Pro-science candidates triumph in Montana

After the May 4, 2004, school board election in Darby, Montana, the proposed "objective origins" policy is likely to be dead in the water.

The policy, introduced by a local minister, encourages teachers to help their students "analyze scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories, including the theory of evolution." It was recognized by the school board's attorney, the principals and teachers in the school district, and the Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction as a religiously motivated attack on evolution education. Yet in a preliminary decision, the school board voted 3–2 to adopt the policy, causing a third of the town's high school students to walk out of school in protest. The controversy in Darby received national attention when it was featured in a story in The New York Times in late February and again when it was featured in a story on National Public Radio in early May.

Turnout in the election was unprecedentedly high, due in part to the dispute over "the objective origins" policy. Preliminary results indicate that incumbent Bob Wetzsteon and hopeful Eric Abrahamsen have won by almost a 2 to 1 margin. Both men oppose the "objective origins" policy, meaning that it is unlikely that the newly constituted board will adopt it.

In nearby Hamilton, evolution education was also a burning issue in school board elections. Preliminary results indicate that Lori Holley and Ingrid Sutherland have won by almost a 2 to 1 margin over two rivals. At a voters' forum in April, Holley, Sutherland, and Bill LaCroix (who subsequently withdrew his candidacy) expressed opposition to the idea of an "objective origins" policy, while their two rivals expressed their support for it.

Congratulations to those in Montana who have successfully defended the teaching of evolution in the Bitterroot Valley's public schools!