Wednesday, February 02, 2005

AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner: Science Classes are for Science, Not Faith

AAAS - AAAS News Release

As we search for common ground, it is important to remember that science is not by definition opposed to religion, and our work is not intended to impose science and its values on religion. Science is as broad and diverse as our country itself, and among the millions of people working in science-related professions, many are guided by their faith. Einstein himself was profoundly spiritual, with beliefs that paralleled the God-in-nature deism of founding fathers such as Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine.

Where evolutionary science and the philosophy of intelligent design part ways is over the central questions of how and why evolution has progressed as it has. Intelligent design theory holds that an enlightened designer is responsible for the unfolding of life and the emergence of humanity. While individual scientists may agree or disagree, science, as a discipline, takes no position. It is a central tenet of science that any theory must be testable and grounded in evidence, not belief. Intelligent design cannot be tested or proven, and therefore it falls fully short of the criteria to be called "science."

Proponents of intelligent design say there are gaps in the science of evolution, but that proves nothing. Yes, there are some gaps; that is the nature of all human knowledge. When they lack solid evidence, scientists might initially rely on intuition to build a plausible and testable hypothesis, and then systematically subject the hypothesis to testing and further experimentation. And it is true that evolutionary scientists at times have suggested conclusions based on limited evidence. But then, when a new fossil or other new evidence is discovered, the conclusion is confirmed or disproved, in which case refined theories emerge. Even now, fascinating questions remain unanswered, and scientists of integrity and passion are at work in many fields to answer those questions so that the story of life can be told in greater detail.

Intelligent design has gone through no process like that. And so, until there is verifiable evidence to support the theory, it remains a matter of faith. As such, it can be discussed in churches and temples and religious schools, even in public schools during classes that deal with government, philosophy, literature or current events. But just as matters of religious faith are not the province of science, faith should not be imposed in the science classroom to undermine fact.

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