Position Statement on the Teaching of Evolution in Schools - Council of State Science Supervisors
March 28, 2012
Biological evolution is the central unifying concept in biology and one of the most widely accepted of all scientific theories. By definition science is based on evidence generated through observations of phenomena occurring within the natural world. Biological evolution is firmly supported by empirical evidence gathered both from the study of past life forms and from the study of relatedness and diversity of present-day organisms.
Biological evolution is one of the Disciplinary Core Ideas in the National Research Council’s (NRC) Framework for K-12 Science Education. The Council of State Science Supervisors (CSSS) firmly embraces this vision of science education and supports the emphasis on the importance of teaching biological evolution in this document. Discounting or omitting biological evolution from inclusion in the public school curriculum undermines the very essence of our understanding of life and the connectedness of all living organisms. The CSSS does not support the introduction into the curriculum of any explanations for the evolution of species that are not based on empirical evidence. Scientific explanations regardless of content must follow similar constraints, therefore ideas not based on empirical evidence are not scientific, and should not be included in the science curriculum of public schools.
The Council of State Science Supervisors fully supports the teaching of biological evolution and also actively discourages the promotion or adoption of regulations and policies that conflict with the basic rules and ideas of scientific discourse. Responsible public policy on the teaching of all sciences in the public schools must demonstrate an understanding that:
- A scientific theory is not the same as an opinion or a belief.
- Scientific ideas begin as hypotheses and must be extraordinarily well supported before they may be considered theories. Because of this, scientific theories do not have significant weaknesses than can be demonstrated through comparison to non-scientific beliefs.
- Opinions or beliefs not supported by evidence have no place in scientific discourse.
- Critical thinking should not be promoted by mandating inappropriate comparisons between evidence-based ideas and ideas based on faith or belief.
The CSSS encourages policy-makers at all levels to support the teaching of evolution as a core disciplinary idea in science to benefit the scientific literacy of students and citizens in their schools, communities, and society.
This HOT TOPIC has been in the news quite a bit lately. Non-science groups are advocating the teaching of non-science theories in place of Evolution. Many states and science organizations have adopted “policies” or “statements” about evolution.
There seems to be a general misunderstanding about the difference between a “scientific theory” (based on data, evidence and verification by many scientists) and “theory” as used in everyday non-science language which just means a “guess or a hunch”. Perhaps science educators have not spend enough time helping students understand the difference.
Evolution Resources and Links:
Discussions about Evolution
HHMI Holiday Lectures 2005: EVOLUTION
Understanding Evolution for Teachers
NOVA - ORIGINS - Evolution of Universe & solar system
NOVA - Evolution - Evolution from Darwin to today
National Center for Science Education - defending teaching of evolution in public schools
Websites of Evidence of Evolution
The eSkeletons Project website is devoted to the study of human and primate comparative anatomy. It offers a unique set of digitized versions of skeletons in 2-D and 3-D in full color, animations, and much supplemental information.
The Tree of Life Web Project (ToL) is a collaborative effort of biologists from around the world. On more than 4000 World Wide Web pages, the project provides information about the diversity of organisms on Earth, their evolutionary history (phylogeny), and characteristics. Each page contains information about a particular group of organisms (e.g., echinoderms, tyrannosaurs, phlox flowers, cephalopods, club fungi, or the salamanderfish of Western Australia). ToL pages are linked one to another hierarchically, in the form of the evolutionary tree of life. Starting with the root of all Life on Earth and moving out along diverging branches to individual species, the structure of the ToL project thus illustrates the genetic connections between all living things.
Other Evolution Resources