Ohio biology lesson scolded
Ohio biology lesson scolded
Physicist calls state curriculum illegal
By Katie Byard, Akron Beacon Journal, Jan 6, 2006
Ohio's model high school biology curriculum is illegal and would not survive a court challenge, according to a renowned physicist and outspoken defender of teaching evolution in public schools.
Lawrence Krauss, a professor of physics and astronomy at Case Western Reserve University, told the Akron Press Club on Thursday that last month's ruling in the Dover, Pa. "intelligent design" case -- while not binding in Ohio -- should be a wake-up call to Ohio's Board of Education.
A Pennsylvania federal court judge ruled the Dover school board's policy requiring teachers to read students a disclaimer mentioning intelligent design inserted religion into the science curriculum by singling out evolution for "special treatment."
"Ohio has done exactly the same thing," Krauss said. The state board "approved a lesson plan that singles out evolution."
U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled in the Pennsylvania case that intelligent design is faith masquerading as science and must not be taught as an alternative to evolution in public school science classes.
Four of five parts of Ohio's model lesson plan, called Critical Analysis of Evolution, "come directly from the book Of Pandas and People, which was the book that was shown in the Dover trial to be based on religion, not science," Krauss said Thursday at the Martin Center on the University of Akron campus.
Many proponents of intelligent design believe living organisms are so complex they must have been created by some type of guiding intelligent designer.
The Dover statement referred students to Of Pandas and People, an intelligent design text. In his ruling, Jones said the book "contains outdated concepts and badly flawed science."
Krauss said Thursday he believes the Ohio lesson plan "is illegal, and if challenged in Ohio, it will suffer the same problem" as in Dover.
He pointed out that the National Academy of Sciences rebuked the Ohio lesson plan.
Krauss said backers of intelligent design say that lesson plans, such as the one Ohio adopted in 2004, encourage critical thinking by teaching the controversy about evolution.
"Why invent the controversy that doesn't exist... talk about real scientific controversies if you want to encourage critical thinking," Krauss said.
Scientific studies, Krauss said, 'do not mean that God is not allowed." Rather, he said, they "are independent of God... evolution happens. It's independent of the question of design and purpose."
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which helped represent the plaintiffs in the Dover lawsuit, said Ohio faces a lawsuit if it does not scrap the lesson plan.
Ohio Department of Education spokesman J.C. Benton has said that the Ohio lesson plan differs from Dover's policy in that Ohio's does does not mention intelligent design and does not require that it be taught.