Eugenie C. Scott
May 28, 2006
Eugenie Scott, you have been an ardent supporter of science education in the United States and a defender of the integrity of science curriculum. Your inconspicuous title of executive director of the National Center for Science Education belies the impassioned ideological controversies in which you have played a key role for over two decades.
You began your career as a scholar of physical anthropology. As a graduate student, your curiosity was also piqued by the creationist movement, about which you educated yourself on the side. You went on to teach physical anthropology at the University of Kentucky. It was not long, however, before you were involved in your first dispute about science curriculum, when, in 1980, you led an effort to block a Kentucky school board from teaching creationism. This was the first of many fights to keep creationism out of the science curriculum. In 1987 you were hired as founding director of the National Center for Science Education, a nonprofit organization dedicated to "defending the teaching of evolution in public schools."
As proponents of creationism and its offshoots around the country have sought to introduce their beliefs into the science classroom, you and your organization have been called to action by students, parents, and teachers seeking to maintain the separation of church and state as well as the integrity of the science curriculum. You argue convincingly that an educated member of society must have an understanding of science, and that one cannot be scientifically literate without understanding evolution. You have been forthright that science and religion each have their place in human experience and knowledge, but they are distinct ways of understanding the world and should not be mixed in science education.
As observers know all too well, these curricular disputes have sometimes escalated into fiery ideological clashes at the local, state, and national levels, laden with symbolism and cultural import. Your unwavering, thoughtful advocacy has earned you your share of both praise and criticism, but you have carried on in your work to encourage informed dialogue and help schools and citizens navigate this vexing issue. We at Mount Holyoke are grateful for your commitment to promoting scientific literacy among the next generation of citizens. It is thus with great honor that I confer upon you the degree doctor of science, honoris causa.
Honorary Degree Recipient Address
By Eugenie C. Scott