SICB Logo: Click Here to go to the SICB Home Page
General Officer Messages
Committee Reports

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 scientific literacy).

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 Princeton University.

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 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;

The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology
1313 Dolley Madison Blvd Suite 402
McLean VA 22101
Phone: 703-790-1745 or 800-955-1236
FAX: 703-790-2672