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Where’s the Intelligent Design in Ohio House Bill 597?


Just as they did back in 2006, the Darwin Lobby and the media have concocted a story that intelligent design is going to be taught in Ohio. According to a recent article in the Columbus Dispatch, “Intelligent design could be taught with Common Core’s repeal,” Ohio House Bill 597 “would allow intelligent design and creationism to be taught alongside evolution in science classes.” You might expect that a bill to “allow intelligent design and creationism to be taught alongside evolution” would say something about intelligent design, creationism, or evolution. But if you read HB 597, you’ll find no such language. In fact, the bill is primarily about repealing Common Core, and says absolutely nothing about intelligent design, evolution, or creationism.

So how did the media fabricate this fiction? Here’s the language from the bill they cite:

House Bill 597 says new state science standards must “prohibit political or religious interpretation of scientific facts in favor of another.”

Yes, it says that, but such language in no way would sanction teaching intelligent design or creationism. Given that creationism is a religious viewpoint, the bill would seem to explicitly disbar teaching creationism.

What’s even more ironic is that the people who are claiming the bill would allow ID also think ID is religion. They should have to explain: How does a bill that would prohibit teaching a “religious interpretation” somehow sanction the teaching of a supposed religious viewpoint?

The article then quotes the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Andy Thompson, purportedly saying the bill allows intelligent design:

Asked if intelligent design — the idea that a higher authority is responsible for life — should be taught alongside evolution, Thompson said, “I think it would be good for them to consider the perspectives of people of faith. That’s legitimate.”

This is a good example of how reporters twist the words of policymakers. Rep. Thompson wasn’t asked whether HB 597 would include intelligent design. He was asked whether, as a general matter, he feels intelligent design should be taught. Thompson apparently feels it should. But he never said that HB 597 includes intelligent design.

At the end of the day, I don’t really care what Rep. Thompson said in response to the misleading questions of reporters. If you read HB 597, the bill barely deals with teaching science at all, much less intelligent design! It’s mostly about pulling Ohio out of Common Core — but apparently neither the reporter at the Columbus Dispatch nor his editors bothered to investigate enough to realize that Common Core is not about science standards. It’s about math and English. A separate initiative, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), seeks to push nationalized science standards on the states. The NGSS have their own big problems, but the NGSS are not specifically at stake in House Bill 597.

Ironically, the article begins: “In what could reignite a controversy that raged about eight years ago, a bill to repeal Common Core education standards in Ohio would allow intelligent design and creationism to be taught alongside evolution in science classes.” Yes, the controversy is being reignited — not by the bill, though, but by the media! If you remember what happened in 2006, you’ll appreciate just how far the Ohio Darwin Lobby is willing to go in distorting the truth to scare the public.

In 2006, Ohio had science standards including as follows:

Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory. (The intent of this indicator does not mandate the teaching or testing of intelligent design.)

Note the sentence in parentheses. Clear enough for you? But during that debate, Ohio Darwin activists along with the media again and again twisted the words to mean the exact opposite of what they plainly said. “This indicator does not mandate the teaching or testing of intelligent design” really meant that the standards required teaching about intelligent design. Case Western Reserve University professor Patricia Princehouse even made the indefensible statement that “Critical analysis is just another name for creationism.”

So the Columbus Dispatch is right about one thing: history is repeating itself in Ohio. In 2006, Darwin activists inflamed groundless fears about intelligent design in the schools. In 2014, they’re getting ready to do it all over again.

Image: Ohio Statehouse/Wikipedia.

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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