In a new report, scientific advisers to the federal government have highlighted the importance of teaching evolution in the public schools.

The report, from the National Academy of Sciences and its Institute of Medicine, comes as advocates of creationist-style instruction escalate their political opposition to evolution in several key states. The new document follows up on similar past publications, the last of which came out in 1999. But this one includes recently discovered evidence supporting evolution, including an important fossil find.

Released Jan. 3, the report explicitly takes issue with creationism and other anti-evolution views:

“Despite the lack of scientific evidence for creationist positions, some advocates continue to demand that various forms of creationism be taught together with or in place of evolution in science classes.”

Evolution is a continuing topic of debate in some states. Florida officials are considering revisions in state science standards that would add the word “evolution” to the standards. The state Board of Education plans to vote on the guidelines next month.

In Texas, the state’s director of science curriculum, Chris Comer, maintains she was forced to resign recently as a result of evolution politics. Comer said she came under pressure after forwarding an eMail message that her superiors said made the agency appear to be biased against the instruction of intelligent design, an alternative to evolution favored by some religious conservatives.

Intelligent design holds that the universe’s order and complexity are so great that evolution cannot explain them.

The Texas State Board of Education is expected to begin a review of the state science curriculum soon.

Josh Rosenau, a spokesman for the California-based National Center for Science Education, which supports the teaching of evolution, said the new report is important because the debate over evolution in school is not going away.

Casey Luskin, program officer for the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that supports teaching students about the criticism of evolution, was critical of the document.

“Students should learn about the evidence for and against evolution,” he said.

The Institute of Medicine is part of the National Academy of Sciences, a private organization chartered by Congress to advise the government on scientific matters.

Links:

National Academies

National Center for Science Education

Discovery Institute