Columbus Dispatch May 10, 2002

Ohioans Don't Want Evolution Only

by Catherine Candisky

Results from Ohio poll on Darwin's theory of evolution, public schools (107k pdf)

Ohio Zogby Crosstabs (90k pdf)


As the State Board of Education debates what students should be taught about the development of life on Earth, a poll released yesterday shows nearly two-thirds of Ohioans support instruction about both Darwin's theory of evolution and any scientific evidence against it.

Fewer than one in five of the respondents want only evolution taught, the course advocated by most scientists.

In addition, 78 percent think that students also should be taught about evidence pointing to an intelligent designer.

"This is not a poll on creationism,'' said Bruce Chapman, president of the Discovery Institute, which commissioned the poll. "Instead it poses the real issue before Ohio and other states: Do you allow students to know the scientific case for and against Darwinian evolution?''

The nonprofit research organization based in Seattle is home to the nation's leading supporters of "intelligent design'' -- the view that life is too complex to have randomly evolved through natural selection. They say they don't know the identity of the designer -- it could be God as creationists believe or some unknown force.

Critics of the decade-old movement say intelligent design is merely a new spin for creationism, with backers trying to inject religious belief into the science classroom.

They dismiss the telephone poll of 702 randomly chosen Ohio adults conducted Tuesday and Wednesday by Zogby International, a nationally recognized polling firm. The margin of sampling error is 3.8 percentage points.

"Science is not a democratic institution. We don't make decisions on popularity, we make them on evidence,'' said Lynn E. Elfner, chief executive officer of the Ohio Academy of Sciences. "I'm not aware of any evidence against evolution . . .

"And, there is no scientific evidence in favor of intelligent design. It's a belief. It's beyond the natural. It's supernatural . . . I can demonstrate evolution in a test tube.''

Mark Edwards, spokesman for the Discovery Institute, disputed that claim. He said there are plenty of single-cell organisms that are far too complex to have developed through slight, step-by-step variations over time.

"Sure, science is not a democracy. You can have 100 people in a room and 99 believe one thing but the evidence supports what that one other person says,'' he said.

"Popular opinion doesn't dictate the truth, but popular opinion certainly plays an important role in developing education policy.''

The State Board of Education is considering proposed grade-by-grade guidelines of what students should be taught in science class drafted by a team of mostly science teachers from across the state. They recommended students be taught only evolution but some on the 19-member board are advocating for the inclusion of intelligent design as well.

Under state law, the panel must have the new science standards approved by Dec. 31.

File Date: 05.14.02