Law Professor Says Ohio Academy of Sciences Gave Gov. Taft Bad Legal Advice

SEATTLE, FEB. 24 — A law professor has faulted the Ohio Academy of Sciences (OAS) for supplying Gov. Bob Taft with bad legal advice about a model science curriculum up for adoption by the Ohio State Board of Education.

According to David K. DeWolf of Gonzaga University Law School, a letter sent to Gov. Taft earlier this week from OAS President Robert Heath contained erroneous information about the constitutionality of the proposed model curriculum.

Heath told Governor Taft that a draft lesson plan on the “Critical Analysis of Evolution” was unconstitutional because it promotes intelligent design. As evidence, Heath cited comments by Florida State University law professor Steven Gey, as well as what he referred to as a “privileged document” about the legality of intelligent design that “is being made available only to” the Governor, the Attorney General, and the counsel of the State Board of Education.

“I hope they do science better than they practice law,” said DeWolf, who is also a Discovery Institute Senior Fellow. “First, they’re wrong about the facts. The proposed lesson plan says nothing about intelligent design, so the claim of unconstitutionality is off to a bad start. Additionally, they don’t seem to understand the law. The Supreme Court’s opinion in Edwards v. Aguillard made it clear that the state may require schools to teach criticisms of existing scientific theories as a part of a good science education.

“Moreover, even if intelligent design were on the table for discussion, the Edwards case also says that alternative scientific theories can be taught as part of a teacher’s academic freedom,” added DeWolf. “But this plan doesn’t even raise that issue because it doesn’t advance intelligent design as a theory. It’s hard to understand how such a basic mistake could be made.”

DeWolf is co-author of a leading law review article about legal issues surrounding the teaching of evolution, and his work has been cited by members of Congress in congressional debates over science education policy.

DeWolf also questioned the attempt to use a “privileged document” sent to the Governor by the OAS. “I’m assuming that’s a law review article in preparation,” said DeWolf. “If you aren’t ready for public scrutiny of a document, you shouldn’t try to use it to argue your case. No judge would entertain a lawyer’s brief that is not made available to the opposing party.”

DeWolf called on the OAS to acknowledge the benefits of open discussion: “If they simply wanted to find a lawyer who would argue their case, they’ve succeeded. But what the public wants is a fair discussion of both sides of the question. They haven’t made a good impression on that score.”

About the Center for Science and Culture
Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture is the nation’s leading think tank and research center examining scientific challenges to Darwinian evolution. Discovery Institute is a non-profit, non-partisan, public-policy, think tank which promotes ideas in the common sense tradition of representative government, the free market and individual liberty. Current projects include: technology, the economy, regional transportation, and the bi-national region of “Cascadia.”

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