Scientists at U.S. conference speak out in support of evolution

Scientists at a large annual gathering rallied in support of evolution, speaking out against what they call an assault on science from religious conservatives. A group at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the largest U.S. gathering of scientists, on Sunday announced the formation of an alliance to defend evolution.

"We are not rolling over on this," Alan Leshner, chief executive of AAAS and executive publisher of the journal Science, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "It's too important to the nation and to the nation's children." The new organization, the Alliance for Science, brings together scientists, scientific groups and supporters to create graduate fellowships, increase funding for research, train math and science teachers, and build tax incentives for research and development, said co-chairman Paul Forbes.

Scientists enlisted the help of about 300 teachers from across the Midwest who attended the conference to discuss the national debate over evolution. Some teachers told of parents who insist they abandon high school biology texts in favor of biblical creationism or intelligent design, the theory that life is so complex that it must be the work of a supernatural designer.

Critics saw the gathering as a sign of insecurity. "I don't understand how you can have a discussion of intelligent design if you only invite critics," said John West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a Seattle think tank that supports scholars researching intelligent design. "That sounds like a monologue, not a discussion. I thought this was supposed to be science, not a pep rally."

The Cleveland, Missouri-based Creation Science Association for Mid America believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible as a basis for much of science. President Tom Willis called the scientists "desperate." "Most would be out of a job if they couldn't sell evolution to children," Willis said.

The debate has touched public schools across the United States. In December, a judge in Dover, Pennsylvania, ruled that intelligent design "is not science." Last year, a federal judge ordered a school system in Georgia to remove from biology textbooks some stickers that called evolution into question.

Dozens of states are debating the issue. Missouri legislators have tried three times since 2003 to change how science is taught in public schools. Each ultimately failed, but another bill has been introduced this year, reports the AP.


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