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Back to January Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 264 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS JANUARY 2008

Discovery Institute Objects to PBS Guide on Evolution
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To accompany its program "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial," PBS has issued a packet to provide teachers with "easily digestible information to guide and support you in facing challenges to evolution." The "Judgment Day" program explores the controversy over evolution and Intelligent Design (ID) that broke out in Dover, Pennsylvania in 2004 when some parents protested the mention of ID.

The program's producers explicitly aim to discredit ID. "We felt it was important for NOVA to do this program to heighten the public understanding of what constitutes science and what does not and, therefore, what is acceptable for inclusion in the science curriculum of our public schools," said senior executive producer Paula Apsell.

The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based policy and research organization, has challenged the PBS/NOVA guide on First Amendment grounds. According to the institute's vice president, John West, the guide "encourages the injection of religion into classroom teaching about evolution in a way that likely would violate current Supreme Court precedents about the First Amendment's Establishment Clause."

The guide dismisses all concerns about a possible conflict between evolution and religion. "Because the briefing packet only promotes religious viewpoints that are friendly toward evolution, this is not neutral," says Pennsylvania attorney Randal Wenger. Wenger is one of more than a dozen attorneys and scholars whom the Discovery Institute asked to review the PBS packet for constitutionality. According to Wenger, the PBS lesson plans "ironically equip public school teachers to violate our current conception of the First Amendment by explicitly teaching students concerning matters of religious belief." (Cybercast News Service, 11-13-07)

The PBS/NOVA guide is "riddled with factual errors that misrepresent both the standard definition of Intelligent Design and the beliefs of those scientists and scholars who support the theory," says the Discovery Institute's Casey Luskin. The guide also misrepresents the beliefs of many people who believe there is an intelligent agent behind the universe, and takes one among several interpretations of the book of Genesis as the book's only possible message about the age of the earth.

"The theory of evolution is based on facts. Religion is based on belief," the PBS packet asserts. The packet attempts to marginalize religion through this false distinction between scientific "facts" and religious "values," "beliefs," or "feelings." Creedal Christianity, however, claims to depend on historical facts about events — especially those listed in the Apostle's Creed — which, just like scientific facts, are either true or false, and cannot be consigned to the free-floating "religious" realm the PBS packet assumes and describes.

The Discovery Institute has released a companion guide for teachers, called "The Theory of Intelligent Design." This alternative guide hopes to clear up misconceptions about ID that have been perpetuated by the press, including in the "Judgment Day" lesson plan guide. The Discovery Institute packet is available for download from www.discovery.org, or by calling (206) 292-0401.


 
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