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Origins Education
in Public Schools

questions and controversies about

Evolution, Intelligent Design, and Creationism


In this website for ORIGINS QUESTIONS the area of ORIGINS EDUCATION — which builds on a foundation of understanding about theology (this is the focus in VIEWS OF CREATION) and science (this is mainly in ORIGINS EVIDENCE) — has three sub-areas:  INFORMAL EDUCATION and CHRISTIAN EDUCATION (in home, church, school) and PUBLIC EDUCATION, in this page, which has five sections:

1. Freedom and Responsibility
Should a teacher be free to teach (or not teach) about controversies by describing different views of origins, and explaining why there is disagreement?   resources

2. Constitutional Legality
What did the authors of the United States Constitution mean by an "establishment" and "free exercise" of religion?  What are the practical effects — on what teachers can be required to do, and are allowed to do — of recent legal interpretations?   resources

3. Methods of Teaching
In the complex, controversial area of origins — especially when teaching about evolution — how can a teacher cope with the challenge of teaching skillfully, with wisdom and sensitivity, while following Educational Policies?  Is "sticking to the textbook" an effective method for teaching students and protecting a teacher?  What are the potential benefits and difficulties of open discussions, for students and teachers?   resources

4. Educational Policies
What are desirable goals, and how should we define effective education?  What policies at different levels — classroom, school, district, state, and federal — will produce the most effective education when we ask questions about Methods of Teaching?   resources  
5. Young-Earth Views
When trying to design instruction that is responsible and legal, how can educators cope with questions about young-earth creationism and the tensions that arise due to a mismatch between its strong popular support (mainly in some parts of the Christian community) and weak scientific support across a wide range of fields, from astronomy & geology to physics & biology?   resources  

We hope the educational resources in this page will stimulate your thinking and help you explore the wonderful world of ideas, and will lead to improved understanding (by helping you get accurate information about all sides of the issues) and respectful attitudes (by helping you recognize that people with other views have rational reasons for their views).

In this page you'll find links to resource-pages expressing a wide range of views, which don't necessarily represent the views of the American Scientific Affiliation.  Therefore, linking to a page does not imply an endorsement by the ASA.  We encourage you to use your own critical thinking to evaluate everything you read.


     1. Freedom and Responsibility
       The National Science Teachers Association encourages educational freedom in their policy statement, The Freedom to Teach and the Freedom to Learn.  They want the public school classroom to be "a free marketplace for ideas" because "the teacher is professionally obligated to maintain a spirit of free inquiry, open-mindedness and impartiality in the classroom.  Informed diversity is a hallmark of democracy to be protected, defended, and valued."
       In origins education, how should educational freedom be combined with scientific responsibility?  When theories about chemical & biological evolutions (to produce life & complex life) are examined and evaluated, in the scientific community we see a majority consensus and a dissenting minority.  Should a teacher be free to "teach the controversy" by describing the majority and minority views, and explaining why there is disagreement?  Or does scientific responsibility require that a science teacher should teach only the majority view, and try to persuade students that this view is true?  or should teachers just try to help students understand this view?   Is there any scientific support for questions about any aspects of evolution?  Will education improve if we encourage more freedom in the classroom?  And would this freedom be legal?

       2. Legality and The Constitution
       For educators, the wise use of freedom and responsibility is important in every country.  But in the United States, educators are also guided by the Bill of Rights (the initial set of amendments to the U.S. Constitution) which begins: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."  This broad statement has led to debates, in and out of the courtroom, about how to interpret "establishment" and "free exercise," and what to do when they seem to be in conflict.  This section — which is one part of a more general discussion about WORLDVIEWS AND RELIGION IN PUBLIC EDUCATION — introduces two perspectives on how to interpret and what to do.

       The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life describes the historical context, principles, and precedents in its legal backgrounder, From Darwin to Dover: An Overview of Important Cases in the Evolution Debate. (1 k intro, 15 k paper)
     The Discovery Institute explains one view in Teaching About Evolution in the Public Schools: A Short Summary of the Law (11 k) by David DeWolf & Seth Cooper.
       The National Center for Science Education, with a different perspective, summarizes Eight Major Court Decisions against Teaching Creationism as Science (7 k) and offers a guide to what teachers can and cannot do when teaching evolution (8 k) that begins by recognizing that "high school teachers are in a quandary about teaching evolution" and asks "What should a teacher do? What, legally, can and can't a teacher do?"

More legal information is in Educational Policies.

       3. Teaching Methods for Effective Education
       The American Scientific Affiliation wants to help you teach more effectively.  Two decades ago, we published a booklet called Teaching Science in a Climate of Controversy because a "climate of controversy" is what many teachers feel.  When teaching about origins — about how our world came to be what it is — the questions (scientific, philosophical, religious, educational) are complex and difficult, and often controversial.  Teachers may feel external pressure to teach unconventional theories, or to avoid teaching (or avoid questioning) conventional theories.  And a teacher may feel internal tension between compassion (for a student with personally meaningful beliefs about origins) and responsibility (to teach the scientific evidence and logic regarding these beliefs).
       In the complex reality of public schools in America, many people — teachers and students, parents and politicians, voters and scientists — are wondering:  How should we define "effective education," and what teaching methods will help us achieve it?  What should be taught, and how?
       Section 1 ends with questions:  Is there scientific support for questions about evolutions?  Should a teacher describe different views, and explain why there is disagreement?  How should a teacher combine freedom and responsibility?
       Sections 3 and 4 explore these questions, and ask how we can achieve effective teaching of science (in 3) and cooperation with educational policies (in 4), consistent with legal principles (in 2).  Since the main goal of policy is effective teaching, there is overlap between these sections, and each is important for the other.  Generally, however, Section 3 is for teachers asking "How can I most effectively help students learn in the classroom?", while Section 4 looks at the broader context of educational policies for a school district or state.
       The goal in this page is to provide a quick education — a condensed overview of essential ideas, as in Cliff Notes — plus links to useful resources.  We want to help you quickly learn a wide range of views about important topics, to help you explore possibilities and stimulate your thinking.

Table of Contents for Section 3: 
Four Websites with One Position    One Website with Many Positions 
Questions about Evolutions    Questions about Methodological Naturalism 
Can we "teach controversy" wisely?    Teaching about Religious Perspectives 
Methods and Policies    The Approach of ASA    Other Organizations (NSTA,...)

     Eight Websites with One Position
     For a teacher, the simplest instructional strategy — and it's also probably the safest for minimizing controversy — is just "teaching from the textbook."  To help you do this more effectively, most textbooks provide tips for using their book.  Of course, you'll supplement this guidance with your own experience, and you can also talk with other teachers, read journal articles, and use resources on the web.  Here are four useful websites:
       Understanding Evolution was developed by the University of California Museum of Paleontology, along with the National Center for Science Education (NCSE *).  Evolution 101 (with a Table of Contents you can use as a sitemap) teaches the science in a 53-page series (78 k of text plus graphics).  In the area for teachers (with a site index) the lower half is useful tips for coping with misconceptions, questions, and controversy;  the top half, about learning evolution, includes The History of Evolutionary Thought (with a "visual sitemap" that links to 25 topics in three time periods), and in other parts of the website there is much to explore.
       * On its own website, NCSE "defends the teaching of evolution in public schools" by offering useful resources, including an outline of strategies for Dealing with Anti-Evolutionism that advises teachers to "be informed about the nature of science and the science of evolution, understand the religiously-based opposition to evolution, and... [teach] the consensus of scholars in the field."
       The philosophy and instructional methods of "Evolution and the Nature of Science" Institute (ENSI) is described by Martin Nickels, Craig Nelson, and Jean Beard, who explain why "biological evolution is an especially good example of a powerful scientific theory because it is supported by, and explains, an almost unparalleled number of strong and independent bodies of evidence, predictions and confirmations."  In addition to their homepage, a sitemap and guided tour help you see what's available — articles, lesson activities,... — including The Evolution Solution: Teaching Evolution Without Conflict by Larry Flammer.
       PBS has a vast website — constructed as an extension of their 8-hour "Evolution" series in 2001 — including an FAQ (in 9 pages, 38 k total) and a course for teachers & students plus a wide variety of multimedia resources you can explore from their homepage or sitemap.
       In addition, areas about evolution in the websites of major scientific and educational organizations (including AAAS, NAS, NSTA, and NABT) are totally pro-evolution, and so are their official policies.

       eight websites with one position:  All of these high-quality websites, developed by prominent organizations, strongly advocate the same position — that "everything we're telling you about evolution is fact" — with a minimum of critical questioning.  They provide valuable information and insights, which can help you (and your students) learn about evolution.  This is very useful, since a major part of good teaching is simply "knowing your stuff" and finding effective ways to communicate ideas to your students in ways that will help them understand, and will motivate them so they'll want to learn.  But these websites present only one side of the debate.

     One Website with Many Perspectives
     The website you're now reading adopts a "multiple perspectives" approach.  Why?  Because accurate understanding requires accurate information:
       Imagine that "during a Monday debate a teacher convinced us that ‘his side of the issue’ was correct, but on Tuesday he made the other side look just as good" to help us learn that "in order to get accurate understanding we should get the best information and arguments that all sides of an issue can claim as support." *  In most websites you'll find either Monday or Tuesday but not both.  But here you'll get Monday and Tuesday, plus Wednesday and more, with accurate information about a wide range of perspectives.  Although some website users — especially those who prefer an "only Monday" or "only Tuesday" approach — may not think the treatment is neutral, our goal is to be fair by describing views accurately and by providing links that let representatives of each perspective clearly express their own views and criticize other views.
       * This quotation is from Accurate Understanding and Respectful Attitudes which, to avoid a possible misconception, clarifies by explaining that "the intention of our teacher... was not a postmodern relativism;  the classroom goal was a rational exploration and evaluation of ideas in a search for truth;  and helping you search for truth is the goal in this educational website."
       note:  Although in most websites you'll find only one view, in addition to this website there are other exceptions, including another website from ASA (check "Learn More" on left side) plus Counterbalance & Metanexus & and Pew Forum.


       Questions about Evolutions
     Is evolution a fact?  It depends on the definitions of evolution and fact.  In its page about teaching evolution the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) explains what evolution is, and why most scientists think it did occur and is therefore a fact, even though some how-questions remain:
       "Evolution in the broadest sense can be defined as the idea that the universe has a history: that change through time has taken place. ...  galaxies, stars, planets, and life forms have evolved.  Biological evolution refers to the scientific theory that living things share ancestors from which they have diverged; it is called 'descent with modification.'  There is abundant and consistent evidence from astronomy, physics, biochemistry, geochronology, geology, biology, anthropology, and other sciences that evolution has taken place.  As such, evolution is a unifying concept for science. ...  Scientific disciplines with a historical component, such as astronomy, geology, biology, and anthropology, cannot be taught with integrity if evolution is not emphasized. ..."
       "There is no longer a debate among scientists about whether evolution has taken place.  There is considerable debate about how evolution has taken place: What are the processes and mechanisms producing change, and what has happened specifically during the history of the universe?"

       What is the scientific support for evolution?  This is a "trick question" because it is so broad that it cannot be properly answered.  Instead, we should be more specific by asking about four (or more) natural evolutions: astronomical, geological, chemical, and biological.
       As explained by NSTA, there is abundant evidence that "galaxies, stars, planets, and life forms have evolved" so there is "no longer a debate" about the historical reality of a universe that has been evolving for billions of years.  Scientists are extremely confident about the major current theories for astronomical evolution and geological evolution.  By contrast, most scientists are not confident about current theories for a chemical evolution of the first living organism.
       And instead of asking about biological evolution we should be more specific, since "evolution" is a word with many meanings, and the scientific support is different when we examine four aspects of biological evolution:  micro-evolution (plus minor macro-evolution), fossil evolution in the geological record, universal common descent (with all organisms related through ancestry), and a totally natural macro-evolution of all biocomplexity and biodiversity.  These four evolutions are the basis for A Logical Evaluation of Evolutions which outlines principles for comparing and evaluating theories, and asks whether evaluations of neo-Darwinian theories are often influenced by a "shifting of support" from strongly supported aspects to other aspects.
       But in most scientific and educational organizations, in most biology textbooks, and in the media, typically neo-Darwinism is accepted as a "package deal" in which all aspects of evolution — ranging from small-scale evolution (producing drug-resistant bacteria) to large-scale evolution (producing all biocomplexity) — have similarly high status.  NSTA acknowledges that "there is considerable debate about how evolution has taken place: what are the processes and mechanisms producing change,...?" but questions about the productive power of undirected natural process — could it produce all of the biocomplexity we observe? — are rarely asked. 

       Questions about Methodological Naturalism
     Even when most scientists think questions are scientifically justifiable — as for the huge jump in biocomplexity during a transition from nonlife to life in a natural origin of life — usually there is no questioning.  The prestigious National Academy of Sciences (NAS), in their Science and Creationism (1999, 2nd edition), declare that "For those who are studying the origin of life, the question is no longer whether life could have originated by chemical processes involving nonbiological components.  The question instead has become which of many pathways might have been followed to produce the first cells," even though "the consensus among scientists is that none of the current hypotheses has thus far been confirmed."
     Despite the maybe-words ("could have" and "might have been") the strong implication is that science strongly supports a naturalistic origin of life.  Is this confidence based only on scientific evidence and logic, or is the conclusion of NAS influenced by an assumption that everything happened by natural process, as when NAS states that "it is the job of science to provide plausible natural explanations for natural phenomena."  NSTA agrees that "science limits itself to natural explanations."  Therefore, even though biology textbooks don't state that any one mechanism was "the way life began," they confidently imply that life did originate by natural process.  But this confident implication is based on a non-scientific assumption of naturalism, even though scientific evidence-and-logic does not justify a naturalistic assumption for the origin of life.
       But the usefulness of a rigid methodological naturalism — which limits science to natural explanations, forcing scientists to always conclude, for everything in the history of nature, that "it happened by natural process" — is a topic for debate among scientists, educators, philosophers, and other scholars.  Is rigid naturalism a hindrance in our search for truth because it forces a scientist to automatically conclude, independent of the evidence, that "it happened by natural process"?  Or is an assumption of naturalism necessary for practical reasons, so scientists can use the logical principles of scientific method, such as testing theories by using empirical evidence?  Since naturalistic science has answered many difficult questions in the past, should we assume it will find natural explanations for all current questions?  What are the similarities and differences between a naturalistic methodology (used for science) and a non-theistic naturalistic philosophy (used for living)?  These questions are examined in METHODOLOGICAL NATURALISM

In websites, journals, and other forums, scholars argue about scientific methods and theories.
But should these ideas be debated by vulnerable young students in public school classrooms?

     Can we "teach about the controversy" in a wise way?
     When teaching science we should have appropriate humility — not too little, and not too much — because we can make some scientific claims, but not others, with confidence.  This website is called Origins Questions, not The Origins Answer, because even though many questions can be answered with confidence, for some questions (about science and theology) an appropriate humility is justifiable.  For these questions, how can teachers try to maximize the potential benefits of "teaching about the controversy" while minimizing the potential disadvantages?
       NSTA says "there is considerable debate about how evolution has taken place" but schools "should not mandate policies requiring the teaching of ‘creation science’ or related concepts, such as so-called ‘intelligent design,’ ‘abrupt appearance,’ and ‘arguments against evolution’."  The beginning and ending of these quotations — "there is considerable debate" and "arguments against evolution" — form an interesting contrast, and the meanings are not clear.  Is NSTA merely saying that mandated policies should not restrict the freedom of teachers?  Do they encourage arguments about the how-questions for which there is "considerable debate [among scientists]," but not any "arguments against evolution" that imply creationism?  Do they encourage critical thinking about evolution but only within limits, only if all theories being considered are proposing that "it did happen by natural process"?
       Stephen Meyer & John Angus Campbell think schools should Incorporate Controversy into the Curriculum because "this is simply good education.  When credible experts disagree about a controversial subject, students should learn about the competing perspectives. ...  This approach will enhance science instruction.  Teaching scientific controversies engages student interest and encourages them to do what scientists must do — deliberate about how best to interpret evidence." (6  k)
       NCSE summarizes a quartet of op-eds — by Richard Dawkins & Jerry Coyne (14 k), Daniel Dennett (17 k), John Derbyshire (11 k), and Craig Nelson (11 k) — that "all argue in their various ways against the idea of teaching ‘intelligent design’ and the related slogan ‘teach the controversy’ in the public schools." (9 k)
       Craig Nelson, co-director of ENSI, explains why Design isn't Science so it should not be taught in public schools, and describes a Teacher's Dilemma: "Requiring that intelligent design be taught alongside evolution in a science class (*) would require that these teachers [who have been careful to respect religious beliefs] directly confront their students' beliefs." (11 k)  Nelson is a strong supporter of critical thinking in science education.  He says: "Teachers would have to help students examine Behe's claims and purported evidence closely.  Indeed, the core process of science is the comparison of the strengths and weaknesses of any unresolved issues that are presented."  But this can lead to the dilemma: "The teacher will have to directly confront its claims that some features of organisms cannot have evolved, as part of the argument for some kind of a designer.  Since these claims fail, the teachers will be faced with the largely insoluble problem of examining the claims in such a way that students feel that their faith is not being challenged by the teacher or other students.  Nothing will be gained either scientifically or religiously from such a direct confrontation."  {* This isn't recommended by the leading advocates of design, as you'll see in Section 4. }
       Nelson's main concern — that trying to "teach the controversy" would be difficult, and might not be scientifically or religiously beneficial — is partially shared by others:
       Charles Haynes, a leading constitutional scholar, thinks "teaching the controversy" over evolution could be disastrous because "most science teachers aren't prepared to tackle this debate." (5  k)  Therefore, teachers must be educated so they can "teach about the debate in ways that are accurate, fair, informed, and grounded in good science."  Regarding the instructional context, Haynes says: "Big questions, such as the relation of religion and science,... can't be adequately addressed in the crowded science curriculum.  For students to consider those questions, we'll need courses in philosophy, ethics and religion.  Few public schools today offer them, even as electives." 
       Craig Rusbult looks at The Potential Dangers of Critical Thinking in Public Education and the extremes of "interactive discussion of controversial issues" at its best and worst. (6 k + 15k)  But our vision for education shouldn't be controlled by a fear of worst-case scenarios.  We can aim for the best overall results, while recognizing that there are no guarantees because "effective teaching depends on the integrity and skill of individual teachers who think carefully, with wisdom and courage, about desirable goals, who build a solid foundation by adequate preparation and planning, and who carry out their plans with sensitivity and respect."   /   Also, a presentation in April 2006 for the National Science Teachers Association — A Resource for Evolution Education: A Multiple-Positions Website that can help you Cope with Complexity in a Climate of Controversy — explains (especially in the first 8 slides, with blue and yellow backgrounds) how teachers can use "appropriate humility" to make their teaching more effective.
       Tips for Teachers briefly explains how to use this website about Origins Questions.

     Questions about Religious Perspectives
       As a way to improve religious neutrality and personal respect for students, NSTA recommends that "science teachers should not advocate any religious interpretations of nature and should be nonjudgmental about the personal beliefs of students."  These are good principles.  But we should ask whether instruction will be neutral toward religion if we simply remove all religious perspectives from instruction:  Would this absence produce neutrality?  And we should remember that although "advocating" a religious perspective (and thus teaching it) is not legal in American public education, "describing" a religious perspective (thus teaching about it) can be legal if this is done well, as described in WORLDVIEWS & RELIGION IN PUBLIC EDUCATION.  For example:
       Maybe a teacher could explain that, according to conventional theism (as in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), God is involved in natural process by designing and creating nature, sustaining its operation, and perhaps guiding it so natural process will produce a particular natural-appearing result instead of another result.  This view could be contrasted with another view of nature — in which "natural" means "without God" — that was officially advocated for two years, from 1995 to 1997, by the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) who declared that evolution is an "unsupervised" process, even though this claim is not scientifically justifiable or religiously neutral.  For the story of what happened and why in 1997, read NABT & Evolution-Theology in Public Education.  Eugenie Scott, director of the pro-evolution NCSE, was a key persuader of NABT in 1997, and NCSE explains why — despite the apparent conflict (*) between some scientific views and some religious views — being for evolution doesn't mean being against religion.  The compatibility between evolutionary creation and Christian theology is also a theme in METHODS OF CREATION.    * There is no "war" between science and religion unless we misinterpret THE TWO BOOKS OF GOD (nature and scripture) in science or theology.
       Maybe a teacher could explain a basic theory of intelligent design, which proposes that a particular feature in nature was produced by design-directed action during history, not by undirected natural process.  The designer and design-action could be either natural or supernatural, so divine creation is possible but is not being proposed, and is not explicitly affirmed or denied.   WHAT IS A THEORY OF DESIGN?
       Maybe a teacher could explain why most scientists agree that many properties of nature are "just right" for a variety of life-allowing phenomena, ranging from the physics of sunshine to the chemistry of life;  but there is disagreement about the main competitive explanations, proposing that  1) our universe was cleverly designed,  2a) we live in a multiverse (containing an immense number of universes, including our own) that was not designed, or  2b) we live in a multiverse that was cleverly designed.  Currently, none of these theories is strongly supported or falsified by available evidence, so there is true controversy, although much of the debate is philosophical rather than scientific.  It could be fascinating and motivating for a teacher to describe the evidence for a "just right" universe, and the competing explanations, then say "we don't know how this all happened, but isn't it interesting?"   DESIGN OF THE UNIVERSE?
       Maybe a teacher could explain that theists who propose "theistic evolution" think the universe was cleverly designed to be not just life-allowing, but also totally self-assembling by natural process.  But other theists think it was only partially self-assembling, so God also did some miracles during the formative history of nature.  And other theists think God created everything in 144 hours, a few thousand years ago.   VIEWS OF CREATION
       Maybe a teacher could explain the concept of methodological naturalism and why there are debates about its scientific utility and religious neutrality.

       Or maybe not.  A science teacher might decide to do some of these, or all, or none.

       Or perhaps these ideas could be discussed outside the science curriculum, in a class about relationships between science, religion, and philosophy.  Without the pressure to cover lots of science content, there would be more time to develop the background knowledge required for understanding.  But would this just widen the area where a climate of controversy is making life uncomfortable for teachers?
       Who would teach the class?  In a treatment that is complete and detailed, part of the necessary knowledge is scientific concepts and evaluations, so either science teachers would remain involved or the science would be taught by non-experts.  Or a teacher could leave the treatment incomplete, and for "the rest of the story" — for ideas that "won't be on the exam," including extra scientific details and more — a teacher could refer students to optional external resources, on the web or in print, as discussed in Ideas for Using This Website Wisely for Effective Education


       Methods and Policies
       Instruction methods in the classroom (examined in this section) occur in the context of educational policies (in Section 4), and most topics here (in 3) are revisited there (in 4) but with a different focus and different links to web-resources.

       Let's look at some challenging questions about freedom and responsibility:
       Should a teacher be free to teach the controversy (or not teach it) by describing majority and minority views, and explaining why there is disagreement?  Who should make this decision: each individual teacher, or policy-makers for the district or state, or in federal courts?  When a state's board of education develops science standards outlining the concepts that should be taught (and will be included in state exams), does a teacher have a professional responsibility to follow these guidelines by teaching everything in the standards, no more and no less?
       Should creationism be defined so broadly that it includes any critical questioning of evolution, in a "slippery slope" view that considers any criticism as being equivalent to intelligent design, which equals young-earth creationism, thus bringing religious evangelism into the classroom?  Or can we let teachers make decisions and "draw lines" at reasonable points?  This is a complex question without a simple answer, with good arguments for differing views:  for legal reasons, advocates of creationism or design do want "critical questions about evolution" in the classroom, instead of an explicit teaching of creationism or design, so "critical thinking" can be a way to teach some concepts of creationism or design;  but there are valid educational reasons to encourage critical questions, since this can motivate students and help them learn scientific concepts and improve their critical thinking skills.
       If a teacher decides to do either less or more "critical questioning" than policy-makers have decided is appropriate, who will decide what is proper in the classroom?  Should a teacher have freedom to make the classroom, as suggested by NSTA, "a free marketplace for ideas... [to produce] informed diversity... with a spirit of free inquiry, open-mindedness and impartiality"?  If a teacher "thinks carefully, with wisdom,... builds a solid foundation by adequate preparation and planning, and carries out the plans with sensitivity and respect," should a teacher's freedom be respected, or should the content and style of classroom instruction be mandated from above?  But what if a teacher is not thinking carefully with wisdom, but instead is abusing freedom by teaching without responsibility, without respect for the science and/or students?  In this situation, don't others have a duty to restore responsibility, to do what they can to improve the quality of education?
       Before deciding what you think about this, consider the variability of contexts.  In one locale, a teacher who wants to ask critical questions is threatened with lawsuits and termination, while in another school any mention of millions of years (for species) or billions of years (for the earth or universe) will get a teacher in trouble, because prominent young-earth creationists have defined all old-earth views (even those proposing a non-evolutionary miraculous creation of each new species) as "evolutionary thinking" that should be vigorously opposed.  Thus, a climate of controversy can come from activist pro-evolution organizations or activist anti-evolution parents.  For example,... [later I'll find examples of each.]

       ASA and "Methods & Policies" in Science Education
     Even though ASA does not advocate a conclusion about most issues, we do endorse a process of respectful discussion so we can better understand the similarities and differences in our views of science and theology, so we can learn from each other.
       Our emphasis on process has motivated the multiple positions approach of this website, and is consistent with a valuable lesson learned from my "Monday plus Tuesday" high school teacher:  After we understood more accurately and thoroughly, by getting the best information and arguments from all sides of an issue, we usually recognized that even when we have valid reasons for preferring one position, people on other sides of an issue may also have good reasons (both intellectual and ethical) for their position, so we learned respectful attitudes.

       Here is a sampling (quoted from Creation-Views and Actions of ASA) of actions that were motivated by the commitment to intellectual integrity, in both science and theology, that has guided ASA from its early days until the present:
     • In 1986, responding to the first edition of Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences (1984), ASA published Teaching Science in a Climate of Controversy: A View from the American Scientific Affiliation, written by David Price, John Wiester, and Walter Hearn.  This 48-page booklet did not take a position on evolution.  It did encourage a logical process of open-minded scientific evaluation, willing to ask questions.  The beginning of Teaching Science... (the first 8 pages: Coping with Controversy, The Teacher's Dilemma, and Classroom Guidelines) explains why a climate of controversy exists, and how a teacher can "teach with openness while upholding standards of scientific integrity."
     • In 1991 the Executive Council of ASA — motivated by a desire "to promote excellence and integrity in science education as well as in science" and "[to avoid] inappropriate entanglement of the scientific concept of evolution with political, philosophical, or religious perspectives" — adopted the resolution, A Voice for Evolution as Science: "... To make classroom instruction more stimulating while guarding it against the intrusion of extra-scientific beliefs, the teaching of any scientific subject, including evolutionary biology, should include:  (1) forceful presentation of well-established scientific data and conclusions;  (2) clear distinction between evidence and inference; and  (3) candid discussion of unsolved problems and open questions."  {the full resolution}
       • In 2000 the ASA Creation Commission released a Statement on Creation summarizing general creation principles and four specific positions: three views of creation (young earth, old earth, evolutionary) plus intelligent design.  One author, Keith Miller, describes ASA's approach to controversial questions about creation, and explains why theistic evolution (evolutionary creation) is a creationist view, in The American Scientific Affiliation and the Evangelical Response to Evolution.
        • From 2000 to 2005, the ASA Lay Education Project worked to develop a book (not yet published) that would explain our scientific knowledge about age of the earth & universe, with scientific integrity but at a level so the science could be understood by intelligent nonscientists.  Two main objectives were "to show that scientific evidence supports an old Earth and Universe, and diminish the misuse of science to support a young Earth;  to show that scripture does not require a young-earth interpretation. (quoted from ASA's 2004 Annual Report)"

        If you look at papers about Age and Evolution/Design in the journal of ASA, you'll see two stories.  During the past few decades our journal has published almost exclusively old-earth papers, although it sometimes includes young-earth responses in letters.  By contrast, the number of papers has been roughly equal for differing views of evolution and intelligent design.  This difference in our treatment of questions about EVOLUTION/DESIGN and AGE is consistent with the consensus views of our members, as described below in MAYBE and NO.

        Are we creationists?  The ASA's 1991 resolution for teaching "Evolution as Science" recommends a "candid discussion of unsolved problems and open questions," so does this willingness to ask questions mean we are creationists?  The answer is "yes, maybe, and no" because it depends on how creationism is defined.
        YES.  All members of ASA are Christians, so we all believe that God designed, created, and sustains natural process, and (sometimes or always) guides it: "Creation is not a controversial question.  I have no hesitancy in affirming, ‘we believe in creation,’ for every ASA member.  (Richard Bube, in editorial for ASA's journal, 1971)"
        MAYBE.  How did God create?  There is disagreement when we ask, "did God design the universe so it would be totally self-assembling by natural process?"  Some members of ASA are evolutionary creationists who think evolution was God's method of creation, but some think occasional miraculous-appearing divine action was necessary (*) and it was used by God during the formative history of nature.  (*Maybe a universe designed for optimal operation would be only partially self-assembling.)   Jack Haas, a website editor for ASA, says "The ASA has no official position on evolution;  its members hold a diversity of views with varying degrees of intensity."  But we can agree that "evolution" and "design" should be carefully defined.  This paragraph begins with "MAYBE" because some people (but not most ASA members) claim that an authentically "creationist" view must propose some miracles during creation, so a totally natural evolutionary creation wouldn't really be creation.
        NO.  If a creationist must believe the earth is young, then most ASA members are not "creationists" because most of us think there is a wide variety of scientific evidence strongly indicating that the earth and universe are billions of years old.   Scientists with young-earth views are welcome in ASA, but most Christian scientists (both inside and outside ASA) think the earth is old.

       a summary:  ASA won't tell you what to conclude.  Instead, we'll provide information so you can make an informed evaluation and reach your own conclusions.  If you want to investigate the details of "evolution as science" you'll find a variety of perspectives — about what is "well established," what is "evidence and inference," and what are and are not "unsolved problems and open questions" — in EVALUATION OF EVOLUTIONS.  Similarly, in this section you're finding a variety of perspectives on "effective teaching methods" in the classroom.

       What do other organizations say about methods & policies?
       Organizations for scientists and educators want to help improve science and science education.  Therefore, they express views and they encourage productive action.  As a representative example of the official views of organizations, here are condensed paraphrases and quoted excerpts from a position statement on The Teaching of Evolution by the National Science Teachers Association:

Evolution is important in the history of nature and thus in science, but is underemphasized in education due to policies, intimidation, misunderstanding, and controversy.  The declaration begins, "Within this context, NSTA recommends that:  Science curricula, state science standards, and teachers should emphasize evolution in a manner commensurate with its importance as a unifying concept in science and its overall explanatory power.   Science teachers should not advocate any religious interpretations of nature and should be nonjudgmental about the personal beliefs of students.   Policy makers and administrators should not mandate policies requiring the teaching of 'creation science' or related concepts, such as so-called 'intelligent design,' 'abrupt appearance,' and 'arguments against evolution'," and they should "assist teachers in teaching evolution in a comprehensive and professional manner."   Parents and the community should be democratically involved in education, but "the professional responsibility of science teachers and curriculum specialists to provide students with quality science education should not be compromised by censorship, pseudoscience, inconsistencies, faulty scholarship, or unconstitutional mandates."

       In Section 4 you can learn more about methods & policies about teaching evolution and intelligent design, from the perspectives of people and organizations who are pro-design and anti-design.  You'll see how climates of controversy are produced and have been resolved (officially, but usually only partially and temporarily) in Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere.

       4. Educational Policies
       This major section — described in the table of contents and the beginning of Section 3 — is in a separate page, EDUCATIONAL POLICIES FOR TEACHING EVOLUTION AND INTELLIGENT DESIGN.

       5. Young-Earth Views
       I.O.U. — Later, maybe by mid-October 2010, this section will be merged into the page containing Section 4, since young-earth creationism (ideas) and young-earth creationists (people) are involved in most policy debates.

INFORMATION for readers is in a brief page about our Goal (a quick education for you), Quality (because we've made choices) and Variety (you'll see multiple positions, hence the disclaimer below), Exploring with Freedom (you can use sections and page-links in any order), Size (what does "20 k + 5k" mean?), and Links (that open in a new window)



In this page you'll find links to resource-pages expressing a wide range of views, which don't necessarily represent the views of the American Scientific Affiliation.  Therefore, linking to a page does not imply an endorsement by the ASA.  We encourage you to use your own critical thinking to evaluate everything you read.

This website for Whole-Person Education has TWO KINDS OF LINKS:
an ITALICIZED LINK keeps you inside a page, moving you to another part of it, and
 a NON-ITALICIZED LINK opens another page.  Both keep everything inside this window, 
so your browser's BACK-button will always take you back to where you were.

This page, written by Craig Rusbult (editor of ASA's website for Whole-Person Education), is
and it was revised August 16, 2010.

All of the links were checked-and-fixed on July 3, 2006,

and other links-pages about Origins Questions are at the top of this page,
or you can Search the Website.