Ohio Board Backs Academic Freedom and Encourages Critical Analysis of Evolution

Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture
Discovery Institute
January 1, 2001
Print ArticleSEATTLE -- After months of deliberation and debate, the State Board of Education in Ohio has added language to its proposed science standards that will encourage public schools in that state to teach scientific criticisms of evolutionary theory.

The new language states that Ohio students should be able to "describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory." After a period of public comment, the Ohio Board of Education plans a final vote on its proposed science standards in December.

"The new language is a clear victory for students, parents, and scientists in Ohio who have been calling for a 'teach the controversy' approach to evolution," says Dr. Stephen Meyer, Director of the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute. "The Board should be commended for insisting that Ohio students learn about scientific criticisms of evolutionary theory as a part of a good science education. Such a policy represents science education at its very best, and it promotes the academic freedom of students and teachers who want to explore the full range of scientific views over evolution."

Some critics are already complaining that the new language "promotes religion" or that it "unfairly" singles out evolution. "The religion charge is just a red herring raised by those who don't want to allow any scientific criticism of Darwin," says Meyer. "There are growing numbers of scientists today who are raising significant objections to Darwinian theory. These objections have nothing to do with religion. As for singling out evolution, the Board's decision is entirely appropriate given that many evolution proponents insist that their theory be immune from critical questioning in the classroom. The Darwin-only crowd wanted evolution taught as dogma, not science. The Board wisely decided that students should also learn about scientific criticisms of evolution as part of a good science education. The Board essentially followed the advice of more than 50 Ohio scientists who urged that 'students be permitted to learn the evidence for and against' biological evolution."

The Board's approach was anticipated by a proposal made earlier in the year by Dr. Meyer. Testifying before the Board of Education in March 2002, Meyer proposed requiring students to understand the scientific arguments for and against Darwinian evolution and allowing (but not requiring) local districts to include "intelligent design" as part of teaching the scientific controversy over evolution.

"The new language in the science standards would do exactly that," says Meyer. "It explicitly states that students need to know about scientists who are subjecting evolutionary theory to critical analysis, but it leaves the decision of whether to include intelligent design in the curriculum to local school districts."

A description of Meyer's original proposal to the Board can be found in his March 30, 2002 op-ed in the Cincinnati Enquirer, "Teach the Controversy."

Meyer adds that public opinion polls in Ohio have shown overwhelming public support for teaching students both the scientific evidence that favors Darwinian evolution and the scientific evidence against it.

Discovery Institute is a non-profit, non-partisan policy and research organization focusing on issues from transportation to technology to national defense. In science education, it supports a "teach the controversy" approach to Darwinian evolution. Its Center for Science and Culture has more than 40 affiliated biologists, biochemists, physicists, philosophers and historians of science, and public policy and legal experts, most of whom also have positions with colleges and universities.