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National Association of Biology Teachers (2000)
As stated in The American Biology Teacher by the eminent scientist Theodosius Dobzhansky (1973), "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." This often-quoted assertion accurately illuminates the central, unifying role of evolution in nature, and therefore in biology. Teaching biology in an effective and scientifically-honest manner requires classroom discussions and laboratory experiences on evolution.
Modern biologists constantly study, ponder and deliberate the patterns, mechanisms and pace of evolution, but they do not debate evolution's occurrence. The fossil record and the diversity of extant organisms, combined with modern techniques of molecular biology, taxonomy and geology, provide exhaustive examples and powerful evidence for genetic variation, natural selection, speciation, extinction and other well-established components of current evolutionary theory. Scientific deliberations and modifications of these components clearly demonstrate the vitality and scientific integrity of evolution and the theory that explains it.
This same examination, pondering and possible revision have firmly established evolution as an important natural process explained by valid scientific principles, and clearly differentiate and separate science from various kinds of nonscientific ways of knowing, including those with a supernatural basis such as creationism. Whether called "creation science," "scientific creationism," "intelligent-design theory," "young-earth theory" or some other synonym, creation beliefs have no place in the science classroom. Explanations employing nonnaturalistic or supernatural events, whether or not explicit reference is made to a supernatural being, are outside the realm of science and not part of a valid science curriculum. Evolutionary theory, indeed all of science, is necessarily silent on religion and neither refutes nor supports the existence of a deity or deities.
Accordingly, the National Association of Biology Teachers, an organization of science teachers, endorses the following tenets of science, evolution and biology education:
Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) led to another Supreme Court ruling against so-called "balanced treatment" of creation science and evolution in public schools. In this landmark case, the Court called the Louisiana equal-time statute "facially invalid as violative of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, because it lacks a clear secular purpose." This decision—"the Edwards restriction"—is now the controlling legal position on attempts to mandate the teaching of creationism: the nation's highest court has said that such mandates are unconstitutional. Subsequent district court decisions in Illinois and California have applied "the Edwards restriction" to teachers who advocate creation science, and to the right of a district to prohibit an individual teacher from promoting creation science in the classroom.
Courts have thus restricted school districts from requiring creation science in the science curriculum and have restricted individual instructors from teaching it. All teachers and administrators should be mindful of these court cases, remembering that the law, science and NABT support them as they appropriately include the teaching of evolution in the science curriculum.
References and Suggested Reading
Aguillard, D. (1999). Evolution education in Louisiana public schools: a decade following Edwards v. Aguillard. The American Biology Teacher, 61, pp. 182-188.
Brack, A. (Ed.). (1999). The Molecular Origins of Life: Assembling Pieces of the Puzzle. Cambridge: Camnbridge University Press.
Futuyma, D. (1986). Evolutionary biology, 2nd ed. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, Inc.
Futuyma, D. (1995). Science on Trial. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, Inc.
Gillis, A. (1994). Keeping creationism out of the classroom. Bioscience, 44, pp. 650-656.
Gould, S. (1994, October). The evolution of life on earth. Scientific American, 271, pp. 85-91.
Gould, S. (1995). Dinosaur in a Haystack. Reflections in Natural History. New York: Harmony Books.
Kiklas, K. (1997). The Evolutionary Biology of Plants. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Matsumura, M. (Ed.). (1995). Voices for Evolution. Berkeley, CA: The National Center for Science Education.
Mayr, E. (1991). One Long Argument: Charles Darwin and the Genesis of Modern Evolutionary Thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Moore, J. (1993). Science as a Way of Knowing—The Foundations of Modern Biology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Moore, R. (1999). Creationism in the United States: VII. The Lingering Threat. The American Biology Teacher, 61, pp. 330-340. See also references therein to earlier articles in the series.
National Academy of Sciences. (1998). Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
National Academy of Sciences. (1999). Science and creationism—A View from the National Academy of Sciences. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
National Center for Science Education. P.O. Box 9477, Berkeley, CA 94709. Numerous publications such as Bartelt, K. (1999), A Scientist Responds to Behe's Black Box.
National Research Council. (1996). National Science Education Standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Pennock, R.T. (1999). Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Weiner, J. (1994). The Beak of the Finch—A Story of Evolution in our Time. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Wilson, E. (1992). The Diversity of Life. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
Voices for Evolution
The third edition of Voices for Evolution can be purchased or downloaded at Lulu.com