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"Theory, Not Fact" Policies — What's Wrong?

(Download this document as a pdf file here! )

  1. Legislation or regulations that single out evolution for restriction, ignoring other scientific topics, are unconstitutional (Epperson v. Arkansas)
  2. Legislation that requires teaching evolution as "theory" or "belief" only, or that it not be taught as "fact", without defining these terms, is too vague to give real guidance to school districts and teachers about what may be taught.

Locations of Oldest Rocks

Fig. 5.2, p. 86 from Ancient Earth, Ancient Skies, by Brent G. Dalyrmple, shows the locations of some of Earth’s oldest rocks.

Links for Teachers

Evolution and the Nature of Science Institutes (ENSI)
Originally NSF-funded, the ENSI program focused on teaching teachers about the nature of science, using evolution as the exemplar. A site for teachers by other teachers. Lots of classroom-tested exercises.

Monarch Watch
A collaboration between the University of Kansas and local teachers and citizens focusing around the life cycle, migration, ecology and adaptations of the monarch butterfly.

10 Answers to Jonathan Wells's "10 Questions"

Intelligent design creationist Jonathan Wells has written the insidious "Ten questions to ask your biology teacher about evolution." These questions try to encourage students to doubt and distrust evolutionary theory.

Here are 10 brief answers to those questions. Please feel free to copy and distribute this document to teachers, students, parents, and others.

In the sections below, Wells's questions appear in italics.


The new field of "evo-devo"–an integration of evolutionary biology with our growing understanding of embryonic development–is an exciting a fruitful area of intense scientific research. A book purporting to "explore evolution" would do well to address this exciting field, yet the discussion in Explore Evolution is mired in disputes about what Darwin thought about embryos 150 years ago, and the legitimacy of illustrations by Ernst Haeckel 100 years ago.

What is Homology?

en español

Understanding why living organisms resemble each other has fascinated human beings for millennia, long before evolution provided a unifying concept for biology.

Anatomical Homology

Nested patterns of shared similarities between species play an important role in testing evolutionary hypotheses. "Homology" is one term used to describe these patterns, but scientists prefer other, more clearly defined terms. Explore Evolution would have done well to accurately present the way scientists talk about this issue, instead of building two chapters around a misguided attack on a particular word with a meaning that dates to pre-evolutionary attempts at understanding the diversity of life.

Opting Out - Not!

Dear NCSE: I teach 9th grade biology and the principal informed me that in response to the request of a parent, a student in my class has been given permission to opt out of the evolution section.

Teach the "Controversy?"

Whether providing students with an opportunity to evaluate the scientific credibility of creationism actually advances their understanding of evolution depends on the level of students, the objective of the assignment, and how the assignment is designed. Research indicates (Verhey 2005) college students gain a better understanding of why evolution is accepted science, and why creationism, creation science, and intelligent design are not appropriate scientific topics when given an opportunity to examine antievolutionist claims.

Science and Evolution

According to the National Science Board's 2002 study Science and Engineering Indicators, only one-third of Americans can adequately explain what it means to study something scientifically. As a nation, we are easy prey for those promoting pseudoscientific claims, and the National Science Board survey blames education and the media for this.


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