March 7, 2004
its own standard
the time has come for Gov. Bob Taft to fight to maintain science
standards in his state, because it doesn't appear as if the Ohio Board
of Education will.
Owens Fink of the school board was remarkably frank when she referred
to the disputed lesson plan that she helped push the board to accept.
"Ohio has set a standard for the whole nation on how to deal with these
problem is, it's a lousy standard - one which actually violates the
standard that the board itself set a year ago. After indicating that
students should learn "how scientists continue to investigate and
critically examine evolution," the board added: "The intent of this
indicator does not mandate the teaching or testing of intelligent
Fink helped supervise the drafting of both this lesson plan and four
others which introduced young-earth creationist and other
non-scientific ideas and which have been subsequently removed from
and her colleagues Michael Cochran and James Turner also say that the
group of scientists from Ohio universities, who, at the request of the
board, had submitted a replacement lesson plan, are over-reacting to
the board's effort to introduce what they argue are simply "scientific"
objections to evolution. Actually, that doesn't capture the depth of
their rhetoric. They used phrases during meetings like "whiny
scientists," "arrogant" and "egotistical" "kooks" who "lack
perspective." But since Fink has claimed we keep criticizing people and
not the facts, let's look at the facts.
would the National Academy of Sciences weigh in on a lesson plan that
is supposedly designed to encourage students to explore scientific
the disputed lesson, students are encouraged to do Internet research on
these controversies. Bruce Alberts, president of the academy, describes
an NAS staff member's examination of the recommended Web sites in the
lesson plan. The top five sites listed out of a total of seven sites
include a broken link, an Intelligent Design website that also sells ID
books, a site hosted by the National Association for Objectivity in
Science, an anti-evolution group, and another site that features
resources concerning intelligent design and "philosophical theism."
of the references in the proposed lesson plan in fact can be found in
the book of Jonathan Wells, one of those who appeared at the debate.
While these ID arguments still remain in the lesson plan, the reference
to Wells' book has been removed.
understand that the National Academy of Sciences and, I would contend,
the vast majority of scientists, are not asking people to choose
between science and religion," Alberts wrote. "What concerns us is that
Intelligent Design is not scientific because its ultimate tenet that
life on Earth is the result of the work of some intelligent being is
scientifically untestable and therefore cannot be invalidated through
is, in the end, what scientists do. It has been remarkably successful
at changing the face of our civilization precisely because it has
standards. Theories that survive the repeated test of experiment become
part of the working toolkit of scientists who attempt to understand
what has not yet been understood. To be used by the scientific
community, and discussed and ultimately taught at universities and in
high schools, theories must prove useful by confronting data and making
useful predictions. This has nothing to do with one's religious
is why we cannot simply throw up our arms and say, OK, just this once,
let's relax our standards. It is also the reason that the academy
argues against teaching Intelligent Design in science classes. The
Supreme Court in 1987 ruled "the argument that life came from the
action of an 'intelligent mind' " wasn't science. It is disingenuous to
suggest that the Model Curriculum committee that proposed this lesson
was maintaining the standards of science.
board members have made it clear that they are unwilling to listen to
the scientific community. It is time for the governor, who has publicly
claimed be above the fray but who has privately exerted pressure, to
come out and support scientists in their efforts to maintain scientific
standards. If he weighs in on this issue, there is every reason to
expect that the board, with eight of his appointees, will follow suit.
If not, it will be hard for him to argue that his administration is
actively working to raise Ohio's technological standard so that it can
compete in a 21st century whose economy may be dominated by
biotechnology - which, by the way, is based on a well-tested theory
called evolutionary biology.
M. Krauss is director of the Center for Education and Research in
Cosmology and Astrophysics and physics department chairman at Case
Western Reserve University.