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AIBS Letter to Canada's Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Regarding the Importance of Evolution

April 12, 2006

Dr. Stan M. Shapson, Acting President
Dr. Janet Halliwell, Executive Vice President,
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
330 Albert Street
P.O. Box 1610
Ottawa, ON K1P 6G4
Canada

Dear Drs. Shapson and Halliwell:

Recently, the science journal Nature reported that the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) denied a grant that would have investigated the potential impact of anti-evolution movements on the teaching of science. It appears that the grant was denied in part because the committee did not "consider that there was adequate justification for the assumption in the proposal that the theory of Evolution, and not Intelligent Design theory, was correct." On behalf of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, an umbrella organization for the biological and environmental sciences that includes among its members the Entomological Society of Canada and many individual Canadian biologists, I must express our deep concern with the implication in the committee's review that the religious concept of intelligent design is a scientifically viable alternate explanation of natural phenomena. I cannot state it forcefully enough: Evolution is the only current scientific explanation for the diversity and history of living organisms. The concept of intelligent design is not a viable scientific theory. Rather, it represents a single religious worldview.

As you are probably aware, political forces in the United States have sought to advance intelligent design as an alternative to evolution. Through political and marketing campaigns, intelligent design advocates have gained some public support in a few states and local communities across the United States. Significantly, however, scientists and educators universally recognize that intelligent design is not science and does not belong in the science classroom. Recently, a federal court reached the same conclusion when it found that intelligent design does not differ significantly from creationism. Despite these high-profile defeats for the intelligent design movement, we do not know what the long-term impacts of this movement will be on the vitality and competitiveness of our scientific education and research. For instance, we do not know whether these political attacks reduce the overall quality of science instruction. We do not know whether these attacks dissuade students from pursuing careers in science or science education, nor do we know whether these attacks have a detrimental effect on the future science achievement of students.

To my knowledge, the SSHRC is the first government grant-making body to give the appearance that it questions the importance of evolution. In doing so it takes a stand counter to an overwhelming scientific consensus. The vast majority of scientists and scientific societies have publicly and consistently recognized the central role that evolution plays in modern biology and have repeatedly demonstrated how intelligent design and creationism are not viable scientific theories. Enclosed for your reference are statements concerning evolution from just two of the many professional societies with such statements, the Academy of Science of the Royal Society of Canada and the American Psychological Association. Many others may be viewed on the AIBS web site at www.aibs.org.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I would be delighted to hear from you, if you would like additional information. I also encourage you to contact Dr. Dan Johnson, a Professor of Environmental Science and Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Grassland Ecosystems at the University of Lethbridge, and a member of the AIBS Board of Directors.

Sincerely yours,

Kent E. Holsinger, Ph.D.
President, American Institute of Biological Sciences.

cc: Dr. Brian Alters
Dr. Dan Johnson

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