20 September 2008

AAS Supports the Teaching of Evolution

Press Release – September 20, 2005


Dr. Robert P. Kirshner,
President, American Astronomical Society,
Harvard College Professor and Clowes Professor of Science at Harvard University,
(617) 495-7519, rkirshner@cfa.harvard.edu

Dr. George Nelson,
Education Officer, American Astronomical Society,
(360) 650-3637, george.nelson@wwu.edu


Dr. Kevin B. Marvel,
Deputy Executive Officer, American Astronomical Society,
(202) 328-2010x114 or (703) 589-7503, marvel@aas.org

American Astronomical Society Supports the Teaching of Evolution in United States Science Classes and states that "Intelligent Design” is non-Scientific and should not be Taught to the Nation’s Children

In a statement released today (and included in its entirety below), the American Astronomical Society, the largest professional scientific association for astronomers and astrophysicists in the United States, supports the teaching of evolution in K-12 science classes. While endorsing the teaching of evolution the American Astronomical Society reminds the public that a scientific theory is the strongest form of scientific understanding of our world and not a mere speculation or guess. Theories are always open to revision, but represent our current best understanding of how nature and the universe work.

Focusing specifically on recent actions by proponents of so-called "Intelligent Design”, the statement released today points out that "Intelligent Design” fails to meet the basic definition of a scientific idea or theory containing no testable way to verify its central ideas.

The President of the American Astronomical Society, Dr. Robert P. Kirshner of Harvard University said, "Science teachers have their hands full teaching the things that we actually know about the world we live in. They shouldn't be burdened with content-free dogma like Intelligent Design."

Dr.George Nelson, Education Officer of the American Astronomical Society and former astronaut agreed, saying "Anti-science movements like Intelligent Design, however disguised, seriously undermine the already difficult task of educating the next generation to be science literate. And a science literate citizenry is necessary if America is to continue to thrive."

The AAS statement was adopted by the Council of the American Astronomical Society, the elected governing board of the association. It is given below in its entirety. Supporting references and additional information are available on the Society’s website at http://aas.org.

American Astronomical Society Statement on the Teaching of Evolution
20 September, 2005

The American Astronomical Society supports teaching evolution in our nation’s K-12 science classes. Evolution is a valid scientific theory for the origin of species that has been repeatedly tested and verified through observation, formulation of testable statements to explain those observations, and controlled experiments or additional observations to find out whether these ideas are right or wrong. A scientific theory is not speculation or a guess -- scientific theories are unifying concepts that explain the physical universe.

Astronomical observations show that the Universe is many billions of years old (see the AAS publication, An Ancient Universe, cited below), that nuclear reactions in stars have produced the chemical elements over time, and recent observations show that gravity has led to the formation of many planets in our Galaxy. The early history of the solar system is being explored by astronomical observation and by direct visits to solar system objects. Fossils, radiological measurements, and changes in DNA trace the growth of the tree of life on Earth. The theory of evolution, like the theories of gravity, plate tectonics, and Big Bang cosmology, explains, unifies, and predicts natural phenomena. Scientific theories provide a proven framework for improving our understanding of the world.

In recent years, advocates of "Intelligent Design,” have proposed teaching "Intelligent Design” as a valid alternative theory for the history of life. Although scientists have vigorous discussions on interpretations for some aspects of evolution, there is widespread agreement on the power of natural selection to shape the emergence of new species. Even if there were no such agreement, "Intelligent Design” fails to meet the basic definition of a scientific idea: its proponents do not present testable hypotheses and do not provide evidence for their views that can be verified or duplicated by subsequent researchers.

Since "Intelligent Design” is not science, it does not belong in the science curriculum of the nation’s primary and secondary schools.

The AAS supports the positions taken by the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Science Teachers’ Association, the American Geophysical Union, the American Chemical Society, and the American Association of Physics Teachers on the teaching of evolution. The AAS also supports the National Science Education Standards: they emphasize the importance of scientific methods as well as articulating well-established scientific theories.

References Cited The Ancient Universe: How Astronomers Know the Vast Scale of Cosmic Time. Published by the American Astronomical Society. It is also available as a PDF on the Society’s webpages at http://aas.org/files/resources/Anicent_Universe.pdf.