Renewed antievolutionism in Ohio?


A member of the Ohio state board of education proposed a change to the state science standards, prompting concern that the attack on evolution education in the Buckeye State -- which began in 2000, when the standards were in development -- is not yet over. According to the current science standards for the tenth grade, students are expected to be able to "[d]escribe that scientists may disagree about explanations of phenomena, about interpretation of data or about the value of rival theories, but they do agree that questioning response to criticism and open communications are integral to the process of science." At a meeting of the board's Achievement Committee on July 10, 2006, Colleen Grady proposed the addition of, "Discuss and be able to apply this in the following areas: global warning; evolutionary theory; emerging technologies and how they may impact society, e.g. cloning or stem-cell research."

The fact that evolution and global warming were the only areas of science cited as examples where scientists disagree was of immediate concern. Before the meeting, Steve Rissing, a biology professor at Ohio State University, told the Columbus Dispatch (July 9, 2006), "This is so transparent ... These are not controversial areas of science." In February 2006, the board voted to retract a controversial model lesson plan and to remove the indicator on which it was based from the standards; the indicator, which called for students to be able to "describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory," was widely criticized as providing a pretext for instilling scientifically unwarranted doubts about evolution. Patricia Princehouse of Ohio Citizens for Science told the Dayton Daily News (July 11, 2006), "We knew they wouldn't just give up and go home. We didn't think they'd come back so soon."

The Dispatch reports (July 11, 2006), "Education Department staff will put Grady's proposal into draft form for consideration at the board's September meeting. It is not clear whether there is enough support among committee members to recommend any proposal to the full board." Meanwhile, the Dispatch took a strong stand against the proposal on its editorial page (July 13, 2006), declaring, "This fight should have been dead and buried in February ... But a few dogged members still insist on 'teaching the controversy' about evolution, even though the controversy has been manufactured by disingenuous people who wish to introduce the supernatural into science classrooms. ... These few wily board members are the best possible evidence that evolution exists; their tactics mutate every time the public catches on to what's happening." A report in the Canton Repository (July 13, 2006) suggests that there is growing interest in finding candidates to run against the antievolution members of the board.