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.