Eugenie Scott, Barbara Forrest and Kenneth Miller spoke about the evolution/creationism controversy today at the National Press Club in an event titled Evolution v. Creationism: the Politics, the Science, the Debate. The panel was sponsored by the American Humanist Association and was held to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the year of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s work, On the Origin of Species. The event explored the current methods used by pro-creationist and Intelligent Design advocates, including groups such as the Discovery Institute and the Louisiana Family Forum, to undermine the teaching of evolution in schools and the acceptance of evolution in the public forum. It also explored how creationism, under various guises, has been insinuated into public school science curriculum.
You can view a video of the panel after 7PM on 11/6/09 at http://www.youtube.com/humanistvision
“There is no constitutional protection against the teaching of bad science,” said Eugenie Scott, speaking about the legal and political challenges in combating the current methods of the creationist movement. “The best way to turn things around…is person to person communication. Person to person interaction is much more likely to change points of view…”
Scott’s talk focused on the history of the creationist movement and the way it has adapted over time to obstacles, including the tactic of advocating so-called academic freedom bills, which attempt to undermine evolution by permitting the critical analysis of the theory and the presentation of Intelligent Design as an equal counterpoint. Barbara Forrest spoke about one such bill, the Louisiana Science Education Act, and how it was passed and implemented in Louisiana, including the stipulation that teachers can allow supplemental materials in classrooms that present a differing view of evolution–views that are mostly creationist in nature. Kenneth Miller spoke about the science–or lack thereof–in the debate and how frequently creationist advocates view evolution not through the lens of science but rather as a theory that threatens the moral fabric of humanity.
It’s concerning that evolution–and in a larger sense, science–is being undermined in public schools, Miller said, because students will cease to view science as a means of discovery and will turn away from scientific endeavors. If we repeal enlightenment rationalism we will cede it to other countries who embrace it, Miller continued, which would be a terrible thing for our country.
The panel discussion was part of a larger effort of the American Humanist Association, with funding through the International Darwin Day Foundation, to promote the understanding of evolution. The group has sponsored other educational panels commemorating Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution. The International Darwin Day Foundation, now a project of the American Humanist Association, offers information about Darwin and Darwin Day events taking place across the country through its website (www.darwinday.org).
Barbara Forrest is a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University and is a leading proponent of science education and the separation of church and state. She was an expert witness for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, testifying about the history and strategy of the Intelligent Design movement and the development of the creationist textbook, Of Pandas and People. She is the co-author of Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, which details the origins of Intelligent Design and the political tactics used to advance the Discovery Institute’s “Wedge Strategy.” She currently serves on the board of directors of the National Center for Science Education and on the board of trustees for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Kenneth Miller is professor of biology and Royce Family Professor for Teaching Excellence at Brown University and is a prominent science advocate and defender of the theory of evolution. In 2005, he served as lead expert witness in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, where he presented evidence to debunk the argument that Intelligent Design is scientific theory. His book, Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground between God and Evolution, argues that believing in evolution and believing in God are not contradictory. His latest book, Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul, addresses the battle between evolution and Intelligent Design.
Eugenie Scott is the executive director of the National Center for Science Education and has been involved in the creation/evolution controversy for over twenty-five years. She is the author of Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction, which explores the scientific, religious, educational, and legal implications of the debate. She is also the co-editor of Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools, a collection of essays on the conflict between the teaching of science and religion in American schools. She holds six honorary degrees from McGill, Rutgers, Mt. Holyoke, the University of New Mexico, Ohio State, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has also served on the board of directors of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS), and is the past president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.
The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across the United States.
Humanism is the idea that you can be good without a belief in God.