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FW: NYTimes: An Alternative to Evolution Splits a Pennsylvania Town, 1/16/05

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  • Popplestone, Ann
    ... From: Steven A. Edinger [mailto:Steven.Edinger.1@Ohio.edu] Sent: Wednesday, January 19, 2005 7:27 AM To: Science Education Subject: NYTimes: An Alternative
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 24, 2005
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      -----Original Message-----
      From: Steven A. Edinger [mailto:Steven.Edinger.1@...]
      Sent: Wednesday, January 19, 2005 7:27 AM
      To: Science Education
      Subject: NYTimes: An Alternative to Evolution Splits a Pennsylvania
      Town, 1/16/05

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      A QUOTE FROM THIS ARTICLE:

      'The York Dispatch quoted one board member, William
      Buckingham, as saying in that debate: "Nearly 2,000 years
      ago, someone died on the cross for us. Shouldn't we have
      the courage to stand up for him?" Richard Thompson,
      president of the Thomas More Law Center, a Christian legal
      defense group representing the six board members, said Mr.
      Buckingham made that statement in another context, a
      dispute about the Pledge of Allegiance in 2003.'




      An Alternative to Evolution Splits a Pennsylvania Town

      January 16, 2005
      By NEELA BANERJEE


      DOVER, Pa. - Ever since the school board here voted to make
      this town in Pennsylvania Dutch country the first in the
      nation to discuss an alternative to evolution in high
      school biology classes, students have been as sharply
      divided as the rest of this normally close-knit community.

      "I think we should have a choice: They should teach you
      both," said Meagan Hass, 14, while eating pizza after
      school at KT's restaurant with her friend Abbi Hake.
      "Evolution to me is like we come from monkeys."

      At a nearby table, Jessika Moury, 14, said her mother
      supported the school board but she did not. "There are so
      many aspects of religion, so you have to teach what each of
      them says," Jessika said. "There's Bible Club in school for
      this, and that's where it should be taught."

      With the new instruction on the origin of life set to
      begin, Dover has become a critical testing ground in a
      widening national debate about teaching evolution.

      In early January, Dover High School's science teachers
      refused to read to ninth-graders a short statement written
      by the school board that criticizes evolution and cites a
      controversial approach called Intelligent Design as an
      alternative.

      The teachers contend that such a change to the curriculum
      amounts to teaching Intelligent Design and that the
      approach is inherently religious, not scientific.

      "Kids are smart enough to understand what Intelligent
      Design means," said Robert Eshbach, a science teacher who
      refused to read the statement. "The first question they
      will ask is, 'Well, who's the designer? Do you mean God?' "


      Jen Miller, who teaches ninth-grade biology, said she saw
      no conflict between evolution and religion.

      "I've never had a problem in my classroom in the way I
      approach evolution," Ms. Miller said. "Just because I teach
      evolution doesn't mean that God's not there or that I'm
      going against the religious beliefs of my students." With
      the teachers balking, an administrator will read the
      statement instead, as early as next week. Students may opt
      out of the reading with their parents' permission.

      Several states have issued disclaimers to students
      questioning the validity of evolution, claiming it is
      riddled with gaps. But the Dover school board went further
      on Oct. 18 when it voted to specifically identify an
      alternative to evolution and encourage students to learn
      more about it.

      Proponents of Intelligent Design, which asserts that life
      is so intricately complex that an architect must be behind
      it, say it is a valid scientific theory. Critics argue that
      Intelligent Design has no basis in science and is another
      iteration of creationism. And while people are still polite
      to one another in Dover, those same arguments have split
      school board members, clergy, residents and students alike.


      "It's been very polarizing," said the Rev. David F.
      Sproull, pastor of the Dover Assembly of God Church and a
      supporter of the board's decision. "I see very few people
      sitting in the middle of it. It evokes very strong
      feelings."

      Some have already moved to stop the school board. In
      mid-December, 11 local parents represented by the American
      Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation
      of Church and State sued the school board, contending that
      discussing Intelligent Design is a way to foist religion on
      their children.

      "The dispute here isn't between Christians versus
      non-Christians or non-believers," said Jeff Brown, a former
      school board member who voted against criticizing
      evolution. "It's between Christians who are comfortable
      with the Constitution and those who want special
      treatment."

      Conservative Christians across the country say the
      re-election of President Bush has given them the momentum
      to achieve important local goals, including challenging the
      teaching of evolution, and they are watching developments
      in Dover closely.

      In a November 2004 CBS News Poll, nearly two-thirds of
      Americans said they favored teaching creationism alongside
      evolution in schools.

      In Grantsburg, Wis., the school board recently voted to
      teach a critical approach to evolution, without identifying
      alternatives. In South Carolina, legislation will be
      introduced to examine the state's curriculum on teaching
      the origin of species. In Kansas, conservatives who favor
      challenging the teaching of evolution recently won a
      majority on the state school board, and they are generally
      expected to change the state science curriculum as early as
      the spring.

      [A federal judge in Georgia ruled on Thursday that schools
      in Cobb County must remove from science textbooks stickers
      that criticize evolution, dealing a blow to local
      creationists.]

      Located 25 miles southwest of Harrisburg, Dover, population
      25,000, is a cluster of modest churches, clapboard homes
      and weathered family restaurants hemmed by rolling
      farmland. It is in York County, which supported President
      Bush by a nearly 2-to-1 margin in the November election.
      The area was largely settled by the small Protestant
      denominations that grew among the Pennsylvania Dutch, and
      people learned to be tolerant of those with differing
      beliefs because of the patchwork of faiths that made up
      their town, Mr. Brown said.

      But a growing number of conservative Christians in Dover,
      like many elsewhere, bridle at what they see as the
      marginalization of their faith in a country they believe
      was founded on biblical values. "I think we're coming to
      place where we're certainly not browbeating people with
      religion, but that it has just become a normal part of life
      now," Mr. Sproull, the pastor, said of introducing
      Intelligent Design to the local high school. "Everyone in
      the country seems to have freedom of speech but those who
      talk about religion and God."

      To many in Dover, teaching students that the Earth is
      millions of years old or that man evolved in ways that
      contradict biblical accounts is akin to promulgating
      atheism.

      "If they can teach there is no God, then they can teach
      there is a God," said Jean Eisenhart, 72, as she left the
      Dover Diner after breakfast on a recent brisk morning.

      The six people on the nine-member board who voted for the
      challenge to evolution have declined to talk to the news
      media because of the pending lawsuit. But the high school's
      science teachers said they were first approached by a board
      member about evolution in fall 2003.

      By last summer, some members tried to stop the purchase of
      a biology textbook recommended by teachers because it
      mentioned Charles Darwin.

      The York Dispatch quoted one board member, William
      Buckingham, as saying in that debate: "Nearly 2,000 years
      ago, someone died on the cross for us. Shouldn't we have
      the courage to stand up for him?" Richard Thompson,
      president of the Thomas More Law Center, a Christian legal
      defense group representing the six board members, said Mr.
      Buckingham made that statement in another context, a
      dispute about the Pledge of Allegiance in 2003.

      The textbooks were ultimately ordered, but the board voted
      to have teachers read the statement criticizing evolution.
      Mr. Brown and his wife, Carol, longtime board members,
      resigned in protest. Many people have supported them;
      others stopped talking to them.

      "I got no joy out of it," Mrs. Brown said. "But people have
      to be aware: This is dividing the country. Who pays
      attention to school board meetings anyway?"

      The Rev. Warren Eshbach, an adjunct professor at Lutheran
      Theological Seminary in nearby Gettysburg and the father of
      Robert Eshbach, the science teacher, warned at board
      meetings about how divisive the issue might prove. Like
      many fellow Dover residents, he said the biblical account
      of the origins of humanity should be taught in a
      comparative religion class, not a biology class.

      "Science is figuring out what God has already done," Mr.
      Eshbach said. "But I don't think Genesis 1 to 11 was ever
      meant to be a science textbook for the 21st century."

      Noel Wenrich, an evangelical Christian board member who
      voted with the Browns against the measure, said he wanted
      approaches other than evolution explained in school. But
      given a 1987 Supreme Court decision against teaching
      creationism, he worried that the mention of Intelligent
      Design would embroil the district in losing lawsuits and
      drain it of badly needed funds.

      "I think that 80 percent of the community might support the
      measure, but not if taxes go up," Mr. Wenrich said. "Then
      it's 30 percent."

      Ninth graders at Dover High have been following the ruckus,
      and some say they wish that it would stop, and that Dover
      might be known for something else, something more
      run-of-the-mill, like its academics.

      Amy Mummerd, a ninth grader, put some of her classmates'
      frustrations directly. "I think it should be kept out of
      school," she said of Intelligent Design. "Because it goes
      against the separation of school and church, or whatever."

      http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/16/national/16evolution.html?ex=110697549
      7&ei=
      1&en=8013bc9237ac3b0d


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      ------------------------------------------------------------------------
      ---
      Steven A. Edinger, Physiology Lab Instructor

      064 Irvine Hall
      Department of Biological Sciences
      steven.edinger.1@...
      Ohio University Office: (740) 593-9484
      Athens, Ohio 45701-2979 Fax: (740) 593-0300
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      ******************************************************
      "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of
      evolution." Theodosius Dobzhansky, 1973
      ******************************************************




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      ******************************************************
      "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of
      evolution." Theodosius Dobzhansky, 1973
      ******************************************************
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