lab science classroom.jpg
Group of students laboratory lab in science classroom
Photo by on Adobe Stock

Discovery Institute’s Science Education Policy

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

Updated 4/7/2022

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 require 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 recommending teaching about intelligent design in public K-12 schools, Discovery Institute seeks to increase the coverage of evolution in curriculum. 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.

Four states (Alabama, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas) have statewide science curriculum policies that require or encourage learning about some of the scientific controversies relating to evolution. Texas’s science standards require that students “analyze, evaluate and critique scientific explanations… so as to encourage critical thinking by the student.”  Texas also requires students to “analyze and evaluate” core evolutionary claims including “common ancestry,” “natural selection,” and “adaptation,” and also to “compare and contrast scientific explanations for cellular complexity.” Additionally, teachers must help students to “examine scientific explanations” for both “the origin of DNA” and “abrupt appearance and stasis in the fossil record.”

Five states (Tennessee, Louisiana, Alabama, Indiana, and Mississippi) have adopted statutes or resolutions that seek to 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 affirmed the constitutionality of teaching about all of the scientific evidence relating to Darwin’s theory. 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.” 

Education Policy Recommendations for Outside the United States

The above education policy recommendations are specifically intended for K-12 public schools within the United States of America (USA). However, Discovery Institute offers similar recommendations for those wishing to influence education policy in government-sponsored schools outside the USA.

Recognizing that different countries have different legal and educational systems, Discovery Institute also opposes requiring the teaching of intelligent design within government-sponsored schools outside the USA. This recommendation stems from many of the same policy considerations mentioned above: Attempts to require the teaching of intelligent design in government-sponsored schools will politicize the theory, restricting the academic freedom of scientists and scholars who are developing the theory. Also, teachers typically do not know enough about intelligent design to teach about it accurately and objectively.

Instead, when evolution is already part of the curriculum, Discovery Institute recommends teaching it objectively, presenting to students the strengths and weaknesses of neo-Darwinian and chemical evolutionary theories, but not including alternatives like intelligent design.

Further, Discovery Institute strongly recommends that when education policy changes are proposed and enacted outside the USA, that such initiatives be driven by individuals who are citizens within the country where the education policy changes are being made.

The Center for Science and Culture

Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture advances the understanding that human beings and nature are the result of intelligent design rather than a blind and undirected process. We seek long-term scientific and cultural change through cutting-edge scientific research and scholarship; education and training of young leaders; communication to the general public; and advocacy of academic freedom and free speech for scientists, teachers, and students.