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 Published by the American Geological Institute
December 2000
Newsmagazine of the Earth Sciences

From the Editor

This “evolution issue” arrives just before Hanukkah and Christmas, a year after the Kansas school board voted evolution out of the state’s science standards and 75 years after the Tennessee vs. John Scopes trial. Is this timing by “intelligent design” or did it just “evolve”? Is this convergence significant?

Not entirely. As tempting as it is to want to explain things, we don’t always know enough to do so. There are things that we know through careful study, and things that we don’t. The former belongs to science and history. For the latter, one can believe, have faith in or expect whatever one chooses.

Scientists have no special gifts or knowledge to disprove or prove a Creating God. All we know is what we observe and interpret in the world around us. Interestingly, our scientific knowledge and understanding become dimmer and dimmer as our focus becomes larger (beyond our universe), smaller (into the realm of fundamental matter) older (back beyond the Big Bang) and “younger” (predicting into the future). Odd isn’t it, that any direction one goes leads ultimately from the domain of knowledge and science to the domain of belief and faith? But that’s OK. Science will continue to convert unknown to known, but it has no right or intent to assault faith and religion. At the same time, faith and religion will continue to provide for human needs, but they have no right to assault the knowledge of science. Science and religion cannot be kept separate because they meet in the human mind. But they can be respectful of and learn from each other.

Geotimes presents an issue to end your year with discussion about one of the hottest topics affecting the geosciences — the challenge of making sure that today’s students learn evolution. M. Lee Allison, Kansas State Geologist, offers his perspective on what happened in his state last year and what has happened since. Patricia H. Kelley, president of the Paleontological Society, shares her views and experiences on helping her students keep geology and faith separate. Geotimes Editor David Applegate summarizes the recent Fordham Foundation report, which grades states on how well their standards teach evolution. Managing Editor Kristina Bartlett summarizes a few recent events in a handful of states where creationists have challenged evolution teaching in one form or another. And offering their opinion in the Comment, Molleen Matsumura and Brent Dalrymple describe why earth science educators should be worried.

In this issue we focus on our continuing responsibility to make known “scientific truths,” whether they be the age, origin and mechanisms of the world around us, or the safety of nuclear material planned for storage in salt or tuff in the West. Our great appreciation goes to Geotimes Corresponding Editor Brent Dalrymple for his help in assembling the special materials and authors you will find in the following pages. He is one of the geoscientists who take on the challenge of making evolution information available to schools and the public. In the meantime, earth scientists will continue to search and discover, with patience and openness for whatever truths may yet break through.

Believe your compass,

Sam Adams

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