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NYT Editorial: The Evolution of Creationism

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  • Harry Sutton
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/17/opinion/17tues2.html ... The New York Times May 17, 2005 The Evolution of Creationism The latest struggle over the teaching
    Message 1 of 1 , May 17, 2005
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      The New York Times
      May 17, 2005
      The Evolution of Creationism

      The latest struggle over the teaching of evolution in the public schools of
      Kansas provides striking evidence that evolution is occurring right before
      our eyes. Every time the critics of Darwinism lose a battle over reshaping
      the teaching of biology, they evolve into a new form, armed with arguments
      that sound progressively more benign, while remaining as dangerous as ever.

      Students of these battles will recall that in 1999 the Kansas Board of
      Education, frustrated that the Supreme Court had made it impossible to
      force creationism into the science curriculum, took the opposite tack and
      eliminated all mention of evolution from the statewide science standards.
      That madness was reversed in 2001 after an appalled electorate had rejected
      several of the conservative board members responsible for the travesty.

      Meanwhile, Darwin's critics around the country began pushing a new theory -
      known as intelligent design - that did not mention God, but simply argued
      that life is too complex to be explained by the theory of evolution, hence
      there must be an intelligent designer behind it all.

      The political popularity of that theory will be tested today in a school
      board primary election in Dover, Pa., where the schools require that
      students be made aware of intelligent design as an alternative to
      Darwinism. The race pits those who voted last year for that rule against
      those who oppose it.

      Now the anti-evolution campaigners in Kansas, who again have a state school
      board majority, have scrubbed things even cleaner. They insist that they
      are not even trying to incorporate intelligent design into state science
      standards - that all they want is a critical analysis of supposed
      weaknesses in the theory of evolution. That may be less innocuous than it
      seems. Although the chief critics say they do not seek to require the
      teaching of intelligent design, they add the qualifier "at this point in
      time." Once their foot is in the door, the way will be open.

      The state science standards in Kansas are up for revision this year, and a
      committee of scientists and educators has proposed standards that enshrine
      evolution as a central concept of modern biology. The ruckus comes about
      because a committee minority, led by intelligent-design proponents, has
      issued its own proposals calling for more emphasis on the limitations of
      evolution theory and the evidence supposedly contradicting it. The minority
      even seeks to change the definition of science in a way that appears to
      leave room for supernatural explanations of the origin and evolution of
      life, not just natural explanations, the usual domain of science.

      The fact that all this is wildly inappropriate for a public school
      curriculum does not in any way suggest that teachers are being forced to
      take sides against those who feel that the evolution of humanity, in one
      way or another, was the work of an all-powerful deity. Many empirical
      scientists believe just that, but also understand that theories about how
      God interacts with the world are beyond the scope of their discipline.

      The Kansas board, which held one-sided hearings this month that were
      boycotted by mainstream scientists on the grounds that the outcome was
      preordained, is expected to vote on the standards this summer. One can only
      hope that the members will come to their senses first.

      * Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
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