New report from National Academy of Sciences: ‘Teach evolution’

Science, Evolution and Creationism was released today by the National Academies of Science (NAS), restating the position of the nation’s premier science organization that creationism has no place in science classrooms.

Read this FREE online!

The press release is here; the book itself is available free here (or you can order a print copy for $12.95 from NAS).

Here is the NAS press release:

Date: Jan. 3, 2008
Contact: Maureen O’Leary, Director of Public Information
Office of News and Public Information
202-334-2138; e-mail


Scientific Evidence Supporting Evolution Continues To Grow; Nonscientific Approaches Do Not Belong In Science Classrooms

WASHINGTON — The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and Institute of Medicine (IOM) today released SCIENCE, EVOLUTION, AND CREATIONISM, a book designed to give the public a comprehensive and up-to-date picture of the current scientific understanding of evolution and its importance in the science classroom. Recent advances in science and medicine, along with an abundance of observations and experiments over the past 150 years, have reinforced evolution’s role as the central organizing principle of modern biology, said the committee that wrote the book.

“SCIENCE, EVOLUTION, AND CREATIONISM provides the public with coherent explanations and concrete examples of the science of evolution,” said NAS President Ralph Cicerone. “The study of evolution remains one of the most active, robust, and useful fields in science.”

“Understanding evolution is essential to identifying and treating disease,” said Harvey Fineberg, president of IOM. “For example, the SARS virus evolved from an ancestor virus that was discovered by DNA sequencing. Learning about SARS’ genetic similarities and mutations has helped scientists understand how the virus evolved. This kind of knowledge can help us anticipate and contain infections that emerge in the future.”

DNA sequencing and molecular biology have provided a wealth of information about evolutionary relationships among species. As existing infectious agents evolve into new and more dangerous forms, scientists track the changes so they can detect, treat, and vaccinate to prevent the spread of disease.

Biological evolution refers to changes in the traits of populations of organisms, usually over multiple generations. One recent example highlighted in the book is the 2004 fossil discovery in Canada of fish with “intermediate” features — four finlike legs — that allowed the creature to pull itself through shallow water onto land. Scientists around the world cite this evidence as an important discovery in identifying the transition from ocean-dwelling creatures to land animals. By understanding and employing the principles of evolution, the discoverers of this fossil focused their search on layers of the Earth that are approximately 375 million years old and in a region that would have been much warmer during that period. Evolution not only best explains the biodiversity on Earth, it also helps scientists predict what they are likely to discover in the future.

Over very long periods of time, the same processes that enable evolution to occur within species also can result in the appearance of new species. The formation of a new species generally takes place when one subgroup within a species mates for an extended period largely within that subgroup, often following geographical separation from other members of the species. If such reproductive isolation continues, members of the subgroup may no longer respond to courtship from members of the original population. Eventually, genetic changes become so substantial that members of different subgroups can no longer produce viable offspring. In this way, new species can continually “bud off” of existing species.

Despite the overwhelming evidence supporting evolution, opponents have repeatedly tried to introduce nonscientific views into public school science classes through the teaching of various forms of creationism or intelligent design. In 2005, a federal judge in Dover, Pennsylvania, concluded that the teaching of intelligent design is unconstitutional because it is based on religious conviction, not science (Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District). NAS and IOM strongly maintain that only scientifically based explanations and evidence for the diversity of life should be included in public school science courses. “Teaching creationist ideas in science class confuses students about what constitutes science and what does not,” the committee stated.

“As SCIENCE, EVOLUTION, AND CREATIONISM makes clear, the evidence for evolution can be fully compatible with religious faith. Science and religion are different ways of understanding the world. Needlessly placing them in opposition reduces the potential of each to contribute to a better future,” the book says.

SCIENCE, EVOLUTION, AND CREATIONISM is the third edition of a publication first issued in 1984 and updated in 1999. The current book was published jointly by the National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine, and written by a committee chaired by Francisco Ayala, Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, department of ecology and evolutionary biology, University of California, Irvine, and author of several books on science and religion. A committee roster follows.

The book was funded by the NAS, IOM, the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation, the Biotechnology Institute, and the Coalition of Scientific Societies.

Copies of SCIENCE, EVOLUTION, AND CREATIONISM will be available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242, or on the Internet at, for $12.95; a PDF version is FREE. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contact listed above). In addition, a podcast of the public briefing held to release this publication is available at The NAS’ evolution resources Web page,, allows easy access to books, position statements, and additional resources on evolution education and research.

The National Academy of Sciences is an independent society of scientists, elected by their peers for outstanding contributions to their field, with a mandate from Congress since 1863 to advise the federal government on issues of science and technology. The Institute of Medicine was created in 1970 by the NAS to provide science-based advice on matters of biomedical science, medicine, and health.

[This news release and book are available at ]




Committee on Revising Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences

Francisco J. Ayala (chair) 1

Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

University of California


Bruce Alberts1


Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics

University of California

San Francisco

May R. Berenbaum1

Swanlund Professor of Entomology

Department of Entomology

University of Illinois


Betty A. Carvellas

Science Instructor

Essex Junction High School (retired)

Essex Junction, Vt.

M.T. Clegg1

Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences

Department of Ecology and Evolution

University of California


G. Brent Dalrymple1

Professor and Dean Emeritus

Oregon State University


Robert M. Hazen

Staff Scientist

Carnegie Institution of Washington

Washington, D.C.

Toby Horn


Carnegie Academy for Science Education

Carnegie Institution of Washington

Washington, D.C.

Nancy A. Moran1

Regents’ Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

University of Arizona


Gilbert S. Omenn2

Professor of Medicine, Genetics, and Public Health

Center for Computational Medicine and Biology

University of Michigan Medical School

Ann Arbor

Robert T. Pennock


Department of Philosophy

Lyman Briggs School of Science

Michigan State University

East Lansing

Peter H. Raven1


Missouri Botanical Garden

St. Louis

Barbara A. Schaal1

Spencer T. Olin Professor of Biology

Department of Biology

Washington University

St. Louis

Neil de Grasse Tyson

Visiting Research Scientist

Princeton University Observatory

Princeton, N.J.

Holly Wichman


Department of Biological Sciences

University of Idaho



Jay B. Labov

Study Director


1 Member, National Academy of Sciences

2 Member, Institute of Medicine

11 Responses to New report from National Academy of Sciences: ‘Teach evolution’

  1. […] of NAS evolution book Joe Lapp, from Austin, Texas, posted this review on of the National Academy of Science’s book Science, Evolution and Creationism. It’s worth reading, and repeating. Despite Joe’s criticism, the book is well worth […]


  2. mpb says:

    Meson, I disagree.

    What i meant by lots of faith here is that for most scientist, they no longer need any proof to show that evolution is a functioning mechanism… a scientist believe in evolution the same level a saint would in their god.

    In science, if a principle is demonstrated (hypothesis cannot be disproved) then go on to the next question. In religion, there is no proof to begin with as a specific belief cannot be disproved.

    In competing saints (and gods) belief is shifted from one to another, but on the basis of the supernatural. One’s reasoning for faith may have changed, but not the faith itself (by definition). Of course, some collections of religious beliefs do not allow reasoning at all (but Big Ed is better at delineating the history of protestantism and other forms of Christian systems).


  3. Ed Darrell says:

    Cao, there are dozens of examples of “morphing” in fossils. Plus, I don’t think there is anything in the Cambrian that does not have a precursor in the Precambrian — can you be specific?


  4. Nick says:

    Hey wingnuts – vote for Huckleberry! I think his beliefs (Christianity or else I’ll pop a cap in yo’ a–) are right up your alley. Pleeeeeasee send his campaign money. We need a black-and-white sort of thinker to be nominated this year. Evolution: he doesn’t believe in it either! Gosh darn, chuckle chuckle, hallelujah… science, by his reckoning, is hogwash, and evolution is linear, easily discredited …not branching and complex with many mistakes and dead ends. The huckster is awaiting your vote and donations!


  5. Cao says:

    What part of evolution has not been observed in action?

    For one thing, the complete absence of morphing species into another species in the fossil record, amoeba brain. The Cambrian explosion showed species showing up fully-formed, with compound eyes, etc. Where are the examples of what preceded them? they aren’t there. If evolution were true, surely we’d be able to easily find all kinds of evidence for it in the fossil record.


  6. meson says:

    What i meant by lots of faith here is that for most scientist, they no longer need any proof to show that evolution is a functioning mechanism. In a way, a scientist believe in evolution the same level a saint would in their god. Complete certainty. Anything less would just undermine the progress of his or her work.


  7. Ed Darrell says:

    Scientist needs a lot of faith in evolution (even when they are not aware of it) to explain lot of things.

    Do you seriously think so? What part of evolution has not been observed in action?

    Since each part of evolution has been observed, what part requires faith?


  8. meson says:

    The only mistake the book made is for removing too many technicalities. It makes evolution look cheap. Application of evolution isn’t simple. Scientist needs a lot of faith in evolution (even when they are not aware of it) to explain lot of things. Not only explain, these knowledge are also used to overcome problems and make accurate predictions. The faith biologist has in evolution is in the same amount an engineer has in Newton laws when making bridges. Evolution must be true for things to work out, and indeed evolution delivers.

    The lack of technicalities makes the public believe that evolution are evoked upon too easily. Biologist ought to learn more from their Physicist friends. Whenever physicist wrote a book, they cannot help but to quote at least some equations and theorem. Even though it makes the subject seem hostile but hardly anyone dare argue against it. Hawking for example wrote an amazing book on the big bang, and explaining tonnes of mathematics in them too. He didn’t remove the math because it was necessarry. The biologist should understand that watering down a subject doesn’t explain it and in the end only helps to fuel confusion. Show them statistics, those periodograms, the chemical test and so on. The bright will delight and the dumb will shy away. Only then will creationist loose their weapon to shoot down evolution.


  9. Ed Darrell says:

    Why do you call the facts “tired old verbiage?” That you reject the data makes it neither tired nor old.

    Why do you note stuff only evolution explains adequately — how we are different from our ape cousins in some respects, but not in others — as if the information is not what it is? You’re challenging scientists to prove to you that red is white. It’s not, and science can’t change that fact.

    Does the observation that there were in fact many species of fish that walked, change your diatribe in the least?

    Does your invocation of the disproven mechanisms of Lamarck suggest that it is really you who is asserting “tired old” ideas? Perhaps if one spent as much time trying to understand the science as one spends achieving alliterative distinction, one could understand the science.

    You don’t read French. The French accept evolution and teach it, which is part of the reason EEU research is catching up and surpassing U.S. research. If English doesn’t work with English-speaking creationists, what does?


  10. So our learned academics have launched yet another publication to add to a body of publications which by its sheer mass must be nearing something like critical mass. “Sure, evolution happened the way we describe it. Look at the mass of confirmatory publications!”
    Don’t academics ever learn? Don’t they read or comprehend the history and the nature of Science? Small wonder Young Earth Creationism is gaining ground. We can thank publications such as SCIENCE, EVOLUTION and CREATIONISM – and the stultified, antiquated thinking behind it – for that.
    O.K., you mighty men of letters: Get out from behind the tired old verbiage and tell the world here and now, how it is that we have thrown off great-grandaddy’s ape features, but we can’t throw his congenital warts, his flat feet, his oversize nose, his squint …..” Make with the genetics, O knowledgeable ones. Make with the mechanism. Make not such hot air. Is Science became nothing better than a warm little feeling about a warm little pond, or or warm little non-existent gradation between species? Oh, facts, facts, whither art thou, facts? Does the observation that there may have been a fish capable of something like walking, prove that this possibly perambulating poisson was not a species in its own right, just like all fossil species? And, if it was a species in its own right, tell us now, oh best beloved, the atomic/molecular events involving DNA, etc., that occurred at the point of species transition. Or wasn’t there a transition? You mean, there is no specific, empirical difference between species? Just some warm little statistical suggestions? You mean, perambulating poissons were profligately parented by puissant, pursuing poissons? In the same location, best beloved? The same ocean? And the walkers just decided to become a new species, eh? No wonder you need all those learned publications.
    Er, and are these viruses – the evolution of which is (and it really is) of some relevance to Medicine – are these viruses the great grandaddys of the fish, or did they arrive with a comet? Were there fish eggs in the comet? Did the comet consist of fish eggs? From the constellation, er, ah, I’ve forgotton. Possibly stats with P.. Virus’s in their own right are not a living thing, neither to my knowledge do they have any known fossil record. So, because virus’s morph or something such very rapidly, this is technical proof that great grandaddy’s great uncle was a perambulating poisson.
    I can’t find a French Dictionary to tell me whether poisson is French for fish. I think it is. Why not publish SCIENCE, EVOLUTION and CREATIONISM in a foreign language? You will probably get just as many Young Earth Creationists to believe it. Scientists too, for that matter.


  11. […] Here is an article from the National Academy of Sciences on the ID/Creationism controversy and why evolution should be taught in public schools. Note: the pdf version of the book is free. Hat tip: Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub. […]


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