Discovery Institute's Science Education Policy

Staff
Discovery Institute
February 11, 2013
Print Article

What does the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture recommend for science education curriculum?

As a matter of public policy, Discovery Institute opposes any effort to require the teaching of intelligent design by school districts or state boards of education. Attempts to mandate teaching about intelligent design only politicize the theory and will hinder fair and open discussion of the merits of the theory among scholars and within the scientific community. Furthermore, most teachers at the present time do not know enough about intelligent design to teach about it accurately and objectively.

Instead of mandating intelligent design, Discovery Institute seeks to increase the coverage of evolution in textbooks. It believes that evolution should be fully and completely presented to students, and they should learn more about evolutionary theory, including its unresolved issues. In other words, evolution should be taught as a scientific theory that is open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can't be questioned.

Discovery Institute believes that a curriculum that aims to provide students with an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of neo-Darwinian and chemical evolutionary theories (rather than teaching an alternative theory, such as intelligent design) represents a common ground approach that all reasonable citizens can agree on.

Seven states (Alabama, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas) have science standards that require learning about some of the scientific controversies relating to evolution. Texas’s science standards require that students “analyze, evaluate and critique scientific explanations … including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations so as to encourage critical thinking.”  Texas also requires students to “analyze and evaluate” core evolutionary claims including “common ancestry,” “natural selection,” “mutation,” and the formation of “long complex molecules having information such as the DNA molecule for self-replicating life.”

Three states (Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi) have adopted statutes that protect the rights of teachers and/or students to discuss the scientific evidence for and against Darwinian evolution or other scientific theories in the curriculum. The Tennessee law permits teachers "to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught." At the same time, the Tennessee law "only protects the teaching of scientific information, and shall not be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or non-beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or non-religion."

The U.S. Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard strongly affirmed the individual teacher’s right to academic freedom. It also recognized that, while the statute requiring the teaching of creationism in that case was unconstitutional, “…teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to schoolchildren might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction.”

For more on policy issues click here.