AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF PHYSICS TEACHERS STATEMENT ON THE TEACHING OF EVOLUTION AND COSMOLOGY
The following statement was adopted by the Executive Board of the American Association of Physics Teachers at its meeting in College Park, Maryland on 16 October, 1999.
The Executive Board of the American Association of Physics Teachers is dismayed at the action taken by the Kansas State Board of Education to eliminate the most significant portions of the subjects of evolution and cosmology from the science standards which define educational objectives in the state.
Evolution and cosmology represent two of the most sweeping and unifying concepts of modern science. There are few scientific facts more firmly supported by observations than these: Biological evolution has occurred and new species have arisen over time, life on Earth originated more than a billion years ago, and most stars are at least several billion years old. The overwhelming evidence comes from so many and diverse sources - biological knowledge of thestructure and function of DNA, geological examination of rocks, paleontological studies of fossils, telescopic observations of distant stars and galaxies - that no serious scientist questions these claims; we do our children a grave disservice if we remove from their education familiarity with the evidence and the conclusions. The "Big Bang" theory of the origin of the universe is, to be sure, not quite so firmly established, and some scientists still consider alternatives. Here, too, however, the framework for skepticism and challenge is examination of scientific observations and the proposal of testable alternatives, not simply the rejection of the conclusions that have been reached by most scientists.
No scientific theory, no matter how strongly supported by available evidence, is final and unchallengeable; any good theory is always exposed to the possibility of being overthrown by new observational evidence. That is at the very heart of the process of true science. But to deny children exposure to the evidence in support of biological evolution and of cosmology is akin to teaching them that atoms do not exist, that the Sun goes around the Earth, and that the planet Jupiter has no moons.
The Kansas State Board of Education has a responsibility to ensure that all Kansas children receive a good education in science. The American Association of Physics Teachers urges the Kansas Board to rescind its action which removes a significant portion of good science from the Kansas standards for science education.
American Association of Physics Teachers
The Science Times (New York Times, July 6, 1999) blared out this headline, and more: "Smiling mammals possess unexplained darker side" and "wild dolphins are seen as friendly, but swimmers report being bitten and bumped." Then to add insult to injury, the NYT/Science tells us that the Dolphins are not rocket scientists, but rather D-minus students by stating: "Language use is unlikely" and that compared to man's great left-right neural brain, "the two are not comparable in areas like problem solving." This is demoralizing news. I was one of those who believed that it was the Dolphins who brought the Berlin Wall down, scrapped 1/2 of the SS-18s and all Minuteman-IIs, and created an inspection regime of 13 parts including counting RVs. As most of you know, Leo Szilard wrote "The Voice of the Dolphins" which showed the way for the Dolphins to do their good work. And now we are told that the Dolphins are neither "nice" or "bright." Did Szilard miss the character flaws of the Dolphins? Should the Forum's Szilard Award be represented by a different symbol? What should we do? If not a Dolphin, then a ladder, or teddy bear? But then it came to me. Szilard was very bright indeed. He knew about Darwin's "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection." He knew for the fittest to survive that they had to knock heads and have a tad of aggression. He also knew that the dolphins aren't rocket scientists or string theorists. Szilard knew that the Dolphins could not instruct the communist and capitalist scientists in the ways of RVOSI's (re-entry vehicle on-site inspections). Thus, the common view is wrong, that the Dolphins are very bright and mighty nice, and with these attributes the Dolphins saved society from nuclear Armageddon. We need a new theory, law, axiom, or paradigm to carry us beyond this catastrophe.
Here is THE alternative explanation of the truth that I am sure Szilard understood, but didn't tell anyone, not even his wife Trudy. Szilard knew that both the communist and capitalist societies sometimes lose their way in political-macho debates. Szilard knew that 30,000 + 40,000 = 70,000 total nuclear warheads at one time, and 2 x 10,000 targets was beyond comprehension. Szilard knew that he had to build up a false image of the Dolphin, and place it in the spotlight. Such a paper or straw Dolphin has allowed the dedicated peaceful scientists quiet time to work behind the scenes with the real RVOSI plan. And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the truth. Good old LeoS, he knew that the false image of brilliant-nice Dolphins would be the "fig leaf" behind which those good-old START negotiators could do their handiwork. So my conclusion is that the Dolphin should be praised even more, and not less. We should realize that the Dolphins agreed to play this role, demeaning their dignity as honest dolphins, so that the Berlin and US/USSR walls could come tumbling down. So, let's keep that shiny Dolphin as the symbol for the Szilard Lectureship since we know that the dolphins gave so much to all of us.
Physics Department, CalPoly University