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Evolution backers, foes face off over Ohio science standards

By The Associated Press

03.12.02

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Backers of evolution and those who believe life must have been designed by a higher power because of its complexity faced off yesterday before the state school board as it struggles to come up with new science standards.

About 1,500 people attended the meeting, where supporters of "intelligent design" backed off their push to have the concept written into the standards.

Instead, they told the board teachers should be allowed to discuss evidence for and against evolution, the most widely accepted life process based on Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection.

"Ohio should enact no definition of science that would prevent the discussion of other theories," said Stephen Meyer, a fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture in Seattle. "We think an honest critique of Darwin's theory will support our cause in the end."

Ohio began drafting new science standards last year after previous guidelines were criticized as vague. Unlike the old guidelines, the proposed standards include the word "evolution."

Since December, backers of intelligent design have pushed to have the idea written into the standards alongside evolution.

Critics of intelligent design say it is a disguise for creationism, which credits the origin of species to God. Courts have barred that approach from public schools.

"We shouldn't invent controversy where there is none because intelligent design isn't science," said Lawrence Krauss, a physics professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. "I wish we were talking about things that strengthen science and not dilute it."

Jim Parker, a science teacher at East Technical High School in Cleveland, took a personal day to attend the discussion.

"I look to the professional organizations for guidance on what I should be teaching, and they all say evolution," Parker said. "If intelligent design were allowed in, I would spend my time teaching why it's not science."

The school board must decide by year's end what Ohio's 1.8 million public school students should learn about life. Teachers will not be required to follow the standards, but the state's new standardized test that 10th grade students must pass to graduate will be based on the guidelines.

Several board members have pushed for other views to be taught alongside evolution, and the board's standards committee appears to favor allowing alternative ideas.

"Do we have all the answers to the origin of life? No. Students should be allowed to critique and analyze common issues and clarify what we do know about evolution and what we don't," said Deborah Owens Fink, a board member and business professor at the University of Akron.

Sandy Epling, who believes in creationism, brought her 11-year-old son, Jacob, so he could better understand her family's rejection of evolutionary theory.

"It's important for them to hear the truth as well as what we consider the lies," she said. "It only makes the truth stronger."

Adrienne Johnson, 17, a senior at Whetstone High School in Columbus, said she hasn't learned about either theory in her science classes.

"Evolution was kind of glossed over," she said.

Update

Ohio school board to allow teaching evolution, alternative theories
Panel votes to adopt guidelines that put into writing what many school districts in state already do — teach evolution but also explain that there is debate over the origin of life.  10.15.02

Related

Kansas restores evolution theory in science lessons
School board overturns standards approved two years ago that deleted references to the concept.  02.15.01

High court turns away case on teaching evolution
Justices refuse to hear appeal by Minnesota biology instructor who was reassigned amid questions about his views on evolution.  01.07.02

Evolution supporters, foes say law is on their side
At issue is one sentence in report accompanying new education reform act.  05.20.02

Georgia district OKs teaching competing theories on origin of life
Opponents say decision opens back door to letting religion into classrooms; vote won't end debate.  09.27.02

Alabama keeps evolution disclaimer on textbooks
State board hears no objections as it re-approves sticker calling evolution a 'controversial theory.'  11.09.01

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