NCSE's Scott in BioEssays


"Dobzhansky was right: Let's tell the students." That's NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott's advice, as just published in the journal BioEssays (2010; 32 [5]: 372-374). "University instructors are responsible for a good part of the general public's ignorance about evolution," she argues: "it is they who teach the university students who become the science teachers in our schools, as well as the students who become members of the educated public. University scientists therefore have a special responsibility — and opportunity — to help to cope with the antievolution problem in the United States."

First and foremost, she recommends that university scientists "think about how they teach evolution. Is evolution as central, integrated, and pervasive in their syllabus as it is in biologic research? Will their students realize that – in the words of Theodosius Dobzhansky's famous 1973 article for high school biology teachers ... — nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution?" She adds, "If university instructors do not make explicit the centrality of evolution to biology, we should not be surprised when students complete their courses ignorant of evolution."

Beyond the classroom, she urges, "scientists need to speak up when evolution is under attack in their schools. And more generally, scientists have a special responsibility to work to ensure a scientifically literate citizenry, which includes educating them in the importance of evolution to science, and in science education. In a nation where the majority of financial and institutional support for science predominantly depends on the public, it is in the best interests of neither science nor our nation that the public understanding of a major principle of science continues in its dismally low state."