Hemenway's views on the evolution controversy
October 19, 2005
Bob Hemenway, Chancellor at the University of Kansas, composed this message that he passed along to educators:

Six years ago the Chronicle of Higher Education published a column I wrote on the evolution controversy. My point of view then, and remarks I have made publicly many times since, should surprise no one: Evolution is the central unifying principle of modern biology, and it must be taught in our high schools, universities and colleges. On a personal level, I see no contradiction in being a person of faith who believes in God and evolution, and I'm sure many others at this university agree.

But the attack on evolution continues across America and compels me to again state the obvious: The University of Kansas is a major public research university, a scientific community. We are committed to fact-based research and teaching. As an academic, scientific community, we must affirm scientific principles.

The university's position is not an attack on anyone. We respect the right of the individual to his or her beliefs, including faith-based beliefs about creation. However, creationism and intelligent design are most appropriately taught in a religion, philosophy, or sociology class, rather than a science class.

I encourage students, faculty and staff to take the opportunity to see the "Explore Evolution" exhibit that will open November 1 at the KU Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Center at Dyche Hall. The exhibit focuses on seven contemporary research projects that contribute to our knowledge of evolution in creatures large and small, from a study of farmer ants to an analysis of the fossils of whales. A grant from the National Science Foundation funded six museums to create the exhibit. I applaud our Natural History Museum for partnering in this project along with the Science Museum of Minnesota and the natural history museums at the universities of Michigan, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Texas.

The United States cannot accept efforts to undermine the teaching of science. Our focus should be to raise the level of scientific literacy among our citizenry because we face a critical shortage of scientists in the next two decades. As a public research university, we have a special mission to educate tomorrow's scientists and to support the science teachers who will inspire young people to become chemists, geologists, biologists and physicists. Let us use the evolution controversy to intensify our efforts to provide a world-class education to our students and to support the faculty who engage in the important research and teaching missions of our schools and universities.

Attacks on the theory of evolution again have surfaced in Dover, PA. Judge John E. Jones, III must decide whether to issue an injunction against the members of the Board of Directors of the Dover Area School District (DASD) prohibiting them from implementing their intelligent design policy in any school within the Dover School District and requiring the removal of Of Pandas and Peoplefrom the school district's science classrooms. The plaintiffs also are asking for nominal damages and costs.

Jones' judgement would rescind a board order that teachers be required to read a statement to students in the ninth grade biology class at Dover High School that relegates Darwin's Theory to that of only a conjecture and suggests that intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. Opposing this policy in Kitzmiller et al v. the Dover Area School District Board of Directors are lawyers from Pepper Hamilton LLP of Philadelphia and Harrisburg, and Witold J. Walczak and Paula K. Knudsen, of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

The defendants' lawyers are Richard Thompson, Robert J. Muise and Patrick T. Gillen of the Thomas More Law Center, Ann Arbor Michigan. They claim that the plaintiffs are mischaracterizing the policy of the DASD. and justify the actions of the board by citing the final conference report of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 as suggesting that,"Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist....." However, according to their opponents, "Intelligent design" or "creation design," --whichever name is used-- does not fall in the realm of scientific viewpoint.

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