Video: New debate over creationism stirs controversy

updated 1/3/2008 7:18:15 PM ET 2008-01-04T00:18:15

In a newly published report, scientific advisers to the government emphasize the importance of teaching evolution in public schools.

The report by the National Academy of Sciences and its Institute of Medicine follows up on similar past publications, the last of which came out in 1999. The new document, titled "Science, Evolution and Creationism," includes recently discovered evidence supporting evolution — including the 375 million-year-old "Tiktaalik" fossil , which researchers say blends characteristics of a crocodile and a fish.

The report released Thursday also takes swipes at creationism and other anti-evolution theories.

"Despite the lack of scientific evidence for creationist positions, some advocates continue to demand that various forms of creationism be taught together with or in place of evolution in science classes," the report says.

Evolution is a continuing topic of debate in some states. Florida officials are considering revisions in state science standards that would add the word “evolution” to the standards. The state Board of Education plans to vote on the guidelines next month.

In Texas, the state’s director of science curriculum, Chris Comer, maintains she was forced to resign recently due to evolution politics. Comer said she came under pressure after forwarding an e-mail that her superiors felt made the agency appear to be biased against the instruction of intelligent design, an concept presented as alternative to evolution by some religious conservatives.

Intelligent design holds that the universe’s order and complexity are so great that they are best explained as the work of an intelligent agent.

The Texas State Board of Education is expected to begin a review of the state science curriculum soon.

Josh Rosenau, a spokesman for the California-based National Center for Science Education, which supports the teaching of evolution, said the new report is important because the debate over evolution in school is not going away.

Casey Luskin, program officer for the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that supports teaching students about the criticism of evolution, was critical of the document.

"Students should learn about the evidence for and against evolution," he said.

The Institute of Medicine is part of the National Academy of Sciences, a private organization chartered by Congress to advise the government of scientific matters.

This report has been supplemented by

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