The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest general scientific society, shares with science and technology centers and museums a deep commitment to improved public understanding of science and the role it plays in people's lives. We are writing now to express strong concerns about increasing threats to science that endanger our shared missions and to offer our support and partnership in dealing with them.
A March 19, 2005 New York Times article-"A New Test for Imax: The Bible vs. the Volcano," by Cornelia Dean-raised serious issues about the future of science and scientific freedom in America. The article, which detailed the growing trend of science museums declining to show Imax films that mention the process of evolution, explains that fear of protests has prompted some museum managers to scrub such offerings from play lists. The films include "Galapagos," about the islands where Darwin theorized about evolution; and "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea," a look at life in the super-heated world of deep-sea vents.
The desire not to antagonize audiences and to avoid negative business outcomes is entirely understandable. Yet, the suppression of scientifically accurate information as a response to those with differing perspectives is inappropriate and threatens both the integrity of science and the broader public education to which we all are committed. It is also objectionable to many stakeholders-including many with strong religious convictions-who understand that religion and science are not in opposition.
AAAS is eager to provide assistance to museum leaders facing evolution-related conflicts. Toward that end, we invite your feedback regarding the support strategies that would prove most useful to your institutions.
We applaud the efforts of science centers to remain true to the mission of providing quality science programming for all. Further, we encourage all centers to follow the example of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, which reversed an earlier decision and will show "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea" after all.
Alan I. Leshner
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science (www.sciencemag.org). AAAS was founded in 1848, and serves some 10 million individuals through 262 affiliated societies and academies of science. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of one million. A non-profit organization, AAAS (www.aaas.org) is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!, www.eurekalert.org, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.