of Science Society Statement on Evolution
In October 1999,
the Board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
informally requested that the History of Science Society endorse the
AAAS's "Statement on the Kansas State Board of Education Decision on
the Education of Students in the Science of Evolution and Cosmology,"
and issue an independent statement expressing our concerns with these
(Please view the AAAS resolution at http://www.aaas.org/spp/dser/evolution/issues/aaas.htm.)
After lengthy debate, the HSS Council decided that the Society would
produce its own position on the issue. This statement, created through
the efforts of Jane Maienschein, Chair; Ed Larson; Ron Numbers; Phil
Sloan; and Liba Taub, appears below. Our thanks to the committee for
their work on this issue.
on Evolution and Related Matters
history of science can teach us much about the nature and development
of science over time. As the National Academy of Sciences explains in
its National Science Education Standards, "In learning science, students
need to understand that science reflects its history and is an ongoing,
changing enterprise. The standards for the history and nature of science
recommend the use of history in school science programs to clarify different
aspects of scientific inquiry, the human aspects of science, and the
role that science has played in the development of various cultures."
The History of Science Society endorses this view, developed
as part of a process that involved over 18,000 scientists and all the
major scientific organizations and funding agencies. The history of
science helps us understand scientific processes and is important for
informing the way that science is used publicly, for example, in the
courts and in the development of educational standards in those states
and countries that have chosen to develop such standards for their public
schools. In such cases it is important to draw on the best available
understanding of science and its social context.
Recent discussions about educational standards in
public schools have focused on the teaching of evolution and related
issues. The history of science shows that such concepts as evolution
and geological change are well established and belong in science curricula
along with other basic scientific ideas. The history of science has
generated a rich literature exploring the development of these concepts
as well as the relationship between science and religion; this discussion
is available to inform ongoing public discussion.
In view of this historical perspective, the History
of Science Society disapproves of recent efforts by state school boards
effectively to remove evolution as a subject from the secondary school
curriculum, either through textbook disclaimers or censorship. Such
efforts will only hinder students from developing a historical appreciation
for science as a process of intellectual inquiry and from understanding
the place of science in society, both past and present.
The History of Science Society, which explores the nature
of science and scientific change, provides a valuable resource of over
2,900 members, many of whom are available to serve as consultants in
public arenas. Through its publications and other activities, the Society
provides scholars, decision makers, educators, and the public with historical
perspectives on science policy and on the potentials, achievements,
and the limitations of basic and applied science.