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Society for Social Studies of Science

4S News

Council Decision on Proposed Evolution Resolution

05/08/2015

In August 2014, Council received the proposed resolution “Teaching Evolution in Public Schools.” Signatories include Ron Eglash, Abby Kinchy, Matthew Weinstein, Chris Toumey, Amy Slaton, Alondra Nelson, Michael Lachney, and Colin Garvey.

Per guidelines approved in June 2014, Council sought comments from the membership, with a deadline in January 2015. The Resolutions and Reports Committee shared comments with the signatories, who subsequently submitted a revised proposed resolution. The Committee forwarded the revision to Council, along with all comments and the initial version of the proposed resolution.

Council initiated final deliberation in March, completing it in April with a final vote. Ten members of Council were eligible to vote (one withdrew due to a conflict of interest).

The final vote was to not accept the resolution. Two members voted to accept it and seven members voted to not accept it. One voting member abstained.

The minority declined to issue a summary statement. 

Following is a summary statement from the majority:

This proposed resolution calls for 4S to participate in governance, especially in the U.S., similar to the 2003 resolution on U.S. visa policies and scholarly work. The authors call for ‘the right of public school teachers to accurately convey the scientific community’s knowledge in all fields, including that of evolution, without censorship or qualification.’ Our guidelines for a proposed resolution indicate that ‘it must be performing an STS analysis with appropriate evidence. It must not, in particular, rely uncritically on dominant images of science and technology.’

While deeply sympathetic with the concerns of this resolution, it is the assessment of the Council majority that the proposed resolution (a) does not consistently perform an STS analysis with appropriate evidence, and (b) does rely uncritically on a dominant image of science. 

(a) The resolution uncritically claims to adjudicate scientific accuracy without supporting evidence, and to demarcate science from non-science in absolute terms. It adjudicates accuracy by claiming without evidential support that advocates of Intelligent Design ‘misrepresent the status of evolution in the scientific community.’ It demarcates by claiming without evidential support the existence of a single scientific community, implying that the debate over evolution and ID/creationism is not a scientific controversy: ‘[The] existence of disagreements among experts [sometimes] . . . does not make evolution a scientific controversy.’ 

(b) The resolution uncritically mobilizes a dominant image of science by asserting without evidential support that ‘the evidence supporting the theory of evolution is comparable to the evidence for the existence of subatomic particles, the structure of the solar system, or the function of the immune system.’

Although some members of the majority indicated that a proposed resolution that drew systematically on contemporary forms of STS analysis could warrant approval, all approved resolutions must meet the criteria set out in the guidelines.