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Biologist Dan Ely testifies in Support of Ohio’s Critical Analysis of Evolution Lesson Plan

COLUMBUS, Ohio – February 15, 2006.

Yesterday University of Akron biologist Dan Ely testified before the Ohio State Board of Education (OSBE) in favor of Ohio’s Critical Analysis of Evolution Lesson Plan.

Addressing the OSBE after they had already repealed the lesson plan, Ely stated he was “dismayed how the board has caved in to outside lobbyists,” noting that “it’s amazing how much erroneous information is existing here.” Ely served on the science writing team that helped produce the Critical Analysis of Evolution Lesson Plan.

Ely noted that this lesson does not have intelligent design. “I don’t see where any of you get intelligent design out of the lesson. I teach some intelligent design to our honor students at the university. This is not intelligent design.” Ely continued, “In this lesson we don’t have intelligent design. But, you say there is.”

Ely also emphasized that, in contrast to the statements of Board Member Martha K. Wise, that he was not “co-author” of the critical analysis of evolution lesson plan. The entire writing team wrote the lesson plan, which went through many revisions. Ely also stressed the rigorous writing process used by the science writing team, in that they met numerous times, field tested the lesson plan, and trimmed down the lesson plan from many possible discussion items down to a final five aspects of evolution.

Ely described the process which produced the lesson plan in great detail. Firstly, members of the science writing team were randomly assigned to help produce various lessons on evolution. Ely was not assigned to write initial drafts of the critical analysis lesson plan. The writing team then critiqued and revised the initial drafts over several weeks and months. The Ohio Department of Education then revised the lesson plans. They were then sent out for field testing to teachers and scientists, who included additional revisions.

Regarding the critical analysis of evolution lesson plan, Ely stated, “Each lesson went through the same scrutiny. I wouldn’t say the critical analysis lesson went through any more or less scrutiny than any of the other lessons did. There was good debate on each of them in terms of input.”

Ely also emphasized that many articles and references were cut out “on both sides of the question” in order to ensure accuracy and legality. Many people looked at the resources–and the idea was to “keep a balance on both sides of the question.”

“When I testified before, I said I was very skeptical of the process [of drafting the lesson plan], and I wasn’t sure if it would work,” said Ely. “Then I testified a second time and I was so happy that there was good discussion.” However, after the board meeting yesterday which repealed the lesson plan, Ely stated “Now I’m skeptical again. I really don’t think the process has worked.”

Ely Responds to “Creationist” Allegations
When advocating that the Board repeal the Critical Analysis of Evolution Lesson Plan, Board Member Martha K. Wise repeatedly emphasized the claim that authors of the Critical Analysis of Evolution Lesson Plan were creationists. Wise alleged that during the Kansas hearings, Dan Ely testified that he was “struggling with the age of the earth” and stated “He [Ely] thinks the earth is only Five-thousand years old. That’s not just ID. That’s young earth creationism.”

Ely’s testimony fully rebutted Wise’s misrepresentation of Ely’s viewpoint. Ely said that in Kansas, many of the witnesses were asked about their views on the age of the earth. “My answer was ‘We heard today anywhere from five-thousand years to five million years or five billion years,” and everybody laughed, “And most of the evidence looks like it’s very old.” Ely called Martha Wise’s alleged explanation of Ely’s views on the age of the earth “totally erroneous.”

Incidentally, Wise openly identified herself as a creationist, stating “”Remember, I’m a creationist myself. I believe in God and I believe that God created the heavens and the earth.” Yet Wise felt it important to state that Dan Ely is a “known creationist” who she even alleged is a young earth creationist. Because she believes that Ely is a creationist and helped author the critical analysis of evolution lesson plan, she listed this as the third reason that the lesson plan must be rejected. Thus according to Wise, it is permissible for creationists to advocate against critical analysis of evolution without promoting religion. But when creationists do advocate for critical analysis of evolution, they are necessarily pushing their religious views. This is despite the fact that non-creationists, such as Dr. Rick Sternberg in South Carolina, have advocated for teaching students about scientific challenges to evolution. The implication according to Wise is that creationists have fewer political rights than do non-creationists.

Similarly, Board Member Hovis stated that he wanted to see more religion in the lives of teenagers. Hovis was one of the strongest opponents of the critical analysis lesson plan. This raises the question of whether a double standard would prevent pro-critical analysis of evolution Board members from making such statements.

Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.



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