|Back to April Ed Reporter|
|NUMBER 219||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||APRIL 2004|
|Ohio Allows Questions to be Raised on Evolution |
The Ohio State Board of Education in March approved a new optional science curriculum that encourages students to consider both supporting and "challenging" evidence for evolution. The board voted 13-5 in favor of the lesson plan after being persuaded by 22 Ohio scientists that it promotes academic freedom and that it is good for 10th graders to have an inquiring mind about evolution.
No teacher will be required to teach criticisms of evolution, and no students will be tested on the criticisms.
One of the scientists backing the lesson plan, University of Akron biologist Daniel Ely, explained that it involves a debate over issues within evolution, not intelligent design or religion. Board member James Turner said he couldn't ignore a letter signed by 300 scientists nationally criticizing part of Darwin's theory of evolution. (Associated Press, 3-10-04)
The lesson plan, entitled "Critical Analysis of Evolution," takes up 22 pages out of Ohio's 547-page science curriculum. It states that the fossil record supports evolution by showing an increasing complexity of living forms, but observes that "transitional fossils are rare in the fossil record" and "a growing number of scientists now question that . transitional fossils really are transitional forms." It also notes that some changes in species occur quickly in the fossil record relative to longer stretches that manifest no change.
The plan debunks examples still used in textbooks on evolution, such as the explanation that black peppered moths survived because they rested on trees blackened by soot, while white moths were eaten by birds. In fact, "peppered moths do not actually rest on tree trunks" and "no new species emerged" as a result of the soot.
Evolutionary claims of common ancestry are reexamined in the lesson plan, which observes that different genes and development have created similar anatomical structures, suggesting different ancestries.
Critics charge that the lesson plan contains elements of "intelligent design" theory, and the American Civil Liberties Union is threatening a lawsuit on the constitutionality of the section. The opposition to the new lesson plan was led by an Ohio philosophy lecturer, Patricia Princehouse. Florida law professor Steven Gey flew in to attack the constitutionality of the plan. He also thinks that "moral relativism" is a "constitutional command" and that nude sunbathing should be given "constitutional protection."
The Board of Education's vice president, Richard Baker, called evolutionists unwilling to allow scientific questioning "a bunch of paranoid, egotistical scientists afraid of people finding out [they] don't know anything."
Georgia, New Mexico, Minnesota, West Virginia and Kansas have all wrestled with science standards and curricula on evolution in recent years. The Alabama Senate education committee in March approved the Academic Freedom Act, which states that no teacher in public schools or universities may be fired, denied tenure or otherwise discriminated against for presenting "alternative theories" to evolution. The bill would also prohibit any student from being penalized because he held "a particular position on biological or physical origins" so long as the student demonstrated "acceptable understanding of course materials," which include evolution.