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Cobb County (Georgia) School Board Promotes Academic Freedom, Not Religion

Praising the adoption Thursday night of a policy encouraging the “discussion of disputed views” about evolution in Cobb County, Georgia schools, Discovery Institute President Bruce Chapman called the decision “a victory for academic freedom and good science education” and faulted critics of the policy for “trying to mischaracterize the controversy as a battle over religion.”

“The policy adopted by the Cobb County School Board is clearly about science, not religion,” said Chapman, who commended the board for choosing “the sensible middle path” in the controversy. “The board declined to promote either the Bible or the dogmatic presentation of Darwinism in science class. Instead, it encouraged allowing students to study the diversity of scientific views on the origin of new life forms.”

Chapman noted that the school board essentially adopted the advice of 28 Georgia scientists from such institutions as the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech who sent a letter to the board expressing their skepticism of Darwinism and urging “careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory.” That letter was backed by more than 130 scientists from around the nation expressing the same view. “The charge that this is about religion is nothing but a smokescreen to shut down free inquiry. There are growing numbers of scientists who believe that it’s time for students to study evolution like they would any other controversial topic in science–by learning about scientific evidence both for and against the theory. Why should evolution be the only controversial topic immune from critical examination in the classroom?”

Chapman added that the new policy “follows the lead of the U.S. Congress, which in the Conference Report of the landmark No Child Left Behind Act urged the nation’s schools to ‘help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist’ on controversial topics like ‘biological evolution’ and to know ‘why such topics may generate controversy.'”

Chapman also called on the ACLU to end its efforts to intimidate the Cobb County School District through legal action. The ACLU already has sued the district over disclaimers in its biology textbooks that urge students to approach evolution “with an open mind,” and now it is threatening to sue over the new policy as well. “Imagine being opposed to studying evolution ‘with an open mind’! It’s truly bizzare that the ACLU-which claims to defend the rights of students to study different viewpoints-would go to court in order to censor an open discussion of the scientific evidence for Darwin’s theory. The ACLU treats Darwin’s Origin of Species with the same unquestioning reverence that some people reserve for a sacred text.”

Discovery Institute is a non-profit, non-partisan policy and research organization on 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. For more information, check