Critically Analyzing Evolution

One EAE variant was promulgated by ID supporters on the Ohio State Board of Education during a controversy over the content of state science education standards in 2002. Lacking enough votes to have ID included in the standards, pro-ID board members arranged for a public hearing in March 2002 that would include ID proponents and opponents. Stephen C. Meyer, the director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute, testified that as a compromise, the board members who had been pushing to include ID in the curriculum should instead encourage teachers to "teach the controversy" about evolution (Miller 2002:6). He contended that there was a vigorous debate going on within the scientific community over the validity of evolution. Jonathan Wells presented examples from his book Icons of Evolution illustrating the kinds of problems with evolution that students supposedly should be taught. The anti-ID testifiers, biologist Kenneth R. Miller and physicist Lawrence Krauss, strongly discouraged adding ID to the standards, and also rebutted the claim that—at least among scientists—there was a controversy over whether evolution had occurred.

After much wrangling over wording, in October 2002 the board finally approved the standards, including one referring to evolution that read, "Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory." The wording illustrated how political the issue had become, as both the proevolution and antievolution factions could (and did) claim victory. Supporters of evolution education claimed that the standard required students to critically analyze different ideas within evolutionary theory, emphasizing the word aspects: "'What we're essentially saying here is evolution is a very strong theory, and students can learn from it by analyzing evidence as it is accumulated over time,' Tom McClain, a board member and co-chairman of the Ohio Board of Education's academic standards committee, told the Associated Press" (Olsen 2002).

Intelligent design supporter Phillip Johnson, on the other hand, interpreted the standard as requiring students not to critically analyze but to criticize evolutionary theory: "The recent decision of the Ohio Science Standards Committee of the State School Board has been a big breakthrough. [Critics] are calling it a compromise, but it isn't. It's our position. It allows teachers to present evidence against the theory of evolution. This evidence includes the facts that the drawings of embryos in the textbooks are fraudulent and that the peppered moth experiment was botched if not an outright hoax" (Staub 2002; emphasis added).

A few years later, in 2006, in the wake of the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision, the Ohio Board of Education dropped the "critically analyze" standard, as well as a model antievolution classroom lesson plan that accompanied it. But critical analysis of evolution has proved popular wording for a basic EAE approach; between 2002 and 2007, the National Center for Science Education recorded sixteen state or local policies promoting this approach in thirteen different states.

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