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Steves speak out for evolution education

More than 200 scientists, including several with MIT connections, have signed a statement that advocates teaching evolution in public schools. And in honor of the late Harvard zoologist and geologist Stephen Jay Gould, all the signatories are named Steve.

The statement, sponsored by the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), says in part that "evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry ... It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to 'intelligent design,' to be introduced into the science curricula of the public schools.

Signatories from the MIT faculty are Stephen H. Crandall, the Ford Professor of Engineering Emeritus, and Steven Pinker, the Peter de Florez Professor in brain and cognitive sciences. Seven other signatories received doctorates from MIT. The roster of signatories includes two Nobel laureates, eight members of the National Academy of Sciences and several well-known authors of popular science books.

"Creationists are fond of amassing lists of Ph.D.s who deny evolution to try to give the false impression that evolution is somehow on the verge of being rejected by the scientific community. Nothing could be farther from the truth," said Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of NCSE. "Hundreds of scientists endorsed the NCSE statement. And we asked only scientists named Steve--who represent approximately 1 percent of scientists."

"The 220 Steves and Stephanies who signed the statement aren't trying to stifle dissent, of course," said Pinker. "Anyone who did produce solid scientific evidence against evolution would become an instant superstar. The point of the statement is to demonstrate how misleading it is to claim, on the basis of a handful of dissenters, that evolution is a 'theory in crisis.'"

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Magazine highlights software researchers

Two researchers from the Laboratory for Computer Science were recognized in the February issue of Technology Review for their work in the field of software assurance. The issue outlines 10 emerging technologies that will change the world. For each technology, Technology Review profiled one researcher or research team whose work exemplifies the field's possibilities.

Nancy A. Lynch, the NEC Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Stephen Garland, principal research associate, have developed a computer language and programming tools for making software development more rigorous and dependable. With these tools, programmers can model, test and reason software before they write it. Lynch and Garland are also developing a system for automatically generating Java programs from highly specified "pseudocode." The aim, says Garland, is to "cut human interaction to near zero" and eliminate errors.

The magazine also cited glycomics, injectable tissue engineering, molecular imaging, grid computing, wireless sensor networks, quantum cryptography, nanoimprint lithography, nanosolar energy and mechatronics as technologies to watch.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 5, 2003.

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