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Scientists call for teaching of facts of evolution

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Scientists across the world are calling for the "evidence-based facts" of evolution to be taught to all children.

The InterAcademy Panel, a grouping of more than 60 international science academies, warned in a statement that information about evolution was being withheld from many children.

"[We] have learned that [in some cases] scientific evidence, data, and testable theories about the origins and evolution of life on Earth are being concealed, denied, or confused with theories not testable by science," it said.

The scientists go on to outline the basic evidence-based facts they want to see at the core of a science education. The writers argue that although there is uncertainty over the finer details of evolution, there are some basic principles of the theory that scientific evidence has never contradicted.

These points include:

  • the planet is approximately 4.5bn years old
  • the emergence of life on Earth occurred around 2.5bn years ago
  • the trick of photosynthesis, which is described as the "ultimate source of fixed energy and food upon which human life ... depends"
  • that since its emergence, life has taken various forms, all of which continue to evolve
  • commonalities in the structure of the genetic code of all organisms living today, including humans, clearly indicate their common primordial origin

The statement continues: "We urge decision makers, teachers, and parents to educate all children about the methods and discoveries of science and to foster an understanding of the science of nature.

"Knowledge of the natural world in which they live empowers people to meet human needs and protect the planet."

The statement is the latest installment of the long running creationist/intelligent designers vs. science and evolution battle.

Intelligent design is the thinly veiled creationist theory that some things are too complex to have evolved, and must have been designed by an intelligent higher power.

Some groups, particularly in the US, want to see ID taught in science classes alongside actual science.

In an oblique reference to this, the academies have provided a helpful definition of what science is: "Science focuses on observing the natural world and formulating testable and refutable hypotheses to derive deeper explanations for observable phenomena."

Steve Fuller, a professor of sociology at the University of Warwick who regular readers may remember has provided court testimony in favour of including ID in the US science curriculum, told the BBC that the letter from IAP is pretty mild stuff, and will only rile "the biblical literalist, six-day creationist-type people". ®

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