In response to a request from the National Science Foundation, the National Research Council has conducted a study of the role of theory in 21st century biology. According to an NRC announcement on Friday, September 28, “Theory is an integral part of all biological research. Biologists’ theoretical and conceptual frameworks inform every step of their research, affecting what experiments they do, what techniques and technologies they develop and use, and how they interpret their data. At the request of the National Science Foundation, this National Research Council report examines whether a greater emphasis on theory would be useful in advancing biology. The report concludes that theory is already an inextricable thread running throughout the practice of biology; but that explicitly giving theory equal status with other components of biological research could help catalyze transformative research that will lead to creative, dynamic, and innovative advances in our understanding of life.”

The NRC report, “The Role of Theory in Advancing 21st Century Biology: Catalyzing Transformative Research,” may be purchased from the National Academies at: http://books.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12026.

POSSIBLE CONGRESSIONAL EARMARK FOR ANTI-EVOLUTION EDUCATION

According to a 23 September 2007 article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, embattled Louisiana Republican Senator David Vitter has requested $100,000 in a fiscal year 2008 appropriations bill for the Louisiana Family Forum, a Christian group that opposes the teaching of evolution in the public school classroom. Vitter is the other Republican senator to recently confront “sex scandal” issues.

The earmark, buried in the appropriations legislation for the departments of Labor, Health, and Human Services, and Education (S.B. 1710), would be used “to develop a plan to promote better science education.”

The Louisiana Family Forum most notably backed efforts by the Ouachita Parish School Board in 2006 to permit science teachers to teach the strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian evolution, a common tactic of the intelligent design movement known as “teach the controversy.” The non-profit group’s mission is to “persuasively present biblical principles in the centers of influence on issues affecting the family through research, communication and networking.”

According to a written statement from Vitter, “This program helps supplement and support educators and school systems that would like to offer all of the explanations in the study of controversial science topics such as global warming and the life sciences.”

 


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