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Teach All the Evidence

Published in Cincinnati Enquirer

After months of rock ’em, sock ’em public debate followed by a quiet summer, the vote on new science standards for Ohio public schools is coming down to the wire. The fight — as in several other states — centers on what students will learn about the origins of life.

On Monday, the standards committee of the Ohio Board of Education will discuss (and possibly vote on) the hot question: Will Ohio students be taught only the evidence that supports Darwinian evolution and not hear about evidence and arguments that question evolution?

So far, it appears the writing committee has ignored the debate, as well as the overwhelmingly public support for “teaching the controversy.” The document still presents evolution as unquestioned fact, rather than a scientific theory to be examined critically and against new research.

The standards committee will vote on the draft before it goes to the full state board for an October vote.

Public discussions in Ohio, and in other states this year over science standards in schools, reveal disagreement among scientists on major parts of evolutionary theory.

Last month, Georgia’s second-largest school district, Cobb County near Atlanta, adopted a policy that requires teachers to give a “balanced education” about the origins of life. It notes that evolution remains “an area of intense interest, research and discussion among scholars,” and should be handled “with objectivity.”

The evolution-only scientists insist their view is the only credible one, calling the “intelligent design” argument pseudo-science or disguised religion.

They also try to intimidate board members, the governor or other educators into thinking it’s politically unfashionable or “backward” for Ohio to consider such changes.

We recall similar taunting by education elites against Gov. George Volnovich and lawmakers who first proposed education vouchers. The U.S. Supreme Court recently vindicated these “out of touch” leaders. Elitist ridicule is lame these days.

It’s time to broaden the “life origins” discussion in Ohio public schools. We like Dr. Stephen Meyer’s “teach the controversy” compromise:

  • Teach evidence for and against biological evolution (descent with modification from a common ancestry).
  • Permit but don’t require teachers to discuss alternative theories.
  • Adopt a definition of science that considers all logical explanations for phenomena in nature.

We join other Ohioans calling for balance and critical inquiry in evolution education for Ohio students.