Sarah: The answer is a resounding ‘No!’ from The National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine, USA with their new publication Science, Evolution and Creationism (2008). Generated in response to recent “efforts to introduce non-scientific concepts about evolution into science classrooms”, the 88-page book provides an explanation of how the scientific method, by virtue of observation, experimentation and gathering evidence, generates theories. In science, theories can be regarded as ‘comprehensive explanations of important features of nature that are supported by many facts gathered over time’. Some of the key pieces of evidence which strengthen the theory of evolution include:
1. the fossil record – fossils of ancient life forms which do not closely resemble today’s inhabitants on earth are found in old rocks, while the remains of more familiar and recent life forms are found in young rocks;
2. genetic research – the passage of inheritable traits in animals and plants from generation to generation can be tracked by studying DNA; and
3. common ancestry – there are common structures and behaviours among many and diverse species.
The authors of the book argue that since creationism is not a science, to teach it in science classrooms will ‘confuse students about the processes, nature and limits of science’. The current Australian Opposition Leader Dr Nelson attracted criticism when he suggested that the creationist concept of ‘Intelligent Design’ should be accepted in the science classrooms of Australian schools. Whether it will be discussed in Prime Minister Rudd’s upcoming government review of education remains to be seen.