Editorials endorsing evolution education


Astute analyses of anti-evolutionist tactics appeared in editorials in The New York Times on January 23 and the Washington Post on January 24.

The contribution from the Times, "The Crafty Attacks on Evolution" (registration required), notes that creationists have "become more wily" since banning the teaching of evolution and teaching creationism have both been ruled unconstitutional. The editorial identifies two strategies recently tried out by creationists: attempts to discredit evolution, as in the disclaimers in biology texbooks in Cobb County, Georgia, and promotion of so-called intelligent design, as in the school board policy passed in Dover, Pennsylvania. Both "still constitute an improper effort by religious advocates to impose their own slant on the teaching of evolution." The Cobb County school board wins some praise for its good intentions in trying both to please local anti-evolutionists and to support teaching evolution. Nonetheless, "[t]he sad fact is, the school board, in its zeal to be accomodating, swallowed the language of the anti-evolution crowd." Speaking of the board's decision to appeal, the editorial comments, "Supporters of sound science education can only hope that the courts, and school districts, find a way to repel this latest assault on the most well-grounded theory in modern biology." Considering the situation in Dover, the editorial points out that advocates of "intelligent design" have no body of scientific research and, indeed, no real research plan, so "[i]t should not be taught or even described as a scientific alternative."

The Post's briefer editorial "God and Darwin" (registration required) also recognizes a new level of sophistication in anti-evolution activity, referring to "intelligent design" and its "slick Web sites, pseudo-academic conferences and savvy public relations." Beneath the meretricious packaging of "intelligent design" creationism, however, the editorial finds little substance, commenting that its proponents "do no experiments and do not publish in recognized scientific journals." By being "very careful in their choice of language, eschewing mentions of God or the Bible," they have enjoyed a degree of success, but "to teach intelligent design as science in public schools is a clear violation ... of the separation of church and state" as well as of "principles of common sense." The editorial ends by warning that continued anti-evolutionism is endangering American world leadership in science.