On September 26, the first court case challenging the constitutionality
of teaching Intelligent Design in public school science classes opened
in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In Kitzmiller v. Dover, the Dover Area
School District is being sued by eleven parents over a science curriculum
policy that states, in part, "Students will be made aware of gaps/problems
in Darwin's Theory and of other theories of evolution including, but
not limited to, intelligent design."
In related news, the Council of the American Astronomical Society (AAS),
a Member Society of the American Institute of Physics, has adopted a
new statement on the teaching of evolution and intelligent design.
"Since Intelligent Design' is not science, it does not belong
in the science curriculum of the nation's primary and secondary schools,"
the AAS statement declares. While "evolution is a valid scientific
theory," the statement says, "'Intelligent Design' fails to
meet the basic definition of a scientific idea: its proponents do not
present testable hypotheses and do not provide evidence for their views
that can be verified or duplicated by subsequent researchers."
Robert Kirshner of Harvard University, the President of AAS, said in
a press release that "Science teachers have their hands full teaching
the things that we actually know about the world we live in. They shouldn't
be burdened with content-free dogma like Intelligent Design." Former
astronaut George Nelson, the Education Officer for AAS, added that "Anti-science
movements like Intelligent Design, however disguised, seriously undermine
the already difficult task of educating the next generation to be science
literate. And a science literate citizenry is necessary if America is
to continue to thrive."
The full text of the statement,
which was released on September 20, follows:
"American Astronomical Society Statement on the Teaching
"20 September, 2005
"The American Astronomical Society supports teaching
evolution in our nation's K-12 science classes. Evolution is a valid
scientific theory for the origin of species that has been repeatedly
tested and verified through observation, formulation of testable statements
to explain those observations, and controlled experiments or additional
observations to find out whether these ideas are right or wrong. A
scientific theory is not speculation or a guess scientific
theories are unifying concepts that explain the physical universe.
"Astronomical observations show that the Universe
is many billions of years old (see the AAS publication, An Ancient
Universe, cited below), that nuclear reactions in stars have produced
the chemical elements over time, and recent observations show that
gravity has led to the formation of many planets in our Galaxy. The
early history of the solar system is being explored by astronomical
observation and by direct visits to solar system objects. Fossils,
radiological measurements, and changes in DNA trace the growth of
the tree of life on Earth. The theory of evolution, like the theories
of gravity, plate tectonics, and Big Bang cosmology, explains, unifies,
and predicts natural phenomena. Scientific theories provide a proven
framework for improving our understanding of the world.
"In recent years, advocates of Intelligent
Design,' have proposed teaching Intelligent Design' as a valid
alternative theory for the history of life. Although scientists have
vigorous discussions on interpretations for some aspects of evolution,
there is widespread agreement on the power of natural selection to
shape the emergence of new species. Even if there were no such agreement,
Intelligent Design' fails to meet the basic definition of a
scientific idea: its proponents do not present testable hypotheses
and do not provide evidence for their views that can be verified or
duplicated by subsequent researchers.
"Since Intelligent Design' is not science,
it does not belong in the science curriculum of the nation's primary
and secondary schools.
"The AAS supports the positions taken by the National
Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement
of Science, the National Science Teachers' Association, the American
Geophysical Union, the American Chemical Society, and the American
Association of Physics Teachers on the teaching of evolution. The
AAS also supports the National Science Education Standards: they emphasize
the importance of scientific methods as well as articulating well-established
The Ancient Universe: How Astronomers Know the Vast Scale of Cosmic
Published by the American Astronomical Society.
It is also available as a PDF on the Society's webpages at