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Akron Beacon Journal Needs Fact Check and Reality Check

A recent editorial entitled “They’re Back” in the Akron Beacon Journal (ABJ) is chock-full of false and misleading information about how evolution has been taught in Ohio Public Schools. The title seems intended to imply a sense of ominous doom (read it “Theeeeeyyyyy’rrreeee Baaaaaaccck”) because apparently re-considering teaching students about both the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolution is extremely scary in the eyes of some Darwinist journalists who would rather that students don’t learn about the scientific problems with evolution. Regardless, the real record looks far different from the ABJ editorial’s alternate reality.

The editorial’s opening line that “[s]ome members of the state school board appear obsessed with wedging creationism into high school biology classes” is a scare tactic with no grounding in reality. Creationism has never been a part of their policy, and for good reason. The only possible exception might be that the Ohio Board’s most vociferous pro-Darwin-only proponent has also loudly proclaimed herself a creationist.

Moreover, the ABJ editorial strangely states that Ohio Board members “sought a clear path to discussion in class of intelligent design.” Yet in 2002, the Ohio State Board of Education adopted science standards that included a benchmark requiring that students be able to “understand how scientists continue to critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.” The benchmark followed with an explanatory parenthetical stating that “[t]he intent of this benchmark does not mandate the teaching or testing of intelligent design.”

To further justify its false narrative, the ABJ editorial ignores the fact that the benchmark language was followed by the Ohio Board’s 2004 adoption an optional Critical Analysis of Evolution lesson plan that simply presented scientific criticisms of various aspects of neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory. The lesson plan only contained scientific challenges to neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory that were already present in mainstream scientific publications and peer-reviewed literature. Some of the citations included:

4. Carroll, Robert L. “Towards a New Evolutionary Synthesis.” Trends in Ecology and Evolution 15 (2000): 27-32.

11. Erwin, Douglas. “Macroevolution is More Than Repeated Rounds of Microevolution,” Evolution & Development 2 (2000): 78-84.

23. Martin W., and M. Muller. “The Hydrogen Hypothesis for the First Eukaryote.” Nature 392 (1998): 37-41.

28. Pennisi, E. “Direct descendants from an RNA world.” Science 280 (1998): 673.

29. Philippe, Herve, and Patrick Forterre. “The Rooting of the Universal Tree of Life is Not Reliable.” Journal of Molecular Evolution 49 (1999): 509-523.

The lesson plan was hardly the “clear path” to intelligent design that the ABJ editorial imagines. Actually reading the CAE lesson plan would have clarified things for the ABJ. Neither the term “intelligent design” nor any of the key concepts or arguments related to the theory of intelligent design were contained in the CAE lesson plan. If the CAE lesson plan really did include the theory of intelligent design–as the ABJ editorial insinuates–why didn’t the ACLU ever sue the Ohio State Board of Education, like it immediately sued the Dover, Pennsylvania school board after they passed an ID-policy? The ABJ editorial obviously ignores this glaring point because it refutes its false history.

Unfortunately, the optional CAE lesson plan was repealed in February, 2006 by a slim majority of the Ohio Board. As a result, students in Ohio can only learn less about evolution than before. Ohio’s model science curriculum is now thoroughly pro-Darwin-only. Sadly, the ABJ editorial applauds this one-sided and incomplete science instruction.

Finally, given the incorrect retelling of Ohio Board’s actions in the ABJ editorial, it is unsurprising that the editorial also falsely defines the theory of intelligent design. Contrary to the ABJ editorial’s distorted definition, as propounded by design theorists the theory of intelligent design simply holds that certain aspects of the universe and living things can best be explained by intelligence. This inference is justified because we find in nature structures with the same types of informational properties which, in our experience, come only from intelligence.

Since the ABJ is concerned with education, it might want to better educate itself about the history of evolution-education in Ohio, and also with the differences between teaching intelligent design and teaching critical analysis of evolution.

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.