Reports of the National Center for Science Education
|
Volume
28
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No.
1
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Science, Evolution, and Creationism

Science, Evolution, and Creationism: A Welcome Defense of Evolution
Reviewed by
Glenn Branch, NCSE Deputy Director

The National Academy of
Sciences and Institute of
Medicine recently released Science,
Evolution, and Creationism
, a
book designed to give the public a
comprehensive and up-to-date picture
of the current scientific understanding
of evolution and its importance
in the science classroom. In a
January 4, 2008, press release,
National Academy of Sciences
President Ralph Cicerone was
quoted as saying, "Science,
Evolution, and Creationism
provides
the public with coherent
explanations and concrete examples
of the science of evolution.
The study of evolution remains one
of the most active, robust, and useful
fields in science."

As its title suggests, the book
also addresses creationism in its
various forms, including young-earth,
old-earth, and "intelligent
design" creationism, and concludes, "No scientific evidence supports
these viewpoints." Observing
that "[c]reationism in its various
forms is not the same thing as
belief in God because ... many
believers as well as many mainstream
religious groups accept the
findings of science, including evolution,"
Science, Evolution, and
Creationism
also quotes both leading
scientists of faith (including
Francis Collins and NCSE
Supporter Kenneth R Miller) and
religious leaders and groups
(including the late Pope John Paul
II and the over 10 000 signatories
of the Clergy Letter Project), who
see no conflict between their faith
and science.

Science, Evolution, and
Creationism
takes a decidedly firm
line on the necessity of including
evolution in science education,
warning, "Many teachers are under
considerable pressure from policy
makers, school administrators, parents,
and students to downplay or
eliminate the teaching of evolution.
As a result, many US students
lack access to information and
ideas that are both integral to modern
science and essential for making
informed, evidence-based decisions
about their own lives and our
collective future. ... Given the
importance of science in all
aspects of modern life, the science
curriculum should not be undermined
with nonscientific material."

This third edition is twice as
long as the second edition, issued
in 1999. The current book was
written by a committee including a
number of NCSE Supporters and
members and chaired by NCSE
Supporter Francisco Ayala, the
Donald Bren Professor of
Biological Sciences at the
University of California, Irvine, and
the author most recently of
Darwin's Gift (Washington [DC]:
Joseph Henry Press, 2007).

After its release, stories about
Science, Evolution, and
Creationism
appeared in such
major media outlets as The New
York Times
(2008 Jan 4), Reuters
(2008 Jan 3), ScienceNOW (2008
Jan 4), United Press International
(2008 Jan 4), and the Associated
Press (2008 Jan 3), which noted,
"Josh Rosenau, a spokesman for the
California-based National Center
for Science Education, which supports
the teaching of evolution,
said the new report is important
because the debate over evolution
in school is not going away."

Both NBC and ABC ran segments
about the book on their nightly
newscasts on January 3, 2008. Robert
"Mac" West, a paleontologist and
museum consultant who serves on
NCSE's board of directors, told ABC's
Dan Harris, "We don't want to be in
the position of misleading our youngsters
about what science is and what
it can tell us about how the world
works." NCSE's deputy director
Glenn Branch told NBC's Pete
Williams, "This is a definitive statement
from a leading scientific authority
about the scientific bankruptcy of
intelligent design creationism."

The journal Nature offered
three cheers on the publication of
Science, Evolution, and
Creationism
in its January 10,
2008, editorial, remarking, "The
document succinctly summarizes
what is and isn't science, provides
an overview of evidence for evolution
by natural selection, and highlights
how, time and again, leading
religious figures have upheld evolution
as consistent with their
view of the world," and also citing
Kevin Padian's testimony in
Kitzmiller v Dover as "a more specific
and also entertaining account
of evolutionary knowledge."

In its January 12, 2008, editorial,
New Scientist also praised the
book, focusing on its avoidance of
portraying science as opposed to
religion ("The US is a religious
country and, as Glenn Branch of
the advocacy group National
Center for Science Education
points out, if the issue was 'God
versus science' many Americans
would choose God") and its
emphasis on the practical applications
of evolutionary theory
("understanding evolution is critical
to agriculture, medicine and
specifically to tackling viruses
such as SARS and HIV").

Newspapers across the country
took the opportunity presented by
the publication of Science,
Evolution, and Creationism
to
reaffirm their editorial commitment
to the integrity of science
education, including the Seattle
Post-Intelligencer
(2008 Jan 6), the
Tuscaloosa News (2008 Jan 6), the
St Louis Post-Dispatch (2008 Jan
7), and the Toledo Blade (2008 Jan
9), which wrote, "Regrettably for
American students caught in the
middle, education on evolution
could be watered down unless the
National Academy of Sciences and
others without a religious ax to
grind get the last word."

Copies of Science, Evolution,
and Creationism
are available
from the National Academies Press
(call 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242; or visit the National
Academies Press's website), for
$12.95; a PDF version is also available
for free download at the
National Academies Press's website
(http://www.nap.edu/sec).

This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
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