AiG received the following letter from Dr Al Gotch of Mount Union College in Ohio, USA. It is a response to an article we posted last month (see below) and in it he provides an alternate view of the recent Intelligent Design (ID) ruling in the state of Ohio.
First, I want to commend you for your open and honest presentation of the creationist position on your website. I’ve viewed many websites concerning the creation/evolution issue and I think ‘Answers in Genesis’ is one of the best that presents a biblical based interpretation of the scientific evidence while remaining open and honest about difficulties associated with that interpretation. Because of this I have recommended and will continue to recommend your website to others.
I am currently the chairman of the Chemistry Department at Mount Union College in Alliance, OH and have actively been involved in the debate in Columbus over the new science standards in the state of Ohio. I have offered public testimony three times before the Ohio Board of Education encouraging the ‘teach the controversy’ approach. I was at the December 10, 2002 meeting where the board unanimously passed the new science standards. I just read the article posted by Michael Matthews, ‘“Intelligent Design” Whimpers out in Ohio’. I understand Mr. Matthews’ disappointment in the final outcome. For example, there still remains language in many places throughout the standards that treats macroevolution as fact. However, I disagree with the largely negative tone in the article. The facts given are indeed correct, but the tone of the article fails to appreciate the realities of the political process and the tidal wave of opposition that was faced to achieve the modest gains in the debate over origins. First, on the writing committee, out of 41 persons only 1(!!!) was openly speaking in favor of something other than evolution as fact. At best there may have been 5 or 6 people on the writing committee that were sympathetic toward the ID position. Second, on the Ohio Board of Education there was only slightly better support for the ID position, but again only 2 or 3 vocal proponents out of 19 members. With such odds how did the final standards allow for the teach the controversy approach? Citizen input! Nearly 20,000 people in the state of Ohio responded to the board or governor’s office with a 3 to 1 ratio (75%) in favor of teaching the controversy. This was unprecedented public response on any issue ever faced by the Ohio Board of Education and it had an impact!
It may be disappointing that the language in the standards does not more strongly address the issue of origins; however, the outcome could have been much worse. Up to October the door was locked shut to teaching anything other than evolution as fact concerning human origins in the science classrooms across the state of Ohio. The changes that occurred in October have unlocked the door and left it open a crack. If you do not have a key to the door, e.g. political power at the State Board of Education or throughout the entrenched scientific community, this is a HUGE step forward. The clarifying, parenthetical addition to the science standards, i.e. not mandating the teaching or testing of ID, was already a given. The positive note is the option to teach other theories of origins remains open. It is not illegal to teach ID and those who want to do so should not lose their jobs over it. This is not the case in many other states throughout the US.
I agree there are some glaring weaknesses in the new science standards in Ohio; specifically concerning origins, but overall the standards are excellent. There still is concern over the explicit protection of teachers that go outside of the evolution box in their classrooms. However, this is just the first part of a three part process. Now that the standards have been written what still remains is the writing of curriculum guidelines to implement the new standards as well as writing the science standards proficiency test. In this regard there is more reason for cautious optimism. There is movement within the board to insure more balance on the writing committees during these next two stages of the standards writing process. Maybe as this process moves forward greater explicit protection can be obtained for those teaching the controversy in Ohio’s science classrooms. Maybe some balanced textbooks like ‘Of Pandas and People’ will be on the approved adoption list for local school districts. Overall, I think what has taken place is historical and may prove to be a watershed event in the origins debate within public education.
Dr Al Gotch
Mount Union College
Alliance, OH USA