The Society for Amateur Scientists was founded to place the power, process, and promise of science within reach of everyone. SAS links science enthusiasts of all backgrounds and interests with world-class professional scientists, to empower amateurs to take part in the great scientific debates of our time as full members of the scientific community. Our mission is two-fold: to advance science by bringing untapped talent into the field, and to help create a more scientifically literate public.
The debate about teaching evolution and scientific creationism in the public schools has raged for decades. Is it appropriate for an grass roots science organization like ours to comment on this debate? Absolutely. The Society for Amateur Scientists was founded to educate people about how science works, what science tells us about our world, and how everyday people can take an active part in fascinating scientific issues. Some participants in this debate constantly distort science and misinform the public. Correcting misunderstandings is clearly part of any educational mission.
But there is a deeper concern. Our democracy depends on an informed and educated electorate. As science literacy suffers, so does our country. This is truer today then ever before as the voting public is faced with ever more technical issues about which they are asked to make informed choices. By not opposing bad science whenever we can, SAS would be implicitly aiding the forces of unreason to distort fundamental principles of science in the public mind. We believe that it is vital that all scientific organizations, including SAS, stand against bad science.
In the last 100 years, science has forged a profound understanding of many different fields which bear on the question of our origin. Genetics, astronomy, geology, paleontology, biology, physiology, anatomy and physics all speak with one voice. The universe is ancient, perhaps 15 billion years old. The earth too is ancient, perhaps 5 billion years old. And life is ancient, perhaps 2 billion years old.
The evidence is abundant and irrefutable. Life has changed drastically over earth's history. Since the first complex multi-cellular forms appeared about 650 million years ago organisms have lived, died and adapted to their environments through many violent upheavals on the planet. The one constant has been the process of change itself — of mutation and natural selection, the hammer and anvil by which nature has sculpted her handiwork into the imperfectly beautiful and intricate web of life that now covers the planet.
On the question of humanity, the data support only one conclusion — humans arose like all other beings with which we share the earth; through the random mutations altering our ancestors' bodies over eons, and natural selection blindly and mercilessly cutting away the chaff. Evolution is the great shaper of all life on earth.
Today, evolution is the unifying principle of biology. Nothing makes sense without it. True, it remains a very active field of research and many subtle and fascinating questions remain to be answered. However, that life has adapted and changed through time is as well established as the fact that the earth goes round the sun.
Evolution is science, and as such belongs in science classrooms. By contrast scientific creationism just doesn't make the grade. None of the arguments which scientific creationists make against evolution withstand scrutiny and most were first refuted nearly a century ago. And the creationists have never been able to marshal quality evidence that strongly supports their ideas.
This statement was approved by our Board of Directors. Amateur scientists are often fiercely independent, and some of our members do not accept evolution. While the Board of Directors respects their views and values their input, we wish to make it clear that SAS will never participate in creationist research. However, we do not restrict our membership to avowed evolutionists. As a scientific organization, we insist only that our members be willing to consider any position that can be supported by empirical evidence. In this we are quite unlike the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), the primary promoter of Scientific Creationism in public school, which requires its members to sign a statement attesting to their belief in the literal truth of the Bible. ICR's agenda is religion concealed in the guise of science. Their materials in particular have no place in a science classroom.
Shawn Carlson, Ph.D.
Paul MacCready, Ph.D.
Glenn T. Seaborg, Ph.D.