NBC finds 'controversy' in scientists' rebuke of creationism
A renowned national science panel is releasing a book urging educators to keep "intelligent design theory" -- a pseudo-creationist approach to explaining the world that is closer to religion than science -- out of science classrooms.
The National Academy of Sciences says in a new book that intelligent design -- which has been pushed almost exclusively by religious activists -- does not belong in science classrooms alongside evolution -- Darwin's theory of natural selection, which has persevered among scentists for nearly 150 years.
"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 states.
NBC reported on Thursday on the new book, which seems to do little more than state the obvious: evolution is science, creationism is not. However, because some religious fundamentalists insist that the Bible belongs alongside The Origin of Species in classrooms, NBC decided to present the story as a great "controversy." (The network noted that President Bush also hasn't made up his mind as to whether humans are the result of billions of years of evolution or divine intervention and has said both versions should be taught in school.)
"The National Academy of Sciences plants its flag on the latest front in the battle over evolution," correspondent Pete Williams intoned. "It's the issue of intelligent design, the idea that some forms of life are so complex they could not have evolved on their own but are the result of God's design. ... The new book turns up the voltage in a decades-old fight."
The National Academy of Sciences was joined by the Institute of Medicine in releasing the third edition of Science, Evolution and Creationism, which was first published in 1984. The book says evidence supporting evolution is overwhelming and understanding it is essential to fighting disease; the committee's note that a federal judge in Dover, Pa., ruled teaching intelligent design unconstitutional because it is based on religious conviction, not science.
"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. ... 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," the groups say in a press release. "'Teaching creationist ideas in science class confuses students about what constitutes science and what does not,' the committee stated."
The two groups that produce the book comprise perhaps the foremost minds in science. The NAS is "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."
Who did NBC find to question such scientific authority? Peter Sprigg, a mouthpiece for the Family Research Council, which is charged with promoting the Religious Right's agenda in Washington. Sprigg, whose FRC bio brags of his specialization in "the homosexual agenda" and "religion in public life," boasts impressive educational credentials that include a "Master of Divinity degree cum laude from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary."
"What's lacking," whined Sprigg, whose credentials don't list any expertise or training in biology or other sciences, "is a true scientific debate about the merits and weaknesses of evolutionary theory as presented by Darwin."
Reuters has more here.
This video is from NBC Nightly News, broadcast on January 3, 2008.