Monday, February 04, 2002

Support for creationism resurfaces

Some politicians push for 'intelligent design'

By Leo Shane III
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — Evolution is still in Ohio's classrooms, but the creationism debate is back in the Ohio Statehouse.

        State lawmakers have introduced bills designed to mandate the teaching of “intelligent design” — the belief that a higher power played a role in the creation of all life — in response to a draft of Ohio Department of Education science standards.

        Those standards, meant as guidelines for Ohio schools, say it's critical for high school students to learn evolution. No mention of creationism or intelligent design has been included in the early drafts.

        The pending bills aim to fix that, either by mandating intelligent design lessons in the curriculum or giving the legislature power over the final science standards draft.

        For both sides, the controversy is about truth.

        Creationists say they are fighting for an opportunity to present a balanced argument to students. Evolution supporters say those plans do nothing but muddle scientific fact.

        David Snyder, director of the Ohio Valley Creation Education Association, said facts supporting evolution just don't add up.

        Evolution detractors think their stance is about inherent fairness in the educational system.

        The intelligent design supporters think if their argument is juxtaposed with evolutionist teachings, the truth will emerge.

        “The idea that just a small minority of religious groups backs this is no longer the case,” Mr. Snyder said. “The more experts look at the science (of evolution) the more problems they find. Evolution just flat out doesn't happen.”

        Mainstream scientists reject creationist studies.

        Andrea Wolfe, an associate professor at Ohio State University's department of evolution, ecology and organismal biology, finds it embarrassing experts have to defend “basic science” as part of the state's recommended curriculum.

        Diana Hunn, president of the Science Education Council of Ohio, whose members consist of elementary, secondary and college educators, said her group has taken a clear stance favoring evolution in the classroom.

        “Intelligent design is not science,” she said.

        Ohio isn't the only state to face the classroom battle in recent years. In August 1999, the Kansas State Board of Education rejected evolution and the Big Bang theory as exclusive curriculum material, allowing schools to present the ideas only if creationism also was taught.

        That decision drew national ridicule and was reversed a year later.

        Both Kentucky and Illinois have adopted the term “change over time” in their science standards to avoid references to evolution, because of political pressure in both states.

        No date for hearings has been scheduled in Ohio.


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