin's principal and earliest American proponent in the nineteenth century. This is because the practice of science — observation, measurement, experimental methods, drawing conclusions, forming and testing hypotheses, and establishing an overall theory of how things happen — simply does not address the ultimate questions of purpose. The theory of evolution is our most rational system that explains an enormous number of observations; why or by whom that system was set in motion is not within the bounds of scientific inquiry.
Science and religion can coexist harmoniously if people understand the strengths and limitations of each field. Albert Einstein said, “Science without religion is blind and religion without science is lame.” (1) Science and religion can complement each other — each informing the other in the domain where each is knowledgeable. Respected religious and world leaders such as Billy Graham, Jimmy Carter, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have written statements affirming harmony (2).
Strengths of Science — Science is very successful at understanding the tangible, perceivable world; anything that can be weighed, measured, detected, imaged or described objectively is the domain of science. Science can predict future actions of matter, energy, time, and space, based on past observations and experiments, or it can deduce past events, based on observing the results of those events. For example, geology can deduce what physical happenings occurred in the past and how long ago they occurred. Science can answer the HOW? and WHEN? questions about the physical world extremely well. Science is self-correcting; if new data or better interpretations become available, the scientific community will refine or add to its conclusions to reflect the recent findings.
Limitations of Science — Science cannot answer the ultimate WHO? or WHY? questions. Science is restricted to the domain of physically tangible things. Science can explain HOW things work in ever-finer detail. For example, physiology is explained in terms of biology and chemistry, which is further explained in terms of physics. Beyond the most detailed scientific explanation lies another question — What is the First Cause? Most scientists would argue that the “First Cause” is not knowable by the methods of science.
Teaching of Evolution in Public Schools — The Oklahoma Academy of Science strongly supports thorough teaching of evolution in biology classes. Evolution is one of the most important principles of science. A high school graduate who does not understand evolution is not prepared for college or for life in a technologically advanced world, in which the role of biology and biotechnology will continue to grow. The Academy affirms that the tangible, perceivable world is the domain of science and that science is clearly the discipline to explain HOW and WHEN the universe came into being. There is no credible scientific evidence that the earth came into being recently or that evolution is not the best explanation of the origins of living organisms. Science, by definition, starts with all available evidence, draws conclusions, and generates testable predictions. The content of science courses should be determined by scientists and science educators, and not by political or religious directives. In particular, science teachers should not be required to teach ideas, models, and theories that are extra-scientific (3). "Creationism" and “Intelligent Design” are not science because they do not conform to the testable and falsifiable criteria of science. It is not appropriate for science textbooks or science teachers to teach creation as science. Creation and other matters of faith are topics for religion, philosophy, and humanities courses.
Conclusion — The Academy regards the fundamental unity of life to be evident in the common building blocks and biochemical reactions of cells and in the remarkable conservation of information in DNA sequences across the biological kingdoms. The latter documents the relatedness of all organisms — plants, microorganisms, and animals. The Academy contends that the acceptance of the general theory of evolution and a belief in God are compatible. A wide diversity of religious faiths and belief systems are celebrated in the community of science, and the overwhelming majority of scientists accept the principles of evolutionary theory. Many do this without compromising their individual faiths in a Creator. This includes many evangelical Christians today and in the past who accepted both the Judeo-Christian Bible and evolutionary theory. One such individual was Harvard botanist Asa Gray, who was also Charles Darwin’s principal and earliest American proponent in the nineteenth century. There is no inconsistency in holding both viewpoints because the practice of science — observation, measurement, forming and testing hypotheses, controlled experimentation, drawing conclusions, and finally establishing an overall theory of how things happen — simply does not address the ultimate questions of purpose. The theory of evolution is our most rational system that explains an enormous number of observations; why or by whom that system was set in motion is not within the bounds of scientific inquiry.(4)
Understanding of the strengths and limitations of both science and religion can alleviate concerns of both scientists and non-scientists. Scientists do not accept the suppression or neglect of well-understood science because non-scientists dispute it for non-scientific reasons. Similarly, science does not speak on issues of purpose and creation, as these are not objectively testable. Science and religion have different perspectives when they address common issues, and recognizing the differences may make it possible for those active in both to realize that their most important goals are not in conflict.
"Evolution" refers both to a set of scientific facts and to a theory explaining such facts. "Evolution" refers to the scientific fact that biological organisms have changed through time, and that all life, including humanity, has descended with modification from common ancestors. Evolution is as well documented as are other currently accepted scientific facts. The theory of evolution is a comprehensive and well-established scientific explanation, based on natural processes, of the fact of biological evolution.
Evolutionary theory should be taught in public schools because it is one of the most important scientific theories ever generated, and because it is the accepted scientific explanation for the diversity of life. As a scientific theory, it is testable and has been extensively tested. As stated by the great geneticist and evolutionist Theodosius Dobzhansky, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." The theory of evolution is subject to refinements and revisions, but this is no different from any other major scientific theory, such as the those providing the explanatory frameworks of geology, physics, or chemistry. There is no pedagogical or scientific reason to treat evolutionary theory any differently than any other well-accepted scientific theory, and it should be taught in public schools as the firmly established, accepted unifying scientific principle that it is.
The Tennessee Academy of Science, as an affiliate of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, endorses the position statement of the AAAS concerning research and teaching of the scientific theory of evolution. Furthermore, TAS emphasizes that the theory of evolution is a fundamental concept of science, and thus 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 necessary perspective to understand Earth’s physical and biological development. Evolutionary studies also provide insight concerning the natural processes active on Earth and help to shape our view of Earth’s future.
Evolutionary studies and evolutionary education apply to all branches of science, including organic evolution, cosmic evolution, geologic evolution, planetary evolution, cultural evolution, and others. The scientific evidence for evolution is pervasive. Geologic studies show Earth has changed dramatically over time, with continents assuming new positions and geographies. Paleontological studies document that life forms on Earth have changed, with new species arising and others becoming extinct. Astronomers have documented that galaxies, stars and planets have changed over time. Biologists and anthropologists have documented that human biology and culture have changed. The ubiquity of such explanations indicates that evolution has become a vital component of modern science. The National Science Education Standards, Benchmarks for Science Literacy from AAAS’s Project 2061, numerous national education policy documents, and Tennessee’s published science education framework all recognize evolution’s role as a unifying concept for science disciplines that provides students, including future scientists, with the foundation to help them understand the natural world. For these reasons, TAS endorses the teaching of the scientific theory of evolution. TAS also stresses that teachers should be free from the distraction of non-scientific or antiscientific influence. TAS thus concludes that non-naturalistic or supernatural explanations, often guised as “creation science,” “scientific creationism,” or “intelligent design theory,” are not scientific in nature, do not conform to the scientific usage of “theory,” and should not be included in Tennessee’s science curricula.
The Texas Academy of Science has been one of the state’s leading advocates of scientific education since its founding in 1892. The Academy’s membership of nearly 1000 scientists and educators pursue a diverse array of scientific disciplines including mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, geosciences, physical anthropology, and computer science. Within their respective disciplines of study, the Academy’s members practice critical observation and experimentation of falsifiable concepts, which are the primary methods for obtaining the data on which scientifically defensible theories and concepts are based. Peer review and re-testing of hypotheses generated through scientific research are mandatory steps prior to the acceptance by the scientific community of any hypothesis or set of hypotheses leading to the development of a credible scientific theory. Newton’s theory of gravitation and the theory of evolution by natural selection are prime examples of scientific concepts that have been rigorously tested in this way by generations of scientists.
Today, the theory of evolution remains the primary unifying cognitive framework in the biological sciences. The effectiveness of the expanding knowledge base of biological systems and their multi-billion year histories requires a firm understanding of evolutionary processes. The purportedly competing “theories” explicated by creationists to displace the theory of evolution in the biological sciences are not based on an effective application of scientific methodologies, nor are they testable using established scientific methodologies. Scientific methodologies are not designed to address metaphysical questions that deal with the nature of god(s) or the reasons for the existence of the universe. The viewpoints expressed by adherents to creationism and intelligent design explicitly address such issues. The overwhelming majority of members of the scientific community defer to experts in philosophy and religion to address metaphysical issues relevant to their respective disciplines.
It is the position of the Texas Academy of Science that because neither creationism nor intelligent design are based on information obtained using scientific methodologies, and because neither has withstood the test of scientific peer review, they are not scientific concepts. It is critically important to recognize that neither of these concepts is falsifiable. Having failed the scientific verification process, both must be excluded from scientific curricula at the primary, secondary and higher education levels. This is not just the position of the Texas Academy of Science, it is the consensus of the U. S. Supreme Court, Judge John E. Jones in Kitzmiller vs. Dover (2004) and 11,000 plus Christian clergy signers of the Clergy Letter Project. Other scientific organizations throughout the United States have formulated position statements calling for the exclusion of creationism and intelligent design from science curricula, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science; the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; the National Research Council; the National Center for Science Education; the National Science Teachers Association; the National Association of Biology Teachers; the Geological Society of America; and the American Geological Institute. It is the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community that creationism and intelligent design are faith-based concepts that have no scientific merit.
Texas science teachers have a finite amount of class time and textbook space in which to teach the many valid and foundational scientific concepts that enable students to become knowledgeable consumers, decision makers and voters. Inclusion of creationist or intelligent design concepts in science curricula would seriously diminish the effectiveness of science education by distracting teachers from covering an already overwhelming body of knowledge and would consequently dilute student’s understanding of scientifically valid concepts and theories. Therefore, it is the position of the Texas Academy of Science that, through their policies and decisions, the State Board of Education, the Texas Education Agency and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board should ensure that neither “creationism” nor “intelligent design” is added to the state’s scientific curricula. If the State Board of Education considers the material presented by the concepts of “creationism” or “intelligent design” to be appropriate for inclusion in school curricula, these concepts should be addressed in humanities, social science, or religious studies curricula separate from all pre-kindergarten to graduate school-level science education programs.
Modern industry requires a scientifically educated workforce. In order for Texas to remain economically competitive, it is essential that all Texans, but especially our youth obtain a solid foundation in the sciences. Government agencies which oversee their education must enact policies and make personnel decisions that reflect a commitment to sound, science-based education and which are never dictated by the religious views of agency administrators. Integrating religious doctrine into the mission of the Texas Education Agency or the State Board of Education will result in a further lowering of the educational performance of Texas school children. The hiring of TEA administrators and staff must be based on appropriate educational credentials and teaching experience for those individuals to conduct the agency’s mission to educate the children of Texas. Texas’s reputation is at stake and the country is watching.
The Union of Concerned Scientists is an independent, nonprofit alliance of more than 200,000 citizens and scientists. We base our research and outreach on rigorous scientific analysis and the maintenance of scientific integrity in decision making among the public and policy makers.
We are gravely concerned about current attempts to mandate the teaching of “intelligent design” and other non-scientific accounts of the origins of species and biological diversity in our nation’s science classrooms. We are also troubled by the misleading interpretations of scientific principles being used to discredit and misrepresent the science of evolution. This misuse of science and education could have significant negative long-term consequences for American competitiveness and world leadership on scientific matters.
Science is a powerful way of understanding the natural world through a process of observation, experimentation, and analysis. It provides society with a reliable foundation for individual and collective decision making. Evolution by natural selection is one of the most studied and tested theories in science and is the central organizing principle of biology. It has played a fundamental role in the advancement of medical research— especially in areas involving genetics, disease resistance, and immunology—and is supported by key concepts in other scientific disciplines such as physics, geology, chemistry, and astronomy. Modern evolutionary theory provides a robust explanation for how life on Earth developed over the last four billion years through the passing on of genetic information from one generation to the next.1
The recent national focus on improving the level of math and science skills in the United States make attacks on evolution and science education particularly counterproductive. Science education enables students to develop the intellectual tools needed to make empirical judgments and play a productive and participatory role in human society. Evolution is a fundamental part of science education. UCS recommends and endorses the National Science Teachers Association statement on evolution, as well as the white paper Evolution Science and Society: Evolutionary Biology and the National Research Agenda, authored by eight major professional scientific societies.
For more than a century, overtly creationist views have driven most opposition to the teaching of evolution. The recently emerged intelligent design movement, on the other hand, takes on the guise of science to promote itself as a scientifically valid alternative to evolution. Intelligent design promoters suggest that some structures found in nature are too complex to have developed through natural selection and are best explained as having been purposefully designed by an “intelligent” agent. The main tenet of this movement is what its supporters call “irreducible complexity”: the idea that these structures are dependent on all of their individual parts to function, and therefore could not have evolved piecemeal over time. These and other claims are based on a misinterpretation of natural selection. Not all structures have the same function, or need to be simultaneously functional, throughout the evolution of an organism.2
Those advocating the teaching of intelligent design in the science classroom will only be successful if the public lacks understanding of basic concepts in science, including evolution. Despite the claims of the movement, intelligent design is not a scientific theory because the influence of an “intelligent” agent in the origin and evolution of life can neither be tested nor falsified.
Scientists, teachers, and members of the public are growing increasingly alarmed by attempts to convince the public and policy makers that intelligent design has a legitimate place in the science classroom. Numerous leading science and education groups have formally endorsed the teaching of evolutionary theory and opposed the teaching of non-science alternatives in the science classroom. They are also developing more effective public communications strategies to address these and other challenges to science. UCS supports these efforts.
This anti-evolution movement claims that it is only “fair” to teach alternatives to evolution. But a science classroom is not a place where all ideas are given equal weight. Science is a process in which ideas are ultimately accepted or discarded based on rigorous observation and testing. While discussions of intelligent design and creationism may have a role in other parts of the curriculum, they do not have a place in the science classroom.
For many scientists and people of faith, there is no conflict between science and religion. Numerous religious organizations have made statements in support of evolution and the separation of science and religion in the classroom.
If non-scientific beliefs are accepted as science, we are concerned that the public’s understanding of science will be further eroded, the integrity of science will be diminished, and the potential implications for society will be profound. The ability to distinguish between claims based on evidence and analysis of the natural world and those based on belief may be lost, leading our future decision makers to make choices based on unsubstantiated information.
Over the past several years, political interference with science that does not support certain political or ideological beliefs has become widespread and pervasive. The recent resurgence of anti-evolution movements is an example of this broader trend. We encourage the mobilization of scientists, teachers, policy makers, and concerned citizens to combat efforts to undermine science education and the integrity of science.
1. The theory of evolution is based on the principle of natural selection (descent with modification) proposed by Charles Darwin and others in the mid-nineteenth century. Modern evolutionary theory, referred to as “neo-Darwinism” or “evolutionary theory,” has progressed beyond Darwin’s ideas to include genetics and molecular biology and the investigation of additional natural mechanisms of evolution such as genetic drift. Although there is lively discussion about the role of different evolutionary mechanisms, there is no alternative theory with any credibility accepted by evolutionary biologists, or indeed the scientific community as a whole, about the validity of the theory of evolution.
2. Under the theory of natural selection, structures may have one function at one time and be adapted for another use later on. In some instances what might now be seen as complex may have begun as a byproduct of another structure with little or no function in its initial stages. Natural selection is not the only mechanism for evolution and some phenomena that may not be adequately explained by natural selection may be explained by other evolutionary mechanisms.