Society for College Science Teachers adds its voice for evolution


The Society for College Science Teachers announced the release of its new position statement on the teaching of evolution on April 30, 2007. According to its press release (PDF):

"We think it is important to add our voice to the list of organizations who support a robust and central role for evolution in the science curriculum", said SCST President Thomas Lord, a Biology Professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. "We do students a great disservice if we fail to teach evolution as one of the key principles in science today".

First proposed by Charles Darwin in 1859, the theory of evolution through natural selection now stands as a core idea of modern biology. Evolution states that organisms share common ancestry through a process of descent with modification that has taken place over billions of years. Despite being widely accepted by scientists, evolution remains under attack by religiously motivated legislators and special interest groups who want non-scientific interpretations of creation to be taught in public school science classrooms.

"We welcome recent court decisions that favor evolution education," commented Jerry Waldvogel, a biologist at Clemson University and co-author of the SCST statement. "But even though the legal system continues to affirm the foundational role of evolution in science and the inaccuracy of many of the criticisms leveled against it, special interest groups continue to try and confuse the general public by blurring the line between scientific and non-scientific ways of thinking. Our hope is that the SCST position statement will give teachers additional confidence to maintain a high level of educational integrity in the science classroom".

The statement (PDF) itself reads:

The Society for College Science Teachers (SCST) recognizes the centrality of evolutionary theory to modern science, and encourages the teaching of evolution at an appropriate level throughout primary, secondary, and higher education science curricula. Along with many other scientific and science education societies (e.g., AAAS, NRC, NABT, and NSTA), SCST strongly endorses the position that no science curriculum, especially at the high school and college level, is complete unless it acknowledges evolutionary theory as the core scientific explanation for the diversity of life on Earth and, wherever possible, educates students about the processes and patterns of evolution. While such discussions will most often be a part of life science courses, evolution is also often an appropriate topic in disciplines such as astronomy, chemistry, geology, and physics.

In the nearly 150 years since Darwin first suggested that living things share a common ancestry, a voluminous and robust body of evidence in support of evolutionary theory has accumulated. That living things on Earth have descended with modification from a common ancestry is not a point of scientific dispute. Science teachers are therefore obligated to present the topic in an accurate and thorough fashion as part of their classes. Indeed, because of the fundamental role that evolution plays in tying together scientific disciplines, teachers do their students a great disservice by not making evolution a key component of their teaching. The obligation to include evolution in the science classroom requires that accurate and complete information be taught, and also that non-scientific "alternatives" to evolution such as creation science and intelligent design not be presented as legitimate science or a valid replacement for evolutionary theory. Suggesting to students that such non-scientific ideas qualify as legitimate alternatives to evolution undermines science, prevents students from understanding one of the most important ideas in human history, and constitutes inappropriate educational practice. If teachers encounter situations where colleagues are teaching inaccurate content about evolution or promoting nonscientific explanations in its place, or experiencing pressure to do so, SCST encourages those teachers to seek advice from local, state, and national organizations (e.g., the National Center for Science Education) about how best to address the situation and to elevate the overall quality of science education at their institution.

SCST advises science teachers at all levels, but especially those involved with developing and delivering high school and college curricula, to be well versed in evolutionary theory and to include it as a core theme within their science courses. To do otherwise is to deprive students of essential scientific knowledge that they will need to be thoughtful, productive citizens, and to successfully compete for jobs in the increasingly scientific workplace of the 21st century.

The statement also contains a brief list of resources relevant to evolution education.

Founded in 1979, SCST has a national membership of nearly 1,000 college science educators.