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Arkansas Science Teachers Association (2008) *

Introduction

The Arkansas Science Teachers Association strongly supports the position that evolution is a major unifying concept in science and should be included and maintained in the state K–12 science education frameworks and curricula. It should be titled “evolution” and not indirectly called “change over time” or similar wording.

Evolution is not taught in many Arkansas school districts. These students in these districts will not achieve the level of scientific literacy they needed in an increasingly technological and scientific society. They will not understand natural systems, genetics, natural selection, geologic time, population biology, environmental and climate change, medical and microbiological sciences issues or other important concepts related to an understanding of evolution.

This position is consistent with all scientific organizations that support the teaching evolution and an old Earth history as part of science curricula (National Science Foundation, National Science Teachers Association, American Association for the Advancement of Science, National Association of Biology Teachers, National Academy of Science, Geological Society of America, etc.).

Declaration

Evolution should be taught beginning in elementary school and with greater detail in each successive grade. Arkansas K-16 students and teaches should understand:

  • Evolution is a change in allele frequencies across successive generations in a population of organisms. These changes over long periods of time have led to all the life forms that have inhabited our planet.
  • The DNA of an organism will occasionally change, or mutate. A mutation changes the DNA of an organism in a way that affects its offspring, either immediately or several generations down the line.
  • The change brought about by a mutation can be beneficial, harmful or neutral. Such changes will be passed from generation to generation, a process called “decent with modification.” (If the change is harmful, then it is less likely that the offspring will survive to reproduce, so the mutation dies out and goes nowhere. If the change is beneficial, then it is more likely that the offspring will do better than other offspring and so will reproduce more. Through reproduction, the beneficial mutation spreads).
  • The process of culling bad mutations and spreading good mutations is called natural selection. It is a driving force in what life forms exist in a give time and environment.
  • Natural selection acts on the phenotype rather than the genotype of an organism.
  • Alleles that are lethal in a homozygous individual may be carried in a heterozygote and thus maintained in a gene pool.
  • New mutations are constantly being generated in a gene pool.
  • Variation within a species increases the likelihood that at least some members of a species will survive under changed environmental conditions.
  • Evolution is the result of genetic changes that occur in constantly changing environments.
  • Natural selection determines the differential survival of groups of organisms. When a population is split apart, each new population will continue to evolve in different directions. When the two populations are different enough, they are regarded as new species. This process is known as speciation. As populations continue to split and diverge, there will be a branching pattern of descent. As a species diverges over time, the descendants of a common ancestor can be grouped into nested groups: genera, families, orders, classes, phyla, kingdoms, and domains.
  • A great diversity of species increases the chance that at least some organisms survive major changes in the environment.

The Courts

  • Creation science focused on defending a literal reading of the Genesis account with a Biblical God creation all the present species without changes, a few thousand years ago, no recognition of natural selection, and separate ancestry for apes and man. Creation science is illegal to teach in Arkansas and does not follow the Arkansas Science Frameworks. In 1968, in Epperson v. Arkansas, the United States Supreme Court invalidated an Arkansas statute that prohibited the teaching of evolution. The Court held the statute unconstitutional on the grounds that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not permit a state to require that teaching of any particular religious sect or doctrine and the statute did not have a secular purpose. See the Lemon Law below in Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971).
  • In his 1982 decision on ACT 590 in the case of McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, U.S. District Court Judge William R. Overton wrote that creation science is based on foundational beliefs derived from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and the court found the statute did not have a secular purpose. In 1987 a similar case Edwards v. Aguillard did go to the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Louisiana law requiring that creation science be taught in public schools whenever evolution was taught was unconstitutional, because the law was specifically intended to advance a particular religion. This set a binding precedent that creation science should not be taught and that it was a religion concept. Recently, Louisiana's Governor signed Senate Bill 733 into law, this bill may empower school boards to pull religious beliefs into topics like evolution, cloning and global warming by introducing supplemental materials. The legal opinion of many involve in federal litigation is this will cost the state a great deal of much needed education funding after the law is challenged in court and law is struck down. See “Teach the Controversy” and “The Wedge” below.
  • Intelligent design (ID) is an attempt to legislate a particular religious view as science. ID holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.
  • ID advocates make an argument in which no conclusive evidence has ever been offered that "irreducibly complex systems," systems that could not function if they were missing just one of their many parts. It claims that these systems cannot evolve in a Darwinian fashion, because natural selection works on small mutations in just one component at a time. ID concludes that intelligent design must be responsible for these irreducibly complex systems. It is an argument against natural selection.
  • ID does not meet the requirements to be a scientific theory because it does not provide conclusive evidence that can be subjected to the test of observation, experimentation, reasoning and peer review. It does not have the ability to explain what has been observed in nature, or to predict what has not yet been observed, or be able to submit to experimentation and to be modified as required by the acquisition of new data.
  • There is debate about ID and evolution -- but not in the scientific community. Among scientists, ID has also been forcefully rejected on the basis of 1) clear lack of testable hypotheses, 2) misrepresentation of scientific evidence pertinent to both evolution and arguments used in favor of ID, and 3) misrepresentation of motive. There is only one theory of evolution in science.
  • The Discovery Institute introduced two strategies to confuse the public about evolution. They are titled “Teach the Controversy” and “The Wedge”. Teachers will need to investigate these strategies because they can be brought up in their classes.
  • Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District court trial was ruled that intelligent design was not science, that it "cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents", and concluded that the school district's promotion of intelligent design therefore violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and thus illegal to teach it as science in a public school classroom. In Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971), the Court created a three part test for laws dealing with religious establishment. This determined that a law was constitutional if it:
    • Had a secular purpose
    • Neither advanced or inhibited religion
    • Did not foster an excessive government entanglement with religion.
  • School boards, district administrators and teacher need to understand that science and not religious ideas should be taught in science classrooms in our public schools. To do so opens a district to law suits by parents and districts can loose their accreditation for not following the science frameworks which are based on the best current scientific evidence.

Many teachers have found the following chart helpful.

Comparison of the Ways of Knowing

People have several ways that they know about their world. The chart below lists some of the ways of knowing. However, as you read the chart please note that science is a way of knowing that requires the use of certain rules and methods that differs from the other means of knowing. Scientific knowledge is limited to the natural world.

Religious Knowledge Philosophic Knowledge Cultural Knowledge Science Knowledge
Seeks answers to any question that can be posed including answers to the ultimate questions (What is my purpose? What is the meaning of life? Is there a supreme being? etc.). Seeks answers to any question that can be posed including answers to the ultimate (What is my purpose? What is the meaning of life? Is there a supreme being? etc.). Seeks answers to any question that can be posed including answers to the ultimate questions (What is my purpose? What is the meaning of life? etc.), but generally relates to how people treat one another. Can only seek answers about the natural world but cannot answer ultimate questions (Is there a god? What is the meaning of life?).
Seek predictions on any event based on faith and belief. Seek predictions on any event based on point of view. Seek predictions on any event based on belief and cultural history. Seek predictions about future natural events based on observational evidence and testing.
The rules may vary among the different religions. The rules may vary among the different philosophic views. The rules may vary among the different cultures. Has a set of rules that must be followed in order to be called science.
Explanations are based on beliefs and faith and seek to understand and follow an ultimate purpose. Explanations are based on logic or viewpoint and seek to understand and follow an ultimate purpose and may undergo some type of testing. Explanations are based on beliefs and seek to understand and follow an ultimate purpose. Explanations are based on observation, evidence, and testing.
Explanations can include supernatural forces. Explanations can include supernatural forces and viewpoints. Explanations can include supernatural forces and other historical viewpoints. Explanations cannot include supernatural forces.
Hypotheses need not be part of the religion, nor do hypotheses have to be tested nor proved or disproved. Hypotheses may be a part of the philosophic view and hypotheses may or may not have to be tested and proved or disproved. Hypotheses need not be part of the cultural view, nor do hypotheses have to be tested nor proven. The hypothesis used in tests must be able to be disproved.
Is a belief system and seeks truths. Is a point of view and seeks truths. May be a belief system rooted in historical views and seeks truths. Is not a belief system nor seeks truths.
Knowledge may not change greatly over time, but may be swayed by culture. Knowledge may not change greatly over time and may be influenced by culture.

May be a belief system rooted in historical views and seeks truths.

Knowledge may or may not change slowly over time.

Knowledge may change as new data arises.
Accepted knowledge does not need peer review or verification. Accepted knowledge may seek peer review or verification, but conclusions may differ among individuals. Accepted knowledge may seek review or verification, but conclusions may differ among individuals. All knowledge must have peer review and verification.