National Academy of Sciences

National Academy of Sciences
1863

Signed into being by President Abraham Lincoln to "investigate, examine, experiment and report upon any subject of science or art" for the government

Author Quotes

Based on the strength of evidence from DNA comparisons, the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees lived approximately 6 to 7 million years ago in Africa. The evolutionary tree leading from this ancestral species to modern humans contains a number of side branches, representing populations and species that eventually went extinct. At various times in the past, the planet appears to have been populated by several human-like species.

But today there is no scientific doubt about the close evolutionary relationships between humans and all other primates. Using the same scientific methods and tools that have been employed to study the evolution of other species, researchers have compiled a large and increasing number of fossil discoveries and compelling new molecular evidence that clearly indicate that the same forces responsible for the evolution of all other life forms on Earth account for the biological evolution of human characteristics.

Creationists sometimes claim that scientists have a vested interest in the concept of biological evolution and are unwilling to consider other possibilities. But this claim, too, misrepresents science. Scientists continually test their ideas against observations and submit their work to their colleagues for critical peer review of ideas, evidence, and conclusions before a scientific paper is published in any respected scientific journal. Unexplained observations are eagerly pursued because they can be signs of important new science or problems with an existing hypothesis or theory. History is replete with scientists challenging accepted theory by offering new evidence and more comprehensive explanations to account for natural phenomena. Also, science has a competitive element as well as a cooperative one. If one scientist clings to particular ideas despite evidence to the contrary, another scientist will attempt to replicate relevant experiments and will not hesitate to publish conflicting evidence. If there were serious problems in evolutionary science, many scientists would be eager to win fame by being the first to provide a better testable alternative. That there are no viable alternatives to evolution in the scientific literature is not because of vested interests or censorship but because evolution has been and continues to be solidly supported by evidence.

Science is a particular way of knowing about the world. In science, explanations are limited to those based on observations and experiments that can be substantiated by other scientists. Explanations that cannot be based on empirical evidence are not a part of science.

In the quest for understanding, science involves a great deal of careful observation that eventually produces an elaborate written description of the natural world. Scientists communicate their findings and conclusions to other scientists through publications, talks at conferences, hallway conversations, and many other means. Other scientists then test those ideas and build on preexisting work. In this way, the accuracy and sophistication of descriptions of the natural world tend to increase with time, as subsequent generations of scientists correct and extend the work done by their predecessors.

Progress in science consists of the development of better explanations for the causes of natural phenomena. Scientists never can be sure that a given explanation is complete and final. Some of the hypotheses advanced by scientists turn out to be incorrect when tested by further observations or experiments. Yet many scientific explanations have been so thoroughly tested and confirmed that they are held with great confidence.

THEORY: In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses. The contention that evolution should be taught as a "theory, not as a fact" confuses the common use of these words with the scientific use. In science, theories do not turn into facts through the accumulation of evidence. Rather, theories are the end points of science. They are understandings that develop from extensive observation, experimentation, and creative reflection. They incorporate a large body of scientific facts, laws, tested hypotheses, and logical inferences. In this sense, evolution is one of the strongest and most useful scientific theories we have.

The concept of biological evolution is one of the most important ideas ever generated by the application of scientific methods to the natural world. The evolution of all the organisms that live on Earth today from ancestors that lived in the past is at the core of genetics, biochemistry, neurobiology, physiology, ecology, and other biological disciplines. It helps to explain the emergence of new infectious diseases, the development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria, the agricultural relationships among wild and domestic plants and animals, the composition of Earth's atmosphere, the molecular machinery of the cell, the similarities between human beings and other primates, and countless other features of the biological and physical world. As the great geneticist and evolutionist Theodosius Dobzhansky wrote in 1973, ‘Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.’

Scientists no longer question the basic facts of evolution. The concept has withstood extensive testing by tens of thousands of specialists in biology, medicine, anthropology, geology, chemistry, and other fields. Discoveries in different fields have reinforced one another, and evidence for evolution has continued to accumulate for 150 years.

Scientists use the term 'fact' to refer to a scientific explanation that has been tested and confirmed so many times that there is no longer a compelling reason to keep testing it or looking for additional examples. In that respect, the past and continuing occurrence of evolution is a scientific fact. Because the evidence supporting it is so strong, scientists no longer question whether biological evolution has occurred and is continuing to occur. Instead, they investigate the mechanisms of evolution, how rapidly evolution can take place, and related questions.

One’s person’s trash is another’s living space.

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National Academy of Sciences
Birth Date
1863
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Signed into being by President Abraham Lincoln to "investigate, examine, experiment and report upon any subject of science or art" for the government