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Science Evolution and Creationism
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Science Evolution and Creationism
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Science Evolution and Creationism SCIENCE EVOLUTION AND CREATIONISM NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS Washington, D.C.
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Science Evolution and Creationism THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20001 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Council of the National Academy of Sciences, whose members are drawn from the National Academy of Sciences. The members of the committee were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. Funding for this project was provided by the Council of the National Academy of Sciences, with additional support from the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation and the Biotechnology Institute. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this report are those of the authoring committee and of the National Academy of Sciences and do not necessarily reflect the views of the external organizations that provided support. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Science, evolution, and creationism / National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references. ISBN-13: 978-0-309-10586-6 (pbk.) ISBN-10: 0-309-10586-2 (pbk.) ISBN-13: 978-0-309-10587-3 (pdf) ISBN-10: 0-309-10587-0 (pdf) 1. Evolution (Biology) 2. Creationism. 3. Science. I. National Academy of Sciences (U.S.) II. Institute of Medicine (U.S.) QH366.2.S35 2007 576.8—dc22 2007015904 Copyright 2008 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. Additional copies are available from: The National Academies Press 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Box 285 Washington, D.C. 20055 800/624-6242 202/334-3313 (in the Washington Metropolitan Area) <http://www.nap.edu> Suggested citation: National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine (2008). Science, Evolution, and Creationism. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. The links to websites that provide additional information to users of this book were operative as of January 3, 2008. Changes to websites and relocated information may render some links inoperative in the future.
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Science Evolution and Creationism COMMITTEE ON REVISING SCIENCE AND CREATIONISM: A VIEW FROM THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES Francisco J. Ayala, Chair, University of California, Irvine* Bruce Alberts, University of California, San Francisco* May R. Berenbaum, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign* Betty Carvellas, Essex High School (Vermont) Michael T. Clegg, University of California, Irvine*‡ G. Brent Dalrymple, Oregon State University* Robert M. Hazen, Carnegie Institution of Washington Toby M. Horn, Carnegie Institution of Washington Nancy A. Moran, University of Arizona* Gilbert S. Omenn, University of Michigan† Robert T. Pennock, Michigan State University Peter H. Raven, Missouri Botanical Garden* Barbara A. Schaal, Washington University of St. Louis*‡ Neil deGrasse Tyson, American Museum of Natural History Holly Wichman, University of Idaho Staff Jay B. Labov, Senior Advisor for Education and Communications, National Academy of Sciences, and Center for Education, Division on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research Council Barbara Kline Pope, Executive Director, National Academies Office of Communication and National Academies Press Terry K. Holmer, Senior Project Assistant, Center for Education B. Ashley Zauderer, Christine A. Mirzayan Policy Fellow of the National Academies Consultants Steve Olson, Bethesda, Maryland Edward Maibach, George Mason University * Member, National Academy of Sciences † Member, Institute of Medicine ‡ Member, Council of the National Academy of Sciences
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Science Evolution and Creationism The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society to which distinguished scholars are elected for their achievements in research, and is dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences as both an honorific and a policy research organization, to which members are elected on the basis of their professional achievement and commitment to service in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine are each governed by an elected council. The NAS Council is responsible for honorific aspects of the NAS and for the corporate management of the organization. The IOM Council oversees the study activities of the Institute, as well as matters pertaining to the IOM membership. The members of both councils reviewed, revised, and approved this document. COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES 2007–2008 President Ralph J. Cicerone, President, National Academy of Sciences Vice President Barbara A. Schaal, Washington University in St. Louis Home Secretary John I. Brauman, Stanford University Foreign Secretary Michael T. Clegg, University of California, Irvine Treasurer Ronald L. Graham, University of California, San Diego Councilors Claude R. Canizares, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Vicki L. Chandler, University of Arizona Gerald D. Fischbach, Columbia University; Director, Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative, The Simons Foundation, New York Jerry P. Gollub, Haverford College; Member of the Graduate Group in Physics, University of Pennsylvania Susan Gottesman, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health Thomas H. Jordan, University of Southern California Margaret G. Kivelson, University of California, Los Angeles Sharon R. Long, Stanford University Joyce Marcus, University of Michigan Elliot M. Meyerowitz, California Institute of Technology Stanley B. Prusiner, University of California, San Francisco Inder M. Verma, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies COUNCIL OF THE INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE 2007 Chairman Harvey V. Fineberg, President, Institute of Medicine Huda Akil, University of Michigan Drew E. Altman, The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation Donald M. Berwick, Institute for Healthcare Improvement Helen M. Blau, Stanford University School of Medicine Christine K. Cassel, American Board of Internal Medicine Gail H. Cassell, Eli Lilly and Company Helene D. Gayle, CARE, USA Margaret A. Hamburg, 2007 Vice President for Biological Programs, NTI Peter S. Kim, Merck Research Laboratories Jeffrey P. Koplan, Emory University Alan I. Leshner, American Association for the Advancement of Science Bernard Lo, University of California, San Francisco James J. Mongan, Partners HealthCare, Inc. Elizabeth G. Nabel, National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health Philip A. Pizzo, Stanford University School of Medicine Mary Lake Polan, Stanford University School of Medicine Susan C. Scrimshaw, Simmons College Edward H. Shortliffe, The University of Arizona College of Medicine, Phoenix Judith L. Swain, National University of Singapore and Singapore Institute of Clinical Sciences and UCSD Nancy S. Wexler, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University ex officio to Council (non-voting) Jo Ivey Boufford, IOM Foreign Secretary, New York Academy of Medicine Stephen J. Ryan, IOM Home Secretary, Doheny Eye Institute
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Science Evolution and Creationism SCIENCE, EVOLUTION, AND CREATIONISM
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Science Evolution and Creationism
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Science Evolution and Creationism Contents Preface xi Acknowledgments xiv CHAPTER ONE Evolution and the Nature of Science 1 CHAPTER TWO The Evidence for Biological Evolution 17 CHAPTER THREE Creationist Perspectives 37 CHAPTER FOUR Conclusion 47 Frequently Asked Questions 49 Additional Readings 55 Committee Member Biographies 60 Index 67 Credits 70
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Science Evolution and Creationism Preface Scientific and technological advances have had profound effects on human life. In the 19th century, most families could expect to lose one or more children to disease. Today, in the United States and other developed countries, the death of a child from disease is uncommon. Every day we rely on technologies made possible through the application of scientific knowledge and processes. The computers and cell phones which we use, the cars and airplanes in which we travel, the medicines that we take, and many of the foods that we eat were developed in part through insights obtained from scientific research. Science has boosted living standards, has enabled humans to travel into Earth’s orbit and to the Moon, and has given us new ways of thinking about ourselves and the universe. Evolutionary biology has been and continues to be a cornerstone of modern science. This booklet documents some of the major contributions that an understanding of evolution has made to human well-being, including its contributions to preventing and treating human disease, developing new agricultural products, and creating industrial innovations. More broadly, evolution is a core concept in biology that is based both in the study of past life forms and in the study of the relatedness and diversity of present-day organisms. The rapid advances now being made in the life sciences and in medicine rest on principles derived from an understanding of evolution. That understanding has arisen both through the study of an ever-expanding fossil record and, equally importantly, through the application of modern biological and molecular sciences and technologies to the study of evolution. Of course, as with any active area of science, many fascinating questions remain, and this booklet highlights some of the active research that is currently under way that addresses questions about evolution. However, polls show that many people continue to have questions about our knowledge of biological evolution. They may have been told that scientific understanding of evolution is incomplete, incorrect, or in doubt. They may be skeptical that the natural process of biological evolution could have produced such an incredible array of living things, from microscopic bacteria to whales and redwood trees, from simple sponges on coral reefs to humans capable of contemplating life’s history on this planet. They may wonder if it is possible to accept evolution and still adhere to religious beliefs. This publication speaks to those questions. It is written to serve as a resource for people who find themselves embroiled in debates about evolution. It provides information about the role that evolution plays in modern biology and the reasons why only scientifically based explanations should be included in public school science courses. Interested readers may include school board
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Science Evolution and Creationism members, science teachers and other education leaders, policy makers, legal scholars, and others in the community who are committed to providing students with quality science education. This booklet is also directed to the broader audience of high-quality school and college students as well as adults who wish to become more familiar with the many strands of evidence supporting evolution and to understand why evolution is both a fact and a process that accounts for the diversity of life on Earth. This booklet also places the study of evolution in a broader context. It defines what “theory” means in the scientific community. It shows how evolutionary theory reflects the nature of science and how it differs from religion. It explains why the overwhelming majority of the scientific community accepts evolution as the basis for modern biology. It shows that some individual scientists and religious organizations have described how, for them, evolution and their faith are not in opposition to each other. And it explains why nonscientific alternatives to evolution such as creationism (including intelligent design creationism) should not be part of the science curriculum in the nation’s public schools. Science, Evolution, and Creationism is the third edition of a publication first issued in 1984 by the National Academy of Sciences, an independent society of scientists elected by their peers for outstanding contributions to their field. The National Academy of Sciences has had a mandate from Congress since 1863 to advise the federal government on issues of science and technology. Given the increasing importance of evolution to the life, physical, and medical sciences and to the improvement of health care, this new edition is a joint publication of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine. The Institute of Medicine was chartered in 1970 as a component of the National Academy of Sciences to provide science-based advice on matters of biomedical science, medicine, and health. Much has happened in evolutionary biology since the release of the first two editions of this booklet, and this new edition provides important updates about these developments. Fossil discoveries have continued to produce new and compelling evidence about evolutionary history. New information and understanding about the molecules that make up organisms has emerged, including the complete DNA sequences of humans. DNA sequencing has become a powerful tool for establishing genetic relationships among species. DNA evidence has both confirmed fossil evidence and allowed studies of evolution where the fossil record is still incomplete. An entirely new field, evolutionary developmental biology, enables scientists to study how the genetic changes that have occurred throughout history have shaped the forms and functions of organisms. The study of biological evolution constitutes one of the most active and far-reaching endeavors in all of modern science. The public controversies that swirl around evolution also have changed. In the 1980s many people opposed to the teaching of evolution in public schools supported legislation that would have required biology teachers to discuss “scientific creationism” — the assertion that the fossil record and the planet’s geological features are consistent with Earth and its living things being created just a few thousand years ago. Major court cases — including a Supreme Court case in
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Science Evolution and Creationism 1987— ruled that “creation science” is the product of religious convictions, not scientific research, and that it cannot be taught in public schools because to do so would impose a particular religious perspective on all students. Since then, the opponents of evolution have taken other approaches. Some have backed the view known as “intelligent design,” a new form of creationism based on the contention that living things are too complex to have evolved through natural mechanisms. In 2005 a landmark court case in Dover, Pennsylvania, deemed the teaching of intelligent design unconstitutional, again because it is based on religious conviction and not science. Others have argued that science teachers should teach the “controversies” surrounding evolution. But there is no controversy in the scientific community about whether evolution has occurred. On the contrary, the evidence supporting descent with modification, as Charles Darwin termed it, is both overwhelming and compelling. In the century and a half since Darwin, scientists have uncovered exquisite details about many of the mechanisms that underlie biological variation, inheritance, and natural selection, and they have shown how these mechanisms lead to biological change over time. Because of this immense body of evidence, scientists treat the occurrence of evolution as one of the most securely established of scientific facts. Biologists also are confident in their understanding of how evolution occurs. This publication consists of three main chapters. The first chapter briefly describes the process of evolution, the nature of science, and differences between science and religion. The second chapter examines in greater detail the many different kinds of scientific evidence that support evolution, including evidence from fields as diverse as astronomy, paleontology, comparative anatomy, molecular biology, genetics, and anthropology. The third chapter examines several creationist perspectives, including intelligent design, and discusses the scientific and legal reasons against teaching creationist ideas in public school science classes. A selection of frequently asked questions follows the main text. “Additional Readings” include papers referenced in this booklet and other publications about evolution, the nature of science, and religion. As Science, Evolution, and Creationism makes clear, the evidence for evolution can be fully compatible with religious faith. Science and religion are different ways of understanding the world. Needlessly placing them in opposition reduces the potential of each to contribute to a better future. Ralph J. Cicerone President National Academy of Sciences Harvey V. Fineberg President Institute of Medicine Francisco J. Ayala Committee Chair
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Science Evolution and Creationism Acknowledgments The preparation of Science, Evolution, and Creationism was supported with funds from the Council of the National Academy of Sciences and from the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation, New York, N.Y. Representatives of this booklet’s intended audiences informally reviewed this booklet prior to the final review process. Support for obtaining input from intended audiences was provided by an informal coalition of some 30 scientific societies based in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, the Presidents’ Circle Communications Initiative of the National Academies, the Council of the National Academy of Sciences, the Biotechnology Institute (Arlington, Va.), and contributions to the National Academy of Sciences from several individual donors. This booklet has been formally reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the Council of the National Academy of Sciences. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments to assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the process. We thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Joyce Appleby, Professor Emerita, Department of History, University of California, Los Angeles Constance Bertka, Director, Dialog on Science, Ethics, and Religion, American Association for the Advancement of Science Donald M. Berwick, President and CEO, Institute for Healthcare Improvement John I. Brauman, J. G. Jackson–C. J. Wood Professor, Department of Chemistry, Stanford University Vicki L. Chandler, Director, BIO5 Institute, University of Arizona Harvey V. Fineberg, President, Institute of Medicine Jerry P. Gollub, J. B. B. Professor in the Natural Sciences and Professor of Physics, Haverford College Susan Gottesman, Chief, Biochemical Genetics Section, Laboratory of Molecular Biology, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health Margaret G. Kivelson, Distinguished Professor of Space Physics, Department of Earth and Space Sciences and Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, University of California, Los Angeles
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Science Evolution and Creationism Jeffrey P. Koplan, Vice President for Academic Health Affairs, Emory University Alan I. Leshner, CEO and Executive Publisher of Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science Bernard Lo, Professor of Medicine, Director, Program in Medical Ethics, University of California, San Francisco Sharon R. Long, Steere-Pfizer Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University Joyce Marcus, Robert L. Carneiro Distinguished University Professor of Anthropology, Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan Elliot M. Meyerowitz, George W. Beadle Professor and Chair, Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology Elizabeth G. Nabel, Director, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health Matthew C. Nisbet, Professor of Communications, School of Communication, American University Gordon H. Orians, Professor Emeritus, Department of Biology, University of Washington Philip A. Pizzo, Dean, Carl and Elizabeth Naumann Professor of Pediatrics and of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University School of Medicine David J. Policansky, Scholar, Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology, National Research Council Stanley B. Prusiner, Professor of Neurology and Director, Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, University of California, San Francisco Stephen J. Ryan, President, Doheny Eye Institute Judith G. Scotchmoor, Director of Education and Public Programs, University of California Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley, CA Eugenie C. Scott, Executive Director, National Center for Science Education, Inc., Oakland, CA Edward H. Shortliffe, Dean of the Faculty, The University of Arizona College of Medicine–Phoenix John R. Staver, Professor and Co-Director, Center for Research and Engagement in Science and Mathematics, Purdue University Judith L. Swain, Lien Ying Chow Professor of Medicine, National University of Singapore and Founding Executive Director of Singapore Institute of Clinical Sciences and Adjunct Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Diego Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the content of the report nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the author(s) and the councils of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine (see page vi).
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Science Evolution and Creationism