Recognizing that the theory of evolution is fundamental to understanding and studying the origins and diversity of living things, the Society for Neuroscience opposes the assertion that teaching intelligent design theory is a valid scientific alternative to teaching evolution in science classrooms.
The theory of evolution is accepted with remarkable consensus throughout the scientific community. The evidence in its support has accumulated over the past 160 years-from fields as disparate as paleontology and genomics-and is overwhelming. Scientific advances in the field of evolution, as in every other field of science, are obtained on the basis of respectful debate, the continuous search for truth, and meticulous investigation to accept or reject ideas supported by evidence. In this regard, education on evolution and on science in general provides tools for a better understanding of ourselves and the world and also provides individuals with a language for universal understanding, mutual respect, and tolerance.
Intelligent design is the most recent attempt by creationists to undermine the theory of evolution in the science classroom. Thwarted by past legal decisions upholding the separation of church and state, proponents of intelligent design have resorted to masking their religious beliefs with the pseudo-scientific language of this theory. By invoking "intelligent forces" to account for biological diversity, however, intelligent design presents a theory that is as supernatural and unscientific as the traditional creationist one. In fact, intelligent design theory runs counter to the established principles of science in that it is not based on evidence or testable through the scientific method. Intelligent design is not science, and has no place in the science classroom.
The process underpinning evolution — natural selection — has been widely and thoroughly documented. As in all areas of active research, scientists continue to debate the details. Yet these disagreements should not be misconstrued, as they have been by creationists, as evidence of fundamental problems with the theory. There is consensus within the scientific community about the overall validity of Darwin's theory. In fact, evolution is still evident today; with bacterial resistance to antibiotics and potential mutations in influenza that could impact avian flu transmission as examples that profoundly affect world health. Evolution is an essential component of modern science education. K-12 science education based on anything other than tested and accepted scientific theory is detrimental to the education of America's youth.
Creationists often argue that religious and scientific worldviews are incompatible, asserting that it is impossible to be both actively religious and accept the theory of evolution. However, many people, including prominent scientists, embrace both evolution and a belief in God. SfN strongly disputes the claims made by advocates of intelligent design that subscribing to a scientific view of the world is incompatible with religious experience.
The Society for Neuroscience supports the teaching of evolution, and opposes the teaching of intelligent design in science classrooms. Education about evolution is essential to our future competitiveness as a nation, so it is imperative that an understanding of this fundamental scientific theory be shared with the school children of America. The mixing of faith or religious belief with the scientific method is not a sound lesson for our children's education.