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Statement on Evolution and Creationism

 

The GSA supports educating students in genetics and consequently feels it important to express its views on the teaching of evolution in elementary and secondary schools. The GSA strongly endorses such teaching, as genetics and evolution are two very closely interwoven disciplines. In fact, evolution might be summarized as population genetics over time. Some people have been opposed to the teaching of evolution because "it is only a theory." Such opposition rests on a mistaken understanding of what defines a scientific theory. In common usage "theory" means "conjecture" or "speculation," whereas in scientific usage it means a systematically organized body of knowledge that explains a large set of observations and makes testable predictions.
 

Science operates first by observation and then by developing a hypothesis as a preliminary explanation of the data. A theory is a hypothesis that has been subsequently confirmed by abundant, consistent data obtained from tests of the hypothesis. For example, the atomic theory explains the behavior of physical substances in terms of the properties of elementary particles (atoms) and their combinations (molecules). This theory accounts for so many observations that it is accepted as the basis for all of chemistry.
 

The theory of evolution by natural selection is also such a confirmed hypothesis, as developed through the ongoing investigation and understanding of many different areas of biological, chemical, physical and earth science. As such, it is modifiable and constantly refined as new research and information come to light. Without evolutionary theory, we would be forced to completely discard much of what we understand about fields such as genetics, botany, zoology, paleontology, and anthropology.
 

"Scientific creationism," "intelligent design," and other terms have been offered as alternative explanations for past and present biological processes. However, these represent a collection of beliefs usually based on a literal interpretation of religious texts and are thus disguises for religious doctrine, and not scientific theories. They ignore the empirical data around us and fail to provide a testable hypothesis. Consequently, since no testable explanation for biological history has been provided by these alternative views, they cannot be considered scientific theories and should not be part of school science curricula. They are more appropriate for courses in literature, sociology, or religion.
 

As evolution is the only scientific theory to explain the biological history of life and as the GSA supports the education of students in genetics, the GSA hereby endorses the teaching of the facts and theory of evolution at all levels, including in elementary and secondary schools.
 

For a more complete discussion of science, evolution, and creationism, see the booklet "Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Science."
 

Document developed by GSA Board of Directors, June, 2003.