Friday, January 4, 2008

National Academies and Evolution

The National Academies of Science of the US has just released yet another report about evolution. Keep in mind here, the National Academies members are the best scientists in the world. You get invited to join the National Academies after a long and distinguished career as a scientist. Their reports tend to be on the heavy side.

This report is written for regular folks. It's an introduction to evolution in no uncertain terms, and it also blasts creationists:

In the United States, various views of creationism typically have been promoted by small groups of politically active religious fundamentalists who believe that only a supernatural entity could account for the physical changes in the universe and for the biological diversity of life on Earth. But even these creationists hold very different views. Some, known as “young Earth” creationists, believe the biblical account that the universe and the Earth were created just a few thousand years ago. Proponents of this form of creationism also believe that all living things, including humans, were created in a very short period of time in essentially the forms in which they exist today. Other creationists,known as “old Earth” creationists, accept that the Earth may be very old but reject other scientific findings regarding the evolution of living things.

No scientific evidence supports these viewpoints. On the contrary, as discussed earlier, several independent lines of evidence indicate that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old and that the universe is about 14 billion years old. Rejecting the evidence for these age estimates would mean rejecting not just biological evolution but also fundamental discoveries of modern physics, chemistry, astrophysics, and geology.

Some creationists believe that Earth’s present form and the distribution of fossils can be explained by a worldwide flood. But this claim also is at odds with observations and evidence understood scientifically. The belief that Earth’s sediments, with their fossils, were deposited in a short period does not accord either with the known processes of sedimentation or with the estimated volume of water needed to deposit sediments on the top of some of Earth’s highest mountains.
Well said.

The report is well-written, and well placed. (And is clearly intended to mollify believers that there needn't be any conflict between science and faith). But this is probably a good choice on the part of the National Academies, as clearly their intent is to improve American science education:
The pressure to downplay evolution or emphasize nonscientific alternatives in public schools compromises science education.
This is the central point of the report. So go ahead. Download a copy of the report yourself (you need only provide them with your e-mail address). Send it to the members of your school board. Send it to your creationist aunt. Share it. Get it out there.


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