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West Virginia Academy of Science

Be it resolved that the West Virginia Academy of Science adopts the following position statement on the relation between science and religion, and on their places in science classrooms in public schools.

In the modern world, science is one important way of organizing human experience. That there are other important ways is evident from the existence of diverse religions and other nonscientific systems of thought.

Our nation requires well trained scientists and scientifically literate citizens who understand the values and limitations of science. Therefore, science courses should not only convey the important conclusions of modern science, but should also help students to understand the nature of scientific thought, and how it differs from other modes of thought.

Teachers are professionally obligated to treat all questions as objectively as possible. Questions regarding the relation between science and various religions may arise. To the extent that a teacher feels competent to do so, he or she should be free to respond to such questions. It is appropriate to show why science limits itself to ways of reasoning that can only produce naturalistic explanations. However, teachers and students should be free to challenge the presuppositions of science and to question their adequacy as a basis for a religion or world view. Ideas offered seriously by students deserve a serious response. They will never be ridiculed by teachers with high professional standards. Furthermore, teachers should make it clear that students will be evaluated on their understanding of the concepts studied, and not on their personal beliefs regarding those concepts.

Dogmatic assertions are inconsistent with objective consideration of any subject. Science is always tentative and does not pretend to offer ultimate truth. Nevertheless, there is an overwhelming consensus among scientists that the earth is several billion years old, that living organisms are related by descent from common ancestors, and that interpretation of all available evidence by scientific standards renders contrary claims highly implausible.

"Scientific creationism," which does challenge these conclusions, is a point of view held only by those who insist that the principle of biblical inerrancy and perspicuity must take precedence over all scientific considerations. This viewpoint is religious. Their claim that scientific creationism is independent of biblical creationism, which they admit is religious, is demonstrably false. The consistently poor scholarship of their attempts to defend scientific creationism suggests that their dominating principle can be accepted on faith but is not compatible with scientific standards of reasoning. It is clear that scientific creationism and science are two distinct systems of thought. It should be noted that other religions, including other varieties of Christianity, are also distinct from science, but are compatible with it.

Scientific creationists have defined the issue in such a way that their point of view on one side is contrasted with all other points of view lumped together on the other side, even though some of these other points of view also consider themselves creationist. Their demand that public schools devote equal time and resources to scientific creationism is in effect a demand that their religion be accorded special status and that schools purchase large quantities of books from their publishing houses, even though these books demonstrably represent poor scholarship. It is an attempt to win by legislative decree what they have been unable to win through scholarly argument. Proposals for equal time legislation are unwise.

Be it resolved that the West Virginia Academy of Science endorses and adopts the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) resolution on Forced Teaching of Creationist Beliefs in Public School Science Education. This resolution, adopted by the AAAS Board of Directors and AAAS Council in January, 1982, read as follows: AAAS 1982 Statement.