SPECIAL UPDATE: Joint Letter on Evolution Sent to Congress

(Posted 8-23-01)

This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's member societies.

IN A NUTSHELL: The leaders of 80 scientific and educational organizations have endorsed the following letter, which was sent to Capitol Hill on August 22nd. The letter asks the chairmen of a House-Senate conference committee to remove a Senate resolution singling out evolution as a controversial theory. AGI and 15 of its member societies are among the organizations represented, which also include the National Science Teachers Association and the Association of American Universities.

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Back in June, AGI sent out a special update informing the geoscience community about the Senate passage of a non-binding resolution drafted by leading evolution opponent Phillip Johnson, a law professor at UC Berkeley. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) introduced the resolution amidst a last-minute flurry of votes at the end of six weeks of debate on high-priority education legislation. Although the resolution was billed as "innocuous", groups opposed to the teaching of evolution in the nation's schools have used the Senate vote to advance their cause across the country. In recent weeks, the issue has become increasingly public with featured stories in USA Today, ABC News Radio, local television news, and other media outlets.

The task of the House-Senate conference committee is to reconcile the Senate-passed and House-passed version of H.R.1, a massive overhaul of federal elementary and secondary education programs. Hill staff have been working throughout August in anticipation of completing the conference when senators and representatives return to Washington after Labor Day. By dropping the Santorum provision from the final bill, the conferees can send a strong signal of support for science education.

AGI has been working with other societies to coordinate the response to this attempt by evolution opponents to open a new political front in the ongoing debate over the teaching of evolution in the nation's public schools. In addition to this joint letter, AGI, the American Geophysical Union, and the Paleontological Society have sent individual letters to conferees on this subject. A list of AGI member society position statements on this issue can be found at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/position_statements.html.

Signatories to the joint letter will continue to be added, and updated lists will be shared with Hill staff as the issue progresses. A current list of signatories follows. An Adobe Acrobat 4.0 PDF version of the letter as sent to the Hill can be found at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/groupletter_evolution.pdf. For additional background on the Santorum resolution (including its text) and how evolution opponents are using it, please see the AGI special update at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/evolution_update0601.html.



Note: An updated list of signatories can be found at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/evolutionletter.html.
 

August 2001 Joint Letter from Scientific and Educational Leaders on Evolution in H.R.1


The Honorable John Boehner, Chairman
Committee on Education & the Workforce
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington DC 20515

The Honorable Edward M. Kennedy, Chairman
Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions
U.S. Senate
Washington DC 20510

Dear Conference Committee Chairmen:

The undersigned scientific and educational organizations urge the Conference Committee to remove Section 1022 from the Senate-passed version of H.R.1. This Sense of the Senate resolution introduced by Senator Santorum sets a precedent of congressional involvement in the teaching of evolution, an issue that until now has been debated at state and local levels. Given the significance of such a precedent, we do not feel that adequate consideration was given to the amendment's implications before its adoption.

Those implications have become increasingly apparent in recent weeks as anti-evolution groups have hailed the amendment's passage as a major victory. The Senate vote is being portrayed as a vindication of the 1999 decision by the Kansas Board of Education to eliminate evolution from state tests. Yet Kansas citizens recognized that the Board's decision weakened science education in their state, and they repudiated the School Board vote in the following year's elections. Today, Kansas has some of the best science education standards in the country.

As written, the apparently innocuous statements in this resolution mask an anti-evolution agenda that repeatedly has been rejected by the courts.  The resolution singles out biological evolution as a controversial subject but is deliberately ambiguous about the nature of the controversy. Evolutionary theory ranks with Einstein's theory of relativity as one of modern science's most robust, generally accepted, thoroughly tested and broadly applicable concepts. From the standpoint of science, there is no controversy. If the point of the resolution is to encourage teaching about political controversy surrounding scientific topics, then evolution is just one of a legion of issues that are the subject of political debate. It should not be singled out.

Confusing political with scientific controversy on the topic of biological evolution will weaken science education. Thank you for considering our request to remove this resolution and for your lasting commitment to ensuring that students in the nation's public schools receive the best science education possible.

Sincerely,

 Louise Lamphere, President
American Anthropological Association

Mary Pat Matheson, President
American Assn of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta

Eugenie Scott, President
American Association of Physical Anthropologists

Robert Milkey, Executive Officer
American Astronomical Society

Barbara Joe Hoshiazaki, President
American Fern Society

Oliver A. Ryder, President
American Genetic Association

Larry Woodfork, President
American Geological Institute

Marcia McNutt, President
American Geophysical Union

Judith S. Weis, President
American Institute of Biological Sciences

Arvind K.N. Nandedkar, President
American Institute of Chemists

Robert H. Fakundiny, President
American Institute of Professional Geologists

Hyman Bass, President
American Mathematical Society

Ronald D. McPherson, Executive Director
American Meteorological Society

John W. Fitzpatrick, President
American Ornithologists' Union

George Trilling, President
American Physical Society

Martin Frank, Executive Director
American Physiological Society

Steven Slack, President
American Phytopathological Society

Raymond D. Fowler, Chief Executive Officer
American Psychological Association

Alan Kraut, Executive Director
American Psychological Society

Catherine E. Rudder, Executive Director
American Political Science Association

Abigail Salyers, President
American Society for Microbiology

Thomas H. Kunz, President
American Society of Mammalogists

Mary Anne Holmes, President
Association for Women Geoscientists

Linda H. Mantel, President
Association for Women in Science

Ronald F. Abler, Executive Director
Association of American Geographers

Nils Hasselmo, President
Association of American Universities

Thomas A. Davis, President
Assn. of College & University Biology Educators

Richard Jones, President
Association of Earth Science Editors

Rex Upp, President
Association of Engineering Geologists

Robert R. Haynes, President
Association of Southeastern Biologists

Rodger Bybee, Executive Director
Biological Sciences Curriculum Study

Mary Dicky Barkley, President
The Biophysical Society

Judy Jernstedt, President
Botanical Society of America

Ken Atkins, Secretary
Burlington-Edison Cmte. for Science Education

Blair F. Jones, President
Clay Minerals Society

Barbara Forrest, President
Citizens for the Advancement of Science Education

Timothy Moy, President
Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education

K. Elaine Hoagland, National Executive Officer
Council on Undergraduate Research

David A. Sleper, President
Crop Science Society of America

Steve Culver, President
Cushman Foundation for Foraminiferal Research

Pamela Matson, President
Ecological Society of America

Larry L. Larson, President
Entomological Society of America

Royce Engstrom, Chair of the Board of Directors
EPSCoR Foundation

Stephen W. Porges, President
Federation of Behavioral, Psychological and Cognitive Sciences

Kevin S. Cummings, President
Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society

Sharon Mosher, President
Geological Society of America

Dennis J. Richardson, President
The Helminthological Society of Washington

Aaron M. Bauer, President
The Herpetologists' League

Don Johanson, Director
Institute of Human Origins

Harry McDonald, President
Kansas Association of Biology Teachers

Steve Lopes, President
Kansas Citizens For Science

Margaret W. Reynolds, Executive Director
Linguistic Society of America

Robert T. Pennock, President
Michigan Citizens for Science

Ann Lumsden, President
National Association of Biology Teachers

Darryl Wilkins, President
National Association of Black Geologists & Geophysicists

Steven C. Semken, President
National Association of Geoscience Teachers

Kevin Padian, President
National Center for Science Education

Tom Ervin, President
National Earth Science Teachers Association

Gerald Wheeler, Executive Director
National Science Teachers Association

Meredith Lane, President
Natural Science Collections Alliance

Cathleen May, President
Newkirk Engler & May Foundation

Dave Thomas, President
New Mexicans for Science and Reason

Lydia Villa-Komaroff, Vice Pres. for Research
Northwestern University

Gary S. Hartshorn, President
Organization for Tropical Studies

Patricia Kelley, President
Paleontological Society

Henry R. Owen, Director
Phi Sigma: The Biological Sciences Honor Society

Charles Yarish, President
Phycological Society of America

Barbara J. Moore, President and CEO
Shape Up America!

Gilbert Strang, Past-Pres. & Science Policy Chair
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics

Prasanta K. Mukhopadhyay, President
Society for Organic Petrology

Howard E. Harper, Executive Director
Society for Sedimentary Geology

Nick Barton, President
Society for the Study of Evolution

Deborah Sacrey, President
Society of Independent Professional Earth Scientists

J.D. Hughes, President
Society of Petroleum Evaluation Engineers

Lea K. Bleyman, President
Society of Protozoologists

Elizabeth Kellogg, President
Society of Systematic Biologists

David L. Eaton, President
Society of Toxicology

Richard Stuckey, President
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

Pat White, Executive Director
Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology Education

Richard A. Anthes, President
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research



Special update prepared by David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.

Posted August 23, 2001


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