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North Carolina Academy of Science (1997)

This booklet, prepared by the North Carolina Academy of Science (NCAS), is a compilation of statements concerning evolution by scientists from across the state of North Carolina. The impetus for preparation of the booklet was Rep. Russell Capps' (R-Wake) submission to the North Carolina General Assembly (March, 1997) of House Bill 511, entitled "An Act to Amend the Public School Laws to Ensure that Evolution is Not Taught as Fact in North Carolina Public Schools." The accompanying anti-evolution document, "An Evaluation of NC Approved Biology Textbooks," distributed by the office of Rep. Capps, contained material many scientists consider misleading and inaccurate. This booklet attempts to give a more accurate perspective.

The North Carolina Academy of Science sees the theory of evolution as the cornerstone of modern biology. We think that passage of a bill restricting the teaching of evolution would, at best, stifle free exchange of scientific information, establishing an atmosphere that is the antithesis of that required to teach and learn science.

Although the playing field is North Carolina, this bill is part of a creationist effort across the country that has been successful in some states and has been turned back by a narrow margin in others. According to a recent article in Science (Schmidt, K., 1996. Creationists evolve new strategy. Science 237: 420), "In the past 6 months, creationists have mounted a surge of assaults on science education around the United States. In Alabama, when school opens this fall, every biology textbook will carry a paste-in warning stating that evolution is a controversial theory that shouldn't be considered fact. In Ohio, Tennessee, and Georgia, creationist bills reached state legislatures for the first time."

House Bill 511 was not brought to the floor of the Senate in this past legislative session. Michael G. Kinnaird, who seems to be coordinating support for the bill for Rep. Capps, has stated, however, that the bill will probably be re-introduced in another form in the next session. Thus it appears that we may be in for a long and arduous task if we are to prevent the passage of a bill restricting the teaching of evolution.

A firm understanding of the theory of and knowledge of scientific evidence that supports the theory are strong tools for combating religious/political efforts to legislate the teaching of science. This booklet attempts to give its readers some of that information in a readily referenced form. The intended readership is all citizens of North Carolina who consider the term "creation science" an oxymoron, but who are not familiar enough with the arguments of creationists or the specific scientific evidence to evaluate the materials creationists provide.

We have attempted to compile a uniquely "North Carolina" compendium of material designed to enable teachers and citizens in North Carolina to "speak out on evolution" more effectively. At the heart of the booklet are several refutations of specific arguments found in the anti-evolution document, "An Evaluation of NC Approved Biology Textbooks." The refutations were prepared by North Carolina scientists doing research or teaching in areas that deal with the scientific evidence that has been called into question. We have certainly not attempted to refute all known creationist arguments; rather, we have selected some that can be used to illustrate most clearly the most common fallacies of the arguments against evolution.

The North Carolina Academy of Science thanks those scientists who have contributed their time and expertise to address specific creationists' arguments. Special thanks go to Nancy Edwards, Robert P. Higgins, Charles Keeling, and Margaret Ray for invaluable information and editorial suggestions, and to Susan M. Thomas and Amanda Branscombe for making suggestions as non-scientific readers.