(AFP) – Jan 4, 2008
WASHINGTON (AFP) — A day after ordained Baptist minister Mike Huckabee finished first in the opening round to choose a Republican candidate for the White House, scientists warned Americans against electing a leader who doubts evolution.
"The logic that convinces us that evolution is a fact is the same logic we use to say smoking is hazardous to your health or we have serious energy policy issues because of global warming," University of Michigan professor Gilbert Omenn told reporters at the launch of a book on evolution by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).
"I would worry that a president who didn't believe in the evolution arguments wouldn't believe in those other arguments either. This is a way of leading our country to ruin," added Omenn, who was part of a panel of experts at the launch of "Science, Evolution and Creationism."
Former Arkansas governor Huckabee said in a debate in May that he did not believe in evolution.
A poll conducted last year showed that 53 percent of Americans do believe that humans developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life -- the theory of evolution -- while 47 percent do not.
Some of those polled said they believed in both evolution and the opposing theory of creationism -- the belief that God created mankind at a single point in time.
The evolution versus creationism debate has crept into American schools and politics, where it is mainly conservative Republicans who espouse the non-scientific belief.
In 2004, a Pennsylvania school district found itself at the center of a national storm after its education board voted to require that a statement on creationism be read to students when they began learning about evolution in science class.
The school board was ousted the following year.
"Science, Evolution and Creationism" targets the general public and teachers, and presents in simple terms the current scientific understanding of evolution and the importance of teaching it in the science classroom.
A day after his win in Iowa, Huckabee toned down his anti-evolution stance, saying in a television interview that the question of whether to teach creationism in schools was "not an issue for our president."
US President George W. Bush has said he supports teaching "intelligent design" creationism to American students, to present youngsters with differing schools of thought.
Intelligent design is a theory advocated by conservative Christian groups and some scientists in the United States, which says that complex biological organisms cannot be explained by evolutionary chance alone and must be the work of an intelligent designer -- namely God.
Omenn and the other panel members at the book launch said categorically that creationism should be banned from science classrooms.
"Scientific inquiry is not about accepting on faith a statement or scriptural passage. It's about exploring nature, so there really is not any place in the science classroom for creationism or intelligent design creationism," said Omenn.
"We don't teach astrology as an alternative to astronomy, or witchcraft as an alternative to medicine," said Francisco Ayala, a professor of biological sciences at the University of California, Irvine.
"We must understand the difference between what is and is not science. We must not teach creationism as an alternative to evolution," he said.
"Holding deep religious beliefs is not incompatible with believing in evolution," Omenn said.
"But that's different to saying the two can be taught together in science class, because religion and science are two different ways of knowing about the world. They might not be incompatible but they don't overlap each other's spheres.
"Science class should not contain religious attitudes," he added.
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