The AAAS on Georgia Evolution Controversy

Alan Leshner, the head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has written an article concerning the recent controversy in Georgia over evolution in science classes. What he writes seems to support my contention that all of the public handwringing over the superficial issue of whether to use "evolution" or "changes over time" was a planned distraction. He writes:

In preparing draft standards, Georgia officials sought permission from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest general science society, to draw upon our national Project 2061 benchmarks-- so named because all students should understand basic science principles by the year Halley's Comet reappears.

Imagine our surprise to find that the resulting Georgia text omits large portions of the Project 2061 evolution benchmarks for grades 9-12, whereas other sections on life-science goals, from heredity to the diversity of life, remain intact in their entirety. Curiously missing from the proposed Georgia standards are our benchmarks dealing with such basic concepts as the origins of life on Earth; common descent; mechanisms of natural selection; information on how natural selection and common descent provide a scientific explanation for evidence in the fossil record; and the similarity within the diversity of existing organisms.

Moreover, one section of the Georgia draft could open the door for teaching non-science based concepts such as creationism or intelligent design theory in science classrooms, and that would be wrong. The scientific community respects diverse viewpoints, and we have no problem, of course, with teaching philosophy and moral concepts in non-science courses. But, such concepts should not be taught as equivalent to scientific theories in science classrooms, lest we mislead students about the criteria for something to be considered scientific. To reap the full benefits of science and technology, it is just as important to know what is and isn't science-based, as it is to know the scientific content itself.

Beneath the surface, the new Georgia science standards are a complete boondoggle. They water down science education to the point where good universities are going to stop accepting Georgia students for study in the sciences without taking remedial courses. They will be doing enormous damage to the education of their children and setting thousands of students behind in their goal to become scientists. As Mr. Leshner put it:

But, sticking our heads in the sand-or sticking disclaimers on textbooks-- won't make evolution go away: It will only place Georgia students at a disadvantage in the race to secure slots at top universities, and later, in the workforce and the global arena.

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