In cooperation with many of its Member Societies, AIP continues to
track efforts around the country that could weaken the teaching of
evolution in K-12 science classrooms. The most recent action taken
by the societies was a letter to the Ohio Board of Education. Earlier
this year, as part of a model curriculum for classroom science, Ohio's
Board considered not only lesson plans teaching evolution, but also
a lesson plan presenting a so-called "critical analysis" of
the theory of evolution. According to correspondence from National
Academy of Sciences President Bruce Alberts to the President of the
Ohio Board of Education, this lesson plan contains "serious problems" and
misrepresentations of the evolutionary theory.
Prior to the Board's final approval of the curriculum, AIP and several
of its Member Societies sent a letter to Ohio Board members, urging
rejection of "any lesson plans that require students to compare
the well-accepted science of evolution with the dubious hypothesis
of Intelligent Design creationism." The letter was signed by officials
of AIP, the American Physical Society, the American Geophysical Union,
the Optical Society of America, the American Astronomical Society,
and the Society of Physics Students. The text of the March 4 letter
"Dear [Ohio Board Member]:
"As leaders of scientific organizations with over
2,790 members in Ohio, and 130,000 members nationally, we write
to urge all members of the Ohio Board of Education to use accepted
peer-reviewed science and pedagogical expertise as the board
prepares to adopt state-approved lesson plans. Such a process
leads to a strong curriculum of the highest quality, accuracy,
and pedagogical appropriateness.
"We write to you now as you cast a final vote
for state-approved lesson plans upon which proficiency tests
will be based. Please do not approve any lesson plans that
require students to compare the well-accepted science of evolution
with the dubious hypothesis of Intelligent Design creationism.
Intelligent Design is a system of religious beliefs, not a
scientific theory. Religious doctrine in any guise does
not belong in science classrooms.
"At a time when our nation's welfare increasingly
depends on technology, it has never been more important for
students --our future workforce-- to understand the basic ideas
of modern science. In science, evolution has survived extensive
testing and repeated verification; it is not a belief, a hunch,
or an untested hypothesis. Any dilution of the overwhelming
scientific evidence for evolution should sound an alarm to
every parent and teacher.
"We urge you to support strong peer-reviewed science
in Ohio science classrooms and to make sure those standards
are complete. Your diligence will ensure that Ohio students
will be better equipped for higher education and the workplace."
On March 9, however, the Board gave final approval to the proposed
model curriculum, including the lesson plan on critical analysis
of evolution. Teachers are not required to teach the model lessons
plans, but the plans are based on state science standards that will
form the basis for student proficiency testing.
AIP and several Member Societies were also prepared to send a letter
to the Georgia Board of Education in February, as proposed new science
standards for the state were being considered that eliminated both
the word and the theory of evolution. However, the letter was not
sent; after an outcry by scientists, educators, and higher education
faculty in the state and former President Jimmy Carter, the Georgia
science standards were revised to restore references to evolution.
The societies are also monitoring developments in a number of other
states, including Oklahoma and Alabama. In Oklahoma, a bill passed
unanimously by the state House of Representatives on February 24
would mandate a disclaimer on all science textbooks used in the state,
claiming that evolution is a controversial theory and any statements
about life's origins should be considered as theory, not fact. In
Alabama, bills have been proposed to give teachers the freedom to
teach alternative theories to evolution and protect them from penalties
for teaching such theories.
Audrey T. Leath
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics