|Evolution vs Creationism|| [Welcome]
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Taking Action: Talking Points
Uphold Science Standards
Liz Hrenda, August 16, 2001 -- On July 12, 2001, the State Board of Education voted to eliminate the language which was intended to allow the teaching of creationism as science in the proposed state education standards. This followed a period of legislative and regulatory scrutiny and public comment. The standards are not final yet, and there will be another 20 day legislative committee review period and another review by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission before the regulations are finally adopted.
Please take this opportunity to write to all members of the House and Senate Education Committees and urge them to uphold the language that the Board is now proposing. All necessary information is provided below: (scroll down or click on titles listed here:) |
Education Committee Members/Addresses
Sample Letter to Committee Members
R.D.K.Thomas, Franklin & Marshall College
Representative Connie Williams, Member of Education Committee
ACLU of PA, May 4, 2001
Pennsylvania Alliance for Democracy (PAD), January 12, 2001
PA Council of Churches, PA Jewish Coalition, et al, May 10, 2001
Roger Thomas, Franklin & Marshall College, June 6, 2001
Legislative Press Conference, June 6, 2001
The current language of the proposed standards can be viewed at http://www.pde.psu.edu/standard/stan.html#SCIENCE (opens in separate window)
Pro-creationist forces are mobilizing to reinstate the language favoring their position. For an example, the website http://www.getequipped.org/science.htm is run by the the North Hills Chapter of Citizens for Excellence in Education, an arm of the National Association of Christian Educators, which opposes public education altogether. (opens in separate window)
Mailing address for all House members:
The Honorable ______________
PA House of Representatives
House Box 202020
Harrisburg PA 17120-2020
Full contact information, including email for those that have it, can be found at http://www2.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/memberinfo/h_comm_popup.cfm?committeeid=edu (opens in separate window)
Mailing address for Senate members:
The Honorable ______________
Senate of Pennsylvania
Senate Box 2030**
Harrisburg PA 17120-30**
(** insert 2 digit district number)
Full contact information, including email for those that have it, can be found at http://www2.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/memberinfo/senate_committees.cfm#edu (opens in separate window)
Sample letter, copy, paste and complete in your word processor, or for a printable .pdf file click here (opens in a separate window - Adobe Acrobat Reader necessary, free download available)
Dear Representative or Senator
I am writing to urge you to support the Department of Education's proposed Standards for Teaching Science as revised by the State Board of Education at its July 12, 2001 meeting.
The revisions made by the Board eliminate the confusion created by the previous language, which would have permitted the teaching of creationism as science. Including religious stories of creationism in science class would erode the value of science education and violate freedom of religion as guaranteed in both the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions. Moreover, religious ideas about the origin and development of life are diverse and contradictory. It could be painful and troubling for children to have their religious beliefs subjected to scientific scrutiny.
I appreciate your support of high standards in education and of freedom of religion.
(Be sure to include your name AND address)
|Testimony on the Proposed Academic Standards for Education in
Science and Technology and Environment and Ecology |
To be presented at a Hearing of the Senate Education Committee, in Harrisburg, June 5, 2001
Roger. D. K. Thomas, John Williamson Nevin Professor of Geosciences, Franklin & Marshall College
A year ago, I testified before a subcommittee of the State Board of Education on the merits of the draft Academic Standards for Science and Technology. I congratulated the Board on its good work. If our children are educated in accord with the proposed standards, they will be challenged by a demanding but entirely appropriate curriculum.
I also urged that no changes in the draft standards should be made in response to demands from those who wish to undercut the objective treatment of evolutionary change in living organisms and the physical world. In fact, a number of changes have since been made to the draft standards. Most of these changes improve the draft. However, some appear to have been framed specifically to permit the inclusion of "scientific creationism" or the concept of "intelligent design" in the curriculum. Consequently, I have recently urged the Board to make further, modest changes to the Academic Standards, as now drafted, before they are approved and implemented.
Specifically, I have recommended that Standard 3.3.10.D.1 be changed to read:
Analyze the fossil record, similarities in body structures, embryological studies and DNA and other molecular data as evidence of the evolutionary relationships among living and extinct organisms.
and, I have recommended that Standard 3.3.12.D.1 be changed to read:
Analyze the impact of new scientific facts on the operation of evolutionary processes and their consequences.
My principal concern in recommending these changes is that the Academic Standards should consistently acknowledge the fact of evolutionary change in complex natural systems, over time. It is established beyond any reasonable doubt that living organisms, the physical body of the Earth, the Solar System, galaxies, and the Universe as a whole are the products of various kinds of evolutionary processes. Evolutionary theories deal with the mechanisms of change in these systems. The reality of evolutionary change in open systems, kept far from thermodynamic equilibrium by large, natural flows of energy, is as certain as the fact that the Earth is round, not flat.
Scientists should applaud calls for study of the "impact of new scientific facts" on a body of theory relating to evolutionary mechanisms or any other natural phenomena. Scientific knowledge is open-ended. It increases as existing models are challenged by new data and their interpretation. This is the nature of our enterprise. However, it appears that some intend to interpret standard 3.3.12.D.1, and possibly other standards, to mean that arguments of so-called "creation science" or evidence said to be consistent only with "intelligent design" may be incorporated into the teaching of science. Consequently, it is important that the State Board of Education should acknowledge, as a matter of record, that "creation science" and "intelligent design" are theological constructs, based on religious belief, and not science as the term is generally understood and used in the Academic Standards.
Indeed, standard 3.3.12.D.1, which did not appear in the earlier draft, could well be eliminated. All scientific knowledge is subject to test and revision in light of new observations, as noted by standards 3.2.7.A.4 and 3.2.12.A.2, in the section on Inquiry and Experimental Design. A standard that singles out evolution for such tests suggests that evolution is more open to question than other scientific principles, such as Newton's Laws. This is not the case.
Some members of our community deny the reality of evolution and resist its straight-forward treatment in the curriculum because they see it as a challenge to their faith in God. Some set this issue up as a struggle between true believers and faithless atheists. This is a false dichotomy, both in practice and in principle. In practice, people of many faiths, including most Christians, have long accepted evolution as a natural phenomenon that is fully consistent with their religious beliefs. Charles Darwin was himself buried in the greatest church in the land, where the kings and queens of his country are crowned. In principle, the real choice we must each make is between belief that the world is amenable to rational explanation and belief that the acts of the Creator are simply mysterious. For many of us, the concept of a God who works predictably and constructively, according to the rules of his creation, is more consistent with "faith, hope and love" than one whose acts are as vengeful and capricious as a literal reading of the Old Testament would suggest. If we reject the objective reality of evolutionary change in nature, we reject the principles on which all scientific knowledge depends.
The physical universe, life on Earth, human cultures, and our varied religious beliefs are all products of dynamic, constructive evolutionary processes. Science and religion come into conflict where the distinctive logic and experience appropriate to one of these 'ways of knowing' is applied in the other realm. The fossil record provides clear and sufficient evidence of the broad outlines of the evolution of life on Earth. Life evolves spontaneously by natural processes, but not at random. Its emergence and complexity neither require nor do they exclude the existence of a divine Creator. Consequently, prudence and the advice of a great teacher dictate that we should render unto science that which is accessible to observation and experiment, in the laboratory and at school, and render unto God that which we can know by faith and revelation alone, in our hearts and in church.
I hope we can avoid the ridicule heaped others who have failed to resist demands that they should include stories and interpretations, based on religious traditions and beliefs, in the science curriculum. Only now, my colleagues in Kansas are getting over being on the receiving end of criticism and derision that erupted around the world, two years ago.
Why is it so important that a proper understanding of evolution should become generally accepted? There is a natural link between seeing ourselves as part of a spontaneous, natural, creative process and believing that we can indeed make the world a better, safer and more humane place. Quite simply, evolution is a liberating idea. It emerged in its modern form from the culture that produced the American Revolution. It is evolutionists whose work and values best represent the socially constructive principles encoded in the U. S. Constitution, not those whose static world view is firmly anchored in the 17th Century.
Charles Darwin developed his concept of natural selection by analogy with what he called "artificial selection", the selective breeding of animals and plants in which we have been engaged since the first domestication of agriculture. Darwin's term needs to be updated, as the stakes have now risen. With the rise of HMO's, we are all familiar with the concept of "managed health care". Today, advances in medicine and agriculture have brought us into a world of "managed evolution". The future course of evolution depends increasingly on our own actions. How can we make responsible socio-political decisions in this complex arena, if many people continue to have doubts about the reality of evolution itself?
Once again, I wish to congratulate the Board and the Department of Education on their drafting of a set of academic standards that will challenge our students and teachers to excel in their work. We owe it to our children to set high standards, embodying humane and academic values that are independent of creed and ideology. The economic health of the Commonwealth and the future of the larger world our children will help to shape depend on their education. Not least, together with mathematics, science, art and the humanities, they need to have a proper understanding of the patterns and processes of evolutionary change that occur in the natural world.
R. D. K. Thomas
Department of Geosciences
Franklin & Marshall College
Lancaster, PA 17604-3003
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Testimony of Rep. Connie Williams, June 6, 2001, Re: Proposed Science Ed. Standards
I'd like to thank everyone for coming. I hope this will be the start of a serious discussion of the issue.
The idea of permitting non_scientific beliefs to be taught as science is not something that should happen in the 21st Century in Pennsylvania.
The science class is not the place to discuss religious doctrine.
Religion is not the business of the Education Committee, science is.
The General Assembly, as a body, should not be in the business of promoting any one religious belief, but should try to protect all religious beliefs.
The issue is what we're trying to teach our children. Our responsibility is to give them the basics of scientific inquiry and facts. In biology we teach principles, the results of scientific experimentation and scientific evidence.
There has been discussion about the theory of evolution versus the theory of creationism.
The American Institute of Biological Sciences, which represents over 240,000 scientists, said "In science, the word theory refers to an underlying principle of observed phenomena that has been tested and verified. However, in common usage, it has come to mean 'hunch' or 'speculation' (what the word hypothesis means)." Unfortunately, those who oppose the teaching of evolution ignore this very significant difference and seize on the use of the word theory to insinuate that evolution is just scientific conjecture.
Failing to teach students the meaning of the word theory as it is used in science will undermine not just the teaching of evolution, but all science education."
Religious belief is one thing and scientific education is quite another.
We are here to define and endorse standards for the public schools of the Commonwealth. We are not here to mix and match private beliefs with public education.
We are here to ensure that our teachers are free to call upon sound science generated through centuries of study. We are not here to manufacture politically convenient loopholes in the Constitution's separation of church and state.
We are here to communicate this as the educational and economic issue that it is. We are not here to inflame this as an emotional issue.
I want our educational system to be a first class experience for every student and for it to be conducted without the distraction of debate over whether scientific knowledge is at odds with religious belief.
We cannot allow this issue to cloud our vision. We cannot allow this issue to obscure our purpose.
We want the cutting edge economy, and their leaders, to want to be in Pennsylvania and to be eager to hire the graduates of our schools.
Let me repeat, religion is not the business of this committee…education is.
Representative Connie Williams, Member of Education Committee
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January 12, 2001
Dr. James Gallagher
State Board of Education
333 Market Street
Harrisburg PA 17126-0333
RE: Recommendations on the Department's draft "Standards for Teaching Science"
Dear Dr. Gallagher,
Following are the comments of the Pennsylvania Alliance for Democracy (PAD) concerning the Department of Education's proposed Standards for Teaching Science. We applaud the effort and overall results achieved by the State Board of Education in this large and very important undertaking.
Summary: We have two specific suggestions which we believe will make these standards even better. We recommend below that the first bulleted items under 3.3.10D and 3.3.12D be deleted. These paragraphs make inappropriate reference to evolution in a way that is not applied to the other sciences. Our reasons follow.
1. In section 3.3.12 D of the proposed Standards, the following language is found, "analyze the impact of new scientific facts on the theory of evolution."
Comment: In section 3.2.12A of the draft Standards it suggests all scientific theories are to be evaluated. We agree. However, why is only the theory of evolution targeted in 3.3.12.D, first paragraph, and the other sciences are not treated the same way? The language in 3.3.12D suggests that somehow the theory of evolution is less well established as a science than the theories governing other sciences. This is not true according to more than 35 scientific associations such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science which have adopted resolutions that support the theory of evolution.(1) In fact, many scientists hold that evolution is one of the most powerful explanatory tools in science today and its influence is reaching far beyond explaining the origins of humans. Evolutionary theory is now influencing scientific thinking in the fields of psychology, language, cultural anthropology, and cosmology to name a few. (1. Voices For Evolution, The National Center for Scientific Education, Inc., Berkeley, CA 1995)
All scientific theories including those that are the foundation of thermodynamics, nuclear physics, astronomy, and number theory are subject to reevaluation based on new scientific findings. To dismiss evolution, as some do, because it is referred to as the "theory of evolution" is to misunderstand what the term "theory" means in science and further to assume the phrase "theory" of evolution implies less confidence in the science of evolution than scientists have in the "law" of thermodynamics. It does not. In these contexts, the usages of "theory" and "law" are merely linguistic habits.
It is mistakenly claimed by some that the theory of evolution as it applies to human evolution has not been and can not be "proved' in the rigorous controls of laboratory experiments and research. In fact, important research that is producing life saving drugs for humans now is being developed in pharmaceutical laboratories which depend on the theory of evolution for their laboratory research and test controls. To paraphrase a genetic researcher in one pharmaceutical company interviewed by Dr. Andrew Petto, National Center for Science Education, "genetics control how people respond to different medications. SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms) are used to build associations, called HAPs, with different genes. Evolution predicts how the frequencies of SNPs will vary among human populations, based on the relatedness of the different populations. Better, higher-quality, and more effective drugs can be produced more quickly and efficiently when they are pretested using models based on evolutionary predictions."
Another example is instructive. According to Dr. Andrew Petto, "the human genome sequencing company, Celera - made a big splash earlier in the year when they announced the complete sequencing of the human genome - was able to make so much progress so quickly because they used evolutionary models to predict the contents of the parts of the human genome that had not yet been sequenced. Their next step is to use these algorithms to identify the role of the genes being sequenced - regulatory and structural genes, as well as chromosomal organization and structure."
It is true that there are important questions remaining to be resolved in various sciences such as the apparent inconsistencies between Newtonian & quantum mechanics, did or how did the universe begin, what is gravity, or did life originate on earth or were its "seeds" transported from outer space. Nevertheless, the theories that define these sciences are so well established that they are the foundation of commercial industries such as the nuclear energy, satellite development, e-commerce, as well as the pharmaceutical industry.
Recommendation: Drop the reference to evolution in 3.3.12D because it serves no useful purpose in these standards, and more importantly, undermines the science of evolution.
2. In section 3.3.10 D of the proposed Standards, the following language is found, "Analyze evidence of fossil records, similarities in body structures, embryological studies and DNA studies that do or do not support the theory of evolution."
Comment: First, the comments made for #1 also apply here. Second, the language "that do or do not support the theory of evolution" seems to suggest that the Department of Education is taking the position that all theories may be of equal usefulness for understanding the world regardless of how poorly conceived or imperfectly grounded in reality these may be. We believe the Department has the responsibility to support scientific standards that are consistent with the best scientific thinking of today.
Furthermore, the proposed language will open the door to allow creationism or so-called "creation-science" to be taught as sciences which these are not. We believe teaching creationism as a science in public schools violates the church-state separation of the Pennsylvania and United States Constitutions.
The Pennsylvania Alliance for Democracy supports each person's right to religious belief, but we do not confuse religion with science. These serve very different needs in the lives of individuals and our society, and they depend on different concepts of the "truth."
Recommendation: We suggest that the language "that do or do not support the theory of evolution" in 3.3.10D is inappropriate to Standards for Teaching Science and recommend it be deleted from the Standards.
With those comments and recommendations made, we wish to thank you for your significant contributions in the important work of educating our children.
Liz Hrenda, Executive Director
Pennsylvania Alliance for Democracy
cc: The Honorable James J. Rhoades, The Honorable Allyson Y. Schwartz, The Honorable Jess M. Stairs, The Honorable Nicholas Colafella
May 4, 2001
Dr. James Gallagher
State Board of Education
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
333 Market Street
Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333
Dear Dr. Gallagher:
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania continues to strongly oppose the proposed Academic Standards for Science and Technology that appears to permit local schools to attempt to teach creationism. We have reviewed the proposed standards and are deeply troubled by the prospect that they could undermine the teaching of evolution. We are even more concerned because Dan Langan, a spokesman for the Department of Education, has openly admitted that these standards will allow the teaching of creation theory in public school science classes. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 29, 2000) As of this date, we have seen no disavowal of that disturbing statement by Mr. Langan.
The ACLU has considerable experience in the fight over teaching creationism. Back in 1925, the ACLU represented John Scopes in the landmark case that established that evolution could be taught in the nation's public schools. Since then, all across the country, the ACLU has been frequently assisted parents and children who oppose public schools injecting religion into the curriculum through the teaching of creationism.
Courts have consistently decided that religious doctrines cannot be taught as science. The United States Supreme Court has specifically found that the teaching of creationism violates the First Amendment. Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987) and Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97 (1968). In 1999, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against a Louisiana school board's policy that required that the teaching of evolution be accompanied by a disclaimer that mentioned the biblical version of creation. Frieler v. Tangipahoa Parish Board of Education, 185 F.3d 337 (5th Cir. 1999).
We have no doubt that some school districts will attempt to inject creationism into the science classrooms of Pennsylvania if the proposed regulations are adopted as currently written. We are confident that any court would agree with us and find that any attempt to teach creationism is unconstitutional. We hope that the State Board of Education will revise these standards and not knowingly invite controversial litigation over well-settled matters of constitutional law.
While the ACLU is primarily concerned with the constitutional implications of these standards, we are also concerned about the impact they will have on Pennsylvania's public school students. In order to be competitive in the economy of the 21st century, our students need to receive a comprehensive education, one that includes an accurate teaching of the theory of evolution. Employers will be looking to hire individuals who have a solid understanding of science. High-tech businesses and companies that manufacture health related products will expect prospective employees to be conversant with modern scientific theories. Pennsylvania would do a grave disservice to its public school students and to the economy of this state if it did not establish rigorous standards for the teaching of science.
The ACLU urges the State Board of Education to revise the proposed standards for the teaching of science. We think that it should be absolutely clear that evolution is to be taught as scientific theory and that creationism is not to be taught in science classes. The ACLU would recommend the following two changes:
3.3.10 D. - In the first paragraph, delete the words "or do not support"
3.3.12 D. - Delete the entire first paragraph: "Analyze the impact of new scientific facts on the theory of evolution."
We believe that these deletions will improve the standards. Students will be required to explain and analyze the theory of evolution as well as the scientific evidence that supports that theory. Students will learn to think critically about the theory of evolution. Students will learn how scientific evidence explains the existence of surviving species and the extinction of other species. Students will understand the concept of natural selection. Most importantly, students will not be confused into believing that religious doctrine is science or a scientific theory.
By speaking with greater clarity, you will be complying with the United States Constitution, promoting the best interests of Pennsylvania's public school students, and saving the taxpayers the expense of funding unnecessary litigation. We urge you to make changes to the proposed standards so that all school districts in Pennsylvania will understand that creationism is not part of the scientific curriculum.
Very truly yours,
Larry Frankel, Executive Director, ACLU of PA
Cc: The Members of the Pennsylvania Senate and House Education Committees
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May 10, 2001
Peter H. Garland, Executive Director
State Board of Education
333 Market Street
Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333
Dear Mr. Garland:
As representatives of a number of faith based organizations we are very concerned about sections of the Board's proposed Academic Standards for Science and Technology that appear to permit local school districts to teach creationism. By including language that questions the scientifically based theory of evolution in sections 3.3.10.D and 3.3.12.D, the proposed standards assure that some of our 501 school districts will attempt to inject creation theory into their science classrooms. It is our understanding that at least one representative of the Department of Education has acknowledged that these standards do open the door to such teachings.
Although creationism is believed by many as a matter of faith, it is a religious doctrine that should not be taught in our public school classrooms as science. Religion has an important place in our lives. It should be practiced in our churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship. Our United States and State Constitutions demand, and common sense dictates, however, that religious doctrine has no place in our public institutions.
We urge that the words "or do not support" in the first paragraph of section 3.3.10.D, and the entire first paragraph of section 3.3.12.D be deleted from the proposal. The lack of such language in at least one section of the standards that concern the theory of evolution, highlights the fact that these words are unnecessary. Section 3.5.12.A in the section paragraph reads "Interpret geological evidence supporting evolution".
We strongly support the right of any religious body to teach creationism as fact as a part of its doctrine. At the same time, there must be no doubt that it may not be taught in the science classes of our public schools.
Joel Weisberg, Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition Executive Director
Rev. K. Joy Kaufmann for the Pennsylvania Council of Churches,
Rev. Lynn Lampman for the Episcopal Policy Network, and
Penny Staver for A Methodist Witness in Pennsylvania.
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June 6, 2001
Senator James J. Rhoades
Senate Box 203029
The State Capitol
Harrisburg Pennsylvania 17120-3029
Dear Senator Rhoades,
re: Academic Standards for Science and Technology
Thank you very much for your courtesy, and that of your colleagues on the Senate Education Committee, in taking note of my comments and those of other interested parties, at the hearing you held, yesterday.
I am afraid our local newspaper, the Intelligencer Journal, may have succeeded in misleading everyone by running the AP news story on yesterday's hearing under the headline "Lawmaker: New science standards won't mandate teaching creationism". No one ever suggested mandating the teaching of creationism in our public schools, of course. However, this does show just how important it is that our standards must be as clear as possible on this issue. What the standards may seem to allow has the potential to get us into almost as much trouble as the more direct assault on evolution that for a brief time held sway in Kansas.
I believe the two amendments that I recommended in my testimony leave less room for ambiguity than the language of the current draft. Consequently, I very much hope that these changes can be made. There is much in the new standards of which we can be proud. I would much rather be in the position of recommending our standards as a model to others than defending them against the charge that they are deliberately ambiguous on evolution.
Dr. Michael Behe has a different view of the matter, as you know. In his testimony, yesterday, he took a much more traditional position against evolution than his book, Darwin's Black Box, had led me to expect. In his book, he allows that evolutionary change apparently does occur at the level of populations and species. The molecular machinery of cells, on the other hand, is so complex that only ‘intelligent design' can explain their origin. That claim rests on faith, not scientific evidence, but this is another matter. Yesterday, he chose to raise questions, focusing on two current issues, about the reality of evolution in general.
Dr. Behe pursued the familiar course of confounding three matters that quite distinct in substance and in argument:
• the phenomenon of evolutionary change, which occurs in stars, the physical body of the Earth, living organisms, and in human cultures, as Senator Mowery pointed out. This phenomenon was conceived in Senator James J. Rhoades philosophical terms by the ancient Greeks, but it is now recognized as a matter of fact. Knowledge itself evolves. So, we now recognize certain properties of the natural world that were of more uncertain status, 200 years ago, as established facts. The Earth revolves around the Sun; life has evolved and is evolving, here on Earth. Facts themselves change as we learn more about the world, as Senator Scwartz pointed out.
• patterns of evolutionary change that we observe or infer to have taken place. Some of these patterns are well established, such as the successive appearance on Earth of single cells, the first soft-bodied invertebrates, and later creatures with behavior so complex that they build great cities, invent remarkable technologies, and create great works of art. Other patterns, such as those observed in the development of vertebrate embryos and the change in diversity over time of communities living on the sea floor, are open to interpretation. These are topics of active investigation and lively debate. Moreover, such patterns are vulnerable to over-simplification, as in the case of the embryos idealized in Ernst Haeckel's notorious illustration. What is at issue in these and many other cases is not whether evolution occurred, but what pattern of change it produced. These issues must be studied critically, by scientists and by our students, but it is the pattern, not the fact of evolutionary change that is at stake.
• processes of evolutionary change. Natural selection and mutation are key processes involved in the evolution of living organisms. They are not the only processes involved, and the relative importance of various processes is subject to strong disagreement among biologists and paleontologists. Other, quite different processes are involved in evolutionary change in other sorts of systems, like stars and human cultures. The issue here is not whether evolution occurred, but how it occurred.
I believe the two amendments to the draft standards that I have recommended contribute, in a small way, to maintaining these important distinctions. Moreover, I believe these changes may help us to avoid becoming embroiled in needless and unproductive controversy.
Thank you, once again, for your attention and for your patience in working through these difficult and sometimes contentious issues.
R. D. K. Thomas
John Williamson Nevin Professor of Geosciences
telephone: 717-291-4135 fax: 717-291-4186
cc: Senators Mowery, Conti, Earll, Murphy, Piccola, Schwartz, Hughes, Kukovich, and LaValle; Dr. Peter H. Garland
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House Members Oppose Teaching Creationism in Public Schools
PA House of Representatives, Office of Democratic Legislative Information, June 6, 2001 -- State House Education Committee members reacting to proposed changes in state education standards called on their colleagues to protect the integrity of science instruction in the classroom during a Capitol news conference today.
State Reps. Connie Williams and Larry Curry, both D-Montgomery; Sara Steelman, D-Indiana/Cambria; Kathy Manderino, D-Phila.; and Phyllis Mundy, D-Luzerne, joined by representatives of the religious, scientific, civil liberties, and biotechnology communities, held a press conference to recommend changes to academic standards they believe undermine the integrity of science teaching and may open the door to the teaching of creationism or "intelligent design" in science classes.
Their comments were in response to recent changes in the academic standards in science and technology proposed by the State Board of Education.
The legislators were joined by Rev. Joy Kaufmann of the Pennsylvania Council of Churches; Dr. Peter Dobson, a paleontologist at the University of Pennsylvania; Larry Frankel, executive director of the Pennsylvania branch of the American Civil Liberties Union; Rob McCord of the Eastern Technology Council; Kathleen Dougherty of Lutheran Advocacy Ministry; and Joel Weisberg of the Pennsylvania Jewish Council.
Williams, reacting to the possibility that creationism might be introduced into science classes, asserted that "Religion is not in the business of the Education Committee, science is. The General Assembly, as a body, should not be in the business of promoting any one religious belief, but should try to protect all religious beliefs."
Steelman, a former research biologist, added "We think that the theory of evolution, like our theory of the solar system and the germ theory of disease, should always be open to challenges and modification in the light of new facts. However, there is already language in the standards section on unifying themes indicating that students should be able to describe and explain changes in many scientific theories over time. We are suggesting that evolutionary theory should be one of the theories suggested for analysis in that section, not singled out as if it were somehow different from other scientific theories."
"It is perfectly possible to be a Jew or a Christian and to not be a creationist," said Kaufmann, who followed that remark with another declaration: "Religion is important and good, and science is important and good. However, they are not the same thing."
Dr. Dodson described himself as a committed Christian who is also confident that evolutionary theory is correct. He pointed out that the overwhelming consensus in the scientific community, not just the community of biologists, is that the theory of evolution is simply the best explanation for many phenomena in physical and earth science, as well as in the biological sciences.
From the legal standpoint, Frankel said, "The U.S. Supreme Court said that creation is not to be taught in the public schools as science. It is that clear."
"I want our educational system to be a first class experience for every student and for it to be conducted without the distraction of debate over whether scientific knowledge is at odds with religious belief," Williams said.
Past Related Articles:
It’s Not (Just) In Kansas Anymore!
People For the American Way, April 27, 2001 -- Just when you thought it was safe to go back into science class, here come the creationists again. They are trying to turn it into theology class by pushing Bible-based creationism over a scientifically sound curriculum.
The media spotlight surrounding the creationism-evolution battle has largely died down since the furor over the Kansas Board of Education’s August 1999 decision to stop the teaching of evolution and the subsequent voter backlash. But a new report released today by People For the American Way Foundation shows that creationists’ efforts remain unabated. The report details creationists’ activities across 28 states.
The report, entitled Creationism in 2001: A State-by-State Report, reveals a concerted and troubling campaign launched by the Religious Right to deny science teachers the authority to teach their classes the most authoritative scientific information about the origins of life. Within the last two months alone, for example, bills limiting instruction on evolution have been introduced in the state legislatures of Michigan and Arkansas. The Michigan bill goes so far as to require students to explain why, under creationism, "life is the result of the purposeful, intelligent design of a creator."
"The Religious Right has shown it will sacrifice good teaching and good science to accomplish its goal of eroding the constitutional separation of church and state," said Ralph G. Neas, President of People For the American Way Foundation. "Sadly, our school children and their education are the victims of these attacks."
The report catalogues several ways in which creationists aim to promote creationism and suppress instruction on evolution: changing the law; rewriting the curriculum; replacing the word ‘evolution’ with ‘changes over time’ in state and local science teaching standards and texts; forcing textbook companies to include a statement that evolution is ‘controversial’ or ‘that human life was created by one God of the Universe’; and even changing the name of creationism itself.
"Creationism has failed in the courts and at the polls time and time again," said Neas. "Now the Right has ‘intelligent design’ theory, a sort of creationism-lite that’s supposed to fly beneath the radar screen."
The report also reveals the means creationists are employing to effect their changes: targeting state and local school boards, stacking textbook committees and curriculum committees, rewriting school libraries’ purchasing and donation acceptance policies, and otherwise attempting to gain control over teachers, administrators and state and local legislators.
Creationism in 2001 details the Religious Right's attempts to through The report recounts happenings in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, West Virginia, and at the national level.
To download a copy of Creationism in 2001: A State-by-State Report, go to http://pfaw.org/issues/education/creationism_report.pdf. To receive a copy by e-mail, fax, or mail, contact Jason Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or Melissa Dorfman at email@example.com or call 202-467-4999.
People For the American Way organizes and mobilizes Americans to fight for fairness, justice, civil rights and the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.
Earth History and the Evolution of Life Must Be Taught: Creationism Is Not Science
posted April 2001, Adopted by AGU December 1981, reaffirmed December 1999 -- The American Geophysical Union affirms the central importance of scientific theories of Earth history and organic evolution in science education.