Pharyngula

Science academies working in concert?

The National Academies or Royal Society web pages make a peep about it. It’s good news if it is confirmed, though!


This is why I should read the other science blogs before posting: Afarensis has the official statement.

Comments

  1. #1 Silmarillion
    June 22, 2006

    It’s on BBC News as well, although the comments section seems to have been hijacked.

  2. #2 odysseus
    June 22, 2006

    page 1 of 2

    IAP STATEMENT ON THE TEACHING OF EVOLUTION

    We, the undersigned Academies of Sciences, have learned that in various parts of the world, 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. We urge decision makers, teachers, and parents to educate all children about the methods and discoveries of science and to 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.

    We agree that the following 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. Even if there are still many open questions about the precise details of evolutionary change, scientific evidence has never contradicted these results:

    1. In a universe that has evolved towards its present configuration for some 11 to 15 billion years, our Earth formed approximately 4.5 billion years ago.

    2. Since its formation, the Earth – its geology and its environments – has changed under the effect of numerous physical and chemical forces and continues to do so.

    3. Life appeared on Earth at least 2.5 billion years ago. The evolution, soon after, of photosynthetic organisms enabled, from at least 2 billion years ago, the slow transformation of the atmosphere to one containing substantial quantities of oxygen. In addition to the release of the oxygen that we breathe, the process of photosynthesis is the ultimate source of fixed energy and food upon which human life on the planet depends.

    4. 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. Commonalities in the structure of the genetic code of all organisms living today, including humans, clearly indicate their common primordial origin.

    We also subscribe to the following statement regarding the nature of science in relation to the teaching of evolution and, more generally, of any field of scientific knowledge : Scientific knowledge derives from a mode of inquiry into the nature of the universe that has been successful and of great consequence. Science focuses on (i) observing the natural world and (ii) formulating testable and refutable hypotheses to derive deeper explanations for observable phenomena. When evidence is sufficiently compelling, scientific theories are developed that account for and explain that evidence, and predict the likely structure or process of still unobserved phenomena.

    Human understanding of value and purpose are outside of natural science’s scope. However, a number of components – scientific, social, philosophical, religious, cultural and political -IAP Statement on the Teaching of Evolution 21 June 2006

    page 2 of 2

    contribute to it. These different fields owe each other mutual consideration, while being fully aware of their own areas of action and their limitations.

    While acknowledging current limitations, science is open ended, and subject to correction and expansion as new theoretical and empirical understanding emerges.

    1. Albanian Academy of Sciences

    2. National Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences, Argentina

    3. Australian Academy of Science

    4. Austrian Academy of Sciences 5. Bangladesh Academy of Sciences

    6. The Royal Academies for Science and the Arts of Belgium

    7. Academy of Sciences and Arts of Bosnia and Herzegovina

    8. Brazilian Academy of Sciences

    9. Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

    10. RSC: The Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada

    11. Academia Chilena de Ciencias

    12. Chinese Academy of Sciences

    13. Academia Sinica, China, Taiwan

    14. Colombian Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences

    15. Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences

    16. Cuban Academy of Sciences

    17. Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic

    18. Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters

    19. Academy of Scientific Research and Technology, Egypt

    20. Académie des Sciences, France

    21. Union of German Academies of Sciences and Humanities

    22. The Academy of Athens, Greece

    23. Hungarian Academy of Sciences

    24. Indian National Science Academy

    25. Indonesian Academy of Sciences

    26. Academy of Sciences of the Islamic Republic of Iran

    27. Royal Irish Academy

    28. Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities

    29. Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Italy

    30. Science Council of Japan

    31. Kenya National Academy of Sciences

    32. National Academy of Sciences of the Kyrgyz Republic

    33. Latvian Academy of Sciences

    34. Lithuanian Academy of Sciences

    35. Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts

    36. Academia Mexicana de Ciencias

    37. Mongolian Academy of Sciences

    38. Academy of the Kingdom of Morocco

    39. The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences

    40. Academy Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand

    41. Nigerian Academy of Sciences

    42. Pakistan Academy of Sciences

    43. Palestine Academy for Science and Technology

    44. Academia Nacional de Ciencias del Peru

    45. National Academy of Science and Technology, The Philippines

    46. Polish Academy of Sciences

    47. Académie des Sciences et Techniques du Sénégal

    48. Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts

    49. Singapore National Academy of Sciences

    50. Slovak Academy of Sciences

    51. Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts

    52. Academy of Science of South Africa

    53. Royal Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences of Spain

    54. National Academy of Sciences, Sri Lanka

    55. Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

    56. Council of the Swiss Scientific Academies

    57. Academy of Sciences, Republic of Tajikistan

    58. The Caribbean Academy of Sciences

    59. Turkish Academy of Sciences

    60. The Uganda National Academy of Sciences

    61. The Royal Society, UK

    62. US National Academy of Sciences

    63. Uzbekistan Academy of Sciences

    64. Academia de Ciencias Físicas, Matemáticas y Naturales de Venezuela

    65. Zimbabwe Academy of Sciences

    66. African Academy of Sciences

    67. The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS)

    68. The Executive Board of the International Council for Science (ICSU)

    PDF available at:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/20_06_06_iap_evolution.pdf

  3. #3 bPer
    June 22, 2006

    The Royal Society has posted a news item on the joint statement. See http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/news.asp?id=4842

  4. #4 Carlie
    June 22, 2006

    Oh, great. You realize, of course, this is just going to feed into Apocalyptic paranoia, being all “one world order” and “the antichrist making peace agreements between nations” and such.

  5. #5 Jonathan Badger
    June 22, 2006

    The BBC quotes pomo Steve Fuller as saying the document was quite mild and only Biblical literalists would likely object to it.

    As much as I hate to agree with Fuller (who is probably gloating about the weakness), he’s right about it being mild; this document is pretty toothless — there’s no assertion of support for the validity of natural selection — just an vague reference to “evolution” that probably even Behe would accept. I would have hoped for more.

  6. #6 Nick Anthis
    June 22, 2006

    Ah hem… here’s my take… posted at 8:24 pm last night…. 😉

  7. #7 G. Tingey
    June 23, 2006

    Can someoene post the IAP statement-text to “Rightwing News”

    ( http://www.rightwingnews.com/ )
    where they go ON & ON about Coulter, and see if they will react, or more likely, ignore it – go on, someone, wind’em up!

  8. #8 odysseus
    June 23, 2006

    Carlie wrote:

    “Oh, great. You realize, of course, this is just going to feed into Apocalyptic paranoia, being all ‘one world order’ and ‘the antichrist making peace agreements between nations’ and such.”

    I sometimes try to feed into their paranoia just for kicks — three separate posts with six enumerated sections each, that sort of thing.

    Doesn’t matter. I don’t know if you are aware of it, but in some ways the situation is even more serious in Great Britain and Australia at this point. (Interestingly, the deep pockets behind it are interested primarily in English-speaking countries.) The fundies are already organized, and they have been organized for a while. If they ascend to power in any one of these countries, it will be a disaster which reaches far beyond that country’s national border. As you yourself have pointed out, they are principally fundamentalists, motivated by an apocalyptic vision which they would help bring about, particularly the Dominionists.

    Howard Ahmanson, a billionare, has been the major funder of the Discovery Institute has been a member of the Dominionist movement, and these Young Earth Creationists are one of the scariest groups out there. Genocide to clean the path for Christ’s triumphal return.

    For information on Howard Ahmanson and his connections to both the Discovery Institute and the Dominionist movement, please see:

    From Genesis To Dominion
    Fat-Cat Theocrat Funds Creationism Crusade
    by Steve Benen
    Americans United for Separation of Church and State
    from: Church & State, July/August 2000
    Originally: http://www.au.org/churchstate/cs7003.htm
    http://www.texscience.org/files/discovery.htm

    The only way that we will defeat them, here and elsewhere, is by being organized. This is definitely a step in the right direction.

  9. #9 odysseus
    June 23, 2006

    For more on the Reconstructionists and Dominionists, please see:

    Christian Reconstructionism, Part 1
    March/June 1994
    Theocratic Dominionism Gains Influence
    by Frederick Clarkson
    http://www.publiceye.org/magazine/v08n1/chrisre1.html

    I would also recommend checking out:

    The Christian Right, Dominionism, and Theocracy – Part One
    By Chip Berlet Mon Nov 28, 2005 at 05:29:29 PM EST
    http://www.talk2action.org/story/2005/11/28/172929/14

  10. #10 cm
    June 23, 2006

    At what point does a scientist who is not an evolutionary biologist have enough information to be able to state, “I have looked into it thoroughly and I can sign off on the 2006 conception of evolution as being the very best model we have for how species developed on this planet.”?

    My point is that although most scientists support evolution, I think few scientists have looked into it carefully, really weighed evidence, really put any work into the decision. I think most scientists (of whatever field) just go with what is conventionally accepted, trusting that those who ought to know better have vetted evolution thoroughly.

    Why I bring this up: if a scientist is to sign some sort of statement of a scientific society saying he/she supports evolution, should they sign it if they believe in evolution by appeal to the authority of their peers, or only if they themselves have worked through the issues of evolution and come up with a conclusive acceptance of it?

    I am trained as a scientist and although I accept evolution as being the keystone of all of biology, I have to admit that much of that is out of deference to other scientists’ work in that field; I don’t know if I could in good conscience sign off on such a document if it required that I myself had worked through the issues. On the other hand, I believe that some measure of deference to others’ expertise is necessary to keep science efficient, as we cannot all be experts in all fields.

  11. #11 odysseus
    June 23, 2006

    There is a great deal of evidence — and if you spend any time at this blog, you will see a great deal of it.

    For example:

    1. nested hierarchies based upon homologies;

    2. fossils and fossil sequences;

    3. the geographical distributions of related species;

    4. speciation events which we are seeing even today (such as those which involve polyploidy with orchids);

    5. ring species;

    6. phylogenetic trees based upon shared endogenous retroviral sequences with the same points of insertion;

    7. phylogenetic trees based upon protein structure;

    8. phylogenetic trees based upon protein regulatory circuits and regulatory suites;

    9. shared motifs between endogenous retroviruses and their exogenous bretheren;

    10. shared pseudogenes — which in a distant ancestor were functional;

    11. shared gene regulation network kernels; and,

    12. fault-lines in the genome which resulted have been identified as points where intrachromosomal and interchromosomal rearrangements took place during the mammalian radiation and which are active even today — oftentimes resulting in cancer.

    If you would like, I can refer you to websites for some of the information, or in other cases the technical papers themselves. Or alternatively, you can look up some of the topics on the web yourself.

    However, you might also ask yourself if you have ever heard of any alternative to evolutionary biology which is taken seriously by anyone other than a few ideologues or sock-puppets of the Fundamentalist movement.

    If you can, ask the following questions regarding what this theory claims: who did what, where, when and most especially, how? Be specific. Now ask yourself, “What testable hypotheses can be derived from this theory?” Is the theory falsifiable? What evidence would count against this theory?

    Now we wouldn’t ask you to sign-off on the “2006 conception of evolution” — there ain’t no such animal — then again, there is no scientific alternative to evolutionary biology as such. There are only rival evolutionary theories and theories with narrower or more general focus covering different areas. But there are syntheses occuring — and our knowledge of the evolutionary process is rapidly expanding at an accelerating rate in a vast number of areas — and it appears that Evolutionary Developmental Biology will be at the heart of the next great synthesis.

    Out of curiousity, what is your discipline?

  12. #12 Owlmirror
    June 23, 2006

    cm wrote:

    At what point does a scientist who is not an evolutionary biologist have enough information to be able to state, “I have looked into it thoroughly and I can sign off on the 2006 conception of evolution as being the very best model we have for how species developed on this planet.”?

    I’m not a scientist at all, but I’ve read several basic biology books that describe evolutionary theory, and show the evidence, and the current understanding of the evidence.

    I find the theory simple to understand, and the evidence, as described, to be strongly supportive.

    I’ve also tried to research some of the alternatives. I haven’t done as good a job at that, but what I’ve quickly gathered is that there’s a lot less to research. For example, there is currently no formal description of what “irreducibly complex” means. I’ve seen analogies, but nothing like a simple (or even complex) yes-or-no test for what that phrase even means. Indeed, one of the highlights of the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial was the main proponent of the notion admitting that there was no such test, but rather that he knew it when he saw it, or words to that effect.

    If the best information you can find is in favor of a particular theory, and the best information you can find about alternatives demonstrates the weaknesses and lack of evidence for those alternatives, I see no reason why an honest scientist (or layman) could not come down on the side of support.

    This is even more the case when the research into the alternatives demonstrates that those touting the alternatives have a dishonest religious and political agenda.

    Finally, there is the essential simplicity of evolutionary theory, which makes it philosophically attractive via Occam’s Razor. Evolutionary theory can be described as a viable method for simplicity to give rise to complexity without the intervention of anything or anyone of greater complexity.

    All of the alternatives to currently accepted evolutionary theory that I’ve seen involve the pre-existence of something more complex, which is logically inconsistent. The only way that I can think of for that to occur is through causality violation, and the possibility of such a large-scale causality violation is rather difficult (perhaps impossible) to evaluate or demonstrate.

  13. #13 cm
    June 23, 2006

    Owlmirror, I agree that the evolution theory sounds good and seems to make sense–but this is far from saying you have thoroughly vetted it, have held it up to scrutiny very carefully. (That’s ok, that’s not your job, not blaming you). What you are doing is taking it, at least at some appreciable degree, on authority.

    For other examples of this: do you believe the Big Bang theory of the universe’s origin? Or Einsteinian relativity? If you do, it is because you are trusting in the expertise of physicists, not because you have independently verified the evidence and logic of the theories. As a layman, you usually can’t, unless you have an extraordinary amount of time and unusual aptitude.

    My larger point is that all scientists are “laymen” when it comes to the details of fields other than their own, and as such are unlikely to thoroughly scrutinize the correctness of theories outside their domain. In fact, the authority one has to pronounce judgements on the correctness of theories within a certain domain probably diminishes the further one’s own studies are from that domain. So geneticists should have little to pronounce about geology, and organic chemists little to pronounce about neuroscience.

    And so, such grand statements from scientific organizations, if they want to be rather strict about it, ought to have few signatories.

  14. #14 odysseus
    June 24, 2006

    cm writes,

    “And so, such grand statements from scientific organizations, if they want to be rather strict about it, ought to have few signatories.”

    Your whole argument makes a great deal of sense — if these scientific organizations were attempting to decide the relative merits of gradualism vs. punctuated equilibria theory, selectionism vs. near neutralism, the extent to which selection is soft or hard, the role of cryptic variation, or to which mutations in the promoter region vs. the sequences for transcription factors are the driving force of speciation. However, this isn’t really the question at hand now, is it? In many parts of the world (particularly Great Britain, Australia and South Africa), people are actually debating whether Young Earth Creationism should be taught as science.

    This is really beyond the pale — as any student of astronomy, biology, geology or physics (and I am sure quite a list of other disciplines) should be able to tell you. There is afterall an interdependence and unity to empirical science — one that is becoming profoundly more evident the more we discover. Moreover, anyone who has spent even a little time familiarizing themselves with the Intelligent Design movement — and who has the least bit of familiarity with the general nature of empirical science — should be able to tell you that it is politically-motivated pseudo-science.

    As I am sure you have heard on various occasions, there is debate within the scientific community about how evolution took place, but there is no genuine debate about whether it took place. If you think otherwise, what then is your discipline, and would you be prepared to state that you can’t render any justified position as to whether the world is round, or that that the earth orbits the sun and not the reverse?

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    December 31, 2009

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