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[greenyes] Science in America in the 21st Century
    I sometimes wonder what I will respond to my grandchildren when I'm 69 
and they ask how my generation could have let all this (add global warming, 
uncontrolled political corruption, etc. etc.) have happened at the dawn of 
the third millenium.  Slack-jawed, drooling uncontrollably, perhaps, I'll 
intone, "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times."


February 1, 2005
Evolution Takes a Back Seat in U.S. Classes

Dr. John Frandsen, a retired zoologist, was at a dinner for teachers in 
Birmingham, Ala., recently when he met a young woman who had just begun work 
as a biology teacher in a small school district in the state. Their 
conversation turned to evolution.
"She confided that she simply ignored evolution because she knew she'd get 
in trouble with the principal if word got about that she was teaching it," 
he recalled. "She told me other teachers were doing the same thing."
Though the teaching of evolution makes the news when officials propose, as 
they did in Georgia, that evolution disclaimers be affixed to science 
textbooks, or that creationism be taught along with evolution in biology 
classes, stories like the one Dr. Frandsen tells are more common.
In districts around the country, even when evolution is in the curriculum it 
may not be in the classroom, according to researchers who follow the issue.
Teaching guides and textbooks may meet the approval of biologists, but 
superintendents or principals discourage teachers from discussing it. Or 
teachers themselves avoid the topic, fearing protests from fundamentalists 
in their communities.
There is no credible scientific challenge to the idea that all living things 
evolved from common ancestors, that evolution on earth has been going on for 
billions of years and that evolution can be and has been tested and 
confirmed by the methods of science. But in a 2001 survey, the National 
Science Foundation found that only 53 percent of Americans agreed with the 
statement "human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of 
And this was good news to the foundation. It was the first time one of its 
regular surveys showed a majority of Americans had accepted the idea. 
According to the foundation report, polls consistently show that a plurality 
of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form about 
10,000 years ago, and about two-thirds believe that this belief should be 
taught along with evolution in public schools.
These findings set the United States apart from all other industrialized 
nations, said Dr. Jon Miller, director of the Center for Biomedical 
Communications at Northwestern University, who has studied public attitudes 
toward science. Americans, he said, have been evenly divided for years on 
the question of evolution, with about 45 percent accepting it, 45 percent 
rejecting it and the rest undecided.
In other industrialized countries, Dr. Miller said, 80 percent or more 
typically accept evolution, most of the others say they are not sure and 
very few people reject the idea outright.
"In Japan, something like 96 percent accept evolution," he said. Even in 
socially conservative, predominantly Catholic countries like Poland, perhaps 
75 percent of people surveyed accept evolution, he said. "It has not been a 
Catholic issue or an Asian issue," he said.
Indeed, two popes, Pius XII in 1950 and John Paul II in 1996, have endorsed 
the idea that evolution and religion can coexist. "I have yet to meet a 
Catholic school teacher who skips evolution," Dr. Scott said.
"Data from various studies in various states over an extended period of time 
indicate that about one-third of biology teachers support the teaching of 
creationism or 'intelligent design,' " Dr. Skoog said.
Advocates for the teaching of evolution provide teachers or school officials 
who are challenged on it with information to help them make the case that 
evolution is completely accepted as a bedrock idea of science. Organizations 
like the science teachers' association, the National Academy of Sciences and 
the American Association for the Advancement of Science provide position 
papers and other information on the subject. The National Association of 
Biology Teachers devoted a two-day meeting to the subject last summer, Dr. 
Skoog said.
Other advocates of teaching evolution are making the case that a person can 
believe both in God and the scientific method. "People have been told by 
some evangelical Christians and by some scientists, that you have to 
choose." Dr. Scott said. "That is just wrong."
While plenty of scientists reject religion - the eminent evolutionary 
theorist Richard Dawkins famously likens it to a disease - many others do 
not. In fact, when a researcher from the University of Georgia surveyed 
scientists' attitudes toward religion several years ago, he found their 
positions virtually unchanged from an identical survey in the early years of 
the 20th century. About 40 percent of scientists said not just that they 
believed in God, but in a God who communicates with people and to whom one 
may pray "in expectation of receiving an answer."
But several experts say scientists are feeling increasing pressure to make 
their case, in part, Dr. Miller said, because scriptural literalists are 
moving beyond evolution to challenge the teaching of geology and physics on 
issues like the age of the earth and the origin of the universe.
"They have now decided the Big Bang has to be wrong," he said. "There are 
now a lot of people who are insisting that that be called only a theory 
without evidence and so on, and now the physicists are getting mad about 

Peter Anderson, President
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705-4964
Ph: (608) 231-1100
Fax: (608) 233-0011
Cell: (608) 698-1314
eMail: anderson@no.address


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