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Letter to New Mexico State Board of Education

August 12, 2003

Dear New Mexico State Board of Education:

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) would like to express strong support for the New Mexico's revised science standards. In 1947, American Institute of Biological Sciences was federally chartered as a non-profit scientific organization to advance research and education in the biological sciences. As an umbrella organization, our 86 member scientific and education societies and organizations with a combined membership of approximately 240,000 and our 6,000 individual members span all of biology -- basic to applied, from molecular to organismal, from agronomy to zoology.

Scientists and educators across the country note that New Mexico's revised science standards are among the best in the nation. High quality standards must draw their content exclusively from peer-reviewed mainstream science, and avoid pseudo-science, untested theories, and any religious or philosophical biases. The standards must be aligned, consistent, and pedagogically appropriate at each grade level. New Mexico's revised standards meet these requirements.

The American Institute of Biological Sciences has learned that advocates for Intelligent Design creationism have suggested modifications to the standards which would imply that:

  • the theory of evolution is controversial among scientists;
  • scientists are biased against supernatural explanations for natural phenomena;
  • scientific evidence against evolution (or Darwinism in their terminology) exists; and,
  • it would only be 'fair' to teach both sides of the 'controversy.'

All of these statements are false. Respected scientists recognize evolution as an extremely well verified scientific theory. Supernatural explanations, while perfectly valid in theology, are not scientifically testable and for centuries have not been accepted as science. To our knowledge, no articles supporting Intelligent Design have been published in any mainstream, peer-reviewed scientific journal -- the accepted process used by scientists to develop and revise theories. As for claims that public opinion polls show support for alternative explanations to the theory of evolution by natural selection; good science is not a popularity contest. To further illustrate this point, please consider a statement adopted by the Botanical Society of America on July 27, 2003. In part, the statement reads:

The fairness argument implies that creationism is a scientifically valid alternative to evolution, and that is not true. Science is not about fairness, and all explanations are not equal. So, some scientific explanations are highly speculative with little in the way of supporting evidence, and they will stand or fall based upon rigorous testing. The history of science is littered with discarded explanations, but they weren't discarded because of public opinion or general popularity; each one earned that distinction by being scientifically falsified. Scientists may jump on a "band wagon" for some new explanation, particularly if it has tremendous explanatory power, something that makes sense out of previously unexplained phenomena. But for an explanation to become a mainstream component of a theory, it must be tested and found useful in doing science.

The American Institute of Biological Sciences strongly urges you to adopt the K-12 science standards without modification. The changes suggested by New Mexico IDNet will negatively impact the standards, and deprive New Mexico's children of the valid science education they need to become competitive workers in the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century.


Gary S. Hartshorn, Ph.D.
President, American Institute of Biological Sciences
President and CEO, Organization for Tropical Studies
Professor of the Practice, NEES, Duke University
Adjunct Professor of Botany, Biological Sciences Dept., Duke University

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