The theory of evolution by natural selection is a unifying concept that explains the incredible diversity of living things, their genetic relationship, and evidence that living things change over time. Evolutionary theory is central to modern science.
In response to public inquiries regarding the presentation of Darwinian evolution in science centers and museums, ASTC's Executive Committee issued the following "Statement on Science" in September 2005:
"ASTC and its members — science centers and museums around the world — present information based on scientific evidence. ASTC's members are committed to advancing the public understanding of science and contributing to the development of a scientifically literate society. Science is a human endeavor that uses observations and experimentation to develop explanations of the natural world. Scientific theories are grounded in and compatible with evidence, internally consistent, and demonstrably effective in explaining a wide variety of phenomena. Science is based on hundreds of years of scientific observation and experimentation and many thousands of peer-reviewed publications."
In science centers and museums, evolution is often presented in paleontology exhibitions, such as Prehistoric Journey at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Lone Star Dinosaurs at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, and Dinosphere at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. Explore Evolution, developed under the leadership of the University of Nebraska State Museum, features scientists investigating the evolution of life. However, evolutionary theory also underlies many other exhibits and programs, including those about emerging research areas such as biotechnology.
In response to public discussion about evolution and creationism in museums, Jeffrey Kirsch, Director of the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, San Diego, California, wrote in the May 3, 2005 issue of the online newspaper Voice of San Diego:
"Scientists parse the unanswerable into something they can answer through experiment, reasoning, or observational discovery. And, in general, the new "answers" lead to other questions that provide the basis for future studies and...future questions. Seen this way, science is a seemingly never-ending human quest to understand how living and non-living things work. It is quintessentially open-ended, and curiosity is the universal prerequisite for a working scientist...
"Belief-based explanations have one aspect in common: they cannot be tested the way a scientific model can be. The scientific understanding of biological development on earth, usually referred to as evolution, is derived from the search for natural explanations for phenomena such as the fossil record, the geological record, and our planet's biosphere. And these explanations must be tested again and again until they become generally accepted or changed to fit the facts. So, when an institution uses the word "science" in its name...it is understood by all to be concerned with natural and verifiable explanations for the way things work."
For additional information and perspectives on the presentation of evolution and related subjects, see the following resources:
Understanding Evolution, an extensive new website by the University of California Museum of Paleontology and the National Center for Science Education.
Evolution Resources, National Science Teachers Association.
Evolution and Creationism: A Guide for Museum Docents (PDF), by the Museum of the Earth at the Paleontological Research Institution, Ithaca, NY.
Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion: Evolution, American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The Evolution Controversy in Our Schools. Letter to Academy members from President Bruce Alberts. National Academy of Sciences. March 4, 2005.
Explore Evolution, a new exhibit at the University of Nebraska State Museum.
Evolution: constant change and common threads, Howard Hughes Medical Institute on-demand webcast of 2005 Holiday Lectures and student discussion session on reconciling religion and evolution.
Thomas Jefferson Fossil Collection, The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia.