Teaching the Origins Controversy

Special Discovery Institute Report


The decision of the Kansas Board of Education to change its approach to teaching about the issue of biological origins has stimulated considerable interest in the state of science, education, and law regarding how to teach the origins controversy. At the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, we are keenly interested in helping our schools do a better job of presenting the wide range of scientific interest on this subject. The author of this guide, David K. DeWolf, is Professor of Law at Gonzaga Law School (Spokane, Washington). He is also a Fellow at the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture and coordinator of the CRSC’s Teaching Training Program.

This guide is designed to accomplish three things.

(1) The Scientific Landscape

To provide a brief overview of the current state of science on this topic so that subsequent discussions are firmly grounded in fact.

(2) The Legal Landscape

To review the leading legal precedents and principles that provide boundaries for schools and teachers in addressing this issue.

(3) Answering Common Objections

To deal with the common objections that are made to a more open approach to this issue, ones that anyone proposing a more open approach is likely to encounter.

After these three goals have been met, this guide concludes with a list of resources that the Center offers to assist in the implementation of an open approach to this issue.

I. The Scientific Landscape

Some Background for Addressing the Controversy

Why Do Living Things Appear Designed?

This way of phrasing the issue may appear to give it an anti-Darwinian slant, but in fact this is precisely the question that Darwin tried to answer, and that Darwinists continue to pose for themselves. For example, Richard Dawkins, perhaps the premier exponent of the theory of evolution, begins his book The Blind Watchmaker with the following description of biology: “the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” The question is, how did living things come to have this appearance? This issue has fascinated scientists, and indeed human beings in general, for a very long time. Early scientists, reasoning from what they could observe, made the assumption that the marvelously complex aspects of life must have been the result of some even more intelligent Creator. The most popular view today, the one held by most scientists working in the field of biology, is that intelligence was itself the product of undirected, natural causes. Gaylord Simpson of Harvard put it this way: “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind. He was not planned.”

Resisting the Urge to Pursue Metaphysical Implications

Now it is very natural to want to respond to a statement like this by addressing the philosophical dimensions of what it would mean if it were true. The renowned paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould has done so in his book, Wonderful Life: “Why do humans exist?… I do not think that any `higher’ answer can be given…. We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes–one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximal freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way.”

It is natural to want to respond to the scientific claim by looking at what that scientific claim might mean for questions about the meaning of human existence, about ethics, and so forth. But it is essential to our task that we focus science education not on these admittedly intriguing questions, such as why humans exist. Instead, we should recall that our discussion began with a scientific question–how did it happen that humans acquired the ability to pose questions like what the source of life is. It is not necessary–indeed, it is not desirable–that anyone give up an interest in the philosophical questions that can follow from a scientific finding. But the purpose of having this discussion in a science classroom is to try to answer this question scientifically. That is, we examine the evidence that is available and we try to reason from that evidence to an explanation that best accounts for the data. We have an obligation to put our metaphysical or ideological agendas to one side while we take a fair-minded look at the evidence on both sides of the question.

Darwin’s Theory in a Nutshell

As noted above, prior to Charles Darwin, scientists who pondered the origin of complex, living things assumed that they were the result of the action of a designing intelligence, because living things looked much too complex to have arisen by chance. This was not necessarily the result of any religious thinking. Instead, it was the logical inference drawn from the outstanding feature of living systems, which (as we have seen) give the appearance of having been designed. In fact, Richard Dawkins has said that, before Darwin, design was the only rational explanation for living things.

But in the middle of the 19th century, Charles Darwin suggested that perhaps we had been naïve to assume that the appearance of design was more than that–just appearance. Instead of arising from the purposeful action of a real designer, Darwin thought it was possible to explain how complex living things could have evolved from much simpler life forms.

That theory, developed in The Origin of Species, has been dominant from the end of the 19th century until the very recent past, when growing evidence suggests that Darwinism not only does not, but in principle cannot, explain how intelligence and purpose could have arisen from unintelligent and undirected causes.

The “Designer Substitute”

Darwin’s challenge was to find something that would act as a substitute for the designer that previous scientists had assumed was the cause of the complexity of living organisms. Darwin thought that the forces of competition for scarce resources and the resulting natural selection could act as a “designer substitute,” selecting from among the offspring those that were best able to adapt to their environment. The “survival of the fittest” could lead to such changes in the species that eventually a much different and more capable organism could emerge from what was once a comparatively simple and less capable one.

Darwin developed this theory from his observation that human breeders deliberately select offspring in order to enhance particular traits. By selecting from among the many offspring those that fit the breeder’s goals, the breeder can take small changes from one generation to another and, over time, eventually produce offspring in a distant generation that are quite different from the original parents. They may be so different, in fact, that they do not breed with other descendants of the same stock. Since new species are distinguished by the fact that they do not breed with another species, it appeared to Darwin that a new species could be created from an existing one simply by the process of successive reproductive differences.

In a similar way, he reasoned, nature could act as a breeder of traits that would differentiate in small ways but over time produce offspring that were dramatically different from the original parents. As changes from one population to another led to even more pronounced differences from group to group, eventually there could be even more dramatic changes, like the transition from one body plan (say, a reptile) to another (a bird). Since competition among organisms would favor the more complex (and capable) forms, “evolution” could lead from lower forms of life to higher forms of life, eventually to human beings.

Darwin also thought that the fossil record supported his theory, since it could be shown that the oldest fossils tended to be the ones that were simplest, whereas the most complex biological organisms tended to be the most recent. Thus, he developed a theory of “common descent” to explain that all life originated from primitive life, and had evolved by gradual change over time.

A final point of Darwin’s theory was that causes that are natural–that is, unintelligent and undirected–are to be preferred as explanations to those that rely on design or purpose. In fact, Darwin’s later followers came to take it as beyond dispute that only unintelligent causes count as scientific causes. Thus, the traditional explanation based on design was thought to be an unscientific leftover of a theological rather than scientific approach to the problem. Thus, although Darwinism started as a competitor to design as an explanation of the origin of living things, it eventually came to be thought of as the only theory that met the crucial test of being a scientific explanation. Thus the issue has stood for approximately 100 years.

Three Major Challenges to Darwin’s Theory

Although Darwinism has many defenders, including the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, Darwinism has not been without its critics. In fact, the Darwinist theory of origins has been dealt some significant blows in the last twenty years.

(1) The Assumption that Natural Selection Can Produce New Information

First, we now have a much better idea of the enormous amount of information contained in living things, and Darwin’s reliance on natural selection as a mechanism to produce new information–in particular, the staggering amount of information necessary for the development of complex new capabilities–now appears less and less plausible. Darwin wrote in the Origin of Species, “I see no reason to limit the process of modification, as now explained, to the formation of [species and] genera alone.” In other words, he assumed that the changes from one kind of pigeon to another, or from one kind of finch beak to another, could be extrapolated to yield the diversity and complexity of organisms that we now see. But in fact, Darwin simply underestimated how different one species is from another, and how difficult would be the production of complex cellular mechanisms from chance variation alone. Darwinists themselves have been disquieted by the difficulties they have encountered. While some scientists have assumed that an explanation will eventually be found, others have suggested that it is time to follow the evidence of design to where it leads.

In 1996 a biochemist at Lehigh University, Dr. Michael Behe, published a book entitled Darwin’s Black Box. The title comes from the fact that to Darwin the working of the cell was an impenetrable mystery–a black box, so to speak. While there is still an enormous amount that is unknown, one thing we can say is that even the “simplest” cellular mechanism is properly described as a “molecular machine,” in the words of Bruce Alberts, the president of the National Academy of Sciences. Whereas Darwin assumed that cells were relatively simple components of living things, we now know they are staggeringly complex. In Behe’s colorful analogy, it is as plausible to think that the vast information components within the cell could have arisen by blind chance followed by natural selection as it is to assume that you or I could hop across the Grand Canyon in a series of small steps. When Darwin stated with regard to the process of natural selection “I see no reason to limit this process to changes within species”–we can now say there is a reason: the evidence. Once the evidence of the staggering complexity is understood, then the mechanism of change proposed by Darwin is simply inadequate to explain how an interconnected system of apparently engineered parts could have arisen spontaneously.

(2) The Assumption that the History of Life (the Fossil Record) Supports Gradual Change

Darwin’s second assumption was that the evidence of life in the fossil record supported his theory of modification with descent from a common ancestor. Indeed, the fossil record shows that the oldest organisms in the fossil record–those we find furthest down in the geological strata–are the simplest; and the more recent fossils are more complex. But the gradual change predicted by Darwin’s theory is not what we have found when we look at the fossil record as a whole. Recent discoveries in paleontology, as this cover story from Time magazine shows, reveal a “biological big bang” at the time of what is called the “Cambrian explosion” approximately 500 million years ago. Darwin’s theory assumes a gradual emergence of new genera, new families, new phyla, as small differences over time become big differences, with lots of transitional forms. This might be called a “bottom-up” pattern of development. Instead, the fossil record shows a single dramatic appearance of all of the major phyla, followed by 500 million years of gradual differentiation within those major groups. One paleontologist has described it as a “top-down” pattern, in sharp contrast to the “bottom-up” pattern predicted by Darwin’s theory.

(3) The Assumption that “Design” is Unscientific

Finally, the philosophical basis for excluding design as an object of scientific inquiry was severely weakened by the publication in 1998 of Dr. William Dembski’s The Design Inference. Dembski put a scientific and mathematical ribbon on a mental process that you and I engage in all the time. When we come across a pattern that exhibits a high degree of specification–that is, where objects or letters have been arranged in a sequence that has to be just so in order to work–and where there is a low probability of such a sequence arising by random chance, then we logically infer that a human intelligence brought it about. For example, when we go to Mt. Rushmore we immediately recognize that what appear to be the faces of the Presidents are not the product of the random forces of erosion and rockslide. We recognize the action of a designing intelligence. While we may not know who it is that brought the designed object about, we can conclude on scientific grounds that something has been designed, and did not arise from undirected causes. Thus, the hypothesis of design has been readmitted as a worthy competitor to try to explain the origin and development of the biological world.

II.The Legal Landscape

Much of the debate about how to teach origins has been conducted under a cloud of legal intimidation, in which school boards and teachers have been fearful that if they taught the wrong thing, they could subject the school to embarrassing and expensive constitutional challenges. In fact, the law gives considerably more latitude to permit a full exploration of these very issues.

The key ruling on the question of how origins may be taught is Edwards v. Aguillard. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a Louisiana law which required that if either the theory of evolution or “creation science” was taught in a public school, the other theory had to be taught as well. The Louisiana statute did not require that either theory be taught, or that any theory regarding human origins had to be taught. Rather, the law simply stated if one theory was taught, the other had to be presented as well. This is sometimes called an “equal time” statute. When the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, Louisiana defended the law on the grounds that the law had a secular purpose–that of promoting academic freedom. The Supreme Court disagreed, largely based on the legislative history of the Louisiana law, which constantly referenced the religious views of the Louisiana legislators. The Court found that the primary purpose of the law was not to foster academic freedom, but to promote the religious belief in creation based on a literal reading of the Book of Genesis in the Bible. In doing so, it rejected the claim that “creation science” was really science, and declared it to be thinly disguised religion.

At the same time, the court gave approval to the concept that “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.” What the court did not fully clarify was the difficult line between teaching science and teaching religion. The court seemed quite confused about where that line should be drawn.

McLean v. Arkansas was decided prior to Edwards, and therefore is to some extent superseded by it. However, McLean was cited with approval by the Supreme Court in Edwards, and thus cannot be discounted. McLean is important because it adopted what is called a “demarcation” test to distinguish science from non-science (in particular, from religion). Dr. Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science, testified that science is characterized by a five-part test that is based on natural laws and is subject to testing for falsifiability. This definition was first proposed by Karl Popper, and significantly, by his own standards Popper doubted whether Darwinism was real science. But Judge Overton in the McLean case eagerly adopted Ruse’s test, and declared that creation science–since it could not be falsified or empirically tested–was not real science. Even people who ought to know better, such as the National Academy of Sciences, regularly tout the McLean case as proof that creation science is not really science at all. The fact is that Michael Ruse has admitted that not even he believes the simplistic formula that he presented in McLean, and that there is no reason to treat Darwinism as any more or less scientific than “creation science.” Nonetheless, this distinction is so firmly entrenched in the minds of many supporters of an exclusively Darwinist presentation that they assume that any alternative to Darwinism is inherently unscientific.

To summarize, the key feature of the court cases that have addressed origins is the requirement that origins must be presented in a scientific way, that does not simply translate a religious text into scientific language, but follows the scientific method of looking at evidence in order to arrive at a theory that is consistent with it. Darwinism is one attempt to explain the evidence, but the courts have recognized that it is legitimate to permit the teaching of other theories.

Secular Value

One of the points emphasized by the Supreme Court in Edwards is that the teaching of alternate theories can be justified where there is a “clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction.” Thus, the question is whether there are important educational advantages to making a full, rather than restricted presentation of Darwinism.

(1) Competition

The first point is that we are very familiar with the benefits of competition in other areas of education. For example, if we tried to instill good physical conditioning in our students by giving them a series of calisthenics and repetitive exercises, we might quickly discover that students were bored and uninterested. Physical fitness would decline. The teaching of Darwinism has been done in such a way that students don’t enjoy learning about it. I sometimes say that we have engaged in a devotional rather than scientific presentation of Darwin. In athletics we turn physical conditioning into competitive sport in which students look forward to something that is challenging and fun. It may be hard work at times, but it isn’t dull. We should translate some of that experience to the world of teaching about ideas. Instead of presenting Darwinism as an agreed-upon theory that no reputable scientist denies (this is the approach that the National Academy of Sciences would have us follow), we propose that Darwinism be forced to compete with other plausible explanations for the origin and development of the biological world. Students should be invited to take a ringside seat in the contest between competing scientific theories–or even get in the ring themselves to go a few rounds. The fact that these issues are charged with some degree of public controversy, while necessitating thoughtfulness in the way the controversy is addressed, can only add to the students’ motivation to pay closer attention to the nuances of the argument.

(2) Passion and Balance

A final point should be addressed to reassure the teacher that the existence of the controversy, or even the teacher’s strongly held point of view, is not a good reason to shy away from discussing it. Most teachers have learned how to present an issue in such a way that they encourage students to be able to articulate both sides of the argument, even if the teacher finds personally that one side is more convincing. For example, a teacher in a history class can usually present both sides of the controversy over the Vietnam War, even if the teacher is a proud war veteran or a proud war protester. By recognizing that students need to be familiar with both sides of the argument, the teacher can make it clear that even a passionate advocate can only succeed by acknowledging the strengths of the other side and learning how to address them persuasively. Thus, good teachers know that the best learning takes place in a climate that encourages dialogue rather than one that only expects passive acceptance of a predigested point of view.

III. The Typical Objections

One of the reasons this issue remains controversial, despite what we believe are clear legal guidelines to make it an area for fruitful teaching opportunities, is that there are several well-entrenched misunderstandings either of science or of the law. The next part of this presentation will respond to the typical kinds of objections that are raised when an approach like ours is suggested. These concerns not only arise from those who are opposed in principle to what we are trying to do, but also by some who are sympathetic to the point of view, but have become convinced that it can’t be done.

Objection 1: “Evolution is Science, and Anything Else is Just Religion That Belongs in Social Studies, Not in the Science Classroom.”

The most frequent objection you will hear to the proposal contained in this guide is that those who oppose an exclusively Darwinist presentation are simply trying to bring religion back into the classroom, and the Supreme Court has already declared that unconstitutional.

This is obviously a very tricky point, because it requires careful distinction between science and religion, and these terms are rarely used with precision even by Supreme Court justices. It is not surprising that school administrators get jumpy when someone raises the issue.

What we are proposing is a full scientific review of the evidence both for and against Darwinism. This is precisely what the Supreme Court invited in Edwards. What the Supreme Court prohibited was a specific kind of teaching known as scientific creationism, or what is sometimes called “young earth” creationism. Now this point is a very subtle one. Although I am not myself a believer in “young earth” creationism,. I also agree with Justice Scalia in his dissenting opinion that the Supreme Court was wrong to forbid its being taught in public school. Although I am going to emphasize the differences between what we are suggesting and what the court condemned, I don’t want to overstate the differences. It is only because of the legal requirements that this line must clearly be drawn. In Edwards the court complained that scientific creationism proceeded from a religious text rather than from evidence found in the laboratory or in the fossil field.

By contrast, design theory bases its arguments on what we know of biochemistry, from the DNA molecule, from the mathematical characteristics of designed systems elsewhere in science. Thus, it doesn’t trigger the concerns that the court used in Edwards as the basis for striking down the Louisiana law.

But this doesn’t entirely solve the problem, since those who have been excluded in the past from the biology classroom–those who support scientific creationism–may feel that the Edwards decision itself may no longer reflect good educational practice. The position taken by the CRSC is that school boards should accept Edwards as the best statement of the current law. Consequently, rather than use the term “creationism”–which may be confused with the terms used by the court in Edwards to identify what may not be taught, teachers and school districts should refer more generically to the origins issue and to the competing theories that explain biological origins. This is entirely within what the Edwards court specifically recommended.

Nonetheless, there is no reason to leap from the conclusion that scientific creationism cannot legally be taught in the science classroom to the conclusion that those who hold that view are wrong. Such individuals may find much in intelligent design that encourages their point of view. In fact, there are likely to be many students in the biology class who believe that the earth is roughly 6000 years old, and they are ready to cite evidence to prove it. We have to treat such views respectfully, but they can’t form the basis of our curriculum–not because they are not true, but because the courts have made it clear that we may not. Again, the court has left us perfectly free to teach what scientific theories of biological origins, and that certainly allows us to point out the flaws and doubtful aspects of Darwinist theories.

Finally, it is not a valid criticism of intelligent design that some people may draw implications about philosophy or worldview based upon the scientific case made for or against design. As I said at the beginning, it is a very human reaction to look at both design and the rejection of design as having implications for our place in the universe. That is a street that goes both ways. Merely because a theory implies things about issues other than science does not mean that the theory itself is unscientific. It just means that the issue is an important one.

Objection 2: “There is No Scientific Dispute that Evolution Has Occurred.”

This assertion is made with such confidence, and has such important consequences, that we need to be clear about how to respond to it.

Defining “Evolution”

The first point that needs to be made is to focus on what is meant by the term “evolution.” It is impossible to carry on a meaningful discussion of the terms we are using have meanings that shift from one context to another. Depending upon what you mean by “evolution” the statement may indeed be true. Or it may be patently false.

(1) Evolution as “Change”

Let’s start with a very limited or metaphorical use of the term “evolution”–to mean change in form or development. So, for example, we may talk about the evolution of a composer’s style or the evolution of a basketball team over the season. In this sense we refer simply to changes in certain characteristics over time. Evolution in this sense takes place when dogs or cattle or corn varieties are bred for certain characteristics, or when the forests are cleared to plant crops, and then farmland has been replaced by a housing development. You could say that “evolution” has occurred and no one would quarrel with you.

(2) Evolution as Variation within a Species

But there is a second sense in which the term “evolution” is used, and it is one that Charles Darwin started with–the changes in a population caused by environmental forces or deliberate husbandry by human beings. It is possible to select over a long enough period of time for some characteristic–say, size in a dog–to the point where the members of the species (say, a St. Bernard and a chihuaha) are incapable of breeding with one another, and at that point they may be classified as separate species, since species are classified according to whether or not they interbreed. Darwin’s example of the finch beaks on the Galapagos Islands is an example of this kind of population-specific change. Again, there are some difficulties with the way in which the evidence is marshalled on this point–the Darwinists have been considerably embarrassed by the flaws in the Peppered Moth research–but if “evolution” simply means that species may disappear or change characteristics because of environmental conditions, again, it’s probably true that this is a point everyone agrees with.

(3) Evolution as a “Blind Watchmaker”

When we come to the third and most controversial sense of evolution–the emergence of complex and intelligent life from undirected and unintelligent causes–the “universal agreement” among scientists disappears. And yet it is precisely here that Darwin made his bold claims. Darwin observed the variation among species and said he saw no reason not to think that this variation could, over a long enough period of time, lead to all of the complexity of life we see today. And while Darwin’s limitations–his ignorance of the details of genetics and the fossil record are acknowledged, groups like the NAS agree with him that “there is no reason not to” extend the principles of change at a population level to higher level changes–as we saw earlier, the reason not to do so is the scientific evidence. And scientists who have looked at the evidence with an unbiased eye have grave doubts about the ability of any unintelligent process to produce complex, apparently designed organisms.

Redefining “Reputable” Scientists

A final way of understanding this objection is a rather impolite implication that scientists who don’t accept the truth of the Blind Watchmaker are not really reputable scientists. I attended a hearing in Lincoln, Nebraska at which this was implied by the Commissioner of Education, and I watched his discomfort when the head of pediatric genetics at the local university hospital stated that he was among those who disputed Darwin’s theory of origins. There is no reason to insult the people you disagree with by implying that they are less scientific than those who agree with you. If people like the doctor in Nebraska I just mentioned, or Dean Kenyon, or Michael Behe, or hundreds of other scientists are not excluded from the list because they are in the minority, then it is simply false to claim that there is no scientific dispute about the truth of Darwinism.

Objection 3: “If we teach one creation story, we’ll have to teach the creation stories of every religion.”

This objection rests on a basic misunderstanding of what is being offered. If we were simply suggesting that religion be taught alongside science, then a sampling of major world religions would be in order. But we are offering scientific evidence that arises from the evidence itself.

It might be beneficial at this point to point to the variety of non-Darwinian theories for the origin of life. For example, Francis Crick, who won the Nobel Prize for his pioneering work on DNA, was convinced that life could not have developed spontaneously from a soup of organic chemicals. He knew too much about DNA to fall for that one. But he turned to an only slightly less improbable scenario, namely that life was “seeded” on earth from some kind of advanced civilization elsewhere in the universe. He called his theory “panspermia” and it has been met with polite silence by scientists, since it more or less dodges the difficult question of how life began wherever it did. Moreover, Crick’s theory doesn’t help us explain how life “evolved” once it arrived.

Another non-Darwinian theory is argued by Thomas Gold, who attracted considerable attention (and opposition) from oil companies when he developed an unconventional theory of how oil and gas deposits arose. The traditional theory is that they are “fossil fuels” and resulted from organic matter compressed over eons of time into oil and gas. The continuing discovery of more and more reserves threatens the certainty that these are an exhaustible resource. Gold theorizes that the reason we find organic compounds in the oil and gas we dredge up from beneath the earth’s crust is because that’s where life came from in the first place, and it is continuing to be formed by forces deep underground. Gold not only is persona non grata with the oil companies, who don’t like the idea that their reserves are easily replenished, but he too fails to explain how life evolved once it got to the surface.

We’re not suggesting that these theories be presented, although there would be no scientific reason to suppress them; the reason we think that a biology teacher would be wise to present intelligent design along with Darwinism is that it is a necessary corrective to the impression frequently given that Darwinism is the only scientific theory of biological origins. Moreover, it explicitly addresses the question of the origin for the appearance of design, which is the central question that scientists have been addressing, both before and after Darwin. Also, since intelligent design is now attracting a good deal of serious attention among scientists, it is appropriate for teaching at the high school level.

Objection 4: “If We Teach Alternatives to Darwin, We’d Have to Allow Debate Over the Theory of Gravity, the Flat Earth Theory, etc.”

A final objection is that we are suggesting that any theory, however ridiculous, deserves equal billing alongside mainstream science.

The first point that needs to be made is that there is a difference between theories based upon experimental research or observation and science based upon an analysis of historical events. The theory of gravity, for example, is capable of testing and potential falsification, and unless someone proposes a basis for falsifying the theory of gravity, there is no reason not to accept it as true.

On the other hand, theories about something that has happened in the past are rarely subject to disproof by falsification, and therefore must ordinarily be evaluated in light of competing theories. Take for example the controversy over who killed President Kennedy. The accepted theory is that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, fired three bullets in rapid succession, one of which fatally injured the president. There are, however, troubling inconsistencies in this theory, and conspiracy theories have been bandied about for a long time. Will any theory ever be proven “true”? No matter how strong the evidence, we can never establish historical propositions with the same reliability that we are able to achieve with experimental propositions like the theory of gravity.

Since the question of origins is an attempt to reconstruct a series of past events, based upon the best evidence we have available, it will always require a comparison of competing theories. Darwin’s theory has certainly persuaded many scientists, but it also contains serious limitations, many of which have been discovered through our understanding of DNA, the fossil record, and cellular biology. It is hard to square the evidence with his theory. But we have to recognize that alternative theories, such as intelligent design, are also subject to difficulties. What the scientist must do in such a case is to study the evidence and try to design methods that will help to reveal the strengths and weaknesses in competing theories. Reasonable minds can draw different conclusions from that evidence. We are not inviting students to believe whatever they choose; we are inviting students to study the problem scientifically and reach the best conclusion based on the scientific evidence. That is what scientists do.

IV. The Resources of the Center

A major purpose of the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture is to ensure that those school boards and teachers who want to teach a more open approach will have the resources to do so.

First, the Center can help provide access to leading experts on the origins controversy. Many scientists working at the cutting edge of this issue, who are leaders in the intelligent design movement, are affiliated with the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture. For those who doubt that intelligent design is based on the work of real scientists, the Center offers living, breathing proof. Moreover, the Center is helping to publish some of the cutting edge research that make science education as fresh as today’s newspaper.

Second, the Center can help by providing legal support. If the decision to pursue an open approach to the origins issue is challenged on legal grounds, the Center can help provide reassurance to school board attorneys, community members, state officials, or whoever wants the confidence that this program rests on solid constitutional principles.

Third, the Center is available as a resource to teachers who are looking at this issue in a fresh way. We recognize that the availability of textbook supplements, lesson plans, and worksheets will make it easier for the biology teacher to translate the theory into educational practice. Although we are still in the midst of rolling out all of the resources we plan to offer, we will make available a website with resources, and supplements keyed to popular textbooks. We also offer in-service workshops for teachers to listen and get hands-on access to our materials, as well as an opportunity to air concerns or questions.

The Center for the Renewal of Science & Culture is a program of the Discovery Institute. For more information call or write:

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David K. DeWolf

Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
David K. DeWolf is a Professor of Law at Gonzaga School of Law in Spokane, Washington and a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. A graduate of Stanford University and Yale Law School, Professor DeWolf has clerked for the Honorable Stephen Bistline of the Idaho Supreme Court. He has written a briefing book for public school administrators, Teaching the Controversy: Darwinism, Design and the Public School Curriculum.