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Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science
body parts, which greatly improved the chance of fossilization. And even without fossils, we can infer relationships among organisms from biochemical information.
Can a person believe in God and still accept evolution?
Many do. Most religions of the world do not have any direct conflict with the idea of evolution. Within the Judeo-Christian religions, many people believe that God works through the process of evolution. That is, God has created both a world that is ever-changing and a mechanism through which creatures can adapt to environmental change over time.
At the root of the apparent conflict between some religions and evolution is a misunderstanding of the critical difference between religious and scientific ways of knowing. Religions and science answer different questions about the world. Whether there is a purpose to the universe or a purpose for human existence are not questions for science. Religious and scientific ways of knowing have played, and will continue to play, significant roles in human history.
No one way of knowing can provide all of the answers to the questions that humans ask. Consequently, many people, including many scientists, hold strong religious beliefs and simultaneously accept the occurrence of evolution.
Aren't scientific beliefs based on faith as well?
Usually "faith" refers to beliefs that are accepted without empirical evidence. Most religions have tenets of faith. Science differs from religion because it is the nature of science to test and retest explanations against the natural world. Thus, scientific explanations are likely to be built on and modified with new information and new ways of looking at old information. This is quite different from most religious beliefs.
Therefore, "belief" is not really an appropriate term to use in science, because testing is such an important part of this way of knowing. If there is a component of faith to science, it is the assumption that the universe operates according to regularities—for example, that the speed of light will not change tomorrow. Even the assumption of that regularity is often tested—and thus far has held up well. This "faith" is very different from religious faith.
Science is a way of knowing about the natural world. It is limited to explaining the natural world through natural causes. Science can say nothing about the supernatural. Whether God exists or not is a question about which science is neutral.
Why can't we teach creation science in my school?
The courts have ruled that "creation science" is actually a religious view. Because public schools must be religiously neutral under the U.S. Constitution, the courts have held that it is unconstitutional to present creation science as legitimate scholarship.
In particular, in a trial in which supporters of creation science testified in support of their view, a district court declared that creation science does not meet the tenets of science as scientists use the term (McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education). The Supreme Court has held that it is illegal to require that creation science be taught when evolution is taught (Edwards v. Aguillard). In addition, district courts have decided that individual teachers cannot advocate creation science on their own (Peloza v. San Juan Capistrano School District and Webster v. New Lennox School District).
Teachers' organizations such as the National Science Teachers Association, the National Association of Biology Teachers, the National Science Education Leadership Association, and many others also have rejected the science and pedagogy of creation science and have strongly discouraged its presentation in the public schools. (Statements from some of these organizations appear in Appendix C.) In addition, a coalition of religious and other organizations has noted in "A Joint Statement of Current Law" (see Appendix B) that "in science class, [schools] may present only genuinely scientific critiques of, or evidence for, any explanation of life on earth, but not religious