New Evolution Battle Underway in Ohio

Charles Darwin is in the hot seat again.

Seventy-seven years after the John Scopes "Monkey" trial and three years after the state of Kansas voted to exclude evolution from its science standards, a theory known as Intelligent Design is clamoring for recognition in Ohio.

Supporters of the theory are arguing that Ohio's science education standards should include language saying that Darwin's theory remains unproven and is challenged by other theories, including Intelligent Design. The state's draft of standards, which were submitted for review today, contain the teaching of Darwin's theory of evolution but no opposing theories.

"There's no reason why the controversy over evolution should not be presented to students," said Robert Lattimer, a minority supporter of Intelligent Design within the science writing team.

Defenders of the science standards as they are now written counter that Intelligent Design has no scientific backing and should not be included.

The Ohio debate has reignited challenges to Darwin's theory of evolution, which was last disputed by Kansas educators. It has also become one of the first public platforms to feature the arguments of Intelligent Design, a theory which critics have called a "subtle" approach to insert religious belief into science instruction.

Theory: Intricacy Suggests Intellect

The Intelligent Design theory was launched in 1991 when Phillip Johnson, a professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley, published his book Darwin on Trial. The idea proposes that the intricate complexity of plants and animals is evidence that life could only be the work of an intelligent designer, not evolution. The theory stops short of declaring what or who the intelligent designer might be.

"It's like finding a radio and thinking it was simple and then opening it up and realizing it has many many different parts," said Michael Behe, a biochemist at Lehigh University and author of another book about Intelligent Design, Darwin's Black Box. "By its intricacy you know it had to be put together by intellect."

Lattimer estimates there are six to 10 members of Ohio's 40-member science writing team who would be willing to include language about the evolution controversy and competing theories. More significantly, he is hoping that members of the state's Board of Education will vote to dismiss the standards written by their appointed writing team and vote in favor of including a clause.

Scott Charlton, a science teacher at Ohio's Lebanon High School and a member of the standards writing team, is wary the debate will cast Ohio in an embarrassing light.

"I have great concern that we will be a worse joke than Kansas," Charlton said, referring to the controversy over evolution in Kansas three years ago that led the Kansas board to drop evolution from its science standards. In the next election, voters ousted three conservatives who supported the measure and the board eventually restored evolution to the state's science standards.

David Haury, a professor of science education at The Ohio State University, adds that science is made up of theories and so it is unfair to single out the theory of evolution as unproven.

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