[Original release posted May 17, revised version posted June 8]
[Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that only two states require critical analysis of Darwinian evolution in their science standards. In fact, there are three states that do this. We thank John Calvert for bringing this fact to our attention.]
SEATTLE, JUNE 8 - Minnesota has become the third state to require students to know about scientific evidence critical of Darwinian evolution in its newly adopted science standards. On May 15, the Minnesota legislature adopted new science standards that include a benchmark requiring students to be able to explain how new evidence can challenge existing scientific theories, including the theory of evolution.
The benchmark reads, "The student will be able to explain how scientific and technological innovations as well as new evidence can challenge portions of or entire accepted theories and models including Š theory of evolution. Š" The benchmark is included in the "History and Nature of Science," strand of the science standards for grades 9-12.
"This is a significant victory for the vast majority of Americans who favor teaching evolution but who want it taught fully, including scientific criticisms of the theory," said Dr. John West, Associate Director of Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. Discovery Institute supports teaching students more about evolutionary theory, including introducing them to mainstream, peer-reviewed scientific debates over key aspects of modern evolutionary theory (known as neo-Darwinism).
Dr. West added that he expected some Darwin-only supporters would try to downplay or ignore the new benchmark. "Undoubtedly some Darwin-only supporters will claim that the standard doesn't really mean what it says, or that schools don't really need to follow it. Minnesotans who support the standard will need to make sure that it is actually implemented in Minnesota schools."
In 2002, Ohio became the first state to require students to learn about scientific evidence critical of Darwinian theory, adopting a benchmark that says students should know "how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory." The Ohio State Board of Education followed up that action earlier this year by adopting a model curriculum containing a lesson on the "Critical Analysis of Evolution."
New Mexico was the second state to require students to critically analyze Darwin's theory, adopting a performance standard in 2003 that asked students to "critically analyze the data and observations supporting the conclusion that the species living on Earth today are related by descent from the ancestral one-celled organisms."
States are currently developing or revising their science standards in preparation for state-wide science exams required under the No Child Left Behind Act. The exams must be in place by the 2007-08 school year.