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Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences, Second Edition
primates, and countless other features of the biological and physical world. As the great geneticist and evolutionist Theodosius Dobzhansky wrote in 1973, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."
Nevertheless, the teaching of evolution in our schools remains controversial. Some object to it on the grounds that evolution contradicts the accounts of origins given in the first two chapters of Genesis. Some wish to see "creation science"—which posits that scientific evidence exists to prove that the universe and living things were specially created in their present form—taught together with evolution as two alternative scientific theories.
Scientists have considered the hypotheses proposed by creation science and have rejected them because of a lack of evidence. Furthermore, the claims of creation science do not refer to natural causes and cannot be subject to meaningful tests, so they do not qualify as scientific hypotheses. In 1987 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that creationism is religion, not science, and cannot be advocated in public school classrooms. And most major religious groups have concluded that the concept of evolution is not at odds with their descriptions of creation and human origins.
This new edition of Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences is a companion volume to a publication released in 1998 by the Academy, Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science. That longer document is addressed to the teachers, educators, and policymakers who design, deliver, and oversee classroom instruction in biology. It summarizes the overwhelming observational evidence for evolution and explains how science differs from other human endeavors. It also suggests effective ways of teaching the subject and offers sample teaching exercises, curriculum guides, and "dialogues" among fictional teachers discussing the difficulties of presenting evolution in the classroom.
This new edition of Science and Creationism has a somewhat different purpose. It, too, summarizes key aspects of several of the most important lines of the evidence supporting evolution. But it also describes some of the positions taken by advocates of creation science and presents an analysis of these claims. As such, this document lays out for a broader audience the case against presenting religious concepts in science classes. Both this document, and the earlier Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science, are freely available online at the Academy website (www.nap.edu).
Scientists, like many others, are touched with awe at the order and complexity of nature. Indeed, many scientists are deeply religious. But science and religion occupy two separate realms of human experience. Demanding that they be combined detracts from the glory of each.
National Academy of Sciences
"The Global Positioning System: The Role of Atomic Clocks." Part of the series Beyond Discovery: The Path from Research to Human Benefit by the National Academy of Sciences (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1997). This document is also available at www2.nas.edu/bsi.