31 October 2005

American Astronomical Society: Statement on the Teaching of Evolution

The American Astronomical Society (AAS, pronounced "double-A-S") released a statement Sept 20, 2005 on the teaching of evolution. Quoted below in its entirety, follow the link above for a list of further reading.

The American Astronomical Society supports teaching evolution in our nation’s K-12 science classes. Evolution is a valid scientific theory for the origin of species that has been repeatedly tested and verified through observation, formulation of testable statements to explain those observations, and controlled experiments or additional observations to find out whether these ideas are right or wrong. A scientific theory is not speculation or a guess -- scientific theories are unifying concepts that explain the physical universe.

Astronomical observations show that the Universe is many billions of years old (see the AAS publication, An Ancient Universe, cited below), that nuclear reactions in stars have produced the chemical elements over time, and recent observations show that gravity has led to the formation of many planets in our Galaxy. The early history of the solar system is being explored by astronomical observation and by direct visits to solar system objects. Fossils, radiological measurements, and changes in DNA trace the growth of the tree of life on Earth. The theory of evolution, like the theories of gravity, plate tectonics, and Big Bang cosmology, explains, unifies, and predicts natural phenomena. Scientific theories provide a proven framework for improving our understanding of the world.

In recent years, advocates of “Intelligent Design,” have proposed teaching “Intelligent Design” as a valid alternative theory for the history of life. Although scientists have vigorous discussions on interpretations for some aspects of evolution, there is widespread agreement on the power of natural selection to shape the emergence of new species. Even if there were no such agreement, “Intelligent Design” fails to meet the basic definition of a scientific idea: its proponents do not present testable hypotheses and do not provide evidence for their views that can be verified or duplicated by subsequent researchers.

Since “Intelligent Design” is not science, it does not belong in the science curriculum of the nation’s primary and secondary schools.

The AAS supports the positions taken by the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Science Teachers’ Association, the American Geophysical Union, the American Chemical Society, and the American Association of Physics Teachers on the teaching of evolution. The AAS also supports the National Science Education Standards: they emphasize the importance of scientific methods as well as articulating well-established scientific theories.



island said...

"Although scientists have vigorous discussions on interpretations for some aspects of evolution..."

The problem with neo-Darwinism is that Random changes in DNA alone do not lead to speciation. It was like confessing a murder when I discovered I was not a neo-Darwinist. I am definitely a Darwinist though. I think we are missing important information about the origins of variation. I differ from the neo-Darwinian bullies on this point.
-Lynn Margulis

The only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics, albeit deployed in a very special way.
-Richard Dawkins

Not just any universe would be one in which Darwinian evolution would work. For example, if a tiny reduction in the early cosmic expansion speed would have made everything recollapse within a fraction of a second while a tiny increase would quickly have yielded a universe far too dilute for stars to form, then such changes would have been disastrous to Evolution's prospects
-John Leslie

Doctor Life said...

Evolution is utter nonsense. Please explore the bible a bit more - it will help you see clearly.

zandperl said...

I have explored the Bible. I've read a significant portion of both the Old and New Testaments and I do not find anything in there that convinces me. I do find a few places where the Bible contradicts itself, and lots of colorful analogies. Perhaps you should explore Science and Biology textbooks a bit more.

Personally I do not accept the Bible as the word of God, and I do not believe it to be the Truth. However, many other scientists DO believe in God and the Bible and yet still acknowledge that evolution, based upon physical evidence, is self-consistent, and therefore is a valid scientific theory.

I think the main difference between many Christians and scientists is that you (plural) believe the Bible is the ultimate authority, while we believe physical evidence is the ultimate authority. I'm not sure that either group can convince the other, though I hope that we can understand each others' viewpoints better.

Similarly, I acknowledge that evolution has no place in religion classes and religious institutions such as Churches, Sunday School, and religious law, and I hope that someday Christians can acknowledge that creationism has no place in science classes and secular institutions such as research institutions, public schools, and secular law.