Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Undeserved respect

AAAS 'respectfully declines' invitation to controversial Kansas evolution hearing:
AAAS on Monday declined an invitation from the Kansas Board of Education to appear at a May hearing on teaching evolution in public schools after concluding that the event is likely to sow confusion rather than understanding among the public.

In a letter to George Griffith, science consultant to the Kansas State Department of Education, association CEO Alan I. Leshner sided with the leaders of the Kansas science community who have described the hearings as an effort by faith-based proponents of "intelligent design" theory to attack and undermine science.

"After much consideration," Leshner wrote, "AAAS respectfully declines to participate in this hearing out of concern that rather than contribute to science education, it will most likely serve to confuse the public about the nature of the scientific enterprise."

AAAS is the world's largest general science organization and the publisher of the journal Science; Leshner also serves as the journal's executive publisher.
This is not altogether surprising, but it's nice to see. The AAAS has already said what needs to be said about IDC and the attacks on evolution. I'd rather have seen them refuse without according the invitation any respect. Of course, saying that the hearings will "most likely serve to confuse the public" isn't very nice, but it's very, very true.

I admit that I was skeptical about this strategy initially. The responses of the NAS and AAAS, and the coverage in Nature, and the local media has all worked with the strategy. I don't know how much media work KCFS has done to set this up, but I have to think they've been working hard behind the scenes. Congrats.

Leshner's full letter is available as a PDF:

Dear Mr. Griffith:
Thank you for your e-mail of April 8 asking if there are any speakers from the American Association for the Advancement of Science “interested in appearing before the Kansas State Board of Education science subcommittee to provide expert opinion regarding the mainstream scientific view of the nature of science.”

After much consideration, AAAS respectfully declines to participate in this hearing out of concern that rather than contribute to science education, it will most likely serve to confuse the public about the nature of the scientific enterprise.

The fundamental structure of the hearing suggests that the theory of evolution may be debated. It implies that scientific conclusions are based on expert opinion rather than on data. The concept of evolution is well-supported by extensive evidence and accepted by virtually every scientist. Moreover, we see no purpose in debating interpretations of Genesis and “intelligent design” which are a matter of faith, not facts. The AAAS position is that facts and faith both have the power to improve people’s lives, and they can and do co-exist. But they should not be pitted against one another in science classrooms.

The consensus view of the scientific community on evolution is well-established and presented clearly in the AAAS’s Benchmarks for Scientific Literacy and in the National Academy’s National Science Education Standards. Although scientists may debate details of the mechanisms of evolution, there is no argument among scientists as to whether evolution is taking place.

We do not believe that any useful purpose would be served by our participation in this event.

Sincerely,
Alan I. Leshner
Chief Executive Officer
(My emphasis.)