News Articles about Science, Evolution, and Creationism
The Newly-Updated Book from the Academy of Sciences

National Academy of Science Press Release

http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=11876
http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11876
http://www.nap.edu/sec

Date: Jan. 3, 2008
Contact: Maureen O'Leary, Director of Public Information
Office of News and Public Information
202-334-2138; e-mail news@nas.edu

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Science, Evolution, And Creationism

Scientific Evidence Supporting Evolution Continues To Grow; Nonscientific Approaches Do Not Belong In Science Classrooms

WASHINGTON -- The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and Institute of Medicine (IOM) today 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. Recent advances in science and medicine, along with an abundance of observations and experiments over the past 150 years, have reinforced evolution's role as the central organizing principle of modern biology, said the committee that wrote the book.

"SCIENCE, EVOLUTION, AND CREATIONISM provides the public with coherent explanations and concrete examples of the science of evolution," said NAS President Ralph Cicerone. "The study of evolution remains one of the most active, robust, and useful fields in science."

"Understanding evolution is essential to identifying and treating disease," said Harvey Fineberg, president of IOM. "For example, the SARS virus evolved from an ancestor virus that was discovered by DNA sequencing. Learning about SARS' genetic similarities and mutations has helped scientists understand how the virus evolved. This kind of knowledge can help us anticipate and contain infections that emerge in the future."

DNA sequencing and molecular biology have provided a wealth of information about evolutionary relationships among species. As existing infectious agents evolve into new and more dangerous forms, scientists track the changes so they can detect, treat, and vaccinate to prevent the spread of disease.

Biological evolution refers to changes in the traits of populations of organisms, usually over multiple generations. One recent example highlighted in the book is the 2004 fossil discovery in Canada of fish with "intermediate" features -- four finlike legs -- that allowed the creature to pull itself through shallow water onto land. Scientists around the world cite this evidence as an important discovery in identifying the transition from ocean-dwelling creatures to land animals. By understanding and employing the principles of evolution, the discoverers of this fossil focused their search on layers of the Earth that are approximately 375 million years old and in a region that would have been much warmer during that period. Evolution not only best explains the biodiversity on Earth, it also helps scientists predict what they are likely to discover in the future.

Over very long periods of time, the same processes that enable evolution to occur within species also can result in the appearance of new species. The formation of a new species generally takes place when one subgroup within a species mates for an extended period largely within that subgroup, often following geographical separation from other members of the species. If such reproductive isolation continues, members of the subgroup may no longer respond to courtship from members of the original population. Eventually, genetic changes become so substantial that members of different subgroups can no longer produce viable offspring. In this way, new species can continually "bud off" of existing species.

Despite the overwhelming evidence supporting evolution, opponents have repeatedly tried to introduce nonscientific views into public school science classes through the teaching of various forms of creationism or intelligent design. In 2005, a federal judge in Dover, Pennsylvania, concluded that the teaching of intelligent design is unconstitutional because it is based on religious conviction, not science (Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District). NAS and IOM strongly maintain that only scientifically based explanations and evidence for the diversity of life should be included in public school science courses. "Teaching creationist ideas in science class confuses students about what constitutes science and what does not," the committee stated.

"As SCIENCE, EVOLUTION, AND CREATIONISM makes clear, the evidence for evolution can be fully compatible with religious faith. Science and religion are different ways of understanding the world. Needlessly placing them in opposition reduces the potential of each to contribute to a better future," the book says.

SCIENCE, EVOLUTION, AND CREATIONISM is the third edition of a publication first issued in 1984 and updated in 1999. The current book was published jointly by the National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine, and written by a committee chaired by Francisco Ayala, Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, department of ecology and evolutionary biology, University of California, Irvine, and author of several books on science and religion. A committee roster follows.

The book was funded by the NAS, IOM, the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation, the Biotechnology Institute, and the Coalition of Scientific Societies.

Copies of SCIENCE, EVOLUTION, AND CREATIONISM will be available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242, or on the Internet at www.nap.edu/sec, for $12.95; a PDF version is FREE. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contact listed above). In addition, a podcast of the public briefing held to release this publication is available at http://national-academies.org/podcast. The NAS' evolution resources Web page, http://national-academies.org/evolution, allows easy access to books, position statements, and additional resources on evolution education and research.

The National Academy of Sciences is an independent society of scientists, elected by their peers for outstanding contributions to their field, with a mandate from Congress since 1863 to advise the federal government on issues of science and technology. The Institute of Medicine was created in 1970 by the NAS to provide science-based advice on matters of biomedical science, medicine, and health.

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U.S. science academy stresses evolution's importance

By Will Dunham
Reuters
Thu Jan 3, 2008
http://uk.reuters.com/article/scienceNews/idUKN0324402320080103

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. National Academy of Sciences on Thursday issued a spirited defense of evolution as the bedrock principle of modern biology, arguing that it, not creationism, must be taught in public school science classes.

The academy, which operates under a mandate from Congress to advise the government on science and technology matters, issued the report at a time when the theory of evolution, first offered in the 19th century, faces renewed attack by some religious conservatives.

Creationism, based on the explanation offered in the Bible, and the related idea of "intelligent design" are not science and, as such, should not be taught in public school science classrooms, according to the report.

"We seem to have continuing challenges to the teaching of evolution in schools. That's something that doesn't seem to go away," Barbara Schaal, an evolutionary biologist at Washington University in St. Louis and vice president of National Academy of Sciences, said in a telephone interview.

"We need a citizenry that's trained in real science."

Evolution is a theory explaining change in living organisms over the eons due to genetic mutations. For example, it holds that humans evolved from earlier forms of apes.

The report stated that the idea of evolution can be fully compatible with religious faith. "Science and religion are different ways of understanding the world. Needlessly placing them in opposition reduces the potential of each to contribute to a better future," said the report.

But teaching creationist ideas in science classes confuses students about what constitutes science and what does not, according to the report's authors.

The report was released by the academy and the Institute of Medicine, which advises policymakers on medical issues. It updates academy publications issued in 1984 and 1999. It was written by a committee headed by University of California-Irvine biology professor Francisco Ayala.

"Biological evolution is one of the most important ideas of modern science. Evolution is supported by abundant evidence from many different fields of scientific investigation. It underlies the modern biological sciences, including the biomedical sciences, and has applications in many other scientific and engineering disciplines," the report stated.

The authors highlighted developments in evolutionary biology, citing its importance in understanding emerging infectious diseases. They noted the discovery, published in 2006, of the remains of a Tiktaalik, a creature described as an evolutionary link between fish and the first vertebrate animals that walked out of water onto land 375 million years ago.

President George W. Bush said in 2005 American students should be instructed about "intelligent design" alongside evolution as competing theories. "Part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," Bush said.

Advocates of "intelligent design" contend that some biological structures are so complex they could not have appeared merely through natural processes.

A judge in Dover, Pennsylvania ruled in 2005 that the teaching of intelligent design violated the U.S. Constitution, which requires a separation of church and state, because it is based on religious conviction, not science.

A 2006 Gallup poll showed that almost half of Americans believe that humans did not evolve but were created by God in their present form within the last 10,000 years.

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US doomed if creationist president elected: scientists

Agence France-Presse
January 5, 2008
http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5izWTSSnlFq9QrIMeC-Dir8OKjnGg

WASHINGTON (AFP) A day after ordained Baptist minister Mike Huckabee finished first in the opening round to choose a Republican candidate for the White House, scientists warned Americans against electing a leader who doubts evolution.

"The logic that convinces us that evolution is a fact is the same logic we use to say smoking is hazardous to your health or we have serious energy policy issues because of global warming," University of Michigan professor Gilbert Omenn told reporters at the launch of a book on evolution by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

"I would worry that a president who didn't believe in the evolution arguments wouldn't believe in those other arguments either. This is a way of leading our country to ruin," added Omenn, who was part of a panel of experts at the launch of "Science, Evolution and Creationism."

Former Arkansas governor Huckabee said in a debate in May that he did not believe in evolution.

A poll conducted last year showed that 53 percent of Americans do believe that humans developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life -- the theory of evolution -- while 47 percent do not.

Some of those polled said they believed in both evolution and the opposing theory of creationism -- the belief that God created mankind at a single point in time.

The evolution versus creationism debate has crept into American schools and politics, where it is mainly conservative Republicans who espouse the non-scientific belief.

In 2004, a Pennsylvania school district found itself at the center of a national storm after its education board voted to require that a statement on creationism be read to students when they began learning about evolution in science class.

The school board was ousted the following year.

"Science, Evolution and Creationism" targets the general public and teachers, and presents in simple terms the current scientific understanding of evolution and the importance of teaching it in the science classroom.

A day after his win in Iowa, Huckabee toned down his anti-evolution stance, saying in a television interview that the question of whether to teach creationism in schools was "not an issue for our president."

US President George W. Bush has said he supports teaching "intelligent design" creationism to American students, to present youngsters with differing schools of thought.

Intelligent design is a theory advocated by conservative Christian groups and some scientists in the United States, which says that complex biological organisms cannot be explained by evolutionary chance alone and must be the work of an intelligent designer -- namely God.

Omenn and the other panel members at the book launch said categorically that creationism should be banned from science classrooms.

"Scientific inquiry is not about accepting on faith a statement or scriptural passage. It's about exploring nature, so there really is not any place in the science classroom for creationism or intelligent design creationism," said Omenn.

"We don't teach astrology as an alternative to astronomy, or witchcraft as an alternative to medicine," said Francisco Ayala, a professor of biological sciences at the University of California, Irvine.

"We must understand the difference between what is and is not science. We must not teach creationism as an alternative to evolution," he said.

"Holding deep religious beliefs is not incompatible with believing in evolution," Omenn said.

"But that's different to saying the two can be taught together in science class, because religion and science are two different ways of knowing about the world. They might not be incompatible but they don't overlap each other's spheres.

"Science class should not contain religious attitudes," he added.

=========

Scientists say evolution fits

Classroom off-limits to other teachings, group's book asserts


By Frank D. Roylance and Michael Hill
Baltimore Sun reporters
January 5, 2008
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/health/bal-te.evolution05jan05,0,180719.story


Facing continued challenges to evolutionary science from religious conservatives who insist that public schools teach alternative explanations, the National Academy of Sciences has issued a new book that outlines the scientific evidence for evolution.

"Evolution is one of the bedrock theories in all of modern science, and we are coming to understand better and better as to why that is," said NAS President Ralph Cicerone at a panel discussion of the 86-page booklet, called Science, Evolution and Creationism.

"We are trying to give the public a coherent explanation of that and concrete examples of the impact of evolution," Cicerone said of the booklet, which insists that theories such as creationism and "intelligent design" have no place in science classrooms.

Two years in the writing, the NAS book is aimed at school board members, science teachers, policy makers and legal scholars on the front lines of the debate.

Only hours before, the political power of religious conservatives was made clear when former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee decisively won the Iowa Republican caucuses. A Southern Baptist minister, Huckabee has declared that he doesn't believe in evolution and thinks creationism should be taught in the schools.

"Our public schools should present both evolution and creationism," Huckabee told the Christian Broadcasting Network. "I would not support public schools teaching only creationism. Evolution is a theory based on a lot of science, so it must be part of the curriculum."

Members of the NAS panel also made their point: Although faith and acceptance of evolution need not be incompatible, creationism does not belong in a science classroom.

"I would worry that a president who does not believe in evolution would not believe in other [scientific] arguments as well," said Francisco Ayala, professor in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at University of California, Irvine, who chaired the panel that wrote the book. "That is a way to lead the country to ruin. If all the other countries that are chasing us are behaving rationally, we are doomed."

Barbara Schaal, a biologist at Washington University in St. Louis, agreed. "A lot of what we do in the United States is based on science and technology, and anything that weakens science and technology for students would necessarily be harmful," she said.

Vice president of the National Academy, Schaal was on the panel that wrote the evolution booklet, an update of editions published by the NAS in 1984 and 1999. The academy is a private, independent society of scientists chartered by Congress to advise the federal government on scientific and technological issues.

The science of evolution is founded on the observation that during reproduction, errors in the duplication of DNA - an organism's genetic blueprint - create individuals with different traits. Those traits that enhance survival are preferentially passed on to subsequent generations. That "natural selection" leads to differing populations and, with enough time, new species.

Earlier editions of the NAS booklet focused on the scientific evidence for evolution and the legal arguments for excluding faith-based theories from science classes.

This one also argues that acceptance of evolutionary science and religious faith are not mutually exclusive - that many evolutionary scientists are deeply religious, and many faiths and theologians accept evolutionary biology.

The Rev. Joseph Pagano, rector of Emmanual Episcopal church in Mount Vernon, said he read the booklet and found it compelling.

"It comes down to how certain people understand the nature and authority of the Scriptures," he said. "If one reads them in an extremely literalistic fashion, then one is going to have a problem with evolution. But of course that is not the only way to read them."

Pagano compared such a literal reading to someone who reads a sports headline that says, "Vikings Destroy Bears" and concludes "that a Nordic race has killed off a North American mammal."

The Rev. Jason Poling of the evangelical New Hope Community Church in Pikesville said he also has a non-literal reading of Genesis as a theological statement, a declaration that God created the parts of nature that others were worshiping - the sun and moon and stars.

"There are and always have been those who read the first chapter of Genesis and see it as a literal blueprint and those who see it as figurative," he said. "I really want to affirm that it is possible to be faithful and intelligent and take either of those views."

The NAS booklet suggests there is no real conflict. "The evidence for evolution can be fully compatible with religious faith," the booklet states. "Science and religion are different ways of understanding the world. Needlessly placing them in opposition reduces the potential of each to contribute to a better future."

Despite what the NAS says is incontrovertible scientific evidence, nearly 150 years after Charles Darwin first proposed his ideas in his paper, On the Origin of Species, a controversy still swirls.

In Texas, the current science curriculum requires the teaching of evolution. But that's up for review and a vote by the state school board. Conservatives hope to introduce changes that will discuss "weaknesses" in evolutionary science.

In Florida, proposed revisions to the science curriculum are up for public comment on the Internet. The revisions include, for the first time, references to evolution as a "big idea," critical to students' understanding of natural science.

Creationists there are making themselves heard, challenging evolutionary science and urging inclusion of alternative theories.

In Dover, Pa., a school board ended up in federal court - and voted out of office - after requiring in 2004 that science teachers tell students about intelligent design. The court ruled that intelligent design is "grounded in theology, not science" and should not be taught in science classes.

The NAS booklet argues that evolutionary biology "has been and continues to be a cornerstone of modern science." It has made "major contributions" to public health and medicine, agriculture, and industrial development.

"However, polls show that many people continue to have questions," the booklet says. Many believe the science is incomplete or in doubt, or can't explain the complexity and diversity of life.

"There is no controversy in the scientific community over whether evolution has occurred," the booklet states. Although there is continuing scientific debate about the details and mechanisms of evolution, there is now an "immense body of evidence" to support it, making it "one of the most securely established of scientific facts."

At the panel discussion, Ayala defended keeping creationism out of the classroom, saying, "We do not teach astrology as an alternative to astronomy; we do not teach witchcraft as an alternative to medicine. It is not a question of dogma, it is a question of what is science and what is not."

frank.roylance@baltsun.com michael.hill@baltsun.com

========

Scientific Evidence Supporting Evolution Continues to Grow

Nonscientific Approaches Do Not Belong In Science Classrooms


Kansas City infoZine Staff
Monday, January 07, 2008
http://www.infozine.com/news/stories/op/storiesView/sid/26366/

Washington, D.C. - infoZine - The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and Institute of Medicine (IOM) 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. Recent advances in science and medicine, along with an abundance of observations and experiments over the past 150 years, have reinforced evolution's role as the central organizing principle of modern biology, said the committee that wrote the book.

"Science, Evolution, And Creationism provides the public with coherent explanations and concrete examples of the science of evolution," said NAS President Ralph Cicerone. "The study of evolution remains one of the most active, robust, and useful fields in science."

"Understanding evolution is essential to identifying and treating disease," said Harvey Fineberg, president of IOM. "For example, the SARS virus evolved from an ancestor virus that was discovered by DNA sequencing. Learning about SARS' genetic similarities and mutations has helped scientists understand how the virus evolved. This kind of knowledge can help us anticipate and contain infections that emerge in the future."

DNA sequencing and molecular biology have provided a wealth of information about evolutionary relationships among species. As existing infectious agents evolve into new and more dangerous forms, scientists track the changes so they can detect, treat, and vaccinate to prevent the spread of disease.

Biological evolution refers to changes in the traits of populations of organisms, usually over multiple generations. One recent example highlighted in the book is the 2004 fossil discovery in Canada of fish with "intermediate" features -- four finlike legs -- that allowed the creature to pull itself through shallow water onto land. Scientists around the world cite this evidence as an important discovery in identifying the transition from ocean-dwelling creatures to land animals. By understanding and employing the principles of evolution, the discoverers of this fossil focused their search on layers of the Earth that are approximately 375 million years old and in a region that would have been much warmer during that period. Evolution not only best explains the biodiversity on Earth, it also helps scientists predict what they are likely to discover in the future.

Over very long periods of time, the same processes that enable evolution to occur within species also can result in the appearance of new species. The formation of a new species generally takes place when one subgroup within a species mates for an extended period largely within that subgroup, often following geographical separation from other members of the species. If such reproductive isolation continues, members of the subgroup may no longer respond to courtship from members of the original population. Eventually, genetic changes become so substantial that members of different subgroups can no longer produce viable offspring. In this way, new species can continually "bud off" of existing species.

Despite the overwhelming evidence supporting evolution, opponents have repeatedly tried to introduce nonscientific views into public school science classes through the teaching of various forms of creationism or intelligent design. In 2005, a federal judge in Dover, Pennsylvania, concluded that the teaching of intelligent design is unconstitutional because it is based on religious conviction, not science (Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District). NAS and IOM strongly maintain that only scientifically based explanations and evidence for the diversity of life should be included in public school science courses. "Teaching creationist ideas in science class confuses students about what constitutes science and what does not," the committee stated.

"As Science, Evolution, And Creationism makes clear, the evidence for evolution can be fully compatible with religious faith. Science and religion are different ways of understanding the world. Needlessly placing them in opposition reduces the potential of each to contribute to a better future," the book says.

Science, Evolution, And Creationism is the third edition of a publication first issued in 1984 and updated in 1999. The current book was published jointly by the National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine, and written by a committee chaired by Francisco Ayala, Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, department of ecology and evolutionary biology, University of California, Irvine, and author of several books on science and religion. A committee roster follows.

The book was funded by the NAS, IOM, the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation, the Biotechnology Institute, and the Coalition of Scientific Societies.

Copies of Science, Evolution, And Creationism will be available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242, or on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu/sec for $12.95; a PDF version is FREE.


Texas Citizens for Science
Last updated: 2008 January 7