What happened to evolutionary biology?


"Like a gap in the fossil record, evolutionary biology is missing from a list of majors that the U.S. Department of Education has deemed eligible for a new federal grant program designed to reward students majoring in engineering, mathematics, science, or certain foreign languages," the Chronicle of Higher Education (August 22, 2006) reports. The grants -- called Smart Grants, after the National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent program -- were authorized by Congress in 2005 with President Bush's support. The Chronicle suggests that the absence of evolutionary biology from the list "apparently indicates that students in the evolutionary sciences do not qualify for the grants," adding, "and some observers are wondering whether the omission was deliberate."

Lawrence M. Krauss of Case Western Reserve University expressed his concern to the Department of Education, which administers the Smart Grants, describing the omission of evolutionary biology as "a serious omission"; he subsequently told the Chronicle, "I'm not making any accusations," adding, "I'm concerned it's not there." A spokesperson for the Department of Education speculated that the absence of evolution from the list was a "clerical consolidation of some kind." A blank line appears in the list (PDF) in lieu of 26.1303, where evolutionary biology would normally have appeared; the only other such blank line in the section of the list for life sciences is 26.0908: Exercise Physiology. Evolution is mentioned elsewhere in the list.