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Reporting on South Carolina Evolution Debate is Wrongly Trying To Make the Debate About Intelligent Design

Columbia South Carolina's The State newspaper had a preview piece this morning about today's hearing held by the state's Education Oversight Committee (EOC) to hear from experts about teaching evolution.

State reporter Bill Robinson spoke at length with CSC policy analyst Casey Luskin last week in order to get more information on the overall debate, and also to better understand Discovery's position on the issue. Unfortunately his article doesn't reflect that.

Robinson, through an error of omission, misrepresents Discovery's science education policy position, which we've been consistently clear about. The article, which completely misses the point that the debate in SC has nothing to do with intelligent design, only mentions Discovery once, but like this:

"Casey Luskin said Keller and Sternberg are scientists known to the Institute, which he said takes the position that "intelligent design is a scientific theory that is a good explanation for many aspects of life."

By not explaining that our position is that we're opposed to mandating intelligent design Robinson leaves his readers with the impression that is what we're supporting in SC. Of course, as we've made clear, that isn't true. It remains to be see if The State will do the right thing and issue a clarification. I've contacted Robinson but as of yet have not received a reply.

As I mentioned, the article conflates teaching about intelligent design with teaching about scientific criticisms of evolutionary theory. In spite of the fact that members of the EOC have repeatedly stated they are not looking to include intelligent design in the curriculum Robinson focuses on ID and people's views on whether or not it should be taught in the science classroom -- even though that is clearly not the issue in South Carolina.

No one there is asking that ID be included or mentioned in any way. Neither of the scientists that today recommended inclusion of language that would call for students to critically analyze evolution is calling for including ID. It just isn't on the table. However, Robinson's article leads the reader to believe that's what's going on with statements like these:

"A six-member panel of the Education Oversight Committee will search for a resolution to a dispute over language that teachers look to as a guide when discussing the theory of evolution.

Opponents of such language want to allow public schoolteachers to introduce alternatives to evolution -- which could include creationism."

This simply isn't true. Later Robinson reports:

"The Education Oversight Committee, in an 8-7 vote last month, rejected some of the wording for how to approach the topic of evolution -- the theory that life is a product of and adapts to the environment.

The decision gave Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, a committee member, a victory in a campaign to pressure education policymakers into approving guidelines that would allow teachers to talk about competing theories."

Again, this is not true. Sen. Fair himself has repeatedly made it clear that he does not want to include ID or any other alternatives.

How clear has Fair been? Pretty clear.

"The lawmaker who started the debate, Greenville Senator Mike Fair, says the discussion is --not-- about inserting intelligent design. But he says it's about critical analysis of evolution in the state's biology curriculum." ( Senator says effort not a backdoor to teaching intelligent design, Jan. 23)

"Our kids need to be better critical thinkers. If you're going to teach evolution, teach all of it," Sen. Mike Fair said. "Let's teach evolution; let's teach Darwin's theory. Let's read what he said, believed. ... Fair said he isn't promoting the intelligent design theory, which suggests life is too complex not to have been made by a designer. Instead, he said he wants clarity in the way evolution is currently taught." ( The Times and Democrat, Jan. 23)

"Fair said he wanted the standards to encourage students to critically analyze evolution, instead of just learning it as fact." ( Charlotte Observer, Jan. 20)

Darwinists often try and make the debate over how to teach evolution out to be a debate over teaching ID. It is not. It wasn't in Kansas, It isn't in Ohio. It isn't here in South Carolina either.

What is being debated in SC? Here are the current indicators which the EOC has indicated they would like to see reworked:

B-5.2 Explain how genetic processes result in the continuity of life-forms over time.
B-5.4 Explain how genetic variability and environmental factors lead to biological evolution.
B-5.5 Exemplify the various lines of scientific evidence that underlie our understanding of evolution and the diversification of life.
B-5.7 Use a phylogenetic tree to identify the evolutionary relationships.

What did the EOC subcommittee indicate they would find more acceptable, (and ultimately voted to meet with the state's Dept. of Education to craft such language):
B-5.2 revised --Critically analyze the ability of genetic processes to affect the result of the continuity of life forms over time.
B-5.4 revised -- Critically analyze the ability of genetic variability and environmental factors to cause microevolutionary changes and also to cause macroevolutionary changes.
B-5.5 revised -- Exemplify the various lines of scientific evidence that support or challenge our understanding of evolution and the diversification of life.
B-5.7 revised -- Critically analyze the methods and assumptions used to construct phylogenetic trees and identify evolutionary relationships.

That's it. That's what's being debated. There is just nothing in there about intelligent design. Hopefully, the media in South Carolina will be more accurate in their reporting going forward.