In 1984 and again in 1999, the National Academy of Sciences, the nation’s most eminent scientific organization, produced books on the evidence supporting the theory of evolution and arguing against the introduction of creationism or other religious alternatives in public school science classes.
On Thursday, it produced a third. But this volume is unusual, people who worked on it say, because it is intended specifically for the lay public and because it devotes much of its space to explaining the differences between science and religion, and asserting that acceptance of evolution does not require abandoning belief in God.
“We wanted to produce a report that would be valuable and accessible to school board members and teachers and clergy,” said Barbara A. Schaal, a vice president of the academy, an evolutionary biologist at Washington University and a member of the panel that produced the book.
The panel, convened by the academy and the Institue of Medicine, its medical arm, was headed by Francisco Ayala, a biologist at the University of California, Irvine, and a former Dominican priest.
The 70-page book, Science, Evolution and Creationism, says, among other things, that “attempts to pit science and religion against each other create controversy where none needs to exist.” And it offers statements from several eminent biologists and members of the clergy to support the view.