Although the scientific debate about evolution was settled more than 100 years ago, organized opposition to teaching the concept in U.S. science classrooms has been ongoing for decades. Religious groups and others continue to challenge school districts despite a steady accumulation of research that clearly points to evolution as the central organizing principle in biology.
The Academies have issued several publications that have played a critical role in ensuring that science education includes the principles of evolution. In 2005, for example, a U.S. district court judge struck down a Pennsylvania school board's requirement that "intelligent design" be taught as an alternative to evolution in local high school biology classes, citing the NAS as a source recognized by both sides of the dispute as the "most prestigious" scientific organization in the country. The judge who issued the decision adopted language from the Academy's 1998 publication Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science as his definition of science. And in 2008, NAS and IOM released an update to Science, Evolution, and Creationism, a publication first issued in 1984, which gives the public a comprehensive picture of the current scientific understanding of evolution and its importance in the science classroom. More than 250,000 copies of this book and its summary brochure have been distributed to civic groups, school boards, teachers, and individuals around the country.