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FW: PA Creationism, from the Philadelphia Inquirer

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  • Popplestone, Ann
    ... From: Steven A. Edinger [mailto:edingers@oak.cats.ohiou.edu] Sent: Tuesday, December 05, 2000 12:42 AM To: Science Education Cc: Hummon, William ; Johnson,
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 5, 2000
      FW: PA Creationism, from the Philadelphia Inquirer

      -----Original Message-----
      From: Steven A. Edinger [mailto:edingers@...]
      Sent: Tuesday, December 05, 2000 12:42 AM
      To: Science Education
      Cc: Hummon, William ; Johnson, Leah; Mckenzie, Clarice; McKenzie, Karen;
      McKenzie, Tom; McKenzie, Warren; Weis, Judy
      Subject: PA Creationism, from the Philadelphia Inquirer


      Dear Colleagues,

              With the election defeat of Ohio State Representative Ron Hood
      (Republican, 57th district) Ohio may get at least a temporary reprieve from
      bills promoting the teaching of creationism, in what ever disguise it is
      currently wearing.  As you can see in the article below, Ohio is not the only
      state where teaching creationism under the guise of "alternatives to
      evolution" or "evidences against evolution" or "intelligent design 'theory' "
      is being pushed.  Both the arguments and wording sound the same as those heard
      in Ohio and elsewhere, as well as being the same as the ideas promoted by
      creationists organizations.

              One idea being more vigorously pushed by creationists and their
      supports is the claim evolution is a religion or a religious view.  This was
      the central theme of a creationists I recently debated here at Ohio University
      (more on that at a later date).  Although the view is incorrect and
      inappropriate, it seems to carry a lot of influence with people and definitely
      needs to be actively countered by members of the scientific community.

      Thanks go to Judith Weis for passing this on to me,

      Steve Edinger

      --- Begin Forwarded Message ---

      From the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer:
      Ellen Paul
      AIBS Public Policy Representative
      (202)628-1500, x250

                                                              By Faye Flam
                                                        INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

                       Controversial new standards for teaching science in
      Pennsylvania propose treating evolution as a theory and presenting
      alternative theories as part of schools' science curriculum.

      The draft language, which is expected to go before the state legislature
      for approval early next year, has raised alarms among some scientists
      and education groups who worry that the new standards would give
      legitimacy to teaching creationist views.

      Pennsylvania, one of the last states still working to create standards
      for teaching science, had gotten good reviews from scientists and
      educators alike for an earlier draft. But in July, the state Board of
      Education inserted several changes.

      The additions that have raised concern include statements that teachers
      "analyze the impact of new scientific facts on the theory of evolution"
      and present theories that "do or do not support the theory of

      "It's code," said Molleen Matsumura of the National Center for Science
      Education, a nonprofit group in Berkeley, Calif., that defends teaching

      Of the vague references to other theories, she said, "There are people
      waiting in the wings to help teachers with that" - people promoting
      books on creation science and its close relative, "intelligent design."

      Teachers who want to teach creationism may also feel they have a green
      light, she said.

      State Rep. Samuel Rhorer (R., Berks) said he had opposed the previous
      draft of the standards because they promoted "just one theory of
      origins" to the exclusion of creation.

      "I'm not a scientist," he said, "but I've done enough reading to know
      that the whole concept of natural selection and evolution is not
      science. It's not repeatable. It's a theory. You can talk about
      chemistry, physics - those things are all a matter of fact.

      "Evolution is a religious tenet - it's a tenet of secular humanism, and
      of Marxism and Communism."

      Education officials deny that the changes made in July were inserted to
      placate creationists. "For the first time, we've mandated the teaching
      of evolution in Pennsylvania classrooms," State Secretary of Education
      Eugene Hickok said.

      "The language in the latest draft of the academic standards does not
      promote the teaching of creationism," said James Gallagher, chairman of
      the state Board of Education. "The standards do, however, give clear
      guidance to teachers to initiate intellectually stimulating dialogue
      about the scientific theory of evolution."

      Gallagher declined to specify whether he meant dialogue about some
      details of evolution or about its legitimacy. In the world of science, a
      debate on the legitimacy of evolution would not be considered
      intellectually stimulating.

      "It's like debating the theory of gravity, or the atomic theory," said
      Andrew Petto, an evolutionary biologist who teaches at the University of
      the Arts in Philadelphia and who is a member of the National Council for
      Science Education.

      Evolution/creation battles have surfaced in several other states -
      including Illinois, Alabama, New Mexico, and Kentucky - that left
      evolution out of science standards or suggested teaching alternative
      views. Kansas went the farthest by taking questions about evolution off
      the test that students must take to graduate.

      Regarding Pennsylvania, Petto said: "I'm pleased to say this is nowhere
      near as bad as what they did in Kansas. We still have fairly good
      science education standards."

      Mainstream scientists regard the concept of evolution as established
      science. It explains how all living things developed from earlier life
      forms through such processes as mutation and natural selection, commonly
      known as "survival of the fittest."

      Evolution now provides the framework within which nearly all biologists
      and medical researchers work.

      Creation science teaches a literal interpretation of the biblical story
      of Genesis. It challenges all of modern geology and astronomy by
      claiming the universe is only a few thousand years old. "Intelligent
      design" is a more general term, referring to the idea that a
      supernatural being was required to design living things.

      Historically, Pennsylvania school districts have been free to decide how
      to teach science. But the growing standards movement seeks to establish
      definitions of what is expected of students and what eventually will be
      the basis for statewide testing.

      The earlier draft of the standards, the one that received high marks
      from scientists, went through a series of public workshops and hearings.

      "The standards were refined based on input from people at these
      hearings," said Karl Girton, chair of the Board of Education Council of
      Basic Education.

      "There were people who spoke on both sides of this issue," he said -
      people advocating teaching of evolution as well as strict creationists.
      "There are people who appeared before this committee who had a very
      strong religious argument for what should be presented."

      The standards could still be modified before they are approved.

      But in their current form, the standards emphasize that evolution is a
      theory, implying that it's still under debate in the scientific
      community. "You could say it's only a theory that the Earth revolves
      around the sun," said Peter Dodson, a paleontologist at the University
      of Pennsylvania and cofounder of the Philadelphia Center for Science and

      "All of science is provisional," Dodson said, but evolution represents
      scientists' best understanding of the world. "We owe our students our
      best understanding."

      Not that evolution answers every question posed in biology. Scientists
      are still discussing how an arm could evolve into a wing, Petto said,
      but new discoveries in genetics are beginning to answer such questions,
      showing how small changes in genes could produce big changes in body

      For Petto, the concern goes far beyond students' knowledge of one area
      of science. "The thing that's problematic for me is that the new
      standards have redefined science - saying that science is limited to
      observable aspects of the universe," he said, when in fact much of
      science involves logic, inference and indirect observations.

      --- End Forwarded Message ---


      Steven A. Edinger, Physiology Lab Instructor

      Office:  (740) 593-9484
      Fax:     (740) 593-0300

      064 Irvine Hall
      Department of Biological Sciences
      Ohio University
      Athens, Ohio  45701-1403

      "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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