Georgia district OKs teaching competing theories on origin of life
By The Associated Press
MARIETTA, Ga. School board members in this conservative Georgia school district say they don't see the harm in encouraging critical thinking about evolution, even if that means teaching creationism.
The Cobb County school board voted unanimously last night to give district teachers permission to introduce students to different theories on the origin of life, including creationism.
The measure says the district believes "discussion of disputed views of academic subjects is a necessary element of providing a balanced education, including the study of the origin of species."
Opponents said the decision opened a backdoor to letting religion into classrooms. They said yesterday's vote would not end the debate.
"It would be as if Cobb County were putting up a giant 'sue me' sign," said Barry Lynn, executive director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Biology professors at every major university in Georgia and the National Science Teachers Association told the school board it would be a mistake to approve the resolution.
The Rev. Greg Ward, a Unitarian minister, called the board's decision irresponsible.
"It's inappropriate for the Bible to be taught in conjunction with science," he said. "They just don't go together."
The theory of evolution, accepted by nearly all scientists, says evidence shows life developed from earlier forms through slight variations over time and that natural selection determines which species survive. Creationism credits the origin of species to God.
In its 1987 decision Edwards v. Aguillard, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law requiring equal time for evolution and creationism.
After yesterday's vote, board chairman Curt Johnston read a six-paragraph statement. No other board members commented.
"The purpose of this policy is to foster critical thinking among students to allow academic freedom consistent with legal requirements to promote tolerance and acceptance of diversity of opinion and to ensure a posture of neutrality toward religion," Johnston said.
Supporters, including high school junior Michael Gray, said the board's choice encouraged academic freedom.
"I had to do a term paper about evolution and there were just things that I could disprove or have alternate reasons for," said Gray, who attends Pope High School. "I want my brother and sister to be given the option and not told it's the absolute truth."
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