Darby board rejects "objective origins"

On July 5, 2004, the school board in Darby, Montana voted 3-2 not to adopt a proposed "objective origins policy" on its second reading. The policy had been tentatively approved on February 2 at its first reading, but is now rejected. The proposal sparked intense local controversy and national media attention earlier this year. The fate of the policy became the central issue in the May school board election, where two policy supporters were decisively defeated by opponents, resulting in the change in board majority from "pro" to "anti".

The key provision of the policy was that "teachers in the Darby school district are encouraged to help students assess evidence for and against theories, to analyze scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories, including the theory of evolution, by giving examples of scientific innovation or discovery challenging commonly held perceptions."

The singling out by name of evolution from all other scientific theories for questioning, as well as the phrases "evidence for and against" and "strengths and weaknesses" are all very common in the rhetoric of anti-evolutionists. The local minister who originally put forward the "objective origins" concept also gave a public presentation supporting "intelligent design" as an alternative to evolution at the end of 2003. During the months-long course of public debate in Darby, school board meetings were attended by national ID figures including David DeWolf, a senior fellow of Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, and John Calvert, managing director of Kansas-based Intelligent Design network.