Q&A About South Carolina Science Standards and Critical Analysis of Evolution

On June 12, 2006, South Carolina will likely become the fifth state to adopt science standards requiring critical analysis of evolution.  Four other states whose science standards require full disclosure of the scientific evidence about evolution include New Mexico, Minnesota, Kansas, and Pennsylvania. Previously Ohio also had standards calling for critical analysis of evolution. 

On May 31, 2006, the South Carolina Board of Education unanimously approved science standards which require students to “Summarize ways that scientists use data from a variety of sources to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.” On June 12 the standards will go to South Carolina’s Education Oversight Committee for final approval.  

Common Questions:

Q. What is the standard that has been adopted by the South Carolina State Board of Education? 

A. The standard requires students to: “Summarize ways that scientists use data from a variety of sources to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.”

Q. Do the standards weaken or water down the teaching of evolution?

A. No. The standards actually increase the coverage of evolution by requiring students to learn about both the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolution rather than a dogmatic and one-sided pro-Darwin-only curriculum. 

Q. What is the importance of allowing for critical analysis?

A. Critical analysis allows students to gain critical thinking skills as they are taught a more accurate understanding of the evidence by learning both the scientific evidence which supports evolution, and also the evidence which challenges evolution.

Q. Do South Carolina’s science standards include intelligent design?

A. No. The standards simply require students to learn about scientific strengths and weaknesses of Neo-Darwinism without calling for any discussion or mention of alternative “replacement concepts” for evolution.

Q. What is the difference between a scientific challenge to Darwinian evolution and the theory of intelligent design?

A. Challenges to Darwinian evolution are not the same as proposed solutions, such as the scientific theory of intelligent design.

Scientific challenges to Darwinian evolution include unresolved debates amongst scientists over issues such as the peppered moth, the myth of human gill slits, Haeackel’s embryos, and the Miller-Urey experiment. Scientific challenges to Darwinian evolution address problems for which adequate solutions have not been presented. 

The scientific theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection. Intelligent design theory then is an alternative solution to answer problems with Darwinian evolution.

Q. Are there established scholars in the scientific community who challenge Darwinian evolution on a scientific basis?

A. Yes. Various tenets of Darwinian evolution, and the evidence put forth to support it, has been scientifically challenged by doctoral scientists, researchers and theorists at a number of universities, colleges, and research institutes around the world. Over 500 scientists have signed the Scientific Dissent from Darwin statement since it originated in 2001. These scholars include evolutionary biologist and textbook author Dr. Stanley Salthe and Giuseppe Sermonti the Editor of Rivista di Biologia / Biology Forum, microbiologist Scott Minnich at the University of Idaho, biologist Paul Chien at the University of San Francisco, emeritus biologist Dean Kenyon at San Francisco State University, and quantum chemist Henry Schaefer at the University of Georgia.

Q. What is the “Scientific Dissent from Darwin” list?

A. Since Discovery Institute first published its Statement of Dissent from Darwin in 2001, more than 500 scientists have courageously stepped forward and signed onto a growing list of scientists of all disciplines voicing their skepticism over the central tenets of Darwin’s theory of evolution. The full statement reads: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.” Prominent scientists who have signed the list include evolutionary biologist and textbook author Dr. Stanley Salthe, quantum chemist Henry Schaefer at the University of Georgia, and Giuseppe Sermonti the Editor of Rivista di Biologia / Biology Forum. The list also includes scientists from Princeton, Cornell, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Ohio State University, Purdue and University of Washington among others. To view the list along with other information about it go to:

Q. Does the public support this kind of policy?

A. Yes.  Polls consistently show that about 70% of Americans want both evidence for and against Darwin’s theory taught.

Discovery Institute

Discovery Institute promotes thoughtful analysis and effective action on local, regional, national and international issues. The Institute is home to an inter-disciplinary community of scholars and policy advocates dedicated to the reinvigoration of traditional Western principles and institutions and the worldview from which they issued.