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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