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Professors debate intelligent design

Robert Arons
Staff Reporter

Case professors Dr. Cynthia Beall, Dr. Lawrence Krauss, and Dr. Patricia Princehouse gave a press conference at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History Wednesday to discuss new biology lesson plans for Ohio high school students in the ongoing intelligent design vs. evolution debate.

One of the new model lessons, “Critical Analysis of Evolution,” for the 10th grade, will be voted on by the Ohio Board of Education (OBE) on March 9. The model lesson attempts to poke holes in evolutionary theory, and has been repudiated by scientists and scientific organizations including the Case Faculty Senate, the Ohio Academy of Science, and the National Academy of Scientists. It has also been dismissed as “pseudo-science” by the Ohio Faculty Council, made up of members from all public Ohio universities.

The model curricula passed the OBE vote for intent to adopt by a 13-4 margin this February, and likely will pass an adoption vote by a 12-7 vote March 9, when a public hearing will be held before the final adoption vote takes place. According to sources within the OBE, if the lesson plan is adopted it will become a part of the curricula tested on the Ohio proficiency exam, which is used to determine school success and fund allocation; it is also necessary to pass the test to earn a high school diploma in Ohio.

At the heart of “A Critical Analysis of Evolution” is what has been called “a pattern of deception” by Princehouse, an evolutionary biologist, and “an attack on science” by Krauss. The lesson plan has been criticized for lack of clarity, false historical information, incorrect or missing footnotes, footnotes directly from books on intelligent design, false definitions, using outdated scientific information, and errors of fact. For instance, the lesson plan defines a theory as a “supposition,” when scientists usually define a theory as an explanation of phenomena that has passed empirical tests. The end result, critics believe, is that this is the first step in getting rid of all scientific theories that go against creationist teachings.

Richard Baker, an avowed creationist and vice president of the OBE, disagrees. “I voted for it because I think you … need to look at more than one situation as part of the learning process,” he said. According to him, the plan’s only goal is to “critically analyze” the theory of evolution, and that it does not violate laws that separate church and state.

Baker accused the scientific community of wasting time debating the plan. “We spend all this malarkey and baloney when 99 percent of all the people who are taught this have nothing to do with the rest of their lives … These scientists, they don’t care about wasting their own time or anybody else’s time. In business we don’t waste time … To me, [the lesson] is not a big deal.” According to Baker, the real reason scientists want to do away with the lesson plan is, as he said to a group of scientists at a board meeting concerning the lesson plan, “[They] think [they] know everything. [They’re] just a bunch of paranoid, egotistical scientists afraid of people finding out [they] don’t know anything.”

Lynn Elfner, director of the Ohio Academy of Science, disagrees with this thinking. Noting many footnotes to creationist works and similarities of argument between creationist works and the lesson plan, she said that “the concepts of intelligent design are embedded throughout the document and they are traceable to intelligent design organizations … By using the lesson plan, we can go from the document to the pew and the church.”

OBE member Sam Schoemer agreed. “When you compare the lesson plan with [intelligent design] websites, it’s almost verbatim.” Steven Gey, a Florida State constitutional law professor and ABC legal news analysts, added, “It’s not only bad science, it’s illegal.”

Although the references to creationist books in the lesson plan have been removed, prompting allegations of plagiarism, the creationist websites listed as research resources are still there. However, the words “creationism” and “intelligent design” are not in the document at all.

Another issue with the lesson plan is the way it was created. According to Schoemer, the selection for the writing committee was closed and “controlled by the pro-creationist chair Mike Cochran.” Martha Wise, another OBE member, said that the lesson plan itself was “written by an [intelligent design] ideologist with limited stature as a scientist.” According to Princehouse, “writing committee members could not take home documents from the meeting … They collected and counted every piece of paper they gave out before they let anybody go home.”

Such secrecy, Elfner believes, has “subverted” the quality of the plan. “The process to develop the model lessons was controlled concealed, especially from scientists. The result is we have a fatally flawed model lesson that is riddled with errors both in pedagogy and scientific content,” she said.

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  February 27, 2004
.. Professors debate intelligent design
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.. Wrestlers sting Yellowjackets, prepare for Regionals
.. Women's team takes second at 2004 Cleveland Champs
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.. Lady Spartans split pair on the road with Rochester and CMU
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