The Ohio science standards controversy of 2002 attracted national and even international attention. The goals and achievements of this "Ohio Firestorm" were rather modest. Whether the progress that was made towards the objective teaching of biological origins was significant or not remains to be seen. (Biological origins, as we shall use the term, is the study of the origin and development/diversity of life on earth.)
The purpose of this report is to describe, more or less chronologically, the major events and activities in this process. It is hoped that this account will be helpful to citizens in other states who may be in the process of updating standards and curricula for use in public school science instruction.
The Ohio debate really began in 2001. Thousands of citizens made significant contributions to this effort – for example, by contacting state officials, giving testimony at government hearings, and writing letters to newspapers. While the 2002 Ohio science standards are by no means perfect, they do substantially implement the "teach the controversy" approach to instruction in biological origins. The Ohio experience is only a small part of a long-term effort to implement objective instruction in biological origins nationwide. We believe Ohio made, and will continue to make, important contributions to this process. We also hope that other states in the future will be able to accomplish even more.
Impetus for new standards.
Senate Bill 1, passed in 2001 by the Ohio General Assembly (legislature), was enacted as part of the state's response to the DeRolph court case on school funding. While the DeRolph case has no direct connection to the science standards issue, it is of critical importance to the general theme of public education "reform" in Ohio. In 1991 a coalition of about 550 (out of a total of 612) school districts in Ohio sued the state over the "adequacy and equity" of funding for K-12 education. The first DeRolph decision by the Ohio Supreme Court (1997) said that the state's funding system was indeed "unconstitutional," and the state was ordered to do a "complete and systematic overhaul" of the system.
Senate Bill 1 was a key part of the state's response to the court. The bill emphasized "standards-based" reform and the financial and academic accountability of local school districts to the state. The bill called for an extensive state testing (assessment) system for students, and it implemented a ranking system for districts and individual schools. S.B. 1 also called for new state standards in several academic areas. New language arts and math standards were required by December, 2001, and new science and social studies standards by December, 2002.
In Ohio the State Board of Education (SBE) is responsible for implementation of state K-12 education law, and the State Board oversees the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). Ohio's State Board is a hybrid body, with eleven members elected by geographic districts and eight members appointed by the Governor. Members serve four-year terms and are limited by law to two consecutive terms in office.
Ohio's previous science standards were adopted in 1996 (Science: Ohio's Model Competency-Based Program). The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation rated state academic standards in 2000 (The State of the State Standards 2000), and Ohio received a "B" in science. Fordham said the document was a "fine basis for learning but could well use a companion document devoted to detail...." In other words, the performance objectives were good, but Fordham felt that the list should be more extensive and more explicit.
The study complimented Ohio for the initiation of "quantitative study" in grade 3, and for the progression/elaboration of material in the upper grades. Fordham was also pleased with a strong emphasis on the history of science. The main criticism by Fordham was the lack of specifics in such areas as the laws of science, descriptions of certain natural phenomena, and the use of mathematical analysis.
A second Fordham report, Good Science, Bad Science: Teaching Evolution in the States (Lawrence S. Lerner, 2000) was less kind to Ohio. It gave an "F" to Ohio's standards in the area of biological evolution, saying: "Evolution [is] treated here as if it were not proper conversation in polite company. The E-word is avoided and the evolutionary process occupies a near-negligible part of an extensive document."
Indeed, there is some validity to these claims. The "E-word" was used only once in Ohio's 1996 Standards; the term in which it appeared was "stellar evolution," which of course has nothing to do with biological evolution. The Ohio document described numerous evolutionary concepts, but different words were used – for example, "change over time," "natural selection," "punctuated equilibrium," "speciation," "change phenomena," "historical development," and "diversity at different periods of geologic time." In Good Science, Bad Science, avoidance of the E-word was sufficient to warrant an "F" rating for Ohio, even though the content was there.
Good Science, Bad Science was a highly biased report with a very narrow scope. Its purpose was to discredit states that failed to give dogmatic and exclusive support to the teaching of biological evolution (neo-Darwinism, descent with modification from a common ancestry) in science classes. That's what Fordham's "F" rating really reflects – that Ohio's 1996 evolution standards were not deemed strong enough in their support of the theory. Good Science, Bad Science is one reason the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) decided to strengthen its coverage of biological evolution in the new science standards.
The writing process.
The Department of Education decided to form two committees to work on the new science standards. The Science Advisory Committee (SAC) started meeting in April, 2001. This group of 32 people consisted mostly of high school and college science teachers/professors, representatives of some scientific and educational organizations, and a few people from the business community. Most of these were "high profile" individuals who would be considered part of the science and education establishment in the state.
The Advisory Committee put together some general principles for the standards writing process, and they composed part of the "Front Matter" (introductory portion) of the standards document. They also developed a set of "organizers" (major topics, themes, or strands) for the Writing Team to follow. The Advisory Committee discussed how biological origins should be treated in the Standards, but no one on the Committee served as a proponent for an objective, unbiased treatment of the subject.
The second committee, the Science Writing Team (SWT), started meeting in June, 2001. Their mission was to compose the draft "standards," of which there are two categories: "indicators" and "benchmarks." (Indicators are statements of what a student should know and be able to do, i.e, learning objectives. Benchmarks are broader statements that may include several indicators. Benchmarks form the basis for questions to be asked on state assessments of students.) The Writing Team consisted of 41 people from around the state; most of the members were elementary, secondary, and post-secondary science teachers/professors. A few team members were from industry/business. The members were selected by the Department of Education following a written application process.
"Balance" vs. "bias" in the writing process.
The Department of Education gave the public the impression that the science standards writing process was a fair and open endeavor. A May 2001 ODE document (Process for Developing Ohio's Academic Content Standards) stated the following: "Writing teams will be balanced to include representation from geographic areas of the state, as well as ethnic diversity and philosophical points of view." (emphasis added) There were a number of indications early in the writing process, however, that suggested that philosophical balance in the area of biological origins would not be forthcoming.
Initial indications of philosophical bias (rather than "balance") came from the Science Advisory Committee. The SAC discussed the biological evolution issue at some length in the April-July 2001 time frame. Committee members Dr. Steven Rissing and Dr. Mano Singham gave presentations on this subject at the May 3 SAC meeting. (Both of these SAC members are university professors who come from a naturalistic, evolutionary perspective.) Neither speaker – nor anyone else on the SAC – advocated for the inclusion of evidence against evolution, or evidence supporting alternative theories like intelligent design, in the standards. No one with any in-depth knowledge of alternative positions participated in the discussion.
The Advisory Committee decided to single out biological evolution for special emphasis. They issued a "Draft position statement on teaching evolution" on June 14, 2001. Not surprisingly, their recommendation was that only biological evolution should be taught in the area of biological origins. After mentioning several "forces" of biological evolution (mutation, immigration, emigration, genetic drift, and natural selection), the statement said: "Given that these forces of biological evolution act on all life forms, they are [to be] included in the Ohio Science Academic Content standards." Among the "concepts, processes and principles" listed by the SAC for inclusion in the Life Sciences area were "biological evolution and the diversity of life" and "human biology including disease and evolution." The SAC also selected "Evolution of Life" and "Biological Evolution" as standards organizers under the Life Sciences category. (More inclusive organizers would have been "Biological Origins" and "Origin and Development of Life.")
The Science Writing Team first met in June, 2001. At their first meeting, the Team was introduced to two sets of nationally-developed standards (or templates) that were to be used as models for the Ohio benchmarks and indicators. These were the Benchmarks for Science Literacy (Project 2061, from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1993) and National Science Education Standards (NSES, from the National Academy of Sciences, 1996).
Both sets of standards are highly biased in favor of biological evolution. Neither set contains evidence not supportive of evolution, and neither set promotes the inclusion of alternative theories (like intelligent design). These are two typical examples from these documents:
"Life on earth is thought to have begun as simple, one-celled organisms about 4 billion years ago. During the first 2 billion years, only single-cell microorganisms existed, but once cells with nuclei developed about a billion years ago, increasingly complex multicellular organisms evolved." (Benchmarks, p. 125)
"The millions of different species of plants, animals, and microorganisms that live on earth today are related by descent from common ancestors." (NSES, p. 185)
These are rather typical statements that describe the theory of macroevolution (unguided common descent). Benchmarks and NSES assume Darwinian evolution to be true, and they leave no room for other alternatives.
At the July, 2001, meeting of the State Board of Education, a question was asked by a Board member regarding the treatment of evolution and design in the new science standards. ODE Science Consultant Eydie Schilling (the Department person responsible for the writing process) responded that only evolution would be included. This statement was made at a public meeting before the Writing Team had even started to compose the draft indicators. When Ms. Schilling was later asked about the reasoning behind her statement, she replied it was based on (a) recommendations in the Benchmarks and NSES documents, and (b) conclusions reached on this subject by the Advisory Committee.
Almost all of the biological evolution indicators are at the Grade 10 level (introductory high school biology). The initial draft of the Grade 10 biological evolution standards was written by the Life Sciences subgroup during the July 30 - Aug. 2 Writing Team meetings. All members of that group (seven individuals) favored teaching "evolution only" in the area of biological origins. There was no evidence that the Department of Education had made any effort to provide philosophical balance on the Writing Team in the critical area of biological origins.
Only one member of the Writing Team (Robert Lattimer) expressed concern to the Department of Education about the draft biological evolution standards. In memos to ODE officials Dr. Daniel Good (July 26, 2001) and Dr. Robert Bowers (Aug. 6, 2001), Dr. Lattimer recommended that formal presentations on the alternative theory of intelligent design be scheduled for the Writing Team and/or the Advisory Committee. The objective of this would be to introduce a measure of fairness and balance into the standards writing process. No such presentations were ever scheduled.
Dr. Lattimer, an industrial chemist, was not a member of the original Grade 10 subgroup that wrote the first draft of the biological evolution standards. At his request, Lattimer was transferred to the Life Sciences subgroup in October. At the Oct. 16-18 and Nov. 29 - Dec. 1 Writing Team meetings, he participated in this subgroup. This gave him the opportunity to express concerns with regard to the draft indicators. These discussions were cordial, but the subgroup did not change even one of the pro-evolution indicators in response to Lattimer's concerns.
Formation of an advocacy group.
In the fall of 2001, it became apparent to many observers in Ohio that the writing of the new Ohio science standards was not going to be an objective process. Instead, the draft standards relating to biological origins seemed preordained to be "evolution only" in nature. Consequently, a group of fourteen Ohioans met on Nov. 16, 2001, for the purpose of discussing the formation of an advocacy group to promote objective science standards.
The name chosen for the new group was Science Excellence for All Ohioans (SEAO). Barry Sheets, State Director of the American Family Association (AFA) of Ohio, was chosen as Moderator. SEAO described itself as "a network of concerned citizens, educators and organizations who support excellent state science standards that are fair, reasonable, and unbiased." SEAO wanted "to ensure that clear, objective and philosophically neutral standards are written in such controversial areas as environmentalism, cosmology (study of the origin and development of the universe), and biological origins (origin, development, and diversity of life on earth)." SEAO noted that while "the draft standards in the areas of environmentalism and cosmology seem reasonable to us, the draft biological origins standards are quite one-sided in their exclusive support of Darwinian evolution."
SEAO was never intended to be a highly structured "organization." Rather it was a "coalition" or "network" that sought to coordinate the efforts of many individuals and advocacy groups. Initially SEAO affiliated itself with AFA-Ohio, but later developed an informal affiliation with the national Intelligent Design network (IDnet). SEAO set up a website (www.sciohio.org), which went on-line the first of December, 2001. The group also printed a brochure and set up a speakers bureau.
SEAO's first public event was a two-part lecture on Dec. 14 at The Ohio State University by John Calvert and Jody Sjogren (managing directors of IDnet). Over the next several months, numerous presentations on the evolution-design issue were made around the state by SEAO spokespersons Jody Sjogren (a zoologist and artist), Douglas Rudy (an information technology professional), and Robert Lattimer (an industrial research scientist). In the spring of 2002, Mr. Rudy was named SEAO Director.
The "first draft" of the standards.
The Ohio Department of Education published the first draft of the science standards on its website on Dec. 1, 2001. Public comments were invited during the December-January time frame. This first draft contained only indicators (benchmarks came later), and the key section with respect to biological origins was in the Grade 10 "Evolution of Life" section. This section contained eight indicators, most of which dealt with "microevolution" (minor genetic variation, adaptation). However, two indicators (#20 and 21) supported the controversial "macroevolution" theory (descent from a common ancestry). A third indicator (#2), in the Grade 10 "Characteristics and Structure of Life" section, also endorsed macroevolution:
(#2) "Know that biological classifications are based on how organisms are related. Organisms are classified into a hierarchy of groups and subgroups based on similarities which reflect their evolutionary relationships. Species is the fundamental unit of classification."
(#20) "Analyze how natural selection and its evolutionary consequences provide a scientific explanation for the diversity and unity of all past life forms as depicted in the fossil record and present life forms."
(#21) "Know life on earth is thought to have begun as simple, one celled organisms about 4 billion years ago. During most of the history of the earth only single celled microorganisms existed, but once cells with nuclei developed about a billion years ago, increasingly complex multicellular organisms evolved."
SEAO's principal objection to these indicators was that they portrayed macroevolution as fact, rather than theory. The SEAO group was not opposed to the teaching of evolution; they just wanted biological origins to be presented objectively – that is, in a fair, reasonable, and unbiased manner. Specifically, SEAO said that teachers and students should be permitted to (a) criticize the weaker aspects of evolutionary theory, and (b) discuss alternative theories that have been proposed. The group said the "first draft" of the standards lacked objectivity in three specific ways:
The beginning of the Firestorm.
The Standards Committee of the State Board of Education is the group who had responsibility for oversight of the new science standards. The Jan. 13, 2002, meeting of the Standards Committee was most extraordinary. Attorney John Calvert, Director of the Intelligent Design network, was invited to give a 30-minute presentation on the subject of biological origins and its place in public school standards and curricula. Calvert explained that there are essentially only two scientific viewpoints about our origins – the naturalistic and design hypotheses.
The naturalistic hypothesis contains two parts, the origin of life (chemical evolution) and the origin of the diversity of life (biological evolution, or neo-Darwinism). The design hypothesis (intelligent design) holds that natural (material) processes alone are not sufficient to produce the kind of complexity we see in life. Mr. Calvert said that the scientific evidence supports the design hypothesis better than it does the naturalistic hypothesis.
Mr. Calvert stated that the "rule" of naturalism had been used to censor the evidence for design in the draft Ohio science standards. Furthermore, he said the use of the naturalistic rule had not even been disclosed in the draft standards. This failure to disclose is a case of intellectual dishonesty.
Mr. Calvert said that censoring design, the only hypothesis that competes with evolution, is not consistent with good science or the scientific method. The only way to test a hypothesis in the historical sciences is to rule out the competing hypotheses. You can't rule a hypothesis out if you don't even allow it to be considered. If you use the naturalistic rule to teach only evolution, you are indoctrinating students in a naturalistic worldview.
After Mr. Calvert's talk, ODE Science Consultant Dr. Janet Schilk gave an update on the science standards writing process. First, Dr. Schilk listed a very generic definition of evolution, namely "a change occurring through time." A definition this broad could include essentially any theory in origins science (e.g., Darwinian evolution, intelligent design, or creation science). State Board member Dr. Deborah Owens Fink pointed out that documents provided by ODE define evolution in several different ways, which merely serves to confuse the issue. Second, Dr. Schilk defined science as "a method of explaining the natural world using natural processes." This definition had not previously been presented to the Standards Committee or to the Science Writing Team.
State Board member Michael Cochran then raised a number of concerns with the process being used to develop the science standards. Mr. Cochran first noted that there was very little diversity of opinion on the Writing Team. Associate Superintendent Dr. Robert Bowers stated that there was geographic and ethnic diversity on the Team, but "we can't do that" when it comes to philosophical diversity. It wasn't clear from the discussion why more diversity of opinion or philosophy couldn't have been built in to the process of selecting the Writing Team.
There was some discussion as to how much of the standards language was taken directly from national "templates," and how much of the wording came from the Writing Team. ODE Science Consultant John Neth indicated that most of the draft standards language came from the national documents. Dr. Bowers said there had been "vigorous debate" on the origins standards within the Writing Team. Mr. Cochran disputed this claim, saying that "the process is flawed."
Towards the end of the meeting, Mr. Cochran recommended that alternative standards be developed that would include (a) evolution "as a theory or assumption," (b) clear distinctions between microevolution and macroevolution, and (c) intelligent design theory. Four other committee members concurred with this idea: Richard Baker, Deborah Owens Fink, Marlene Jennings, and Susan Westendorf. One Board member dissented (Martha Wise), and three committee members (Virgil Brown, Thomas McClain, and Joseph Roman) did not offer an opinion.
When a majority of the Standards Committee members said they favored Mr. Cochran's proposal, this precipitated a crisis among the ODE personnel. Dr. Daniel Good, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, indicated there could be a problem if only one other view (intelligent design) was included. (Recall that Mr. Calvert in his presentation stated that there were really only two alternatives – evolution and design.)
Dr. Bowers went so far as to suggest that Writing Team members and policy people might resign if the ongoing process were circumvented. Board President Jennifer Sheets suggested that the Board needed some time to consider the options. Committee Co-chair Joseph Roman adjourned the meeting with an agreement to reconvene two days later (Jan. 15).
The Jan. 15 meeting resulted in a tentative plan to address the origins issue. A special Standards Committee meeting was scheduled for Feb. 4 to discuss possible options and formulate plans for a public forum on biological origins.
Several reporters were present at the Jan. 13 meeting, and newspapers around the state broke the story the next day. Newspaper editorials were uniformly critical of the Standard Committee's intervention. The Akron Beacon Journal (editorial, Jan. 16, 2002) said, for example, that the State Board "should stick to science." The paper opined that the "majority consensus of scientists and a preponderance of scientific evidence ... [supports] the theory that living beings evolved from more simple species." It was concluded that "explorations of intelligent design, creationism and other faith-based theories should be left for churches, mosques, synagogues and homes." The "Ohio Firestorm" (a term first used by John Calvert) continued for the rest of the year.
Debate in the Standards Committee.
The Standards Committee met for nearly four hours on Feb. 4, 2002, to discuss the teaching of biological evolution. Dr. David Haury, a science education professor at The Ohio State University, met with the Committee for a large part of their meeting. Haury promoted an "evolution only" position on the Life Sciences standards; that is, he said that alternatives to evolution (such as intelligent design) should not be included.
Dr. Haury first discussed several terms that are pertinent to the controversy. He stated that science deals only with "the material universe or physical reality." In science, "proof is not possible in the strictest sense of the term." He said that scientific hypotheses or theories can be falsified or disproved, however, by the results of key experiments or observations.
Dr. Haury acknowledged that evolution is a term with multiple meanings. One definition simply states that evolution is a "change over time." A second definition is a "change in the genetic composition (gene frequency) in a population over time." This definition encompasses microevolution (minor genetic changes), or what Haury referred to as the "fact" of evolution. The third definition is "descent with modification," or what might be called macroevolution. Haury did not seem to mind the use of the terms microevolution and macroevolution, but he stated that the mechanisms involved are the same in both cases. (This supposition is, of course, debated among both proponents and opponents of biological evolution.)
Dr. Haury then gave an overview of court cases dealing with the teaching of evolution. He said that public schools (a) could not prohibit the teaching of evolution, (b) could not teach "creation science," and (c) could require teachers to follows curriculum requirements which specify the teaching of evolution.
Overall Dr. Haury presented a strongly biased viewpoint that supported the exclusive teaching of biological evolution in public schools. Some State Board members (particularly Deborah Owens Fink and Michael Cochran) challenged Haury on a number of points. Haury was chastised for discussing legal cases that do not pertain to Ohio. Dr. Owens Fink and Mr. Cochran stated that no one on the State Board has suggested the teaching of creationism or the exclusion of biological evolution.
When asked about teaching alternative theories, Dr. Haury seemed to imply this is unnecessary since evolution is "one of the most robust theories in science." When pressed, however, he conceded that its stronger points (e.g., microevolution) and weaker points (macroevolution) could be addressed in the curriculum. Haury conceded that evolutionary theory does not address the origin of life, and Mr. Cochran suggested this should be stated in the standards. Haury further acknowledged that there is as yet no well established naturalistic theory for the origin of life.
When questioned about some of his definitions, Dr. Haury admitted that "argument within science is common." When asked whether debate on scientific issues should be carried out in public schools, Haury said that this is "healthy." He cautioned about debate on certain topics, however. He opined that "intelligent design is not a debate that occurs in the general scientific community." Haury suggested that topics dealing with alternative theories and the scientific method could be dealt with under the "Scientific Ways of Knowing" strand in the standards.
The Committee agreed on participants for a March 11 public "forum" on the biological origins issue. Representing the intelligent design viewpoint would be Dr. Jonathan Wells and Dr. Stephen Meyer. Representing the biological evolution viewpoint would be Dr. Lawrence Krauss and Dr. Kenneth Miller.
The February Writing Team meeting.
The Science Writing Team met on Feb. 7-9, 2002, to consider public comments on the first draft of the science standards. (Public comments had been received during December and January.) Not surprisingly, the topic most on the minds of the public was the biological evolution standards. Of the comments sent in by mail (e-mail or letter), two-thirds (68%) dealt with this topic. 54% of the respondents who commented on biological origins requested standards with both evolution and alternative theories (like intelligent design) included. On the Department's internet comments website, the largest number of responses dealt with the biological evolution standards. Roughly equal numbers of respondents favored and disfavored the indicators.
The Writing Team as a whole had an open discussion on the teaching of evolution for over an hour on Feb. 8. Various perspectives were given. Several Team members expressed support for presenting diverse views in the biological origins standards, but most members thought that only evolution should be taught. The Team then received a shortened version of Dr. Haury's presentation.
The Life Sciences subgroup (seven people) discussed the disputed Grade 10 indicators for over two hours on Feb. 8. In the end, the subgroup chose to dismiss all of the concerns that were expressed in public comments. In particular, the main concern expressed by the public was that the standards give monolithic support to biological evolution with no hint that there might be an alternative explanation for the development and diversity of life. In a rather blatant rejection of the public comment process, six of seven subgroup members felt no need to make any changes to accommodate the input. (Subgroup member Robert Lattimer was the exception.) Thus the biological evolution standards remained essentially unchanged from the first draft.
The Life Sciences subgroup did make one significant addition to the standards. A new indicator was added to the Grade 10 "Scientific Ways of Knowing" strand: "Scientific knowledge is limited to natural explanations for natural phenomena (material world perceived by our senses or technological extensions)." This was a disclosure of the use of the naturalistic assumption in the science standards. Prior to this, the draft standards did not contain any "definition" of science.
The State Board of Education held a "Panel Presentation" on the origin and diversity of life on March 11, 2002, at Veteran's Memorial Auditorium in Columbus. About 1500 participants (reporters, state officials, and the public) were present. Standards Committee Co-chair Joseph Roman introduced the session, and Board Chair Jennifer Sheets served as Moderator. Each panelist gave a 15-minute introduction, and then several questions written by State Board members were addressed by the panel.
Dr. Jonathan Wells (a biologist from the Discovery Institute) was the first presenter. Dr. Wells' main goal was to show that there is a scientific controversy over the evidence for biological evolution. He pointed out that much of the evidence that supports evolutionary theory is either false or misleading. Inaccuracies in ten of the most common evidences for evolution are exposed in Dr. Wells' book Icons of Evolution (2000). Wells gave an example from Icons – the faked drawings of embryos made by German biologist Ernst Haeckel.
Dr. Wells next discussed Darwin's "tree of life" (also discussed in Icons), the concept that life started as a single organism and then "evolved" along spreading branches to form all the species of life found today and in the fossil record. He pointed out how the "Cambrian explosion" (an abrupt appearance of several major animal phyla in the fossil record) essentially turns the "tree of life" concept upside down. This "explosion" would not be predicted from Darwin's theory of gradual development via mutation and natural selection. Dr. Wells presented a list of 100 credentialed scientists who question some parts of evolutionary theory.
Dr. Wells described intelligent design (ID) as a theory about detecting intelligent causes. He described the concepts of "specified complexity" (as described by Dr. William Dembski) and "irreducible complexity" (as defined by Dr. Michael Behe). He said that intelligent design draws an inference from biological evidence; it is not a deduction from religion. ID is not creationism since it does not address the nature of the "designer." He closed with the rhetorical question: "Should teachers be allowed to tell students about the controversy?"
Dr. Lawrence Krauss (a physicist from Case Western Reserve University) attempted to discredit the design movement by casting aspersion on its adherents and tenets. Krauss said that ID is "an assault on science." He accused ID proponents of "knowingly misrepresenting" the evidence. He said there is "no disagreement in the scientific community about the fact of evolution," and he criticized ID for avoiding the normal processes of debate in scientific conferences and peer-reviewed journals. Krauss said ID cannot be tested and doesn't make predictions.
Dr. Krauss' presentation was mostly an argument against design; he talked very little about the evidence supporting evolution. He did concede that "there are gaps in the fossil record," but he left the impression that evolutionists will eventually know all the details of life's development. He said that the "scientific method" is dedicated to the use of "methodological naturalism" - that is, only natural (material) explanations in science are permitted. Acceptance of naturalism would, of course, eliminate ID by fiat. He concluded it would be a "waste of time" for students to study ID as an alternative to evolution. Overall, Krauss' tone was derisive and dogmatic.
Dr. Stephen Meyer (a philosopher of science from Whitworth College and Discovery Institute) said that biological origins is a controversial subject. He argued that the best curricular approach would be to "teach the controversy." Students should learn various aspects and viewpoints and be tested for comprehension of the subject – not for acceptance of a particular position.
Dr. Meyer defined science as "the systematic search for the best explanation of natural phenomena, not the best naturalistic explanation." He said that the definition of science is part of the controversy and should be taught to students as such. He disagreed with Dr. Krauss that ID had not been through any peer review process; he said Dembski's book The Design Inference and Behe's Darwin's Black Box had both been peer-reviewed prior to publication. Meyer pointed out that historically other scientists had introduced their theories through books (not journal articles), including Charles Darwin (On the Origin of Species). Dr. Meyer distributed a list of 40 peer-reviewed articles containing viewpoints dissenting from Neo-Darwinian theory.
The highlight of Dr. Meyer's talk was the proposal of a "teach the controversy" approach to teaching biological origins. He had four points: (1) teach the controversy surrounding biological evolution (evidence for and against), (2) permit (not mandate) alternative theories to be presented, (3) use no (naturalistic) definition of science that would eliminate alternative theories, and (4) permit (not mandate) the teaching of intelligent design. Dr. Meyer said that this "compromise" approach is supportive of the Santorum language in the conference report to the federal "No Child Left Behind Act" (H.R. 1), passed by Congress in December 2001. This says (in part): "Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society."
Dr. Kenneth Miller (a biologist from Brown University) spent most of his time trying to refute the arguments made by Drs. Wells and Meyer. Miller claimed that Wells had misrepresented some of the evidence in Icons of Evolution. He suggested that Behe's "irreducibly complex" systems could plausibly be explained by natural mechanisms. Miller said that outside intelligence is not required to explain the origin of biological information (although he failed to present a feasible naturalistic mechanism).
Dr. Miller stated the argument of dysteleology ("bad design"), the supposition that a good designer would not have made some of the "poor" designs we find in nature. He pointed out that nearly all of the species that have existed on earth are extinct, which (to him) indicates that the "designer must be incompetent." Miller concluded by saying he "is a religious person," and he resented the implication that evolution might be atheistic in nature.
The last hour or so of the panel presentation was devoted to questions from State Board members. In general the answers merely served to reinforce points made earlier. One question asked for more detail on the definition of science. Miller and Krauss argued for "naturalistic" science, while Wells and Meyer said that invoking naturalism unfairly limits science inquiry.
Another question asked for clarification of the Santorum language in H.B. 1. Miller and Krauss said the language isn't valid since it isn't in the bill itself. Wells and Meyer argued that the conference report, where the Santorum language resides, is also important since it says how the law is to be interpreted. When asked how students can become excited about science, Wells and Meyer noted that teaching the controversy over biological origins is a great way to motivate students to learn.
A question about "freedom of speech" (academic freedom) drew some interesting answers. Miller and Krauss both seemed to agree that teachers should be able to address different viewpoints on origins, although they obviously didn't want alternatives to evolution to be part of the state standards. Meyer and Wells re-emphasized the teach-the-controversy approach, and said that teachers should be protected when they want to present alternatives.
When asked about a distinction between micro- and macro-evolution, Miller characterized evolution's opponents as "pretending" that any evidence you actually see is "microevolution." (But the fact is that no one has ever observed macroevolution.) He said we are "only beginning to understand body formation in relation to genes." Wells suggested it is very speculative to extrapolate from (observable) microevolution to (unobservable) macroevolution.
A final question concerned the "Cambrian explosion" as evidence for design. Krauss suggested the phenomenon was a "response to environmental factors." Miller said the Cambrian explosion is an "exciting opportunity for evolution," and that there must be predecessors to Cambrian phyla (even though the fossil evidence is sparse or nonexistent). Wells nicely refuted this contention by citing work of Chinese paleontologists that shows that any Cambrian predecessors should have left fossil remains. Meyer concluded that the Cambrian explosion "does support the design hypothesis."
Overall the "debate" on March 11 was pretty even, and who won may largely depend on one's viewpoint going in. The design proponents, Drs. Wells and Meyer, were the underdogs, and their main objectives were (a) to show that design advocates are serious scientists and (b) to demonstrate that there is a scientific controversy over biological origins. Drs. Krauss and Miller represented the pro-evolution science establishment, and their main objectives were (a) to discredit design theory and its proponents and (b) to show that there is no controversy over the "fact" of evolution.
By these measures, Drs. Wells and Meyer were the winners – but not by a large margin. The panel discussion was clearly about science – and the Wells-Meyer team certainly demonstrated an in-depth knowledge of the subject at hand and its technical intricacies. At the end, the Krauss-Miller argument that "there is no controversy" sounded quite hollow.
On the other hand, the modern synthesis of intelligent design is not yet well established in the scientific community. Its legitimacy is debated (in part because the definition of science is debated), and ID needs further development before it can enter the mainstream of science. But again it should be noted that Dr. Meyer took ID "off the table" at the beginning of the forum when he proposed that ID need not be mandated in the standards.
The Meyer-Wells proposal to "teach the controversy" (teach both sides of the issue) sounded attractive to many observers. It avoids making political decisions over thorny questions like evolution vs. design and traditional science vs. naturalism (you teach evidence for and against evolution, and you discuss various definitions of science). It promotes academic freedom for teachers and critical thinking for students. It is consistent with new federal law (H.B. 1) and the neutrality of government on a matter touching on religion. Because the controversy over origins is inherently interesting, it promotes enthusiasm for studying biology.
The pro-establishment duo, Drs. Krauss and Miller, ultimately failed to produce logical reasons why the various controversies shouldn't be taught. A State Board member was overheard after the panel saying: "You know, the compromise proposal may be the way to go."
At the Ohio House of Representatives Education Committee meeting on March 5, 2002, State Representative Linda Reidelbach presented sponsor testimony for two new bills, House Bills 481 and 484. H.B. 481 (introduced Jan. 23, 2002) called for origins-of-life science to be presented objectively and without bias, and H.B. 484 (introduced Jan. 24, 2002) called for a joint resolution of the General Assembly before new science standards could be adopted by the State Board of Education.
The House Education Committee met again on March 12, and this time testimony was given by Dr. Wells, Dr. Meyer, John Calvert, and Dr. David DeWolf (Gonzaga University law professor). Drs. Wells and Meyer briefly outlined their proposed teach-the-controversy approach to biological origins, saying it is consistent with the theme of H.B. 481. Dr. DeWolf discussed the Santorum language in the federal H.B. 1, and its consistency with the aims of Ohio's H.B. 481. If the Santorum position is adopted in Ohio, said DeWolf, "it protects federal funding" for education. Mr. Calvert, who was instrumental in composing the language for H.B. 481, stressed that the bill would promote academic freedom for teachers, critical thinking for students, and government neutrality on a matter (biological origins) that touches on religion.
Unfortunately, this is as far as the two bills progressed in the Ohio General Assembly. House and Senate leadership (along with Gov. Robert Taft) determined that the bills would "die" without floor votes, so no further hearings were held in the House Education Committee. (No hearings were ever held in the Ohio Senate.) The presence of these bills did serve to exert some pressure on the State Board of Education to resolve the science standards debate, however. Thus they appear to have served a useful purpose, even though neither bill became law.
Second draft and public input.
The "second draft" of the science standards was posted on the Department of Education website on April 1, 2002. Like the first draft, the "revised" standards considered biological evolution as the only possible explanation for the origin and diversity of life.
ODE invited the public to comment on the second draft during the months of April and May. Science Excellence for All Ohioans led the effort to get thousands of Ohioans to respond by sending e-mails, letters and phone calls to the Department. The April 22 Focus on the Family radio program featured the Ohio origins standards issue. Guests on the program were Dr. Deborah Owens Fink and Dr. Stephen Meyer. Focus on the Family also sent a letter to all its Ohio supporters, asking citizens to contact Department of Education officials about the science standards. A number of radio spots were also aired throughout Ohio asking people to give input to the state.
On May 11 and 12, the new video "Icons of Evolution" was shown by five Ohio television stations. These broadcasts were sponsored by Discovery Institute, Focus on the Family, and Citizens for Community Values. "Icons" is an excellent video based on the book by the same title by Jonathan Wells.
These and other media events in Ohio resulted in a virtual flood of e-mails, letters, and phone calls to state officials. This massive citizen input caused the State Board of Education to begin to realize that the objective teaching of biological origins is very important to constituents.
Zogby Ohio poll.
A Zogby International poll released on May 10, 2002, showed strong agreement (65%) among Ohioans for an educational policy that "Biology teachers should teach Darwin's theory of evolution, but also the scientific evidence against it." In a follow-up question, 78% of Ohioans polled agreed with the statement: "When Darwin's theory of evolution is taught in school, students should also be able to learn about scientific evidence that points to an intelligent design of life."
Plain Dealer feature.
On May 12, 2002, the Cleveland Plain Dealer published a feature story on Dr. Robert Lattimer's role in the biological origins debate in Ohio. The article was more than two full pages in length, with pictures. While the article contained some factual errors, it gave a strong boost to the objective teaching of biological origins in Ohio. The two reporters, John Mangels and Scott Stephens, opined in the article that the teach-the-controversy side was "winning" the debate! This was a great confidence builder at the time.
On June 9, 2002, the results of an extensive Mason-Dixon poll (sponsored by the Cleveland Plain Dealer) were released. In this poll, 74% of Ohioans said that evidence for and against evolution should be taught, and a clear majority (59%) specifically favored the inclusion of intelligent design. Only 13% of those polled favored naturalistic evolution as the explanation of the origin and development of life on earth. Almost all of the rest (83%) favored some form of design by intelligence (either creationism, theistic evolution, or action by an unspecified designer). The Plain Dealer, in a June 11 editorial, embraced (at least in part) the teach-the-controversy approach. The editorial said that "the best option [for the standards] would be simply to teach evolution honestly, explaining the theory's strengths and weaknesses, as well as the truth that plenty of gaps exist in man's knowledge about life's development."
The final Writing Team draft.
The Standards Committee of the State Board of Education met on June 10, 2002, and assembled a set of "Suggestions" for modifying the science standards. This list was considered by the Science Writing Team at their final meetings on June 23-26. Many of the Suggestions proposed by the Standards Committee were incorporated into the draft standards, but the changes were all rather minor in nature. For example, references to the origin of the universe and the origin of life were removed, and "evolution of life" was changed to "evolution theory." None of the suggestions addressed any of the concerns outlined in the teach-the-controversy approach.
At the time of the Writing Team meetings, public input on the draft standards was still being received and tabulated by the Department of Education. Over 9000 responses had been compiled as of June 24, with most of them favoring the inclusion of both evolution and design in the standards. However, when the Writing Team completed its work on June 26, the evolution-only draft standards remained essentially unchanged. Evidence against Darwinian evolution was not included, alternative theories were not mentioned, and the naturalistic definition of science remained. In short, the Writing Team basically ignored public input and polling data which showed that a large majority of Ohioans favor the inclusion of both evolution and design.
A quiet summer.
The months of July and August, 2002, were relatively quiet for the science standards debate. Some "expert reviews" of the draft standards were obtained by the Department of Education in July, and Department personnel put the final touches on the draft standards in August.
Public input continued to flow in to the Department of Education. In August, SEAO and other concerned groups started a new campaign of citizen input, this time to the Governor. Gov. Taft was up for re-election in November, 2002, and he was concerned about support from conservative voters. The Governor in Ohio has considerable influence over the State Board of Education, since he appoints eight of the nineteen Board members. During the August-October period, the Governor's office was inundated with thousands of letters and phone calls asking for implementation of the teach-the-controversy approach. Gov. Taft received more input on the science standards than he had received on any other issue during his tenure. The Governor was instrumental in urging the State Board to find a satisfactory resolution to the evolution-design controversy.
The Science Advisory Committee met on August 20 to discuss the draft standards. Members of the SAC expressed displeasure (and some anger) at the rather modest changes that were made to the standards at the June 24-26 Writing Team meetings. The Committee seemed especially bothered about the removal of references to the origin of life and the attachment of the word "theory" to evolution. In the minds of the SAC members, these changes softened the evolution-only stance of the biological origins section.
SEAO's position on these changes was stated by Robert Lattimer in a letter that appeared in the Akron Beacon Journal on Sept. 1, 2002: "Proponents of teach-the-controversy had nothing to do with the modest changes to the draft standards made in June. Adding a couple terms ('evolution theory' and 'speciation') and removing another one ('origin of life') simply do not address our concerns." In other words, the changes that the Advisory Committee complained about did not affect the teach-the-controversy proposal one way or the other. The draft standards still maintained an evolution-only stance.
In the end, the Advisory Committee reluctantly endorsed the draft standards and did not request any more changes. Committee member Dr. Steven Rissing put it this way: "They are not perfect. The standards have compromise in them. I would rate them a 'six' out of 'ten.' "
September State Board deliberations.
The draft standards for both science and social studies were considered by the State Board's Standards Committee at their meeting on Sept. 9, 2002. The committee members were aware of the strong public opinion favoring some modification of the biological origins standards, and the committee seemed to be searching for a way to satisfy as many people as possible. As the committee was discussing the draft social studies standards, Board member Richard Baker brought up the idea of including intelligent design as part of that subject area. This triggered some discussion, but nothing definite was decided.
During the discussion of the science standards, Board member Michael Cochran asked how the Board should respond to the more than 12,000 Ohioans who gave input to the Department requesting that intelligent design be included with evolution in the science standards. Board member James Craig said that there was "nothing scientific" about this input. Board member Deborah Owens Fink responded that the June Cleveland Plain Dealer poll was scientific, and that Ohioans "who pay for education" want both theories taught.
In the end Committee Co-chair Joseph Roman asked that committee members who wished to suggest changes to the standards get back to him with specific ideas by Sept. 27. He said that the Standards Committee would consider modifications at its Oct. 14 meeting, and then both the science and social studies documents would be forwarded to the full Board.
The full State Board met on Sept. 10. The science standards were not on the voting agenda, but the Board listened attentively to over an hour of testimony during the "public participation" part of the meeting. Three people urged the Board to adopt the evolution-only draft science standards without change. Ten people spoke in favor of modifications to the standards based on the teach-the-controversy approach. Three of these were SEAO spokespersons.
October Standards Committee meeting.
The Standards Committee of the State Board of Education met on Oct. 14, 2002, for the purpose of discussing possible changes to the draft science standards. Michael Cochran, Deborah Owens Fink, and James Turner submitted three modifications:
(1) Replace the "naturalistic definition" of science in Grade 10, "Nature of Science," indicator #3, with the following: "Recognize that science is a systematic method of continuing investigation, based on observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, and theory building, which leads to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena."
(2) Add a new indicator (#23) in Grade 10, "Evolutionary Theory": "Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory."
(3) Add the same language to benchmark H in Grade 10, "Evolutionary Theory": "Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory."
In committee discussion, a question was asked about the meaning of "aspects" in the proposed language. Mr. Cochran responded: "I think 'analyze aspects' of evolution means any part of it. I think this reflects that there is still some debate in the scientific community." Another question asked why evolution should be singled out for critical analysis. Dr. Owens Fink responded: "From the public response to this issue [about 20,000 comments to date, most supporting teach-the-controversy], it is clear that evolutionary theory needed special treatment. We didn't get public response like this on any other theory."
All three changes were approved by identical 6-1-1 votes. Those voting "yes" were Michael Cochran, James Craig, Thomas McClain, Deborah Owens Fink, Joseph Roman, and Susan Westendorf. (Marlene Jennings voted "no," and Martha Wise abstained. Richard Baker was absent.)
Committee Co-chairs Joseph Roman and Thomas McClain proposed a change in Grade 10, "Evolutionary Theory," indicator #25: "Explain that life on Earth is thought to have begun as simple, one-celled organisms approximately 4 billion years ago." This statement was originally in the draft standards but had been removed in June. The committee approved this change by an 8-0 vote. It may be noted that this is the only reference to the "origin of life" in the standards; the sentence says nothing about how life might have originated.
October State Board meeting.
The full State Board met on Oct. 15 for the purpose of considering a resolution of intent to adopt the science standards. In public testimony, twenty-three witnesses spoke on this issue. Only four people supported "evolution only" standards. The other nineteen (including seven Ph.D. scientists) called for implementation of the teach-the-controversy approach.
During Board discussion, Marlene Jennings proposed several changes that would have strengthened the pro-evolution language in the standards. Theses changes were defeated by a 7-10 vote.
Prior to the Board vote on the entire standards, Deborah Owens Fink explained the intent behind the new indicator calling for critical analysis of evolutionary theory: "This is not ID [intelligent design]. ID is specifically not mentioned and will not be tested. This is not religious perspectives. So, in summary, what does this really mean? It means very simply, to present differing views [of evolutionary theory] together – the scientific evidence that supports and that does not support each of these views."
Michael Cochran followed with these comments: "I absolutely do support this compromise. I in no way for the record believe that this at all advocates for the teaching of creationism in school or intelligent design. I think the standards are clearly limited to scientific controversy.... We do know from the testimony that there are differing opinions on various parts of evolutionary theory ... and students ought to be exposed to that."
The "resolution of intent" to adopt the science standards was approved by a 17-0 vote (Virgil Brown, Michael Cochran, James Craig, Virginia Jacobs, Marlene Jennings, Thomas McClain, Deborah Owens Fink, Cyrus Richardson, Joseph Roman, G. R. (Sam) Schloemer, Jennifer Sheets, Jennifer Stewart, Jo Thatcher, James Turner, Susan Westendorf, Carl Wick, Martha Wise). Richard Baker and Emerson Ross were absent.
After the vote, Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan T. Zelman commended the Board for their hard work on the science standards and for carefully considering the public input. She said the new science standards could serve as a "model to the nation."
Reaction to the compromise agreement.
In editorials on Oct. 17, both the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Cincinnati Enquirer praised the new standards. The Plain Dealer said "the path Ohio education officials picked represented the best outcome possible amid this heated debate.... The solution maintains evolution's place as the most widely accepted scientific explanation of the origins of life, but satisfies critics by allowing teachers to explore questions about it." The Enquirer said: "Those supporting ID are pleased that the standards open the theory [of evolution] to debate.... The truth is there are gaps in human knowledge about life's beginnings and development. Let's just say that and keep striving to answer those questions."
Dr. Stephen Meyer (Discovery Institute), the person who introduced the teach-the-controversy proposal in March, stated: "The new language is a clear victory for students, parents, and scientists in Ohio who have been calling for a 'teach the controversy' approach to evolution. The Board should be commended for insisting that Ohio students learn about scientific criticisms of evolutionary theory as a part of a good science education. Such a policy represents science education at its very best, and it promotes the academic freedom of students and teachers who want to explore the full range of scientific views over evolution."
State Board hearing on standards.
On Nov. 12, 2002, the State Board of Education held a public hearing on the draft science and social studies standards. (This hearing was required by law prior to final adoption of the standards by the Board.) Twenty-one citizens spoke on the science standards, and nineteen of these concentrated on the evolution-design issue. Twelve witnesses spoke in favor of the teach-the-controversy approach, and seven supported an evolution-only position.
Interestingly, all seven of the pro-evolutionists objected to the language added Oct. 15: "Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory." Their main point was that evolutionary theory should not be "singled out" with regard to critical analysis. That is, all scientific theories should be subject to analysis as new evidence comes to light. Their proposal was to move this indicator from the "Life Sciences" section to "Scientific Ways of Knowing," while changing the term "evolutionary theory" to "scientific theories." (It may be noted that four of these speakers were leaders of the pro-evolution movement in Ohio: Drs. Steven Rissing, Steven Edinger, Patricia Princehouse, and David Haury.)
As mentioned above, twelve of the witnesses supported the teach-the-controversy approach in some way. Melanie Elsey spoke directly against the proposal made by the pro-evolutionists. She pointed out that their notion of critically analyzing all theories is already largely covered by other indicators. She specifically mentioned these: (a) Grade 10, "Scientific Ways of Knowing" #2: "Describe that scientists may disagree about explanations of phenomena, about interpretation of data or about the value of rival theories, but they do agree that questioning, response to criticism and open communication are integral to the process of science"; (b) Grade 10, "Scientific Inquiry" #5: "Explain how new scientific data can cause any existing scientific explanation to be supported, revised or rejected"; and (c) Grade 11, "Scientific Inquiry" #2: "Evaluate assumptions that have been used in reaching scientific conclusions."
Several of the speakers supporting teach-the-controversy admonished the Board that the "compromise language" adopted in October still left some problem areas in the standards. Namely, (a) microevolution (minor variation within a species) is not distinguished from macroevolution (descent from a common ancestry), (b) experimental sciences (like chemistry and physics) are not distinguished from historical sciences (like biological origins), (c) several indicators/benchmarks still present macroevolution as "fact," rather than theory, (d) the language calling for presentation of evidence for and against macroevolution is not very specific, and (e) explicit protection is not given for teachers who choose to discuss alternative theories. Nevertheless, most of these witnesses said that the current draft standards provided a workable compromise that would – if properly followed – allow teachers to discuss the controversy surrounding evolutionary theory.
Presentation to the House and Senate Education Committees.
On Nov. 13, 2002, State Supt. Zelman presented the draft science and social studies standards to a joint meeting of the Ohio House and Senate Education Committees. This hearing was required by Senate Bill 1 (2001) before adoption of the new standards. This was simply a presentation or review of the standards; the legislative committees were not required by law to formally approve the standards.
In her opening remarks, Dr. Zelman praised all of those involved in the writing process. She emphasized the extensive work carried out by many people on developing the standards, and she noted the many forms of public input that were used to develop feedback during the writing process. Over 30,000 comments were received from the public on the draft standards. (Nearly all of these comments dealt with the evolution-design issue – and most of these supported the teach-the-controversy approach.) The Superintendent said "I believe these standards will be a model for the entire country, and I am very proud to review them with you."
The legislators asked numerous questions to Dr. Zelman after her opening statement. Nearly all of the science questions dealt with the evolution-design issue. Rep. Twyla Roman asked whether biological evolution would be included on state achievement and diagnostic tests. She expressed concern that if students are tested on evolution, this essentially mandates that schools teach it. Dr. Zelman replied: "There is no doubt the assessment does drive the curriculum." She said "evolution is very much a part of science, so I do suspect that [it] ... will be in our assessments." With regard to instruction, Dr. Zelman said "we will give in our curriculum model probably some good examples about how to deal with some specific controversial issues [surrounding evolutionary theory], and we hope to be able to give teachers [information about] how to present these in an intellectually honest way."
Rep. Roman also noted that there are several places in the standards where the wording indicates evolution is a "fact" rather than a "theory." She said "it's not made clear that these are theories," and "I'm concerned with how this is presented in the classroom based on the draft standards." Dr. Zelman essentially deferred the question to Eydie Schilling, a Department administrator. Ms. Schilling noted that both national guidelines and input from Ohioans are reflected in the evolution standards: "The document tries to provide the basic foundation of what is in the current national documents and what we have found that the experts feel is important, as well as listening to what Ohioans thought was important." She explained that "the overriding idea is that it [evolutionary theory] should be looked at critically." Senate Education Chair Robert Gardner pointed out that the "investigate and critically analyze" language "sets a framework for everything you're going to talk about." He noted that "you're teaching that up front first."
Rep. Linda Reidelbach asked for some assurance that "there would be a balance of professionals who are on the writing team" for developing the curriculum model. Dr. Zelman replied: "I will tell you that I will make a commitment that in our curriculum model we will deal with this controversial issue, and that we will do so in an intellectually honest way, to protect the spirit of [indicator] #23 'to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory,' and try to give examples about how to do that."
Rep. Diana Fessler asked: "Dr. Zelman, would you please clearly reaffirm that the intent of the amendments that were offered by Dr. Owens Fink and Mike Cochran in that 17-0 vote did require the presentation of scientific evidence supporting and not supporting macroevolution?" Dr. Zelman answered, ""I will certainly reaffirm the intent of the three amendments."
The State Board decision.
The State Board of Education met on Dec. 10, 2002, for final adoption of the draft science standards. For several days prior to the vote, pro-evolution forces were encouraging State Board members to change the "compromise language" which says students should "describe how scientists today continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory."
In a Dec. 6 article in the Akron Beacon Journal, Lynn Elfner (Ohio Academy of Sciences) asked: "Why single out the theory of evolution when there are dozens of other theories in science that are critically analyzed every day?" Elfner and other pro-evolution spokespersons proposed that the compromise language be removed or else the phrase "aspects of evolutionary theory" be changed to "scientific theories."
In a last-minute effort to build their case, pro-evolution forces brought in Dr. Eugenie Scott (National Center for Science Education) to address teachers and the public at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU, Dec. 7 and 8). Pro-evolution Prof. Lawrence Krauss (CWRU) then spoke at a Cleveland City Club Forum on Dec. 9.
At the pivotal Dec. 10 State Board meeting, twenty-one citizens spoke on the science standards during the Public Participation period. Fifteen of these (eleven with doctoral degrees) supported teaching-the-controversy over biological evolution. All fifteen speakers urged the State Board not to remove or modify the compromise language.
As it turned out, Standards Committee Co-chair Joseph Roman proposed a parenthetical amendment to the "critical analysis" indicator and benchmark: "The intent of this indicator [benchmark] does not mandate the teaching or testing of intelligent design." The amendment was added because some Board members were concerned that the compromise language might be misinterpreted to mean that students would be taught and tested on intelligent design. This was never the intent of the Board, but the Dec. 10 addendum apparently alleviated their concerns. Without the amendment (some called it a "disclaimer"), perhaps half a dozen Board members would have voted against the standards.
For supporters of teach-the-controversy, this amendment does not detract from the original compromise language and, in fact, it actually has some positive aspects. First, it helps to clarify the original intent of the compromise language, namely to require students to learn about evidence for and against biological evolution (the theory of common descent). Second, by saying that ID is not mandated, the amendment implies that discussion of alternative theories like ID is permissible in the science classroom. Third, by mentioning intelligent design specifically, the amendment gives some legitimacy to the term.
The three key supporters of teach-the-controversy on the Board (Deborah Owens Fink, Michael Cochran, and James Turner) all spoke in favor of the amendment. Martha Wise, who had previously advocated for a change in the compromise language, also expressed support for the amendment. With no further discussion, the amendment language was approved by an 18-0 vote. The Board then voted 18-0 to adopt the entire science standards document. (Board member Virgil Brown was absent from the meeting.)
Implementation of teach-the-controversy.
In March, 2002, Science Excellence for All Ohioans adopted the teach-the-controversy proposal as its main goal for the science standards. As described by SEAO, the proposal has these three points: (a) teach the evidence for and against biological evolution (macroevolution – the theory of undirected common descent), (b) permit, but not require, teachers to discuss alternative theories such as intelligent design, and (c) adopt a definition of science that allows for consideration of all logical explanations for phenomena in nature.
It is most pleasing that the final standards contain all three points:
*Point (a). "Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory." (This is "indicator #23.") It would be better if this indicator were more specific, but that's the strongest language that the majority of Board members would agree to. Nevertheless, the stated intent of this language is to teach evidence for and against biological evolution.
*Point (b). "The intent does not mandate the teaching or testing of intelligent design." (This is a parenthetical amendment to indicator #23.) Again, this language could be more specific, but (as explained in the preceding section) it nevertheless accomplishes the goal.
*Point (c). "Recognize that science is a systematic method of continuing investigation, based on observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, and theory building, which leads to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena." This is an excellent definition. It replaced a naturalistic explanation that excluded consideration of intelligent design (or any supernatural cause). The new definition is quite satisfactory in that it allows for consideration of all logical explanations.
Reaction to the standards.
Predictably, most major newspapers in Ohio failed to report accurately the potential impact of the new standards. Some went so far as to suggest that the teaching of alternatives to evolution was essentially banned under the new guidelines. One exception was the Toledo Blade. Reporter Sandra Svoboda, in her Dec. 11 article ('Design' of life may be taught as science), effectively captured the essence of the new state guidelines. Svoboda correctly stated that local school districts will "be allowed to critically analyze that theory [biological evolution] and consider alternative concepts such as the intelligent design concept that life may have been designed by a nonspecified power." The article also noted that Ohio is "the first state to include the words 'intelligent design' in its adopted science curriculum."
A number of groups that had advocated for the teach-the-controversy approach praised the State Board and the new standards:
*Science Excellence for All Ohioans commended the Board for adopting language that "substantially incorporates the teach-the-controversy approach to instruction in biological origins." At the same time, SEAO noted that "the language in the evolutionary theory sections is still problematic in numerous places." Overall, however, SEAO reasoned that the new standards "will contribute substantially to better objectivity in biological origins instruction."
*Dr. Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute called the language requiring critical analysis of biological evolution "historic." He said that "Ohio has become the first state to require students to learn about scientific criticisms of Darwinian evolution as well as scientific evidence supporting the theory." Meyer noted that while the standards do not mandate intelligent design instruction, they do "leave teachers free to discuss it."
*Intelligent Design network congratulated the Board for voting "18-0 for objectivity and academic freedom and against censorship of competing ideas." IDnet said the "key action taken by the Board involved the replacement of a naturalistic definition of science with a logical definition that is consistent with the scientific method."
*Focus on the Family (CitizenLink) said that the "recent unanimous decision by the Ohio State Board of Education to require critical analysis of evolution makes it clear Ohio is leading the way in changing evolution from being taught as 'fact' to being examined as 'theory.' " CitizenLink encouraged Ohioans to "consider contacting your local school district to urge them to allow intelligent design to be taught in your schools."
*The Ohio Roundtable said: "These standards, for the first time in the nation, recognize that thinking people do not all agree on Darwinian evolution. The standards permit the recognition of the controversy and a discussion of Intelligent Design. This is a very small but significant first step."
After the Dec. 10 vote, both pro-evolutionists and supporters of teach-the-controversy claimed "victory" in the Ohio science standards debate. The standards are, as everyone recognizes, a "compromise." This means that neither side got everything it wanted. The pro-evolutionists were pleased because the standards are in essence "evolution only." Evolution is the only theory of origins that is mentioned, and some indicators are quite dogmatic in support of the theory.
On the other hand, the standards do substantially implement the teach-the-controversy approach. A philosophically neutral definition of science is used, and the door is opened for teaching the controversy about the evidence for and against biological evolution. Intelligent design, while not mandated for teaching in the standards, is mentioned for the first time in the science standards of an American state.
During the year-long Ohio Firestorm, thousands of citizens made significant contributions (for example, by contacting state officials, giving testimony in Columbus, and writing letters to newspapers.) The key to success in Ohio was motivating public input to the State Board of Education and the Governor. Without this massive public response, state officials would not have had the courage or incentive to address the controversy over biological evolution.
While the 2002 Ohio science standards are by no means perfect, they did substantially implement the teach-the-controversy approach. A long-term goal of the "ID movement" is to implement objective instruction in biological origins across the country. Through its 2002 science standards, Ohio made key contributions to this process.
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