AAAS and the Alliance for Science

Greetings and salutations! I just returned from the AAAS meeting in St. Louis, and what a trip it was! I finally got to meet Wesley Elsberry and Nick Matzke of NCSE fame, and it was great to see Eugenie again. The occasion for these festivities? The newly formed Alliance for Science ran a three hour symposium entitled Antievolutionism in America: What’s Ahead? We had one hell of a speaker line-up. Dr. Scott kicked it off with her usual eloquence, and was followed by a slew of people to talk about everything from threats to fields outside biology, particularly geology and neuroscience, to the successes of Dover C.A.R.E.S. This symposium was unique because we recognize the plight of those on the front line and gave plenty of podium time to them. For example, Gerald Wheeler from the National Science Teachers Association, a certain pastor from this little town called Dover, and Michael Zimmerman of the Clergy Letter Project all got a chance to air their concerns and suggestions.

Not surprisingly the room was packed for most of the event, with standing room only in the back. The press even ate it up by publishing a story that included the Alliance for Science and a legislative initiative with which we are involved. The article did get one little piece of information wrong though: it suggests that the AAAS itself was involved in the creation of the Alliance for Science. This is not the case.

AfS was formed by a group of concerned citizens and a handful of scientists, all by their lonesome selves. We’ve grown a bit since then. You can check out the Alliance for Science webpage and see what the group is all about. Basically, we’re a grassroots effort that seeks to reclaim science education dialogue from religious minorities who seek to systematically undermine science across the US. We will partner with individuals and scientific, business, and religious organizations to increase public understanding and awareness of science.

One of our first big efforts was cited in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

The new organization aims to create graduate fellowships, increase funding for research, train math and science teachers, and build tax incentives for research and development, said co-chairman Paul Forbes.

To this end, we’re working with members of Congress as they craft a pro-science education bill.

The AfS is also here to fill a gap, to work in concert with groups like the NCSE. We need to pre-empt the dialogue or we will always be fighting a defensive battle. Somebody needs to go on the offense. That group is the AfS.

While anybody can join, we’re going to start focusing our efforts by forming a network of religious scientists and teachers who are sick and tired of being misrepresented by creationists and ID folk. If you’re a teacher or a scientist of faith, you find no conflict between science and your religious beliefs, and you feel sick every time somebody tries to tell you your beliefs are wrong, contact me or Martha Heil. Then consider joining the Alliance for Science! We’ll need your help on the legislative effort, and later to shift the national dialogue away from creationist talking points and towards sound science.

We also want to reach out to science teachers who feel stifled. Does this sound all too familiar?

Scientists on Sunday were in large part preaching to the converted. The teachers there said they have felt the debate personally. Some said they have been bullied out of evolution.

Donna Brayfield has been teaching biology for more than 25 years. But until she moved to a private school in Springfield, Ill., she wouldn’t touch Charles Darwin’s groundbreaking theory on species adaptation and survival of the fittest, she said. For 18 years at a public school in Mason City, Ill., she just skipped the subject.

“I didn’t want to get into the debate,” she said.

How about this?

Seventh-grade science teacher James O’Donnell, who works at Humboldt Middle School in St. Louis, said no one has told him not to teach evolution, but he feels it’s clear that he should watch what he says in class.

If you’ve had these experiences, contact us!!! We’re working on ways to make sure your voices are heard!