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FW: AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner: Science Classes are for Science, Not Faith

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  • Popplestone, Ann
    ... From: Steven A. Edinger [mailto:Steven.Edinger.1@Ohio.edu] Sent: Thursday, February 03, 2005 10:18 AM To: Science Education Subject: AAAS CEO Alan I.
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 3, 2005
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      -----Original Message-----
      From: Steven A. Edinger [mailto:Steven.Edinger.1@...]
      Sent: Thursday, February 03, 2005 10:18 AM
      To: Science Education
      Subject: AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner: Science Classes are for Science, Not
      Faith

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      >From the AAAS web page at:

      <http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2005/0202id.shtml>



      AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner: Science Classes are for Science, Not Faith

      Alan I. Leshner


      [The following commentary was first published on 2 February 2005 in the
      Philadelphia Inquirer. Alan I. Leshner is the chief executive officer of
      AAAS
      and executive publisher of the journal Science.]

      At Dover Area High School in Pennsylvania's York County, administrators
      recently appeared before ninth-grade biology classes to read a
      statement.
      Evolution is no more than a theory, the statement said, and as a way to
      explain
      the origin of humans on earth, "intelligent design" theory is just as
      valid.

      The statement, approved by the Dover school board, was brief?but the
      intent is
      revolutionary. It seeks to discredit the science of evolution, backed by
      nearly
      150 years of research and accepted by an overwhelming majority of
      scientists
      worldwide, and to encourage the acceptance of intelligent design, a
      theory with
      strong appeal to many religious people, but no backing in actual
      evidence or in
      science.

      Perhaps it is fitting that we in the United States are having this
      debate
      again. This year marks the centennial of Albert Einstein's "miracle
      year" in
      which the physicist penned papers on light, time and energy that changed
      our
      understanding of the universe. The year 2005 also marks the 80th
      anniversary of
      the Scopes "monkey trial," a historic legal drama in which Tennessee
      officials
      tried to enforce a ban on teaching evolution in schools.

      These anniversaries remind us of how much our understanding of the
      universe and
      of life on Earth have evolved in a mere 100 years. Still, the
      persistence of
      the debate in places like Dover, Pa., Grantsburg, Wis., and Georgia's
      Cobb
      County?and in South Carolina, Kansas, Montana and elsewhere?is deeply
      troubling, both for what it says about public attitudes toward science
      and for
      the very real consequences those attitudes might have for our children.

      People on both sides of the current controversy have contributed to the
      impasse. As scientists, we have, at times, been insensitive?unwilling to
      hear
      and respect the thoughts of critics. But it is impossible to ignore the
      fundamental mistrust of science, and the hostility toward it, that comes
      from
      some quarters of the religious community. Both extremes are distracting
      us from
      our common goal of preparing the next generation for a future of great
      challenge and hope.

      As we search for common ground, it is important to remember that science
      is not
      by definition opposed to religion, and our work is not intended to
      impose
      science and its values on religion. Science is as broad and diverse as
      our
      country itself, and among the millions of people working in
      science-related
      professions, many are guided by their faith. Einstein himself was
      profoundly
      spiritual, with beliefs that paralleled the God-in-nature deism of
      founding
      fathers such as Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine.

      Where evolutionary science and the philosophy of intelligent design part
      ways
      is over the central questions of how and why evolution has progressed as
      it
      has. Intelligent design theory holds that an enlightened designer is
      responsible for the unfolding of life and the emergence of humanity.
      While
      individual scientists may agree or disagree, science, as a discipline,
      takes no
      position. It is a central tenet of science that any theory must be
      testable and
      grounded in evidence, not belief. Intelligent design cannot be tested or
      proven, and therefore it falls fully short of the criteria to be called
      "science."

      Proponents of intelligent design say there are gaps in the science of
      evolution, but that proves nothing. Yes, there are some gaps; that is
      the
      nature of all human knowledge. When they lack solid evidence, scientists
      might
      initially rely on intuition to build a plausible and testable
      hypothesis, and
      then systematically subject the hypothesis to testing and further
      experimentation. And it is true that evolutionary scientists at times
      have
      suggested conclusions based on limited evidence. But then, when a new
      fossil or
      other new evidence is discovered, the conclusion is confirmed or
      disproved, in
      which case refined theories emerge. Even now, fascinating questions
      remain
      unanswered, and scientists of integrity and passion are at work in many
      fields
      to answer those questions so that the story of life can be told in
      greater
      detail.

      Intelligent design has gone through no process like that. And so, until
      there
      is verifiable evidence to support the theory, it remains a matter of
      faith. As
      such, it can be discussed in churches and temples and religious schools,
      even
      in public schools during classes that deal with government, philosophy,
      literature or current events. But just as matters of religious faith are
      not
      the province of science, faith should not be imposed in the science
      classroom
      to undermine fact.

      What troubles me most is the certainty that right now in Dover?as in
      Georgia,
      Wisconsin and Montana?there are children endowed with potential to do
      good work
      in the fields of science. But if they are confused about the nature of
      science,
      or if the science taught in their classrooms is distorted by an overlay
      of
      non-scientific values, then they may never reach their full potential.

      In this age of global scientific and technological progress, we don't
      want our
      children to be stragglers. That would be a tragedy not just for the
      children,
      but for all of us.

      ? Alan I. Leshner

      2 February 2005












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      ------------------------------------------------------------------------
      ---
      Steven A. Edinger, Physiology Lab Instructor

      064 Irvine Hall
      Department of Biological Sciences
      steven.edinger.1@...
      Ohio University Office: (740) 593-9484
      Athens, Ohio 45701-2979 Fax: (740) 593-0300
      ------------------------------------------------------------------------
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      ******************************************************
      "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of
      evolution." Theodosius Dobzhansky, 1973
      ******************************************************




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      ******************************************************
      "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of
      evolution." Theodosius Dobzhansky, 1973
      ******************************************************
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