Ohio Praised for Historic Decision Requiring Students to Critically Analyze Evolutionary Theory

Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture
Discovery Institute
December 10, 2002
Print ArticleContact: Mark Edwards -- 206.292.0401 x107 -- medwards@discovery.org

SEATTLE--After months of debate, the Ohio State Board of Education has adopted science standards that require Ohio students to know why "scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory." The Board unanimously approved the science standards this morning.

Calling this provision in Ohio's science standards "historic," Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, director of Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, noted that "Ohio has become the first state to require students to learn about scientific criticisms of Darwinian evolution as well as scientific evidence supporting the theory. This represents an important milestone in the effort to ensure that students learn the full range of relevant scientific evidence. This policy will help remedy the selective presentation of evidence made by most biology textbooks today."

Ohio's new evolution standard does not require teaching the theory of intelligent design. "In recent weeks some have mischaracterized the new language as an effort to mandate teaching the theory of intelligent design in the classroom, but that is not accurate and is not what we asked for," said Dr. Meyer. "The new standard requires students to learn about the evidence for and against Darwin's theory. It does not mandate that students be tested about the theory of intelligent design, though it does leave teachers free to discuss it."

Dr. Meyer, a Cambridge-trained philosopher of science, and his colleague, Dr. Jonathan Wells, a Berkeley-trained biologist (both of Discovery Institute), were invited by the Board of Education to testify in March at a public hearing about the scientific controversy over Darwinian evolution. At the March hearing, Meyer, an advocate of the theory of intelligent design, proposed a compromise. Meyer suggested that the Board not require students to know the evidence and arguments for the modern theory of intelligent design, but that they should require students to know the scientific arguments for and against neo-Darwinism. The Ohio State Board's decision today essentially affirms this approach by allowing students to learn evidence based scientific critiques of contemporary evolutionary theory. (Meyer's original proposal to the Board can be found in his March 30, 2002 op-ed in the Cincinnati Enquirer, "Teach the Controversy")

Dr. Jonathan Wells, author of "Icons of Evolution," a book that documents scientific errors in textbook presentations of the case for modern Darwinism, urged the Ohio State Board of Education to adopt curricular materials that more accurately represent the current state of scientific knowledge and to remedy the one-sided presentation of evidence in favor of contemporary Darwinian evolution. "Most biology textbooks continue to use outdated and discredited evidences like peppered moths and Haeckel's embryos when it comes to their treatment of Darwinian theory. It is critically important for school districts in Ohio to revise their biology curricula in order to meet the new standards."

The Ohio State Department of Education already has pledged to carry out the intent of the new evolution standard. Susan Zelman, Ohio's State Superintendent of Public Instruction, testified before the state legislature on Nov. 13 that she would "make a commitment that in our curriculum model we will deal with this controversial issue [of evolution] in an intellectually honest way, to protect the spirit of [indicator] #23 'to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory,' and try to give examples about how to do that."

Discovery Institute is a non-profit, non-partisan policy and research organization that studies issues from transportation to technology to tax policy. 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.

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