- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 12, 2002

COLUMBUS, Ohio The Ohio state school board yesterday convened in special session at a large city auditorium to hear arguments for teaching the concept of "intelligent design" along with tenets of Darwinian evolution in school science.
The three-hour hearing before the 17 board members drew a public audience of 1,000. The session was set up so two presenters from each side could persuade policy-makers on what to include in science standards, scheduled for a vote this fall.
"This is a highly unusual session," board member Deborah Owens Fink said after the high-tech presentations, which at times bordered on passionate debate among the four analysts. "We have a very well-informed board," she said. "Everyone wants to do the right thing."
The so-called intelligent design movement, made up of academics and activists, is about a decade old. The movement which can suggest a Creator argues that Darwin's detailed claims of how chance forces have created life's diversity are mostly unproven, so a design alternative should be presented to students.
Under two new education reform movements one to set standards and the other to tie funding and graduation to testing results many states are reviewing and upgrading their lists of what scientific concepts students must know.
Many states have wrestled over the place of evolution in science, but Ohio is the first to seriously consider adding "design" as a concept and as a science controversy that students must recognize.
"We were caught mostly unawares," said Tom Ball of the newly formed Ohio Citizens for Science, which calls design a new form of creationism. "We knew there was a national strategy out there but hadn't known how much ground was laid."
The group that brought the proposal to the board in January is called Science Excellence for All Ohioans. While it has the traditional constituency of social conservatives, it is backing design as a concept that can be both scientific and nonsectarian.
"To support intelligent design is broader than asking for creationism," said Nancy Bay, a mother who attended the hearings. "Teaching about design does not need be mandated, but it should not be excluded."
Depending on how the Ohio board votes, such an approach could face its first court test on whether teaching such a concept is science or religion, and thus whether it is constitutional. In 1987, the Supreme Court ruled that "balanced treatment" of so-called creation-science was unconstitutional because it had a sectarian aim of teaching a literal view of the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible.
Wording proposed for the Ohio science standards indicates students should "know that some scientists support the alternative theory of intelligent design."
Yesterday's presentations featured a biologist and science historian with the Discovery Institute, a Seattle think tank, arguing the flaws and false claims of evolution.
"There is a growing controversy over how evidence for evolution is presented, and students should know that," said biologist Jonathan Wells, author of the book "Icons of Evolution."
Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller and Case Western University physicist Lawrence M. Krauss said design concepts undermine science education. "Intelligent design is actually an assault on science," Mr. Krauss said. "There's an agenda here."
Opponents of the design proposal are circulating a mass petition in hopes to persuade the school board not to include intelligent design theory in the standards.
The hearing came two months after the so-called Santorum amendment, saying students should be taught to think critically about evolution, was included in explanatory language in an education bill signed by President Bush.
"We call this 'teaching the controversy,'" said historian Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute, arguing that the wording, introduced by Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, had the standing of law.
Mr. Meyer said the best alternative in the debate over the Ohio standards was to not mandate mention of intelligent design but to allow teachers to criticize some Darwinian science and cite the design alternative.


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