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West Virginia science standards won't include evolution alternatives

By The Associated Press

02.21.03

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia schoolchildren will be taught about evolution but not intelligent design, the state Board of Education unanimously decided yesterday.

New science standards and objectives allow students to ask about alternatives to Darwin's theory of evolution. Teachers can respond that some people disagree with the theory, said Board President Howard Persinger Jr.

"They are not muzzled from having an open discussion. Nobody is going to be fired because they are teaching children how to think," Persinger said. Still, students will be tested only on evolution.

The standards were approved as initially presented by a team of science teachers who worked on them for about two years. Board members did not include a paragraph that had been proposed as a compromise to appease supporters of intelligent design.

Intelligent design contends that life must have been designed by a non-specified higher power because it is so complex.

Critics of intelligent design say the theory is nothing more than a version of creation science, which the U.S. Supreme Court has prohibited from public schools as a violation of the separation of church and state.

The paragraph did not specifically mention a higher power, but said, "the acquisition of knowledge and the scientific process are continuous. This involves measuring, experimenting, open-ended investigating and hypothesis testing. The development, refinement and critical analysis of scientific theories will provide all learners a better understanding of natural phenomena."

Critics of evolution complained before yesterday's vote that if children were taught to distinguish between natural objects and man-made objects and that man-made objects are designed for a purpose and natural objects are not, they would end up believing that they were not designed for a purpose.

The standards allow for critical thinking and discussion, Deborah Brown, executive director of the state Office of Instructional Services, told the board.

"I'm not sure a supreme being is religion, but it's certainly not science," Persinger said.

The standards had been opposed by the Intelligent Design Network in Shawnee Mission, Kan. Representatives of the group had spoken to the board several times.

"I don't see how you can tell kids they are not created," John Calvert, managing director of the Intelligent Design Network, said Feb. 19. "Essentially when West Virginia teaches students that living systems are not designed, that's really teaching anti-religious theory. The court has said the state has to be neutral."

Other evolution opponents said yesterday they objected to students being "indoctrinated" to believe Darwin's theory, which they said cannot be scientifically proven.

"Let's let them hear the facts and decide for themselves. That's good pedagogy," said Karl Priest, an educator for 30 years. "Let's let the kids see the debate. It's an honest debate. It will be good for students and society."

Other speakers derided evolution opponents.

"They have the same station as people who say the world is flat," said Charles Pique, a retired physicist and electrical engineer who lives in Mink Shoals.

"The scientific community believes that evolution is as certain a fact as the world is round."

Related

'Teaching the controversy' over evolution could be disastrous
By Charles Haynes Without adequate teacher preparation, reasonable-sounding approach would actually be confusing, dangerous.  10.27.02

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

West Virginia lawmaker insists creationism be included in science classes
State civil rights groups opposes bill, says it entangles government and religion.  02.03.00

West Virginia school board dumps resolution supporting creationism
Despite community support, board refuses to adopt resolution that had drawn legal threats from civil rights groups.  12.20.99

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