Question by ♥Mігanԃa♥: To add to Mr, know it alls question. “what? more problem with evolution?”?
The way they used to teach the origin of the species to high school students in this sleepy town of 1,800 people in southern Pennsylvania, said local school board member Angie Yingling disapprovingly, was that “we come from chimpanzees and apes.”
The school board has ordered that biology teachers at Dover Area High School make students “aware of gaps/problems” in the theory of evolution. Their ninth-grade curriculum now must include the theory of “intelligent design,” which posits that life is so complex and elaborate that some greater wisdom has to be behind it.
The decision, passed last month by a 6-to-3 vote, makes the 3,600-student school district about 20 miles south of Harrisburg the first in the United States to mandate the teaching of “intelligent design” in public schools, putting it on the front line of the growing national debate over the role of religion in public life.
The new curriculum, which prompted two school board members to resign, is expected to take effect in January. The school principal, Joel Riedel, and teachers contacted by The Chronicle refused to comment on the changes.
The idea of intelligent design was initiated by a small group of scientists to explain what they believe to be gaps in Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, which they say is “not adequate to explain all natural phenomena. ”
On an intelligent-design Web site (www.intelligentdesignnetwork.org), the theory is described as “a scientific disagreement with the claim of evolutionary theory that natural phenomena are not designed.”
Critics such as Eugenie Scott, director of the Oakland-based National Center for Science Education, say the Dover school board’s decision is part of a growing trend. Religious conservatives, critics say, have been waging a war against Darwin in classrooms since the Scopes “Monkey Trial” of 1925. Tennessee schoolteacher John Scopes was convicted of illegally teaching evolution, but his conviction later was thrown out on a technicality by the Tennessee Supreme Court.
“There’s a constant impetus by conservative evangelical Christians to bring religion back into the public schools,” said Witold Walczak, legal director of the Pennsylvania branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. “The end goal is to get rid of evolution. They view it as a threat to their religion.”
The intelligent-design theory makes no reference to the Bible, and its proponents do not say who or what the greater force is behind the design. But Yingling, 46, who graduated from Dover High School in 1976, and other supporters of the new curriculum in this religiously conservative slice of rural Pennsylvania say they know exactly who the intelligent designer is.
“There’s only one creator, and it has to be God,” said Rebecca Cashman, 16, a sophomore at Dover High. She frowned when asked to recollect what she learned about evolution at school last year.
“Evolution — is that the Darwin theory?” Cashman shook her head. “I don’t know just what he was thinking!”
Patricia Nason at the Institute for Creation Research, the world leader in creation science, said her organization and other activist groups are encouraging people who share conservative religious beliefs to seek positions on local school boards.
“The movement is to get the truth out,” Nason said by telephone from El Cajon (San Diego County). “We Christians have as much right to be involved in politics as evolutionists. We’ve been asleep for two generations, and it’s time for us to come back.”
Emboldened by their contribution to President Bush’s re-election, conservative religious activists are using intelligent design as a new strategy of attacking evolution without mentioning God, Scott said.
“There is a new energy as a result of the last election, and I anticipate an even busier couple of years coming on,” Scott said.
She called intelligent design “creationism lite” masquerading as science. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1987 banned the teaching of creationism — which holds that God created the world about 6,000 years ago — in public schools on the grounds of separation of church and state.
John West of the Discovery Institute in Seattle, the main sponsor and promoter of intelligent design, defended the theory he says addresses “evolution follies.”
“Mainstream criticism should be raised in classrooms,” West said.
The Dover school district’s challenge to the primacy of evolution is not isolated. In Cobb County, Ga., parents sued a local school board for mandating that biology textbooks prominently display disclaimers stating that evolution is “not a fact.” A federal court is expected to rule next month.
In Grantsburg, Wis., a school board revised its science curriculum to teach “various scientific models of theories of origin.” In Charles County, Md. , the school board is considering a proposal to eliminate textbooks “biased toward evolution” from classrooms. Similar proposals have been considered this year in Missouri, Mississippi and Oklahoma.
“There is nothing random about this,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “You might say it’s a planned evolution of an attack on the science of evolution.”
The drive to bring more religion and what have been labeled “moral values” into the classroom goes beyond challenges to Darwin’s theory, Scott said. The Charles County school board also proposed to censor school reading lists of “immorality” or “foul language” and to allow the distribution of Bibles in schools. In Texas, the nation’s second-biggest school textbook market, the State Board of Education approved health textbooks that defined abstinence as the only form of contraception and changed the description of marriage between “two people” to “a lifelong union between a husband and a wife.”
“The religious right has a list of topics that it wants action on,” Scott said. “Things like abortion, abstinence, gays are higher up in the food chain of their concern, but evolution is part of the package.”
This drive has found fertile ground in this part of Pennsylvania, where billboards reading, “Many books inform but only the Bible transforms” line the road, and family restaurants offer free booklets titled “What the Bible says about moral purity” and “The Bible is God’s word” at the door.
“These brochures give you an idea where some people in this community are coming from,” said Jeff Brown, 54, who, along with his wife Carol, 57, resigned from the school board after they voted against changing the biology curriculum.
Yingling, who voted in favor, said she believes God created the world in six days and doesn’t believe in evolution “at all.” Another board member who supported the measure, William Buckingham, refused to say what he believes but has identified himself as a born-again Christian.
But religious beliefs or motivations should be beside the point, said Richard Thompson, an attorney who represents the board members. Thompson is the president of the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., a pro-bono firm whose Web site promises “the sword and shield for the people of faith.”
The decision was “supportive of academic freedom more than anything else, ” Thompson said.
While not talking about his own religious convictions, Thompson added, “When you look at cell structure and you see the intricacy of the cell, you can come to the conclusion that it doesn’t happen by natural selection, there has to be intelligent design.” Thompson said he is ready to represent the board in the Supreme Court if it comes to that. Some parents and teachers in Dover already have asked the Pennsylvania ACLU to sue the board on their behalf. Walczak said the organization’s legal team is studying the case before deciding whether to go to court.
Brown, the former school board member, says he is not arguing with other people’s religious beliefs.
“Don’t get me wrong: I don’t have a problem with having these booklets where people can pick them up. But I do have a problem with people shoving this down the throats of our children on taxpayers’ dollars,” Brown said.
“I happen to believe both in God and evolution,” he said, and his wife nodded: “Hear, hear.”
The Browns appear to be in the minority. Although public schools have been teaching evolution for decades, a national Gallup poll in November 2004 showed that only 35 percent of those asked believed confidently that Darwin’s theory was “supported by the evidence.” More than one-third of those polled by CBS News later in November said creationism should be taught instead of evolution.
“A guy came up to me and said, ‘Wait a minute, you believe in God and evolution at the same time? Evolution isn’t in the Bible!’ ” said Brown, nibbling on a deep-fried mozzarella stick at the Shiloh Family Restaurant on Route 74. As he became more agitated, his voice grew louder, and other customers — mostly gray-haired women and elderly men in baseball hats — turned their heads to look at the couple. Carol Brown kept putting her index finger to her lips, gesturing for her husband to be quieter.
After the Browns left the restaurant, a waitress in her 30s slipped a note to a Chronicle reporter.
“Beware,” it read. “God wrote over 2,000 years ago that there would be false prophets and teachers. If you would like to know the truth read the Bible.”
Recent actions in the teaching of evolution
Tennessee, April 2003: Blount County’s Board of Education votes not to adopt three high school biology textbooks because they do not present creationism alongside evolution.
California, September 2003: The Board of Trustees of the Roseville Joint Union High School District (Placer County) decide not to enact a district- wide policy on teaching evolution. Science teachers have told the district that they do not want to add anti-evolutionist materials that are not state- approved.
Oklahoma, April 2004: Textbook legislation passes after it is stripped of a provision that all textbooks include a disclaimer describing evolution as “a controversial theory which some scientists present as scientific explanation for the origin of living things” and “the unproven belief that random, undirected forces produced a world of living things.”
Pennsylvania, October 2004: A Dover, Pa., school board votes to include intelligent design in the district’s science curriculum, making it the first such school district in the country.
Georgia, November 2004: A lawsuit is filed against the Cobb County School District over this disclaimer inserted into textbooks: “This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.”
Answer by wigginsray
Is there a question in that “copy/paste”?
I see nothing wrong in discussing the gaps in the theory. I also see nothing wrong in exploring potential other theories. When evolution is a law, I’ll reconsider.
Of course, there are those who would prefer to stiffle debate – not encourage independent thought and run in fear of discussion. These are probably the same people that think if we use 15% less gas we’ll save the world from global warming (while we’re at it, it’ll probably help the warming occuring on Mars as well).
In all fairness to the poster below me, scientific debate and public opinion polls should not be in the same arena. There are many times the general public is misinformed – likewise there are many times the scientific community is more concerned about grants and funding than it is truth.
Intelligent design can be science if we are able to discover means to measure and confirm it, but for now the strongest scientific arguments in favor of it are based on probability. Truth isn’t limited to our ability to prove it.
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