Science, Evolution, and Creationism
National Academy of Sciences
President Lincoln created the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 1863, just four years after Charles Darwin proposed his theory of natural selection in On the Origin of Species. Odds are the brand-new organization, like most others, didn't buy the theory then, but today's NAS has just published Science, Evolution, and Creationism, which makes the case for evolution, and scientific inquiry more generally, to the church-going public. As expected, the book is heavy on the evidence for evolution, describing important fossil findings and illustrating the workings of DNA. It also spends considerable time defending science itself as our most legitimate source of worldly knowledge. For instance: "In science, explanations must be based on naturally occurring phenomena... If explanations are based on purported forces that are outside of nature, scientists have no way of either confirming or disproving those explanations." The authors also tout the practical benefits that have accompanied our growing understanding of evolution. For instance, the book features sidebars on evolution's role in "Combating New Infectious Diseases" and "The Domestication of Wheat." If all this doesn't budge creationists, the book offers several pages explaining away their objections to evolution, while noting that science and religion can easily coexist. One section provides "excerpts of statements by religious leaders who see no conflict between their faith and science." The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, for instance, tells us that "[T]here is no contradiction between an evolutionary theory of human origins and the doctrine of God as Creator." The authors are firm, however, in opposing the teaching of intelligent design theory in the classroom. There aren't really any new arguments in all of this, but the NAS's explanation of the two different worlds that science and religion inhabit is helpful and useful. Those in charge of impressionable young minds won't find the teaching of evolution laid out more clearly and comprehensively anywhere else. Buy a copy or read it online here.
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