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Darwinists in Rio Rancho School District Rescind Policy that Protects Against Establishing Religion in the Science Classroom

Casey Luskin

According to KOB News in New Mexico, the Rio Rancho School District has “rescind[ed]” its “intelligent design policy,” which allegedly “allow[s] alternative theories of evolution to be discussed in public school science classes.” But according to my understanding of the district’s Science Education Policy 401 (revised April, 2006), it says absolutely nothing about teaching intelligent design. In fact, if board members rescinded this policy, then they rescinded a policy that protected against indoctrinating students in religious or philosophical viewpoints, encouraged sensitivity towards the controversy caused by teaching about origins, and required “objective science education, without religious or philosophical bias, that upholds the highest standards of empirical science.” Only a Darwinist would rescind a policy like this. To my knowledge, here is what the policy stated, with my comments interspersed:

“The Rio Rancho Board of Education recognizes that scientific theories, such as theories regarding biological and cosmological origins, may be used to support or to challenge individual religious and philosophical beliefs. Consequently, the teaching of science in public school science classrooms may be of great interest and concern to students and their parents.”

My Comment: There is nothing here about teaching intelligent design. If the Rio Rancho School Board rescinded this then it rescinded a simple statement expressing sensitivity towards the fact that teaching biological origins can cause controversy.

“The Board also acknowledges the conditional trust parents place in public education, as well as the requirements of the Constitution and New Mexico education law, that the classroom not be used to indoctrinate students into any religious or philosophical belief system.”

My comment: There is nothing here about teaching intelligent design. Rather, this language paraphrases the U. S. Supreme Court in Epperson v. Arkansas and other court rulings, emphasizing the importance of not establishing religion in the classroom and not indoctrinating students in religion. If the Rio Rancho School Board rescinded this, then it rescinded Supreme Court language protecting against the establishment of religion in the classroom.

“Because of these concerns, this policy recognizes that the Rio Rancho Public Schools should teach an objective science education, without religious or philosophical bias, that upholds the highest standards of empirical science.”

My comment: Again, there is nothing here telling teachers to teach intelligent design. Otherwise, this is great language! In fact, it is no surprise that Darwinists oppose this language since it encourages “an objective science education, without religious or philosophical bias, that upholds the highest standards of empirical science.” Such a policy would indeed threaten a dogmatic presentation of evolution, even though I see no language that would require the teaching of intelligent design or any alternative to evolution.

“Therefore, science teachers in Rio Rancho Public Schools will align their instruction with the District’s approved curricula and fully comply with the requirements of the New Mexico 2003 revised Science Content Standards, Benchmarks, and Performance Standards. Age-appropriate emphasis will be given to Strand I, Science Thinking and Practice; Strand II, The Content of Science; and Strand III, Science and Society.”

My comment: Again, there is no language here about teaching intelligent design. However, by supporting obeying the law by teaching New Mexico’s science standards, they encourage students to “critically analyze the data and observations supporting the conclusion that the species living on Earth today are related by descent from the ancestral one-celled organisms.” (New Mexico Science Content Standards, Benchmarks and Performance Standards, Standard II (Life Science) (Biological Evolution) (9)) This doesn’t mean teaching intelligent design, but it does mean teaching science objectively. No wonder Darwinists oppose it. If board members rescinded this, then apparently they rescinded a policy requiring teachers to follow New Mexico’s Science Standards.

“Students shall understand that reasonable people may disagree about some issues that are of interest to both science and religion (e.g., the origin of life on Earth, the cause of the Big Bang, the future of Earth).”

My comment: Again, this opposes dogmatism in the science classroom, and deals with encouraging tolerant attitudes towards people who hold different viewpoints. This is about teaching people to be tolerant, but it says nothing about teaching intelligent design. But since it encourages people to understand that “reasonable people may disagree” about biological origins, it is not surprising that Darwinists opposed it. If board members rescinded this, then they rescinded a policy that encourages tolerance and open-mindedness.

In the end, Rio Rancho’s former policy on science education:

  • Encouraged sensitivity and tolerance towards the fact that reasonable people disagree about biological origins;
  • Required objectivity in science education and following the highest standards of empirical science;
  • Opposed indoctrinating students in a religious or philosophical viewpoint;
  • Required teachers to follow New Mexico’s Science Standards which require students to “critically analyze the data and observations supporting the conclusion that the species living on Earth today are related by descent from the ancestral one-celled organisms.”

It is no wonder that Darwinists on Rio Rancho’s board opposed this policy.
 

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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