Statements on Teaching Evolution

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Science Professionals

Daniel C. Dennett

Daniel Dennett, author of Darwin's Dangerous Idea and professor of philosophy at Tufts University, wrote in an August 2005 New York Times editorial:[1]

Since there is no content [in intelligent design creationism], there is no "controversy" to teach about in biology class. But here is a good topic for a high school course on current events and politics: Is intelligent design a hoax? And if so, how was it perpetrated?

Rush Holt

Rush Holt, US Congressional Representative and Physicist, wrote[2]in September 2005 about what is good science, what should be taught about science, and why it should be taught. Some short excerpts:

...public school science classes are not the place to teach concepts that cannot be backed up by evidence and tested experimentally.

A scientifically literate nation would not permit Intelligent Design to be presented and treated as a scientific theory. Science education is necessary for all students, especially for those who are not going to become professional scientists. We must not lose the important American characteristic - hard, practical thinking.

Understanding sciences brings order, harmony, and balance to our lives. The sciences teach us that the world is intelligible and not capricious. They give us the skills for lifelong learning, for creating progress itself.

Luc Jacquet

Luc Jacquet, director of the surprise documentary-film hit of 2005, March of the Penguins, was quoted[3] in The London Times reacting to the popularity of the film among American fundamentalists and anti-evolutionist:

For me there is no doubt about evolution. I am a scientist. The intelligent design theory is a step back to the thinking of 300 years ago. My film is not supposed to be interpreted in this way [i.e., as "evidence" for intelligent-design creationism].

John H Marburger III

In August 2005, shortly after the President made a statement supportive of teaching "Intelligent Design" creationist doctrine in public schools, John H. Marburger III, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, responded publically to a question on the subject by saying[4]

Evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology.

Intelligent design is not a scientific theory.

Ushma S. Neill

Ushma Neill, Executive Editor of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, in an editorial in the same journal called "Don’t be stupid about intelligent design", wrote to colleagues:

President George W. Bush and Senate majority leader Bill Frist have recently publicly advocated teaching intelligent design in science classes. Their endorsement of a discredited, nonscientific view could signal a huge step backward for scientific education. It is time for educated, motivated scientists to get involved and to educate others. [...] Get informed and get involved — whether by telling your neighbors, discussing with your children, or joining action groups or committees. Thinly veiled attempts to inject religion into the classroom should be stopped by those of us with the understanding and wherewithal to do so.

Education Professionals

Australian Scientists and Science Teachers

On 20 October 2005, the open letter "Intelligent design is not science" was published in major Australian newspapers. The letter was the "unanimous initiative of the executive of the Faculty of Science at the University of New South Wales, led by its Dean, Professor Mike Archer"; the signatories, leads of nine Australian Professional Societies and Teaching Associations[5], represent over 70,000 Australian scientists and science teachers. In part, the letter read:

As Australian scientists and science educators, we are gravely concerned that so-called "intelligent design" (ID) might be taught in any school as a valid scientific alternative to evolution. While science is a work in progress, a vast and growing body of factual knowledge supports the hypothesis that biological complexity is the result of natural processes of evolution. [... Because ID does not meet any of the criteria that would mark it as a science,] We therefore urge all Australian governments and educators not to permit the teaching or promulgation of ID as science. To do so would make a mockery of Australian science teaching and throw open the door of science classes to similarly unscientific world views - be they astrology, spoon-bending, flat-earth cosmology or alien abductions - and crowd out the teaching of real science.

Georgia Science Teachers Association

This is an excerpt from their undated "Position Statement on the Teaching of Evolution:

Science is a method of explaining the natural world. It assumes the universe operates according to regularities and that through systematic investigation we can understand these regularities. Because the methodology of science is based on explanations that use empirical data, it cannot use supernatural causation in its explanations. Science has increased our knowledge because of this insistence on the search for data to explain natural processes.
The Georgia Science Teachers Association supports the position that evolution is a major unifying concept of science and should be included as part of K-College science curricula and offers the following recommendations: [there follows 5 specific suggestions to teachers, administrators, and parents.]

Robert E. Hemenway

In a "Dear Colleagues" Letter dated 27 September 2005, University of Kansas Chancellor Bob Hemenway reiterated his earlier position on the teaching of evolution[6], and wrote:

The University of Kansas is a major public research university, a scientific community. We are committed to fact-based research and teaching. As an academic, scientific community, we must affirm scientific principles. [...] The United States cannot accept efforts to undermine the teaching of science. Our focus should be to raise the level of scientific literacy among our citizenry because we face a critical shortage of scientists in the next two decades. As a public research university, we have a special mission to educate tomorrow's scientists and to support the science teachers who will inspire young people to become chemists, geologists, biologists and physicists.

Lehigh University Department of Biological Sciences

The Department's undated "Department Position on Evolution and "Intelligent Design" reads, in its entirety:

The faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences is committed to the highest standards of scientific integrity and academic function. This commitment carries with it unwavering support for academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas. It also demands the utmost respect for the scientific method, integrity in the conduct of research, and recognition that the validity of any scientific model comes only as a result of rational hypothesis testing, sound experimentation, and findings that can be replicated by others.

The department faculty, then, are unequivocal in their support of evolutionary theory, which has its roots in the seminal work of Charles Darwin and has been supported by findings accumulated over 140 years. The sole dissenter from this position, Prof. Michael Behe, is a well-known proponent of “intelligent design.” While we respect Prof. Behe's right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific.

Jack O’Connell

In a California Department of Education press release[7] dated 28 September 2005, Jack O'Connell, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, is quoted as saying

The introduction of intelligent design theory in natural science courses would be a blow to the integrity of education in California. [...] [T]he domain of the natural sciences is the natural world. Science is limited by its tools — observable facts and testable hypothesis. Because religious beliefs are based on faith, and are not subject to scientific test and refutation, these beliefs should not be taught in the realm of natural sciences.

Hunter R. Rawlings III

The Cornell Daily Sun reported[8] on the State of the University Address, given on 21 October 2005 by Cornell University's interim president Hunter R. Rawlings III to a joint session of the Board of Trustees and University Council. Rawlings is quoted as saying:

We should not suspend, or rather annul, the rules of science in order to allow any idea into American education. Intelligent Design is a subjective concept. It is, at its core, a religious belief.

Timothy P. White

In a "Letter to the University of Idaho Faculty, Staff and Students" dated 4 October 2005, Timothy P. White, President of the University of Idaho, wrote:

Because of recent national media attention to the issue, I write to articulate the University of Idaho’s position with respect to evolution: This is the only curriculum that is appropriate to be taught in our bio-physical sciences. As an academic scientific community and a research extensive land-grant institution, we affirm scientific principles that are testable and anchored in evidence.

Public Figures

Howard Dean

Howard Dean, M.D., is a former governor of Vermont, Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, and Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. In an interview with Bob Scheiffer of the CBS news program "Face the Nation" on 14 August 2005, Dean made the following remarks:

But the truth of the matter is, intelligent design is a religious perception and a religious precept. That's fine. That should be taught wherever religion is taught, if that's the desire of those people who are religious. [...] Science is science. There's no factual evidence for intelligent design. There's an enormous amount of factual evidence for evolution. Those are the facts. If you don't like the facts, then you can fight against them. The Catholic Church fought against Galileo for a great many, many centuries. But it never pays to ignore the facts. [...] The truth is, you can't run a business, a state, a country or a family if you don't care what the facts are.

Jon Huntsman Jr

According to the story "Educators support teaching evolution", which appeared in the Deseret News [UT] on 3 September 2005, Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr.

...told reporters he believes intelligent design should not be taught in science classes and that the time to talk about other concepts comes largely at home or in religious settings.

"If it comes up in sociology or philosophy as differing views on creation, I think that's appropriate," Huntsman said. "But that doesn't happen until college or maybe later in high school."

Christoph Schoenborn

Only three months after publishing remarks harsly criticizing evolutionary theory[9], Austrian Cardinal Shoenborn, in a lecture at St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna on 2 October 2005, reportedly said[10]:

Without a doubt, Darwin pulled off quite a feat with his main work and it remains one of the very great works of intellectual history.

More in our article The Cardinal, The Astronomer, and Darwin.

Professional Societies

American Anthropological Association

From a lengthy "Statement on Evolution and Creationism", adopted by the AAA Executive Board in April 2000, these brief opening paragraphs of "affirmation":

Evolution is a basic component of many aspects of anthropology (including physical anthropology, archeology, cultural anthropology, and linguistics) and is a cornerstone of modern science, being central to biology, geology, and astronomy;

The principles of evolution have been tested repeatedly and found to be valid according to scientific criteria. Evolution should be part of the pre-college curriculum; it is the best scientific explanation of human and nonhuman biology and the key to understanding the origin and development of life;

American Association of Physics Teachers

From the "AAPT Statement on the Teaching of Evolution and Cosmology", adopted by the Executive Board of the American Association of Physics Teachers on April 24, 2005:

The Executive Board of the American Association of Physics Teachers is dismayed at organized actions to weaken and even to eliminate significant portions of evolution and cosmology from the educational objectives of states and school districts. [...] We do our children a grave disservice if we remove from their education an exposure to firm scientific evidence supporting principles that significantly shape our understanding of the world in which we live. [...] The American Association of Physics Teachers opposes all efforts to require or promote teaching creationism or any other non-scientific viewpoints in a science course.

American Association of University Professors

The Ninety-first Annual Meeting, held in 2005, of the American Association of University Professors adopted a statement on "Teaching Evolution" that concluded

This Meeting calls on local communities and state officials to reject proposals that seek to suppress discussion of evolution in our public schools as inimical to principles of academic freedom.

American Astronomical Society

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

The AAS also made an earlier statement, by resolution on 10 January 1982, against the teaching of creationist doctrine (at that time known as "Creation Science"). For more information, see our entry on the American Astronomical Society.

American Geological Institute

In January 2000, the AGI Executive Committee reaffirmed its "Position on Teaching Evolution", originally adopted unanimously in 5 November 1981. In its entirety:

Scientific evidence indicates beyond any doubt that life has existed on Earth for billions of years. This life has evolved through time producing vast numbers of species of plants and animals, most of which are extinct. Although scientists debate the mechanism that produced this change, the evidence for the change is undeniable. Therefore, in the teaching of science we oppose any position that ignores this scientific reality, or that gives equal time to interpretations based on religious beliefs only.

American Geophysical Union

In the press release "President Confuses Science and Belief, Puts Schoolchildren at Risk", dated 2 August 2005, AGU Executive Director Fred Spilhaus is quoted as saying:

'Intelligent design' is not a scientific theory. [...] Scientific theories, like evolution, relativity and plate tectonics, are based on hypotheses that have survived extensive testing and repeated verification. [...] Ideas that are based on faith, including 'intelligent design,' operate in a different sphere and should not be confused with science.

American Institute of Biological Sciences

The AIBS issued a press release on 5 August 2005, "Position Statements: AIBS Criticizes President's Statement on Intelligent Design", which included the following:

"Intelligent design is not a scientific theory and must not be taught in science classes," said AIBS president Dr. Marvalee Wake.... [...] The majority of biologists utilize the theory of evolution in their work on a daily basis. The scientific method requires generating hypotheses, testing the hypotheses with data, and drawing conclusions based on the data; this is the practice of scientists, including evolutionary biologists.

The AIBS maintains a useful resource page, "Policy Issues Related to Teaching Evolution".

American Physical Society

From the press release "Physics Society President Says Intelligent Design Should Not be Taught as Science", of 4 August 2005:

Marvin Cohen,[11] president of the American Physical Society (APS), has stated that only scientifically validated theories, such as evolution, should be taught in the nation’s science classes. He made this statement in response to recently reported remarks of President Bush about intelligent design, which is a type of creationism.

That same release notes that "[t]he APS governing Council has long expressed its opposition to the inclusion of religious concepts such as intelligent design and related forms of creationism in science classes", having issued two previous statements concerning the teaching of creationist doctrine. For more information, see our article on the American Physical Society.

American Phytopathological Society

From their statement "On The Teaching of Evolution and Intelligent Design (ID)", released on 20 September 2005, the Society gives two reasons why they have endorsed the 2002 statement by the American Association for the Advancement of Science supporting the teaching of evolution:

First, evolution is the foundation for what we do daily as plant pathologists in our teaching, research, and outreach activities. Second, we are a society of scientists and, as such, we should speak publicly for science when an important need arises, as it has on this occasion. We have an obligation to see that science is portrayed correctly to the public and in particular to youngsters who are just learning about science.


From the press release "Scientific Societies Support Teaching Evolution":

In Support of Teaching Evolution
Position Statement by the Executive Committees of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, adopted August 11, 2005

Intelligent design is not a scientific discipline and should not be taught as part of the K-12 science curriculum. Intelligent design has neither the substantial research base, nor the testable hypotheses as a scientific discipline. There are at least 70 resolutions from a broad array of scientific societies and institutions that are united on this matter.

Association for Women Geoscientists

From the AWG's "Policy Paper on Science Curricula and the Teaching of Evolution in K-12 Classrooms", the following resolution in its entirety:

The Association for Women Geoscientists supports the teaching of evolution in the science curriculum and urges the separation of science from religious teaching in public school's science curricula. We believe that all students should be taught the method and principles of modern science, including the method of hypothesis testing by observation, data collection, experimentation, and the difference between scientific theory and hypothesis. Any hypothesis that is not subject to testing, or does not arise from observation and repeatable data, cannot be considered science.

To do otherwise puts students at a disadvantage in understanding and appreciating the wonder of our Earth, as well as in their pursuit of higher education and careers in science.

Passed by the AWG Board of Directors on April 25th, 1998.

Botanical Society of America

The society council approved a rather lengthy "Statement on Evolution" on 27 July 2003. Here are two very short, summary excerpts:

Science education is about teaching valid concepts and those that led to the development of new explanations. [...] The proponents of creationism/intelligent design promote scientific ignorance in the guise of learning. As professional scientists and educators, we strongly assert that such efforts are both misguided and flawed, presenting an incorrect view of science, its understandings, and its processes.

National Association of Biology Teachers

From the NABT's "Statement on Teaching Evolution" (originally from 1995[12]):

As stated in The American Biology Teacher by the eminent scientist Theodosius Dobzhansky (1973), “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” This often-quoted declaration accurately reflects the central, unifying role of evolution in biology. [...] Experimentation, logical analysis, and evidence-based revision are procedures that clearly differentiate and separate science from other ways of knowing. Explanations or ways of knowing that invoke non-naturalistic or supernatural events or beings, whether called “creation science,” “scientific creationism,” “intelligent design theory,” “young earth theory,” or similar designations, are outside the realm of science and not part of a valid science curriculum.

This entire NABT statement has also been adopted as their official statement on teaching evolution by the following organizations:

National Science Teachers Association

From the introduction to a Position Statement (which contains additional declarations and recommendations) adopted by the NSTA Board of Directors in July 2003:

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) strongly supports the position that evolution is a major unifying concept in science and should be included in the K-12 science education frameworks and curricula. [...] NSTA also recognizes that evolution has not been emphasized in science curricula in a manner commensurate to its importance because of official policies, intimidation of science teachers, the general public's misunderstanding of evolutionary theory, and a century of controversy. In addition, teachers are being pressured to introduce creationism, "creation science," and other nonscientific views, which are intended to weaken or eliminate the teaching of evolution.

North American Benthological Society

The entire "NABS Statement Endorsing Evolution by Natural Selection", dated 9 July 2001:

The North American Benthological Society recognizes Biological Evolution, including common ancestry of life of earth, descent with modification, speciation through lineage splitting, and the mechanism of natural selection as facts supported by empirical evidence. Moreover, since evolution by natural selection is the central unifying theory of biology, we recognize the importance of incorporating evolution into ultimate causal explanations of ecological, biogeographical and physiological phenomena within aquatic ecosystems. We strongly endorse the teaching of evolution as science in schools.

The Paleontological Society

This excerpt is from The Paleontological Society's Position Statement on Evolution:

Evolution is an elegant theory that explains the history of life through geologic time; the diversity of living organisms, including their genetic, molecular, and physical similarities and differences; and the geographic distribution of organisms. Evolutionary principles are the foundation of all basic and applied biology and paleontology, from biodiversity studies to studies on the control of emerging diseases. [...] The evolution paradigm has withstood nearly 150 years of scrutiny. Although the existence of evolution has been confirmed many times, as a science evolutionary theory must continue to be open to testing. At this time, however, more fruitful inquiries address the tempo and mode of evolution, various processes involved in evolution, and driving factors for evolution. Through such inquiry, the unifying theory of evolution will become an even more powerful explanation for the history of life on Earth.

Society for Neuroscience

The summarizing conclusion of the SfN's "Statement on Evolution and Intelligent Design" reads:

For these reasons, the Society for Neuroscience categorically opposes the teaching of ID ["Intelligent Design"] in science classrooms. Further, the Society for Neuroscience emphatically supports the teaching of Evolutionary theory, as it is necessary for a valuable scientific education and for understanding of the diversity and origin of all living organisms.

The Society for Organic Petrology

The Society's council has voted its support of the American Geological Institute's statement on evolution with these words:

Evolution is good science. Understanding evolution and the nature of science is important to society. The Society for Organic Petrology supports teaching evolution and the nature of science in our nation's classrooms, museums, and informal science centers.


National Center for Science Education

The NCSE's "Project Steve" statement reads (in its entirety)[13]

Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to "intelligent design," to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools.

More details on "Project Steve" and the NCSE are in our entry for National Center for Science Education.

National Conference on Teaching Evolution

This statement is a model for professional societies, proposed as a "starting point" by the National Conference on Teaching Evolution at which "representatives from over 45 scientific, educational, and media organizations gathered at the University of California at Berkeley, October 5-8, 2000 to develop strategies for improving public understanding of evolution":

Evolution is good science. Understanding evolution and the nature of science is important to society. [Our society] supports teaching evolution and the nature of science in our nation's classrooms, museums, and informal science centers.


  1. ^ Daniel C. Dennett, "Show Me Science", New York Times, 28 August 2005.
  2. ^ Rush Holt, "Intelligent Design: It's Not Even Wrong", TPMcafe, 8 September 2005.
  3. ^ Jack Malvern, "Puzzle of the penguin trek parable", The Times [London], 22 October 2005.
  4. ^ Quoted in: Eisabeth Bumiller, "Bush Remarks Roil Debate over Teaching of Evolution", New York Times, 3 August 2005, archived at
  5. ^ The signatories were Professor Michael Archer, Dean of Science, University of New South Wales; Professor Sue Serjeantson, AO, Executive Secretary, Australian Academy of Science; Bradley Smith, Executive Director, Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies; Gary Thomas, President, Australian Science Teachers Association; Paul Carnemolla, President, Science Teachers Association of NSW; Julie Webber, President, Science Teachers Association of Western Australia; Peter Turnbull, President, Science Teachers Association of South Australia; Niels Hider, President, Science Educators Association of the ACT; and Rob Brooks, President, Australasian Evolution Society.
  6. ^ Robert E. Hemenway, "The Evolution of a Controversy in Kansas Shows Why Scientists Must Defend the Search for Truth", Autumn 1999.
  7. ^ "State Schools Chief Jack O'Connell Defencs California Science Standards: Opposes Intelligent Design Theory as Threat to Integrity of Teaching Natural Sciences", California Department of Education press release, 28 September 2005.
  8. ^ Eric Finkelstein and Michael Morisy, "Rawlings Condemns Intelligent Design: Cornell president discusses religion, science in State of University address", The Cornell Daily Sun, 21 October 2005.
  9. ^ Cornelia Dean and Laurie Goodstein, "Cardinal: Evolution may conflict with Catholic beliefs", The San Diego Union-Tribune, 9 July 2005.
  10. ^ "Cardinal backs evolution and 'intelligent design' ", Reuters, 4 October 2005.
  11. ^ "APS President Marvin L. Cohen, is University Professor of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and received the National Medal of Science from President Bush in 2002."
  12. ^  "Adopted by the NABT Board of Directors, 1995. Revised 1997, 2000, and May 2004. Endorsed by: The Society for the Study of Evolution, 1998; The American Association of Physical Anthropologists, 1998."
  13. ^ NCSE Project Steve, NCSE website.

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