DICI: 1998 Spring Newsleter
This Newsletter by Section
Message from the Secretary
Joseph L. Graves, Jr.
Creationism, Science Standards, are the Perfect Forum for the Division of
Integrative and Comparative Issues
Former division chair Jane Maienschein and students, in an editorial for Science,
reported the dilemma arising from the dismal performance of U.S. students on the Third
International Mathematics and Science Study.(*1) Their analysis suggested that the
citizens of the United States lacked both science literacy and scientific literacy. The
former concerning units of science fact for immediate use and the latter an understanding
of the process by which scientific information is discerned. Policy makers are often beset
by the conflicting needs of both types of curricular approaches as they set priorities for
public spending in education. For example, Science reported in the week of September 4,
1998 that a new group called the Scientists Standards Project had entered the California
science standards debate.(*2) The group, backed by the American Physical Society, American
Chemical Society and American Astronomical Society, felt that the present California
standards were stressed at the expense of concepts (or science literacy at the expense of
In reality, a dispute between science literacy and scientific literacy must be a false
polarization. The case of the public's views on creationism and evolution is case in
point. The creationists assault evolution from both weaknesses in the public's science
education. Groups such as the Institution for Creation Research utilize false scientific
information (such as the receding moon argument, Polonium halos, Earth's decaying magnetic
field, etc.) and false characterization of the scientific method (such as statements
referring to only directly observable events as those within the purview of science). We
are able to turn back the creationist tide in Arizona (concerning our state education
standards), in part, by making the point that our science standards required both the best
content and pedagogy. The coming resurgence of public interest in America's science
education offers the best opportunity for us to stress the requirement for integrative and
comparative ideas. As a division of SICB, DICI may be uniquely positioned to make a
contribution in this regard. I call on our membership to become reacquainted with these
issues and reinvigorated in the struggle to advance the understanding of scientific
reasoning amongst the public as a whole.
*1 Maienshein, Jane and students, "Scientific Literacy." Editorial Science's
Compass, Science vol. 281, p. 917, August 14, 1998.
*2 "Scientists Leap into California Standards Fray." Science Scope, p.
1425, Science vol. 281, September 4, 1998.
Bioethnics Conference for Undergraduates
The first international undergraduate student Bioethics conference, entitled
"Bioethics in the New Millennium," will be held on Feb. 26-28, 1999, at
Keynote speakers include: Ian Wilmut of The Roslin Institute in Scotland (cloner of
Dolly the Sheep); Harold Shapiro, chair of The National Bioethics Advisory Commission and
president of Princeton University; and Roy Vagelos, former CEO of Merck and current chair
of the University of Pennsylvania Board of Trustees.
The conference web site is http://www.princeton.edu/~bioethic. Student applications for
the conference can be found at the web site and are due by October 5. For more information
you can contact: Katie Tillman, president, Bioethics Forum, The Bioethics Forum of
Princeton University, Dod Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544; firstname.lastname@example.org.