Ohio may become the first US state to include “intelligent design” in its science standards. A lot depends on the outcome of a meeting on 11 March 2002.
A panel of experts will be discussing the merits of including intelligent design in Ohio’s state standards. (Intelligent design is the belief that the “irreducible complexity” of certain biological features, such as the human eye, is evidence for a designer and against blind naturalistic processes.1) The panel discussion, scheduled for 11 March, is sponsored by the standards committee of the Ohio board of education.2
Theatrics on 2 March-a portent of things to come
Not surprisingly, evolutionists are gathering their forces. On 2 March they invited in two of their most formidable combatants-Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard University and Kenneth Miller of Brown University. Cleveland’s prestigious Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) sponsored the public presentation, called “Evolution and God: why design theory isn’t science.”
The purpose of the meeting was not an open debate weighing the merits of intelligent design, but a one-sided excoriation of the view, preparing the troops for a new campaign of creationist-bashing. Gould was sick and could not come, but Miller-joined by physicist Lawrence Krauss of CWRU-tossed enough barbs at creationists to please their followers in the audience. “There is nothing to debate,” said Dr Krauss. He let the crowd know that it was “an incredible waste of [his] time to talk about things that are obvious.”3
Stay tuned for the “great non-debate” on 11 March
The CWRU meeting was a prelude to the upcoming panel discussion sponsored by the Ohio board of education. The topic: “Should intelligent design be included in Ohio’s draft science academic content standards?” (For background on Ohio’s science standards, see Creationism battle heats up again in US public schools; the unbending, pro-evolution slant of Ohio’s first draft, released in December 2001, sparked a firestorm and calls for revision.)
The meeting will not be a debate. Four panelists will address a series of questions, prepared ahead of time by the standards committee. The public is allowed to watch the proceedings, but no questions are permitted.
The proposed panel includes two leading evolutionists and two advocates of intelligent design. The evolutionists are-do these names sound familiar?-Dr Kenneth Miller and Dr Lawrence Krauss.
Kenneth Miller is a rising star in the fight against creationism. When it comes to debates, evolutionists like to trot him out because, unlike sharp-tongued humanists like Richard Dawkins, Dr Miller says that he is a Christian. His suave manner and eloquent words make him “the most superficially convincing protagonist against creationism” that Dr Henry Morris has ever debated.4 Miller’s book Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground between God and Evolution was a hit in many circles.
Dr Krauss is a widely published author. His most recent work Atom: An Odyssey from the Big Bang to Life on Earth . . . and Beyond is being converted into a five-segment Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) national TV series.
The two panelists who will defend intelligent design are Dr Stephen C. Meyer, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Whitworth College (Washington), and Dr Jonathan Wells, Senior Fellow at the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture. Wells is the author of Icons of Evolution: Why Much of What We Teach about Evolution Is Wrong.
Expect a media circus
The 11 March panel discussion will take place at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium, 300 West Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio, 8:30-11:00 am.5 The crowd is expected to be quite large, including a number of journalists. Two opposing citizens groups most likely will be there. On one side is Science Excellence for All Ohioans (SEAO), calling for “fair, reasonable, and unbiased standards.” This group has proposed a series of changes to mollify the problem areas in Ohio’s proposed science standards.6 On the other side is the recently formed group Ohio Citizens for Science (OCS), a parallel organization to Kansas Citizens for Science, which curbed the efforts to change science standards in Kansas.
Critics warn that any compromise with intelligent design will convert Ohio into a backwater state, scaring away potential business and qualified scientists.
Opponents of intelligent design have apparently settled on their strategy. Like the scientists who met on 2 March at CWRU, they will repeat the mantra “this isn’t a debate about science.” They also will resort to scare tactics, warning of “another Kansas” (a reference to the media attacks that Kansas endured in 1999 when its board of education tried to mildly de-emphasize evolution in its science standards). Critics warn that any compromise with intelligent design will convert Ohio into a backwater state, scaring away potential business and qualified scientists.7
This whole debate is a sad testimony about America’s departure from its Christian roots. Who would have ever imagined that giving teachers liberty to question evolution-and to offer alternatives-would generate such controversy? While Answers in Genesis believes that teachers should have the freedom and encouragement to critique evolution, we recognize the danger of making it compulsory for teachers to present alternative theories (imagine the potential mockery of the Biblical position).
Christian teachers once had the freedom to speak openly about the true history, geology and biology proclaimed in Genesis. Now they can’t even question evolution in school. The battle to get “intelligent design” into Ohio’s standards may weaken the evolutionists” strangle-hold on public education, but it’s a far cry from giving students the true picture of two worldviews in conflict.