March 2006 Church & State | People & Events

The Ohio Board of Education Feb. 14 voted 11-4 to remove “intelligent design” from state science standards, heading off for now threatened legal action by Americans United.

Attorneys with Americans United have repeatedly urged the board to drop its promotion of science standards that singled out evolution for so-called “critical analysis.” The standards also included a lesson plan that AU and other critics charged would have allowed the study of intelligent design and given misleading information about the validity of evolution.

Americans United, which had worked with the pro-evolution group Ohio Citizens for Science, welcomed the board’s action. “This is a great victory for Ohio public school students,” said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Ameri­cans United. “The board had conflated religion with science in a manner that poorly served the young people of Ohio.”

The vote came about five weeks after Ohio Gov. Bob Taft surprised political observers in the state by coming out strongly against teaching ID. Although Taft appointed some of the board members pushing ID, he said Feb. 5 he does not support dumbing down instruction about evolution in Ohio’s schools.

“There were cases in which I didn’t ask the right questions, in some cases where I supported someone for election or appointment,” Taft told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Taft added, “I think we ought to be teaching evolution. I think intelligent design should not be part of the standards and should not be tested.”

Critics charged that the Ohio standards, while not mentioning intelligent design directly, promoted creationist concepts by calling for “critical analysis” of evolution, a frequent goal of creationists who insist that the biblical account in Genesis is scientifically accurate. In 2002, board member Richard Baker said, “You team them both, or you don’t teach either one.” Ohio Citizens for Science notes that the evolution standard was drafted by young-Earth creationists at the behest of the Rev. Michael Cochran, a board member from Franklin County.

Reviewers in the Ohio Department of Education had called the lesson plan “inaccurate,” “wrong,” “horrible” and “non-scientific.”

In other news about ID:

• A state legislator is attempting to weaken evolution in Utah’s public schools. State Sen. Chris Buttars’ bill would require teachers to offer a disclaimer before teaching evolution, asserting that not all scientists agree with it.

Although Utah is one of the most conservative states in the country, Buttars’ proposal is receiving a decidedly mixed reception. “I don’t think God has an argument with science,” state Rep. Stephen H. Urquhart, a majority whip, told The New York Times. The bill passed the Utah Senate 16-12 but faces an uncertain fate in the House of Rep­re­sentatives.

• Add the Vatican’s newspaper to the list of ID skeptics. L’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican publication, published an article Jan. 17 asserting that ID is not science. “If the model proposed by Darwin is held to be inadequate, one should look for another model,” wrote Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna. “But it is not correct methodology to stray from the field of science pretending to do science.”

Facchini also wrote that nothing in evolutionary theory conflicts with the Catholic Church’s view of creation.