Creationism in the news!
- Sunday, Dec. 5, 2004
Virginia's News Leader
Creationists try to edge around ban
BY MARILYN RAUBER
WASHINGTON - Creationism is a mandatory class at Virginia's Liberty
University, a Christian college founded in Lynchburg by evangelist Jerry
"Unlike secular institutions, we give both sides," biology professor
Terry Spohn said.
But it's not just parochial schools that are pushing the biblical
version of how humans were created.
Nearly 20 years after the U.S. Supreme Court barred teaching creationism
in public schools, state and local officials in 43 states over the past
four years have proposed new ways to get around the ban, according to
the National Center for Science Education, a California-based
organization of educators and clergy.
The latest effort is to teach high school students "intelligent design"
- which attributes the origin of the world to an intelligent designer,
without using the word "God," and embraces some aspects of science.
Next month, ninth-graders in Dover, Pa., will become the first public
school students in the nation to be taught "intelligent design"
In Ohio, state school officials are urging local public schools to teach
a "critical analysis" of evolution.
Overall, the pro-evolution side is winning the battle over what students
learn in high school science: None of the anti-evolution bills
introduced in 17 states this past year became law.
But the tactic that most worries supporters of evolution is the use of
anti-evolution disclaimers inserted into science textbooks.
A federal judge in Georgia is expected to rule soon on the
constitutionality of a Cobb County School Board decision to put a
sticker inside each science textbook proclaiming that evolution is "not
Only Alabama mandates statewide evolution disclaimers in its textbooks.
However, copycat bills have recently surfaced in roughly a half-dozen
states, including South Carolina, Mississippi and Louisiana.
If the American Civil Liberties Union loses the case, "we expect to see
the Cobb County disclaimer pop up everywhere," said Glenn Branch, deputy
director of the national science education center.
"If you don't talk about your religious motivations, it's a lot harder
to convince a judge that its real objective is religious," Branch added.
Private schools like Liberty are not bound by the 1987 high court ruling
that teaching creationism is a violation of the separation of church and
"We cover evolution, but we bring up problems with it," said David
DeWitt, an associate professor of biology.
DeWitt believes all students should "have the academic freedom to
question evolution. . . . I think it's dishonest to shove evolution down
these students' throats as a fact."
But Cobb County high school biology teacher Wes McCoy argues that
students need to be taught "a rational, step-by-step explanation of
evolution" based on "authentic science" and that does not contradict
"Science can only focus on naturalistic explanations of the world. . . .
Science cannot tell us why we are here," said McCoy, who testified
against the disclaimer stickers in the Cobb County case.
Other evolution supporters argue that ideas like "intelligent design"
aren't academic subjects and don't belong in academic courses.
"Why don't we talk about astrology in astronomy class, why don't we talk
about the Christian Science theory of medicine in medical class? . . .
The point is, it's not science," said Sarah Pallas, a Georgia State
University biology teacher.
John Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research, a
Christian think tank, agrees that religion should be kept out of the
But Morris, a proponent of teaching students "intelligent design,"
believes the theory of evolution is a type of unproven religion based on
"weak" scientific evidence.
"Science has to do with the here and now." Evolution and other ideas on
the origins of Earth "are views about history," he said.
President Bush advocates teaching children "different theories about how
the world started" and "scientific critiques of any theory."
Most Americans agree with him.
Nearly 80 years since the Scopes "Monkey Trial" pitted evolutionists
against creationists, a CBS poll last month found that almost two thirds
of Americans favor teaching creationism and evolution in public schools.
Last month, voters across the country backed a number of pro-creationism
candidates, including Sen.-elect Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who attacked his
opponent, state Education Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum, for pushing
evolution in schools.
Even the Bush-backed No Child Left Behind education reforms contain
nonbinding language encouraging schools to teach "the full range of
scientific views" on evolution.