The world's largest general scientific organization--the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)--today urged policymakers to oppose teaching "Intelligent Design Theory" within science classrooms, but rather, to keep it separate, in the same way that creationism and other religious teachings are currently handled.
"The United States has promised that no child will be left behind in the classroom," said Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer and executive publisher at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). "If intelligent design theory is presented within science courses as factually based, it is likely to confuse American schoolchildren and to undermine the integrity of U.S. science education."
American society supports and encourages a broad range of viewpoints, Leshner noted. While this diversity enriches the educational experience for students, he added, science-based information and conceptual belief systems should not be presented together.
Peter H. Raven, chairman of the AAAS Board of Directors and one of the world's leading botanists, agreed:
"The ID movement argues that random mutation in nature and natural selection can't explain the diversity of life forms or their complexity and that these things may be explained only by an extra-natural intelligent agent," said Raven, Director of the Missouri Botanical Garden. "This is an interesting philosophical or theological concept, and some people have strong feelings about it. Unfortunately, it's being put forth as a scientifically based alternative to the theory of biological evolution. Intelligent design theory has so far not been supported by peer-reviewed, published evidence."
In contrast, the theory of biological evolution is well-supported, and not a "disputed view" within the scientific community, as some ID proponents have suggested, for example, through "disclaimer" stickers affixed to textbooks in Cobb County, Georgia.
"The contemporary theory of biological evolution is one of the most robust products of scientific inquiry," the AAAS Board of Directors wrote in a resolution released today. "AAAS urges citizens across the nation to oppose the establishment of policies that would permit the teaching of 'intelligent design theory' as a part of the science curriculum of the public schools."
AAAS--publisher of the weekly journal, Science, provides leadership for more than 130,000 members and 272 affiliates serving 10 million individuals. Its Board resolved to oppose claims that intelligent design theory is scientifically based in response to a number of recent ID-related threats to public science education.
In Georgia, for example, the Cobb County District School Board decided in March this year to affix stickers to science textbooks, telling students that "evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things." Following a lawsuit filed August 21 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, the school board on September 26 modified its policy statement, but again described evolution as a "disputed view" that must be "balanced" in the classroom, taking into account other family teachings. The exact impact of the amended school board policy in Cobb County classrooms remains unclear.
A similar challenge is underway in Ohio, where the state's education board on October 14 passed a unanimous, though preliminary vote to keep ID theory out of the state's science classrooms. But, their ruling left the door open for local school districts to present ID theory together with science, and suggested that scientists should "continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory." In fact, even while the state-level debate continued, the Patrick Henry Local School District, based in Columbus, passed a motion this June to support "the idea of intelligent design being included as appropriate in classroom discussions in addition to other scientific theories."
The Ohio State Education Board is inviting further public comment through November. In December, board members will vote to conclusively determine whether alternatives to evolution should be included in new guidelines that spell out what students need to know about science at different grade levels. Meanwhile, ID theorists have reportedly been active in Missouri, Kansas, New Mexico, New Jersey, and other states, as well Ohio and Georgia.
While asking policymakers to oppose the teaching of ID theory within science classes, the AAAS also called on its 272 affiliated societies, its members, and the public to promote fact-based, standards-based science education for American schoolchildren.
THE FOLLOWING AAAS SOURCES ARE AVAILABLE FOR MEDIA INTERVIEWS:
Dr. Alan I. Leshner, PhD, CEO and Executive Publisher for AAAS
Dr. Peter H. Raven, PhD, Chairman of the AAAS Board of Directors
Dr. Floyd Bloom, PhD, President of the AAAS Board of Directors
Dr. Al Teich, PhD., Director, AAAS Science and Policy Programs
Dr. Audrey Chapman, PhD, Director, AAAS Science and Human Rights Program
Dr. Shirley Malcom, PhD, Director, AAAS Education and Human Resources
Media Contact: Ginger Pinholster, AAAS Office of Public Programs, (202) 326-6440, firstname.lastname@example.org, to request interviews with any of these AAAS sources.
Founded in 1848, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) works to advance science for human well-being through its projects, programs and publications in the areas of science policy, science education and international scientific cooperation. The association also publishes Science, an editorially independent, multidisciplinary, weekly peer-reviewed journal that ranks as the world's most prestigious scientific journal and administers EurekAlert! (www.eurekalert.org), the online news service featuring the latest discoveries in science and technology.