4259Fw: Science Academy: Evolution's Important
- Jan 4, 2008Science Academy: Evolution's Important
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Sent: Friday, January 04, 2008 2:43 AM
Subject: Science Academy: Evolution's Important
U.S. science academy stresses evolution's importance
By Will Dunham
January 3, 2008, Reuters
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 att ack 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 und erstanding 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 s tated.
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
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
sta te, because it is based on religious conviction, not
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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