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Education Reporter

Darwin Demoted in Ohio
New science standards allow debate

COLUMBUS, OH - The Ohio Board of Education on Dec. 10 voted 17-0 to give final approval to state science standards that allow the theory of evolution to be challenged in public schools. The new standards will permit teachers to "teach the controversy" and teach students to critically analyze the evidence, whether in support of "macroevolution" or not. As was expected, the instructional indicator and benchmark language which the Board amended to the standards in October by a "vote of intent" remained unchanged (see Language). "There is no prohibition on presenting scientific evidence that supports the theory of intelligent design, even though it isn't mandated," explains Ohio Eagle Forum President Melanie Elsey. "Local teachers will be free to include discussion of intelligent design in the classroom."

Due to the evolution controversy, Ohio's new science standards remained under consideration for nearly a year. Many of the witnesses who testified in support of teaching the controversy were practicing scientists, university professors, a classroom teacher, and medical doctors. "Their testimonies were excellent," Mrs. Elsey describes. "Most were testifying for the first time and were very articulate in making their points."

Mrs. Elsey emphasized that the scientific information presented to board members over the past 11 months was "intensely educational." She stated that after the final vote, board member Jim Turner commented that he had learned more about evolution through listening to both sides of the debate than during his own educational experience.

Mrs. Elsey and other supporters of intelligent design say the most important victory for Ohio is the intent to require the presentation of scientific evidence that conflicts with Darwin's theory of common descent. "Our next challenge is to ensure that the Ohio Department of Education follows through with that intent as model curriculum and assessment questions are developed," she asserts. "There is an 18-month statutory deadline to approve the model curriculum. We are working to get excellent educators on the curriculum advisory committee."

Loss of Faith 
How the subject of evolution is treated in the classroom has repeatedly stirred controversy and remains a burning issue throughout America. Last Sept. 20, a group of 28 Georgia scientists issued a press release calling for academic freedom to teach the scientific controversy over Darwinian evolution. In a letter to the Cobb County School Board, which was considering whether to allow students to hear scientific evidence critical of Darwin's theory, the group urged "careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory" in the classroom, while also expressing skepticism about the Darwinian claim that "random mutation and natural selection account for the complexity of life."

Calling themselves "Georgia Scientists for Academic Freedom," they joined 132 other scientists nationwide who had signed the same statement. This statement was originally issued in the fall of 2001 as "A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism" by more than 100 scientists from across the country.

According to many observers, a loss of faith in Darwin's theory has spread around the globe, and major international symposiums on intelligent design have been held at such prestigious universities as Yale and Baylor. A group of 60 Ohio scientists, most from Ohio State University-Columbus, reportedly issued a statement last year in support of teaching intelligent design.

In 1999, the Kansas Board of Education voted to give public schools and teachers the option of whether or not to teach evolution. Darwin devotees and the media went into a frenzy, creating headlines worldwide that Kansas schools had been taken over by religious zealots and that science had been thrown out the window. Three of the board members were defeated in the next election and Darwinian dogma was promptly required by the schools.

In contrast, Ohio's new standards do require the teaching of evolution but open the door to "the full range of scientific views," including intelligent design. "After more than 20,000 emails, faxes, letters and phone calls from the public, some of the board members realized the concerns of the overwhelming majority of Ohio citizens that students be provided with a more direct understanding of the challenges to Darwin's theory," Mrs. Elsey relates. "Therefore, board members did agree to a very significant change in the standards, removing the barrier to evidence that has been excluded in past instruction."

Support for Other Theories  
Although many Ohio media outlets supported the teaching of evolution only, surveys and polls taken during the debate consistently found a majority of the state's residents in favor of the compromise standards. On Sept. 9, 2002, a Columbus television station conducted a web-poll between its 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts asking the question "Should Ohio classrooms teach evolution only, or should they also teach other theories [of human origin]?" The results showed that a whopping 95% of the respondents preferred other theories to be taught along with evolution. Three months earlier, a survey by the Cleveland Plain Dealer found that 82% of Ohioans oppose the teaching of evolution only.

Melanie Elsey points out that the Ohio Board of Education "was not comprised of a majority of members willing to correct numerous instructional and assessment objectives which were rooted in evolutionary bias." However, due to a his-toric outpouring of concern from the general public and established scientists in the state, "a strong core of board members worked to open the door to discussion of the controversy regarding biological macroevolution and to require instruction consistent with the evolutionary viewpoint alongside scientific evidence that would refute it."

The Ohio board's decision was welcome news for many who battle Darwin's stranglehold on biology instruction. Stephen Meyers, director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, an organization that promotes free debate on the evolution issue, stated: "The new language is a clear victory for students, parents, and scientists in Ohio . . . Darwin's dike is finally breaking down."

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