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NCSE Executive Director Eugenie Scott opens ASTC 2013

ASTC’s 2013 Annual Conference officially began Saturday, October 19. The executive directors of the three host institutions—Jim Walther, National Museum of Nuclear Science and History; Joe Hastings, Explora; and Charlie Walter, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, greeted attendees and shared that this first-ever collaboration among three museums to host ASTC’s conference promised “three times the welcome, three times the learning, and three times the fun.”

Following welcomes from New Mexico Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez and Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), delivered the opening keynote address. She quickly won over the audience by proclaiming, “I am a sucker for science centers and museums.” (She later admitted to being a member of every science center in the San Francisco Bay Area.)

Scott discussed the NCSE’s battle against those entities which challenge the teaching of evolution and climate change by museums and other institutions, saying, “Science literacy is at risk.”

She shared the NCSE’s “Pillars of Creationism,” three tenets around which the battles against evolution and climate change are founded:

  • Evolution is a “theory in crisis,” the argument that scientists no longer believe in evolution
  • Evolution and faith are incompatible
  • To be “fair,” teachers should teach both evolution and creationism, thus avoiding critical thinking and dogma

Scott advised audience members that theories of creationism and intelligent design haven’t earned the right to be presented in science centers and museums. “Your job is to present and interpret science, not to produce science.” She said that the burden of proof is on those espousing creationism, not those teaching the scientifically reinforced theory of evolution.

“Science is not a democratic procedure. We don’t vote on how the natural world operates.” She concluded by saying that if the consensus of scientists eventually disprove evolution, then and only then should museums teach creationism. But until then, she reminded the audience that, “Science isn’t an aspect of listening to all views; we listen to those that work.”