The history of science can teach us much about the nature and development of science over time. As the National Academy of Sciences explains in its National Science Education Standards, "In learning science, students need to understand that science reflects its history and is an ongoing, changing enterprise. The standards for the history and nature of science recommend the use of history in school science programs to clarify different aspects of scientific inquiry, the human aspects of science, and the role that science has played in the development of various cultures."
The History of Science Society endorses this view, developed as part of a process that involved over 18,000 scientists and all the major scientific organizations and funding agencies. The history of science helps us understand scientific processes and is important for informing the way that science is used publicly, for example, in the courts and in the development of educational standards in those states and countries that have chosen to develop such standards for their public schools. In such cases it is important to draw on the best available understanding of science and its social context.
Recent discussions about educational standards in public schools have focused on the teaching of evolution and related issues. The history of science shows that such concepts as evolution and geological change are well established and belong in science curricula along with other basic scientific ideas. The history of science has generated a rich literature exploring the development of these concepts as well as the relationship between science and religion; this discussion is available to inform ongoing public discussion.
In view of this historical perspective, the History of Science Society disapproves of recent efforts by state school boards effectively to remove evolution as a subject from the secondary school curriculum, either through textbook disclaimers or censorship. Such efforts will only hinder students from developing a historical appreciation for science as a process of intellectual inquiry and from understanding the place of science in society, both past and present.
The History of Science Society, which explores the nature of science and scientific change, provides a valuable resource of over 2,900 members, many of whom are available to serve as consultants in public arenas. Through its publications and other activities, the Society provides scholars, decision makers, educators, and the public with historical perspectives on science policy and on the potentials, achievements, and the limitations of basic and applied science.