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Evolution on the Front Line

AAAS has played a prominent role in responding to efforts in Kansas, Pennsylvania and elsewhere to weaken or compromise the teaching of evolution in public school science classrooms. Here are some background materials on the controversy and links to AAAS resources on evolution.

AAAS Opposes Tennessee Legislation [21 March 2012]AAAS today reaffirmed strong opposition to Tennessee legislation that would undermine accurate teaching of the established science of evolution, climate change, and other topics.
Science: Before “Lucy,” There Was “Ardi”
Special Issue Illuminates Evolution Over Past 4.4 Million YearsIn a landmark issue of Science, an international team of scientists for the first time thoroughly described Ardipithecus ramidus, a hominid species that lived 4.4 million years ago in what is now Ethiopia.This research, published 2 October 2009, was covered in 11 research papers, supported by a Science news story, an editorial, and extensive multimedia materials. AAAS, which publishes Science, also assembled a deep package of additional resources to aid reporters and others worldwide. And a press release on Ardipithecus ramidus has been translated into five languages: Amharic, Arabic, Japanese, French, and Spanish.



The research offers the first comprehensive, peer-reviewed description of the Ardipithecus fossils, which include a partial skeleton of a female, nicknamed “Ardi.” The research was the subject of simultaneous news conferences on 1 October in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, and at AAAS/Science headquarters in Washington, D.C., with major international news media quickly conveying the story to a worldwide audience.Altogether, 47 different authors from around the world contributed to the total study of Ardipithecus and its environment. The primary authors are Tim White of the University of California, Berkeley; Berhane Asfaw of Rift Valley Research Service in Addis Ababa; Giday WoldeGabriel of Los Alamos National Laboratory; Gen Suwa of the University of Tokyo; and C. Owen Lovejoy of Kent State University.“What we celebrate here today are the results of a scientific mission to the very deep past,” White said at AAAS.The special issue of Science was published 150 years after the publication of Charles Darwinís “On the Origin of Species,” and in the bicentennial of Darwinís birth.


Evolution in the News


AAAS Opposes Oklahoma’s Controversial Education Bill
[26 March 2012]
AAAS expressed strong concerns about a new education bill moving through the Oklahoma Legislature that could confuse students about the core facts of evolution and climate change.

AAAS Opposes Tennessee Legislation
[21 March 2012]
AAAS today reaffirmed strong opposition to Tennessee legislation that would undermine accurate teaching of the established science of evolution, climate change, and other topics.

Texas Shouldn’t Mislead Science Students
[24 March 2009]
In a letter to the Texas State Board of Education, AAAS and leading Texas scientists and educators urged rejection of anti-evolution amendments to state science standards.

For Evolution’s Explorers, It’s A Beautiful Day
[14 February 2009]
With help from a dazzling slide show and music from George Harrison and U2, Sean Carroll came to the 2009 AAAS Annual Meeting to celebrate the lives of Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace, and Henry Walter Bates–explorers from the first golden age of evolutionary biology.
Carroll spun an old-fashioned adventure yarn about the three men, who showed how the astonishing variety of life on Earth could lead to the evolution of new species.

Public Science Day Explores Darwin’s Big Idea
[12 February 2009]
At the Middle School Science Summit on Evolution, co-sponsored by AAAS and the Field Museum, students explored the museum’s halls, delved into its collections, and heard from Charles Darwin himself (or a reasonable facsimilie) on the 200th anniversary of his birth.
Shirley Malcom, head of Education and Human Resources at AAAS, cited surveys showing many American adults don’t believe in human evolution. “If we’re able to introduce the processes by which evolution happens,” explained Malcom, “we can help keep young people’s minds open in later grades.”
No surprise: The museum’s Chilean rose hair tarantulas and Madagascar hissing cockroaches helped engage the kids, too.

New Research Uncovers Dining Habits of Early Humans
[12 February 2009]
With obesity on the rise, a subset of diet gurus will tell you that the best thing to do is eat nuts and berries like our prehistoric ancestors. Researchers at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Chicago are offering a more complex view, though they seem to agree that the evolution of our diet does not match well with our evolution toward a more sedentary lifestyle.
When humans switched from foraging to agriculture, that “greatly decreased the range of foods that we consume,” says Peter Ungar, a professor of anthropology at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. “…The typical American diet is mostly processed flour, fat, and occasionally people throw some tomato sauce on top of it.”
In Ungar’s view, that is not an ideal menu. Richard Alleyne in the Telegraph and Ian Sample in the Guardian picked up the story and gave their readers interesting insight into the evolution of the human diet.

Biology Class—or Religious Battleground?
[24 October 2008]
Writing in the Houston Chronicle, AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner says efforts by some Texas education leaders to inject religion into science class could hurt the state’s students and economy.

AAAS Opposes Louisiana Anti-Science Effort
[11 June 2008]
After voicing opposition via newspapers and radio, AAAS also contacted Louisiana lawmakers directly, urging them to keep religion out of public science classrooms.

“An Assault Against Scientific Integrity”
[29 May 2008]
An anti-evolution bill pending in the Louisiana Legislature poses educational, economic and legal risks for the state, AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner writes in the Shreveport Times.

AAAS Urges Veto of Oklahoma Bill
[15 May 2008]
AAAS is urging Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry to veto a bill that would allow students to express religious viewpoints in school. The bill could disrupt science classes, AAAS said.

Louisiana: A Divisive and Unnecessary Risk
[6 May 2008]
Two anti-evolution bills pending in the Louisiana Legislature pose economic, educational and legal risks, AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner writes in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Looking to Evolution for National Security
[22 April 2008]
The planet’s 3.5 billion year-history of biological evolution may offer important strategies for responding to modern security threats, ecologist Raphael Sagarin said at a AAAS briefing.

AAAS Decries “Profound Dishonesty” of Movie
[18 April 2008]
In a new statement, AAAS criticizes a new intelligent design propaganda film for inappropriately pitting religion against science and for demeaning scientists worldwide.

Leshner: Don’t Confuse Religious Beliefs, Scientific Facts
[7 June 2007]
In an op-ed in the Lexington Herald-Leader, AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner urged respect for the differences between scientific facts and religious beliefs as a new Creation Museum opens.

“Critical Analysis”—or Critical Deception?
[13 August 2006]
In the Akron Beacon-Journal, AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner urges voters in Ohio Board of Education races to beware the intelligent design movementis “critical analysis” campaign.

AAAS Releases “The Evolution Dialogues”
[09 August 2006]
The new book, developed by the Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion, explores the diversity of Christian responses to evolution and the common ground between religion and science.

Science: Spiders’ Web May Have Evolved Just Once
[22 June 2006]
Groundbreaking Science paper suggests the orb web had a single evolutionary origin and may have been snagging flying insects as early as 136 million years ago.

Science, Researchers Catch an Early Bird
[15 June 2006]
Spectacular new fossils of a loon-like ancient bird, reported in the new issue of Science, suggest that todayis birds may evolved from aquatic environments.

Evolution: Making a Strong Argument Stronger
[28 April 2006]
A biologist and a philosopher speaking at a AAAS lecture offered compelling views on how to defend evolution against advocates of creationism and Intelligent Design.

Vatican Astronomer: The Harmony Between Science and Faith
[30 March 2006]
In a lecture at AAAS, the Rev. George V. Coyne, director of the Vatican Observatory, offers a compelling scientific and religious critique of Intelligent Design.

AAAS Urges Defeat of Oklahoma Measure
[22 March 2006]
In a letter to Oklahoma elected officials and an op-ed published in the stateis biggest newspaper, AAAS says education bill would open science classes to intelligent design doctrine.

Protecting Science, Protecting Religion
[8 March 2006]
Writing in The Greenville (S.C.) News, AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner and the Rev. Baxter M. Wynne say a proposed change in South Carolina teaching on evolution could be harmful.

Rallying for Science Education in South Carolina
[3 March 2006]
AAAS Board Chair Gil Omenn has urged South Carolina officials to “resist efforts to weaken science education.”

Evolution Event Strengthens Scientist-Teacher Bond
[20 February 2006]
The Rev. George Coyne, the Vatican’s astronomer, was among a stellar AAAS panel that met with teachers in St. Louis to discuss evolution, religion and scientific integrity.

AAAS Board Issues New Evolution Statement
[19 February 2006]
The world’s largest general science organization denounces anti-evolution measures as hundreds of K-12 teachers convene for ‘Evolution on the Front Line’ event in St. Louis.

Speakers at AAAS Mull Chance and Necessity in the Origins of Life
[3 February 2006]
Speaking at AAAS, NASA astrobiologist Andrew Pohorille discusses his efforts to understand the earliest chemical interactions that may have produced life.

Leshner: Utah Evolution Bill “Divides Us and Distracts Us”
[30 January 2006]
Writing in the Salt Lake Tribune, AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner says a Utah measure targeting evolution education poses a risk to coming generations of scientists and engineers.

Science's Breakthrough of the Year: Watching Evolution In Action
[22 December 2005]
Research that traces the workings of evolution claims top honors as Science Breakthrough of the Year. In all, the journal named 10 top S&T advances—and one breakdown—for 2005.

AAAS Hails U.S. District Court Decision
[20 December 2005]
Alan I. Leshner, CEO of AAAS and executive publisher of the journal Science, responds to the decision by a U.S. District Court in Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover School District, et al.

In Pursuit of Living Technology
[8 December 2005]
In a lecture at AAAS, Los Alamos researcher Steen Rasmussen details how manufactured “protocells” blur the line between nonliving and living matter.

Designing Life
[16 November 2005]
An audience at AAAS hears of the scientific advances in designing and building living systems—and of ethical and environmental concerns related to this cutting-edge research.

AAAS “Deeply Disturbed” By Kansas Vote
[9 November 2005]
The vote by the Kansas State Board of Education to change its science standards and redefine science has troubling implications for schools and students, says AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner.

What Digital “Organisms” Tell Us About Evolution
[28 October 2005]
In a lecture at AAAS, Christoph Adami described how generations of rapidly proliferating digital “organisms” evolve traits that appear to be irreducibly complex.

AAAS Testimony: Stick to Science
[27 October 2005]
AAAS endorsed draft national science standards for K-12 students, but called for a stronger focus on “what is and isnit science.”

Move Against Kansas School Board Backed By AAAS
[27 October 2005]
With state school officials in Kansas set to approve misleading science standards, AAAS endorses action by two science groups to deny use of their copyrighted material in the standards.

AAAS’s Project 2061 Celebrates Its 20th Birthday
[17 October 2005]
With anti-evolution advocates trying to inject “intelligent design” into science classrooms, a AAAS program aimed at improving science literacy and setting standards is more important now than ever.

Intelligent Design: A Manufactured Controversy
[7 October 2005]
Writing in the York (Penn.) Dispatch, AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner cautions that a landmark evolution trial now underway should not be seen as a battle of science vs. religion.

Intelligent Design on Trial
[22 September 2005]
AAAS and the National Center for Science Education said it is important for a federal court to reject efforts by the Dover, Pa. school board to insert an anti-evolution doctrine into biology classrooms.

AAAS “Deeply Concerned” About Kansas Science Standards
[13 September 2005]
In remarks before the Kansas State Board of Education, AAAS Fellow John Staver warned that the board’s attacks on evolution would ultimately hurt the state’s students.

Old Photos Shed New Light on Scopes Trial
[22 July 2005]
Exactly 80 years after the climactic event of the famous Scopes “Monkey Trial,” long-lost photos shown at a AAAS seminar helped bring the historic milestone to life.

The Scientific Method and the Evolution Debate
[30 June 2005]
In a EurekAlert! online chat, specialists say proponents of “intelligent design” seek to undermine fundamental methods of scientific inquiry.

AAAS to Kansas: Stick to Science in Science Classrooms
[9 May 2005]
As Kansas officials hear testimony on intelligent design, the AAAS CEO says science and religion can co-exist in life, but they should not be presented together in science classrooms.

Respecting Faith, Defending Fact
[27 April 2005]
Speakers at the AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy consider strategies for addressing the campaign mounted by faith-based opponents of evolution science.

AAAS Won’t Join Kansas Evolution Hearing
[12 April 2005]
In a letter to Kansas school board officials, AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner declined an invitation to the state’s controversial hearing, saying there’s no need to debate the facts of evolution.

“Strong Concerns” Over Science Film Suppression
[29 March 2005]
In a letter sent Monday, AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner urged 410 members of the Association of Science and Technology Centers to stand firm against anti-evolution film critics.

Science Classes are for Science, Not Faith
[2 February 2005]
Writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer, AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner argues that “intelligent design” theory is a matter of faith and so should be kept out of science classrooms.