Battle on teaching evolution sharpens


"Battle on teaching evolution sharpens" -- Peter Slevin's story on the creationism/evolution controversy -- appeared on the front page of the March 14, 2005, issue of the Washington Post. "Propelled by a polished strategy crafted by activists on America's political right," Slevin begins, "a battle is intensifying across the nation over how students are taught about the origins of life. Policymakers in 19 states are weighing proposals that question the science of evolution. The proposals typically stop short of overturning evolution or introducing biblical accounts. Instead, they are calculated pleas to teach what advocates consider gaps in long-accepted Darwinian theory, with many relying on the idea of intelligent design, which posits the central role of a creator." The story reviews a number of incidents in what seems to be a new, well-funded, wave of antievolution activity, quoting NCSE executive director Eugenie C. Scott as saying, "The energy level is new. The religious right has had an effect nationally. Now, by golly, they want to call in the chits."

A variety of familiar figures of the "intelligent design" movement, including Stephen C. Meyer of the Discovery Institute, Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania), and John Calvert and William Harris of the Kansas-based Intelligent Design Network, are quoted as defending their agenda as scientific. The Reverend Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State responds: "It is all based on their religious ideology. Even the people who don't specifically mention religion are hard-pressed with a straight face to say who the intelligent designer is if it's not God." Corroborating Lynn's diagnosis are the comments of the Reverend Terry Fox, a Southern Baptist minister in Wichita, Kansas. Explaining to the Post that "[w]e're trying to be a little more subtle," Fox was characterized as saying that "the fight to teach God's role in creation is becoming the essential front in America's culture war. If evolution's boosters can be forced to back down ... the Christian right's agenda will advance."