Introduction

© PhotoDiscScience and science-based technologies have transformed modern life. They have led to major improvements in living standards, public welfare, health, and security. They have changed how we view the universe and how we think about ourselves in relation to the world around us.

Biological evolution is one of the most important ideas of modern science. Evolution is supported by abundant evidence from many different fields of scientific investigation. It underlies the modern biological sciences, including the biomedical sciences, and has applications in many other scientific and engineering disciplines.

As individuals and societies, we are now making decisions that will have profound consequences for future generations. How should we balance the need to preserve the Earth's plants, animals, and natural environment against other pressing concerns? Should we alter our use of fossil fuels and other natural resources to enhance the well-being of our descendants? To what extent should we use our new understanding of biology on a molecular level to alter the characteristics of living things?

© PhotoDisc None of these decisions can be made wisely without considering biological evolution. People need to understand evolution, its role within the broader scientific enterprise, and its vital implications for some of the most pressing social, cultural, and political issues of our time.

Science and technology are so pervasive in modern society that students increasingly need a sound education in the core concepts, applications, and implications of science. Because evolution has and will continue to serve as a critical foundation of the biomedical and life sciences, helping students learn about and understand the scientific evidence, mechanisms, and implications of evolution are fundamental to a high-quality science education.

Science and religion are different ways of understanding. Needlessly placing them in opposition reduces the potential of both to contribute to a better future.

From Science, Evolution, and Creationism, National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine. © 2008 National Academy of Sciences