SCIENCE ACADEMY ENDORSES STATEMENT ON TEACHING EVOLUTION
22 June 2006
The Australian Academy of Science and 66 other national science academies endorsed a statement yesterday urging parents and teachers to provide children with the facts about the origins and evolution of life on Earth.
The statement was drafted by the InterAcademy Panel (IAP) and points out that 'within science courses taught in certain public systems of education, scientific evidence, data, and testable theories about the origins and evolution of life on Earth are being concealed, denied, or confused with theories not testable by science'.
It continues: 'We urge decision makers, teachers, and parents to educate all children about the methods and discoveries of science and foster an understanding of the science of nature. Knowledge of the natural world in which they live empowers people to meet human needs and protect the planet.'
Professor Philip Kuchel, Secretary of Science Policy for the Australian Academy of Science, said: 'There is controversy in some parts of the world about the teaching of evolution to pupils and students, so this is a timely statement that makes clear the views of the scientific community. I hope this statement will help those who are attempting to uphold the rights of young people to have access to accurate scientific knowledge about the origins and evolution of life on Earth.'
The IAP statement highlights that 'evidence-based facts about the origins and evolution of the Earth and of life on this planet have been established by numerous observations and independently derived experimental results from a multitude of scientific disciplines', and that 'even if there are still many open questions about the precise details of evolutionary change, scientific evidence has never contradicted these results'.
In listing the facts, the statement indicates that the Earth formed approximately 4.5 billion years ago and that life appeared on the planet at least 2.5 billion years ago.
On evolution, it states: 'Since its first appearance on Earth, life has taken many forms, all of which continue to evolve, in ways which palaeontology and the modern biological and biochemical sciences are describing and independently confirming with increasing precision'. The statement continues: 'Commonalities in the structure of the genetic code of all organisms living today, including humans, clearly indicate their common primordial origin'.
The statement acknowledges that 'human understanding of value and purpose are outside of natural science's scope' and that 'a number of components – scientific, social, philosophical, religious, cultural and political – contribute to it'. It adds: 'These different fields owe each other mutual consideration, while being fully aware of their own areas of action and their limitations'.
Notes for news editors
Launched in 1993, the InterAcademy Panel on International Issues (IAP) is a global network currently consisting of 92 science academies. IAP operates under the administrative umbrella of TWAS, the academy of sciences for the developing world. The panel's secretariat is located in Trieste, Italy.