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Published: Tuesday, 2/7/2006

Taft remark encourages intelligent design foes

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - Critics who argue Ohio's science lesson plan has opened the door to debate over whether some intelligent force helped guide the creation of life are hoping recent comments by Gov. Bob Taft will convince regulators to pull the controversial language next week.

Mr. Taft has suggested that lawyers take a look at Ohio's standards and lesson plan given a recent federal ruling that struck down as unconstitutional the teaching of "intelligent design" in a south-central Pennsylvania school district.

U.S. District Court Judge John Jones in December determined that intelligent design is creationism in disguise and has no place in a science class.

"The governor thinks evolution should be taught and tested," said Taft spokesman Mark Rickel. "He's OK with the standards as written. They do not mandate teaching intelligent design.

"He said the [state Board of Education] should have its attorneys look at the lesson plan in light of the Dover case," Mr. Rickel said. "He's not aware of what the lesson plan calls for."

The idea behind intelligent design is that life is too complex to have occurred by simple chemical reaction and that some unnamed intelligence played at least some part.

Last month the state board rejected by a vote of 9-8 a motion that would have stricken language from the 10th-grade lesson plan that would require students to "critically analyze" the widely accepted theory of evolution.

Opponents hope the presence of two members who were absent in January, plus Mr. Taft's more recent rhetoric, will result in a different outcome when the board meets again on Feb. 14.

The Washington-based Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, involved in the federal suit against the Dover Area School Board, has been threatening to sue Ohio.

"[The governor's comments] make me more optimistic about a vote next week," said Patricia Princehouse, an evolution biology professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland who opposes the current standards.

"The creationists on the board have long been able to use Taft's basic silence to their advantage," she said. "They can't do that anymore. I'm hopeful that next week, the board will not only remove the lesson plan but also fix the standards."

Ohio's 10th-grade science model curriculum never mention the words "intelligent design."

The broader standards use the words once in a parenthetical phrase that states that critical analysis section does not mandate the teaching or testing of the concept.

But mandatory or not, critics charge that the standards and proposed lessons in the curriculum have opened the door for the first time to the introduction of intelligent design into the classroom as a possible alternative to Charles Darwin's theory that man has evolved over time from earlier life forms.

The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, a defender of the lesson plan, argues that there is no intelligent design in Ohio's lesson plan.

"It took them two months to sue in Dover," said program officer Casey Luskin. "This policy has been around for over three years now without a lawsuit. That just shows they're blowing smoke, and they know it. They want to dumb down the teaching of evolution."

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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