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Idaho Scientists for Quality Science Education

As scientists, employed in the State of Idaho, we are very concerned and deeply committed to maintaining the integrity and quality of science education in Idaho. As such, we wish to advise the Legislative Committee that we strongly support the exiting standards for science in general and evolution in particular as they are presently written. We also highly commend the State Board of Education for approving these standards by a majority vote of seven to one–an endorsement for good science that few states can match.

At a time when Idaho is trying to move from a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based economy, it is imperative that the State of Idaho strive to achieve the best education possible for its students. Recently, in recognition of the importance of science, Governor Dirk Kempthorne appointed a special science adviser. As Idaho moves forward confidently to the 21st century we must ensure that our students receive the best science education possible. Teaching the theory of evolution, like teaching the theory of gravitation, is an excellent way to make that happen.

The Theory of Evolution ranks as one of the great discoveries in the intellectual history of science. Its impact on biology is analogous to that of Newton's law on physics, Copernicus' heliocentric (Sun-centered) theory of the universe on astronomy and the theory of plate tectonics on geology. As defined by the National Academy of Sciences (1999), "biological evolution concerns changes in living things during the history of life on Earth. It explains that living things share common ancestors. Over time, biological processes such as natural selection give rise to new species."

The National Academy of Sciences, the most prestigious scientific organization in the United States, has noted that "the teaching science in the nation's public schools often is marred by a serious omission. Many students receive little or no exposure to the most important concept in modern biology, a concept essential to understanding key aspects of living things – biological evolution."

Understanding the theory of evolution is crucial in the development of new drugs to fight microbial infections. The theory of evolution, in its broadest sense, unites such disparate disciplines as cosmology, astronomy, anthropology, biology, physics, chemistry, and geology. The fossil evidence alone supports the theory that life has evolved over billions of years from simpler to more complex organisms. Mainstream American religious organizations spanning Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have supported the teaching of evolution in science classes. These religious organizations see in evolution the wonder of their Creator's work. U.S. courts have consistently ruled that teaching creationism amounts to inflicting a narrow, unscientific religious dogma into the public schools, which is contrary to the U.S. and Idaho Constitutions.

Biological evolution accounts for three of the most fundamental features of the world around us: the similarities among living things, the diversity of life, and many features of the physical world we inhabit. Evidence for biological evolution comes from all parts of biology (molecular biology, comparative anatomy, biodiversity, and embryology), geology, paleontology, biochemistry, and physics. Thus, evolution is the central organizing principle that biologists use to understand the natural world. As Time magazine (12/31/99) recently said, "Yet Darwinism remains one of the most successful scientific theories ever promulgated. There is hardly an element of humanity–not capitalism, not gender relations, certainly not biology–that can be fully understood without its help."

In conclusion, we heartily support the teaching of scientifically accepted concepts in science, including the theory of evolution in Idaho's public schools.