Sunday, February 8, 2004

Ohio wading into debate on biology



Peter Bronson
Most of what I learned in high school biology is buried in the bottom of my mental locker. But for some reason, I clearly remember those semi-creepy pictures in the chapters on evolution.

They showed embryos - fish, salamander, human - and they all looked as much alike as The Who and the Stones. My biology textbook said they were proof that all living critters are just different fruit from the same tree of life.

But here's something they didn't tell us in biology:

"Those drawings were faked," says Joel Roadruck, who will teach one of Ohio's first classes on intelligent design on March 1, at Forest Hills Community Education. "We know now that the differences in a fertilized embryo are as great as in a fully developed organism.''

Roadruck collects examples of "evidence" of evolution. Many have been exposed as frauds - but they are still in textbooks, which evolve slower than flatworms.

He argues that DNA and the incredible complexity of life - especially humans - contradict Darwin. "They're teaching evolution as truth - microbes to man. But this is not true. If they were stockbrokers, they'd be in jail" for fraud, he said.

Roadruck got interested by looking at biology books. "I found one view of the origins of life. Only evolution was being taught, when in fact a growing number of scientists support intelligent design theory.''

The state of Ohio is wading into the primordial ooze: The Ohio Board of Education is expected to sign off on a new model curriculum that asks teachers to introduce challenges to evolution in biology classes. Ohio's approach is pretty neutral. It doesn't mandate teaching of intelligent design, or go anywhere near biblical versions of creation.

Akron University biology professor Dan Ely helped write the key lesson plans, and he says they are "very balanced'' and "absolutely'' founded in credible science. "It's ridiculous not to look at the other side,'' he said.

That's the goal of Roadruck's evening classes at Turpin High School. They will examine books by scientists such as Jonathan Wells, Michael Behe and William Dembske, who dispute Darwin's theory on the origin of life and evolution. "Just take a look at the evidence and see if it's real,'' he said. "You decide for yourself.''

But that's not so easy. Ohio Board of Education member Deborah Owens-Fink of Akron says the over-reaction to even a modest challenge to evolution has been "very disturbing.'' Most of the acrimony comes from what she calls "the whiny scientists'' who oppose even a protozoa of intelligent design.

"If you support this, you are labeled a Pat Robertson, fundamentalist wacko,'' said Owens-Fink, who has taught scientific research methods at University of Akron. "What's so bizarre is that they never attack the science part, they just attack the people.''

Roadruck says evolution is the cornerstone of a worldview.

"We've been indoctrinated,'' Roadruck said. "If you teach a generation that we all evolved from pond scum, then everything is relative. There is no truth.''

In high school, I learned that in the 1600s, Galileo was forced to recant his theory that the Earth revolves around the sun.

Truth will prevail. You can't keep it buried in a locker.

E-mail pbronson@enquirer.com or call 768-8301.




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