Evolution

The debate on evolution first shifted into the mainstream in Dayton, Tennessee, when biology teacher John Scopes was arrested in 1925 on the grounds that he had violated state legislature, which prohibited the teaching of evolution in schools. In the famous, “Scopes Monkey Trial”, despite the support of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the defense of renowned criminal lawyer Clarence Darrow, John Scopes was found guilty and fined. Scopes was convicted because a convincing case for evolution was not made. In the minds of scientists, evolution is not a debatable topic, but rather a theory that has generated over a century’s worth of evidence and is confirmed by countless scientific studies, books, and experiments.

State legislatures and school boards across the country continue to debate if students should be taught alternatives like intelligent design in their science classes. The debate has been given much media attention, and the debate is based on politics, not scientific data. Misconceptions about science should not influence state proposals and laws regarding evolution. The current resistance to the teaching of evolution could have harmful consequences for science education, future scientists, and the very idea of scientific advancement. In addition to being informed, the science community should be prepared to counteract those institutions and individuals who are working to discredit one of the most influential ideas in the history of science.

For these reasons, the Biophysical Society adopted a position statement opposing the teaching of alternatives to evolution in K-12 science classrooms on November 5th, 2005. The Society has been more active in efforts to promote the teaching of evolution and oppose the teaching of alternatives since the adoption of that statement.

During the past few years, the Biophysical Society, working with the National Center for Science Education, has tracked these threats to science education and alerted members in affected states so that they could take action and weigh in on this important issue. In 2008, the Society has reached out to members in Florida and Texas in order to influence actions taken in those states to weaken the teaching of evolution. While proponents of the teaching of evolution prevailed in Florida, the Texas Board of Education did vote to weaken science standards in March 2008.

The National Center for Science Education, a not-for-profit, membership organization providing information and resources for schools, parents and concerned citizens working to keep evolution in public school science education, is an excellent resource for staying current on state legislation that may affect future science instruction. The NCSE website highlights and tracks state-specific legislation or news regarding evolution as well as maintains record of past anti-evolution cases. The website can be found here. (http://ncseweb.org/news)