Scientists from throughout the nation are being summoned to help the Ohio Board of Education decide whether students should be taught that life on Earth is the result of evolution or intelligent design.
At a special meeting yesterday, the board's standards committee decided to ask experts on both sides of the issue to participate in a panel discussion at the board's March meeting.
The move came after some board members complained that intelligent design is not included in proposed curriculum guidelines for science. Intelligent-design advocates say that some life forms are far too complex to be explained through evolution and that a higher intelligence or designer must have played a role.
Critics say that intelligent design is merely a new name for creationism, the belief that God created the Earth, and that religion has no place in public schools.
"If we put creationism or intelligent design into the standards, we could find ourselves in a court battle,'' said Martha W. Wise, a board member from Avon.
In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that teaching creationism was unconstitutional, striking down Louisiana's Creationism Act because it endorsed religion.
But intelligent designers say they don't know who the designer is. They acknowledge that it could be God, but say there are other possibilities, such as extraterrestrial life.
"This isn't creation science,'' said Deborah Owens Fink, a board member from Richfield.
Michael Cochran, a board member from Blacklick, said, "No one at this table is suggesting we not teach evolution.''
Instead, Cochran advocates that both views be included in the standards so students can understand all perspectives.
An Ohio State University science professor told the board that intelligent design is not accepted by the general scientific community and that he supports the proposed standards.
David L. Haury, who was on hand to help clarify terminology and pertinent legal precedent, called evolution and intelligent design different subjects that need not be at odds.
"Evolution is how things change over time -- it doesn't say anything about how life got started -- and intelligent design is about how life got started,'' he said.
But he cautioned the board against including religious beliefs in the standards.
"You must recognize ideas within the scientific community and stick to those issues in your debate. . . . Other questions should be talked about in other classes, and these ideas shouldn't be discussed in the context of science,'' Haury said.
Some members disputed the idea.
"There are credentialed scientists who support intelligent design,'' Cochran said.
Debate about Ohio's standards has drawn national attention three years after a similar fight before the Kansas Board of Education. The Kansas board dropped evolution from its science standards. In the next election, voters responded by defeating three conservatives who supported the measure. Last year, the new board voted to restore evolution to the standards.
The Ohio standards committee yesterday agreed to invite two supporters of evolution and two advocates of intelligent design to a panel discussion before the board's March meeting.
The intelligent-design experts are Jonathan Wells, a molecular and cell biologist from the University of California-Berkeley, and Jody F. Sjogren, a medical illustrator and founder of the Intelligent Design Network in Kansas City.
Presenting the evolutionist view will be Lawrence M. Kraus, a theoretical physicist from Case Western Reserve University, and Kenneth R. Miller, a biology professor at Brown University.
File Date: 02.06.02