Attempts to Misconstrue Intelligent Design in Kentucky Fail - Evolution News & Views

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Attempts to Misconstrue Intelligent Design in Kentucky Fail

In the most recent news about the controversy about intelligent design in Kentucky, the Lexington Herald-Ledger's Political Notebook reports on the nomination of Kentucky's State Board of Education candidates.

Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher took heat for speaking favorably about teaching intelligent design just before Judge Jones' Kitzmiller decision was issued. The Governor had mentioned intelligent design in his State of the Commonwealth address in January, 2006 and then in February sent a letter about teaching intelligent design to the Kentucky Academy of Sciences. (The letter was in response to the Academy's December vote to reject any teaching about intelligent design.)

After the Kitzmiller decision struck down the Dover Area School Board's intelligent design policy, some states, such as Ohio, began retreating from teaching any skepticism of Darwin, out of false fears that critiquing evolution was the equivalent of teaching intelligent design. (See here and here.) The Kentucky Governor, however, has pressed forward, evidently realizing that Kitzmiller does not spell the end to intelligent design. Apparently some of the oft-repeated misconceptions about intelligent design have failed in the Bluegrass State.

The most recent controversy surrounds Fletcher's nomination of three candidates for the Kentucky State Board of Education. All three expressed a personal view that intelligent design should be included in the curriculum. While Fletcher has been outspoken about intelligent design, a close reading of his letters shows that his policy preference is much more moderate than how it has been portrayed by some of his critics. Fletcher emphasized in his letter to the Kentucky Academy of Sciences that a 1990 state law gives control of the curriculum to local school districts. Fletcher wrote, "I urge school districts to utilize this freedom and empower students with all possible considerations regarding the origin of matter and species."

Te Governor's communications director has clarified that the Governor does not necessarily believe that intelligent design must be taught in the science classroom, but that it could be taught in other classes. These important facts make Governor Fletcher's position appear fairly tempered.

Finally, during the debate over Fletcher's school board nominees, one House member argued they should "send a message that we are not a state that will fall prey to intelligent design, which is nothing more than creationism." This argument merely repeats the common misconception that intelligent design and creationism are the same. (This is addressed here and here.) The argument failed, and all three Kentucky State Board of Education nominees passed.

The situation in Kentucky shows that Kitzmiller did not settle the debate about teaching intelligent design. Furthermore, attempts to inflame false fears by equating intelligent design with creationism are not going to work in every state. While Discovery Institute does not want to see ID mandated in schools, it does support those who would give teachers the academic freedom to present scientific information about intelligent design if they chose to do so. See here for more information about Discovery Institute's science education policy recommendations.