The Ohio school board stuck up for science this week, voting to adopt new science standards that explicitly require the teaching of evolutionary theory in the state's public schools. The old science standards made no mention of evolution. The new ones do not prevent schools from teaching "intelligent design" (ID); however, students will not be tested on it.
Ohio has been closely watched on the evolution front since early this year as new science standards have been wending their way through the approval process. It's been a tense time, with creationists of various stripes (represented by a group called Science Excellence for All Ohioans) trying to get the standards committee of the education board to remove certain references to Darwin's theory, or at least present the concepts as controversial, and defenders of evolution (represented by a group called Ohio Citizens for Science) trying to keep the standards confined to science.
The school board's decision "makes me proud to be an Ohioan," says philosophy professor and evolution advocate Patricia Princehouse of Case Western Reserve University. She says the board adopted a last-minute change that scientists had been pressing for: They changed the term "evolution theory" to the more scientific "evolutionary theory." They also threw a small bone to the other side by adding the vague assertion that students should "understand how scientists today continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory." ID backers, who argue that teachers should "teach the controversy," claim to be satisfied with this addition.
Faculty members from Ohio colleges and universities have played a big role in the debate. Indeed, just before the board voted, Case Western and the University of Cincinnati published the results of a scientists' poll that belied the creationist argument that there are scientific arguments for ID. Of the 500 respondents--including some from fundamentalist colleges--93% said they were not aware of any evidence that challenges the principles of evolution.