Intelligent Design and Science Education Policy

by Max Andrews

I decided to gather together an easy-to-follow outline of the evolution of (how apropos) science education policy and intelligent design with a particular focus on the role of the Discovery Institute.

The New Debate over Teaching Evolution

  • It’s about science, NOT religion.
  • It’s about teaching MORE about evolution, not less.
  • The problem isn’t that we are teaching too much about evolution rather we are not teaching enough about evolution.
  • It’s about freedom of speech and academic freedom.
  • Discovery Institute has “transformed the debate [over evolution] into an issue of academic freedom rather than a confrontation between biology and religion.” New York Times, August 21, 2005

Discovery Institute’s “Teach the Controversy” Approach

  • Teach the scientific evidence for and against Darwin’s theory, but don’t try to mandate the study of alternatives to Darwin like intelligent design.
  • This tries to not politicize intelligent design.
  • This was DI’s policy before Dover, and it remains the policy after Dover.

The State of the Debate:  before Dover, the Disovery Institute’s approach was working…

  • Congress encouraged teaching the “full range of scientific views” on “biological evolution” in the No Child Left Behind Act Conference Report (2001).
    • Applicable to school districts and states.
    • This was not legally obligatory.
    • Seven states adopted science standards requiring critical analysis of evolution (2002-2005).
      • AL, MO, OH, NM, PA, MN, KS
      • TX Board of Education forced corrections in national science textbooks (2003-2004).
        • Haeckel’s embryos were removed from a few textbooks.
        • DI proposed five binders of peer-reviewed material that critiqued the errors in the textbooks.
        • Grantsburg, WI school board adopted critical analysis of evolution policy (2004).
          • A minister was on the Grantsburg proposed a mandate of teaching creationism and intelligent design.
          • DI discussed the issue and the board repealed the former proposal.
          • There were no legal challenges to the board.
          • Dover:
            • Then ID was later mandated (at fault due to Thomas Moore legal); DI rejected this and encouraged repeal.
            • There was an explicit religious reason by Bill Buckingham.
            • Ohio adopted “Critical Analysis of Evolution” model lesson plan (2004).
  • Due to strength of the DI arguments, no result of lawsuit.

Then Came Dover…

  • Ignoring the Discovery Institute’s advice, the Dover, PA school board in 2004 adopted a policy to require the mentioning of ID in science classes.
  • Policy adopted by the board at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons, and ironically did not even give students substantive information about intelligent design.
  • In December 2005 federal judge John E. Jones issued a decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover that declared ID unconstitutional. 

Negative Impact of Dover

  • Ohio
    • February 14, 2006: Ohio board repealed critical analysis of evolution science standard and model lesson plan
  • Kansas
    • Repealed critical analysis of evolution standards in February 2006

The Discovery Institute’s approach is still working… Science Education Standards

  • South Carolina (2006) has adopted a critical analysis of evolution science standard: “Summarize ways that scientists use data from a variety of sources to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.”
  • Texas State Board of Education (2009) has adopted pro-teach the controversy science standards.
    • “Critical thinking standard requires students to “analyze, evaluate and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning and experimental and observational testing including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations so as to encourage critical thinking by the student.”
    • Evolution indicators require students to “analyze and evaluate” evolutionary claims about “natural selection,” “mutations,” and “common ancestry.”
    • Students also requires to “analyze and evaluate” evolutionary explanations for abrupt appearance in the fossil record and the complexity of the cell.
    • Stephanie Simone March 27, 2009 “Texas Opens Classroom Door for Evolution Doubts” Wall Street Journal

Academic Freedom Legislation

  • In 2006, Mississippi adopted an academic freedom bill: “No local school board, school superintendent or school principal shall prohibit a public school classroom teacher from discussion and answering questions from individual students on the origin of life.”
  • Louisiana Science Education Act (2008)

Local School District Policies

  • Local school districts in LA and CA have adopted teach the controversy policies.

The Challenge from Darwin-Only Advocates

The Battle for Public Opinion


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