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Winter/Spring 2006 Vol. 6 No. 1



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BRIEF TAKES



©National Academies Press Landmark 'Intelligent Design' Decision Cites NAS

When U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III struck down a Pennsylvania school board's requirement to teach "intelligent design" as an alternative to evolution in local high school biology classes, he cited the National Academy of Sciences as an organization recognized by experts on both sides of the trial as the "most prestigious" scientific organization in the country. In fact, in his lengthy December 2005 opinion Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, Jones chose the following excerpt from the Academy's 1998 publication Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science as his definition of "science":

"Science is a particular way of knowing about the world. In science, explanations are restricted to those that can be inferred from the confirmable data -- the results obtained through observations and experiments that can be substantiated by other scientists. Anything that can be observed or measured is amenable to scientific investigation. Explanations that cannot be based upon empirical evidence are not part of science."

Jones ruled that teaching intelligent design violates the U.S. Constitution because it illegally promotes religion in public schools. Intelligent design, he found, was another form of biblical "creationism," the teaching of which was banned in public schools by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987. In dismissing claims that intelligent design is a science and that there is some "irreducible complexity" in molecular systems, he also relied on and quoted NAS findings in his opinion.

©National Academies Press

Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science; Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences, 2nd ed.; and other NAS reports and statements on science education and evolution are available free as downloadable PDF files on the National Academies' evolution Web page, <national-academies.org/evolution>.   -- William Skane


Kavli Gift to Frontiers of Science

The Kavli Foundation has made a $5 million gift to support the National Academy of Sciences' Frontiers of Science symposia for the next 10 years. Since 1989, these symposia, which focus on the development of promising young scientists, have been held annually to bring promising researchers out of their labs and give them the opportunity to learn about the latest research outside their own fields, as well as to network and collaborate with their peers. In recent years, the Academy has expanded the symposia internationally, organizing bilateral meetings that include young researchers from China, Germany, India, and Japan.

Frontiers of Science symposia give approximately 80 young scientists -- most of them under the age of 45 -- a chance to learn about advances and opportunities in other fields through a series of seminars on cutting-edge areas of science, followed by intensive group and one-on-one discussions. Attendees are selected from researchers who have already made recognized contributions to science, including recipients of Sloan, Packard, and MacArthur fellowships, winners of the Waterman award, Beckman Young Investigators, and Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

"Fred Kavli and the Kavli Foundation stand out as innovators in finding important new ways to stimulate science in the 21st century," said NAS President Ralph J. Cicerone. "We thank them for their generosity and foresight in supporting the growth of some of our nation's most gifted young scientists."

Established in 2000, the California-based Kavli Foundation supports basic research in nanoscience, astrophysics, and neuroscience, primarily through an international program of research institutes and the support of endowed chairs. In 2008 it will inaugurate the Kavli Prizes, three $1 million awards to recognize scientists who have made seminal advances in these fields.

"This alliance between the NAS and the Kavli Foundation is a perfect fit on many levels," said Fred Kavli, the founder and chairman of the foundation. "We are pleased and excited to help bring together outstanding young scientists from different fields and from all over the world to exchange ideas, learn from each other, and establish mutual bonds. We are delighted to form a partnership with the Academy in this activity."

For more information on the Kavli Frontiers of Science of the National Academy of Sciences, visit <www.nasonline.org/fos>.
  -- William Skane



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Copyright 2006 by the National Academy of Sciences