Nandotimes March 11, 2002

Hundreds gather for evolution-'intelligent design' discussion

By Liz Sidotia

COLUMBUS, Ohio (March 11, 2002 7:04 p.m. EST) - Supporters of evolution and those who believe life must have been designed by a higher power due to its complexity faced off Monday before the state school board as it struggles to come up with new science standards.

About 1,500 people attended the meeting, where supporters of "intelligent design" backed off their push to have the concept written into the standards.

Instead, they told the board teachers should be allowed to discuss evidence for and against evolution, the most widely accepted life process based on Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection.

"Ohio should enact no definition of science that would prevent the discussion of other theories," said Stephen Meyer, a fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture in Seattle. "We think an honest critique of Darwin's theory will support our cause in the end."

Ohio began drafting new science standards last year after previous guidelines were criticized as vague. Unlike the old guidelines, the proposed standards include the word "evolution."

Since December, backers of intelligent design have pushed to have the idea written into the standards alongside evolution.

Critics of intelligent design say it is a disguise for creationism, which credits the origin of species to God. Courts have barred that approach from public schools.

"We shouldn't invent controversy where there is none because intelligent design isn't science," said Lawrence Krauss, a physics professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. "I wish we were talking about things that strengthen science and not dilute it."

Jim Parker, a science teacher at East Technical High School in Cleveland, took a personal day to attend the discussion.

"I look to the professional organizations for guidance on what I should be teaching and they all say evolution," Parker said. "If intelligent design were allowed in, I would spend my time teaching why it's not science."

The school board must decide by year's end what Ohio's 1.8 million public school students should learn about life. Teachers will not be required to follow the standards, but the state's new standardized test that 10th grade students must pass to graduate will be based on the guidelines.

Several board members have pushed for other views to be taught alongside evolution, and the board's standards committee appears to favor allowing alternative ideas.

"Do we have all the answers to the origin of life? No. Students should be allowed to critique and analyze common issues and clarify what we do know about evolution and what we don't," said Deborah Owens Fink, a board member and business professor at the University of Akron.

Sandy Epling, who believes in creationism, brought her 11-year-old son, Jacob, so he could better understand her family's rejection of evolutionary theory.

"It's important for them to hear the truth as well as what we consider the lies," she said. "It only makes the truth stronger."

Adrienne Johnson, 17, a senior at Whetstone High School in Columbus, said she hasn't learned about either theory in her science classes.

"Evolution was kind of glossed over," she said.

File Date: 3.11.02