San Ramon Valley High School Policy Statement on Science and Evolution
(Adapted from the National Center for Science Education; www.ncseweb.org)
Science is a way of knowing about the natural world. Scientific understanding depends on observations, hypotheses, and theories. Observations are features and processes in the natural world that we can see, hear, touch, or detect in other ways; hypotheses are questions about the natural world that we can test; theories are explanations of the natural world that are based on observations, tested hypotheses, and logic. Familiar examples are the theory of gravity, the germ theory of disease, the theory that matter is composed of atoms, and the theory of evolution. Theories are the backbone of science, and are continually tested and refined (and rarely, replaced) on the basis of new data and new ways of looking at nature.
Evolution is a well-accepted scientific theory that explains how the universe- stars, galaxies, the planet Earth, and life on Earth- has changed over time. It is a cornerstone of much of science today, and is critical to a full and complete understanding of the Life and Earth sciences. Tomorrow’s scientists, engineers, physicians, farmers and foresters must understand evolution when they are finding ways to explore for minerals, or to manage insect pests, disease epidemics, crops and natural resources.
Religion is also a way of knowing about the world, both the natural world and the supernatural world. Religious beliefs are based, at least in part, on faith, and thus are not subject to the same kinds of tests as scientific observations and theories are. Beliefs that a supernatural being[s] or forces specially created the Sun, the Earth, and the plants and animals are found in various of the world’s religions, including, for example, many Native American religions, several African religions, and some of the forms of Christianity. By definition, these explanations of origins are outside of science, since they presuppose supernatural forces, and they cannot be changed by new data. It would be inappropriate for science teachers to analyze these descriptions, however, or subject them to the tests of science. Such views may be discussed in classes such as history and literature, though teachers must maintain religious neutrality in the classroom, and cannot advocate any religious explanations as correct, true, or factual.
In every subject, including science, the role of the teacher is to instruct*, not to indoctrinate: students are free to accept or reject what they are taught in any subject, but they must learn the subject matter to obtain credit for the course. When students express concern that course content* appears to differ from religious views, they should be advised to discuss such issues with parents** or clergy.
Therefore, it is the policy of the San Ramon Valley High School that evolution will be taught in the same way as other scientific theories, as the currently accepted view of the scientific community. In science classes, as in all subjects, teachers should maintain appropriate sensitivity to student religious and philosophical views; evolution should not be singled out for special treatment.
* California State Science Standards on Evolution http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/scbiology.asp for additional information on specific teaching requirements see the Science Framework: http://www.cde.ca.gov/re/pn/fd/documents/science-framework-pt5.pdf (starts on page 53 of the pdf document)
** California Department of Education Parent Handbook for Science (see page 9 and 18) http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/pf/pf/documents/sciencebook.pdf