43,000 Scientists: Bush Puts Schoolchildren At Risk

The American Geophysical Union just issued a press release in response to Bush’s comments about intelligent design. It’s not online at their web site yet, so I’ve posted it here. (Update: It’s on line now.) This is not the first time that the 43,000 members of the AGU have spoken out against creationism. They protested the sale of a creationist account of the Grand Canyon in National Park Service stores, and condemned the airing of a creationist movie about cosmology at the Smithsonian Institution. But this is the first time they’ve taken on the President.

American Geophysical Union 2 August 2005 AGU Release No. 05-28 For Immediate Release

AGU: President Confuses Science and Belief, Puts Schoolchildren at Risk

WASHINGTON – “President Bush, in advocating that the concept of ?intelligent design’ be taught alongside the theory of evolution, puts America’s schoolchildren at risk,” says Fred Spilhaus, Executive Director of the American Geophysical Union. “Americans will need basic understanding of science in order to participate effectively in the 21st century world. It is essential that students on every level learn what science is and how scientific knowledge progresses.”

In comments to journalists on August 1, the President said that “both sides ought to be properly taught.” “If he meant that intelligent design should be given equal standing with the theory of evolution in the nation’s science classrooms, then he is undermining efforts to increase the understanding of science,” Spilhaus said in a statement. “?Intelligent design’ is not a scientific theory.” Advocates of intelligent design believe that life on Earth is too complex to have evolved on its own and must therefore be the work of a designer. That is an untestable belief and, therefore, cannot qualify as a scientific theory.”

“Scientific theories, like evolution, relativity and plate tectonics, are based on hypotheses that have survived extensive testing and repeated verification,” Spilhaus says. “The President has unfortunately confused the difference between science and belief. It is essential that students understand that a scientific theory is not a belief, hunch, or untested hypothesis.”

“Ideas that are based on faith, including ?intelligent design,’ operate in a different sphere and should not be confused with science. Outside the sphere of their laboratories and science classrooms, scientists and students alike may believe what they choose about the origins of life, but inside that sphere, they are bound by the scientific method,” Spilhaus said.

AGU is a scientific society, comprising 43,000 Earth and space scientists. It publishes a dozen peer reviewed journal series and holds meetings at which current research is presented to the scientific community and the public.