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Eugenie C. Scott: Nature of Science

As director of the National Center for Science Education, Eugenie C. Scott encounters a variety of creationist strategies aimed at removing evolution from our schools. According to the NCSE, "the best guarantee of good education is public understanding of the issues." Founded in 1981, the NCSE works to improve public understanding of both the nature of science and the science of evolution.

Credits: 2001 WGBH Educational Foundation and Clear Blue Sky Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.

Eugenie C. Scott: Nature of Science

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Science, Faith, and Politics


Eugenie C. Scott: Nature of Science:

Just as "creation science" and other anti-evolution movements have their tireless proponents, the opposition to these is led by an equally energetic advocate. She is Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, Inc., in Oakland, Calif. Scott keeps up on the latest activities and tactics of the anti-evolution forces and writes prolifically on the contentious field of evolution and creationism in public schools.

In her work, Scott is often challenged to explain how scientific explanations like the theory of evolution compare to religious accounts such as "special creation." The first difference, she says, is that science doesn't use, or need, supernatural forces in explaining nature. Rather, science tries to explain natural phenomena through natural causation, according to the laws of matter and energy and their interaction.

By contrast, creation science and other religiously oriented accounts of the universe rely on an omnipotent creator such as God; the actions of such a deity can't be tested by science. Scott says that science proceeds by what is called "methodological materialism" -- restricting science to explanations through natural causes -- and is neutral toward God.

Some scientists and evolution supporters believe in God and propose that evolution is merely God's method of creation, and others do not. Scott refers to herself as a humanist and a "non-theist," and says, "I believe there is nothing beyond matter and energy," which makes her an adherent of "philosophical materialism."

Although the courts have consistently denied any legal right to have creationism taught in schools and have struck down laws banning the teaching of evolution, Scott says the anti-evolution forces continue to pressure teachers. In recent years, this has led to what she calls "perhaps the most damaging" effect of those forces: voluntary self-censorship of evolution by teachers seeking to avoid controversy. One of her tasks, says Scott, is to supply teachers with information and an understanding of their responsibility to teach evolution, despite political pressure.

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