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False Fear Epidemic over Critical Analysis of Evolution Spreads to Wisconsin

Breaking News: False Fear Syndrome has skipped right over Michigan and spread directly from Ohio to Wisconsin. The primary symptom is the spreading of false fears about teaching intelligent design in states that are merely encouraging the critical analysis of evolution. The Syndrome is typically accompanied by paranoia among educators, politicians, and the newsmedia.

This epidemic broke out in full force in Kansas last November. More recently it appeared in Ohio and South Carolina. Sadly, today there is a confirmed case in Wisconsin.

A press release from Wisconsin Representative Terese Berceau indicates she has introduced a bill into the Wisconsin State Legislature seeking to “to stem the growing tide of intelligent design and other specious science.” This is interesting because I’ve never seen legislation aimed at stopping “the tide” of a particular idea. Imagine if a politician issued a press release stating “I want to stop the growing tide of evolution.” I’m sure something like this has happened–and I’m sure they got skewered for it.

In any case, Representative Berceau has been infected by the false fear that intelligent design is being pushed in her state. She writes in her press release:

“We have seen attempts to enshrine the teaching of intelligent design as science in Kansas and in Dover, Pennsylvania — even in Grantsburg, Wisconsin, in our own backyard.” (Berceau Offers Legislation to Stop the Assault on Science in Wisconsin Schools, issued February 6, 2006)

The only problem is that intelligent design isn’t being taught in Kansas. In fact, no state has mandated the teaching of intelligent design. Nor is intelligent design being taught in Grantsburg, Wisconsin. As Discovery reported in 2004, the Grantsburg School District has a policy which states:

“Students are expected to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information. Students shall be able to explain the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory. This policy does not call for the teaching of Creationism or Intelligent Design.”

So there is no need for this bill. This is simply another instance of Darwinists attempting to oppose critical analysis of evolution by pretending that it is equivalent to teaching intelligent design. This is a political tactic based upon misinformation, misrepresentation, emotions, and false fears.

Here are 5 simple, non-complicated reasons why teaching critical analysis of evolution is not teaching ID:

  1. They’re Just Different: One can easily critique evolution without getting into “replacement theories,” such as intelligent design. For example, consider the Ohio Critical Analysis of Evolution Lesson Plan which offers critiques of arguments for evolution from a number of angles including homology, antibiotic resistance, and endosymbiosis theory, all without making any discussion of intelligent design.
  1. Explicit Statements of Intent: Some places which sanction critical analysis have explicit disclaimers which ensure that people understand that the critical analysis policy does not call for teaching ID. For example, Ohio’s Science Standards, which require critical analysis, also state in 6 places, “The intent of this benchmark does not mandate the teaching or testing of intelligent design.” Similar disclaimers exists in Kansas and Grantsburg, WI.
  1. Separate Legal Category: In Edwards v. Aguillard, the U.S. Supreme Court clearly distinguished between scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories, and teaching alternative viewpoints to evolution. Critical analysis thus exists as a separate and already-protected legal category.
  1. Many Critics of Darwin Don’t Support ID: Critics of Neo-Darwinism such as structuralists or self-organization proponents have plenty of problems with Neo-Darwinism–and they explicitly disaffirm ID! If critical analysis = ID then these people apparently don’t exist. Case-in-point: in South Carolina last month, structuralist Richard von Sternberg testified in favor of critical analysis of evolution. Yet Sternberg himself is not an ID-proponent.
  1. Final Proof: The Pudding (the Darwinists’ own behavior): Darwinist behavior confirms it: no lawsuit has ever been filed in a state or district which simply required teaching critical analysis of evolution. Yet it took the Darwinists less than 2 months to file a lawsuit to ban intelligent design from science classes in Dover, Pennsylvania. If the Darwinists really thought that critical analysis was equivalent to teaching ID, we would have seen a lot of lawsuits over the past few years over “critical analysis” policies. But we haven’t.

Casey Luskin

Associate Director and Senior Fellow, 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.