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Published: Friday, 10/18/2002

The evolution of a dispute

Local school districts have enough to do without the burden of deciding whether to include other theories about the origin of life on Earth in science classes. That's the job of the Ohio Board of Education.

The state board should disregard a standards committee's recommendation to let school districts decide whether to teach “intelligent design” and creationism in addition to evolution in public school science classes. The committee's recommendation skirts the controversy and doesn't address only teaching evolution in public school science classes. The recommendation passes responsibility from the state to local districts, which shouldn't be embroiled in community debates about teaching evolution plus intelligent design in science classes.

The subject makes for heated arguments between evolutionists and creationists. The theory of evolution, which holds that life evolved from a single-cell organism, has been taught in public schools for decades. The intelligent design idea maintains that an intelligent being was behind the origin of life. That's another way for creationists to put forth the creationism theory, which holds that God is the origin of life as told in Genesis in the Bible.

The state school board will hold a public hearing about the standards before voting in December on what science standards to adopt to align with the science proficiency tests. State law mandates that the education department establish standards that align with the tests. That's another compelling reason for the state to decide that evolution will be taught in public classrooms.

Some 75 percent of the letters, emails, and telephone calls to the standards committee favored also teaching alternative theories. “To disregard that input would be a sham of public policy,” said a member of the standards committee. But these are science classes. From that perspective, it would be a sham to teach a theory based on faith alone. It's important to note, too, that the theory of evolution does not say that there is no such thing as intelligent design.

When the state board of education votes on science standards, it should uphold teaching evolution in classrooms and not pass the buck to local districts.

The public doesn't determine how to teach math and history in public schools. Neither should it engage in disputes about what theory to teach regarding the origin of life.

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