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Sunday, March 7, 2004

Letters on Ohio science standards



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Stephen Heis, a student in the biology class of teacher Kevin McFawn at Anderson High School, feeds a large mouth bass. Students in the class care for a variety of sea and aquatic life as part of a curriculum that includes genetics, diversity and species reproduction.
(Gary Landers photo)
On Tuesday, the Ohio Board of Education will vote on proposed science curriculum standards that include a section on "critical analysis of evolution." Some scientists object that it opens the door to discussion of "intelligent design," the idea that a higher intelligence played a role in the development of life. Others say it simply lets students get involved in the current scientific debate over aspects of evolution.

Our readers share a variety of viewpoints.

Teach all evidence about evolution

Ohio schools should teach all the evidence about macroevolution - evidence that supports the theory as well as evidence that questions it. Opponents of the "critical analysis of evolution" lesson are engaged in the censorship of ideas. They simply do not want the theory of common descent to be subjected to critical analysis. They're afraid this would show that the emperor (macroevolution) has no clothes. And on this point, they are certainly correct.

Robert Lattimer, Hudson, Ohio

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Public school can't be Sunday school

These standards are for public schools, not Sunday school. Science education does not include non-scientific "critical looks" at relativity or quantum mechanics, and it should not include nonscientific speculations on evolution. It is only on religious grounds that evolution is challenged. Religious indoctrination is explicitly forbidden in public schools, and this back-door attempt to foist it on the public should also be rejected.

Jorge Avila, Covington

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Teach what's testable, don't slam what isn't

Whether a topic should be included under the study of science should be a function of whether its theoretical underpinnings may be subjected to the scientific method. While both evolution and intelligent design are composed of hypotheses, only those of the former can be tested by experimentation and observation, and therefore only those of the former can ever be disproven.

The validity of beliefs based purely on faith or the absence of data cannot be disproven and cannot be studied scientifically, nor should they be a part of the science curriculum. However, the teachers of evolution should not be permitted to teach or otherwise imply that intelligent design is scientifically invalid, for it is merely scientifically untestable.

Denise M. Everett, Fort Thomas

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Evolution is theory; creation is of God

The Enquirer says, "Teach the best of what we do know." And you folks at the Enquirer do know that accident, no matter the odds, trumps design. There are two things we must remember in the conflict between creation and evolution:

• Evolution is a theory. While there is evidence that many interpret as supporting evolution, there is no proof that it is in fact true.

• Creation, as a work of intelligent design, is attested to by God both in his word and in the infinite detail of his design.

Jim Frye, Forest Park

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Let both theories be subject to debate

To ignore that evolution exists is to turn a blind eye to overwhelming evidence that has been carefully collected and critically analyzed for years. What has made this field of study so reliable and valid is that it is constantly being challenged, scrutinized and updated due to technologies that allow us to understand events with more insight and clarity than ever.

Why not put the intelligent design theory under the same microscope? A good debate, freedom of thought and the right to pursue answers are the cornerstone of our country's greatness.

Sharon Disher, Anderson Township

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Lack of data doesn't validate supernatural

Fossils provide irrefutable evidence that evolution has occurred, but as yet, paleontologists don't know all the details of the processes that drive evolution.

However, just because the scientific explanation for an observed natural phenomenon isn't complete, it doesn't mean that the phenomenon isn't understandable or can only be explained by the supernatural.

Throughout human history we have come up with mystical explanations for things we couldn't understand, only to have those beliefs discarded in the face of new scientific discoveries.

For this reason, I believe the state board of education should not give in to those who would try to force their unsubstantiated religious beliefs into science curricula.

Peter Lask, Oxford

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Religious theory not on par with science

The entire debate over teaching science versus religious theory and myth in schools mystifies me. The two are not compatible, and the latter is for parents and Sunday schools to attend to. All it takes is a bit of logical thinking to realize this.

Scientific analysis consists of the hypothesis-testing-proof chain that leads, more often than not, to the hypothesis being discarded. Many scientific theories are discarded through the scientific process because they can't be proven.

This fact does not stop dreamers from dreaming or inventors from inventing. But it does force them to find alternate methods to prove that what they imagine can actually happen.

The results of experimentation must be reproduced by others to be accepted.

Religion is quite the opposite. There is no proof of a belief, no matter how fervently millions wish otherwise. There is not even a consensus among believers regarding the details of the truth.

The theory cannot be tested or reproduced. The theory cannot even be deduced from any logical sequence of known events. It is a belief, and not a fact, no matter how pervasive the belief is.

The problem many have is that the intelligent-design front is making a direct attack on established scientific theory. Nothing stops a parent from instructing a child otherwise at home.

The intelligent-design front also forgets that there are many other beliefs in the world, this area, and in each of our cities, that do not comport with intelligent design. Buddhists, Taoists, Hindus, Muslims, idol worshipers, etc., all have varying views on creation.

If one is to implement an intelligent-design segment of a high school education, certainly all of the various theories deserve equal time and attention to detail.

In that regard, remember that Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion. In the view of many, if any religious dogma is going to enter the public sphere, then the government must make certain that no single belief system is given a dominant role.

Even more, this would be comparative religion, a survey of creation myths, or a world cultural survey.

It would not be science, and should never be taught in the same curriculum with evolution.

J. Stephen Smith, Covington

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A matter of survival, not intelligence

Science texts accept evolution. This obviously includes evolution of disease germs, which have evolved immunity to antibiotics.

I suggest texts address the question of "intelligent design" by asking whether this intelligence has assisted disease germs. Any student would say, "The disease germs did not need help. They survived because they adapted. The easy-to-kill germs died out, leaving the best. This is evolution at work. It does not need any help." The next obvious conclusion is that animals evolved the immunity to cope with these germs. It is just a continuing battle for survival. No intelligent designer.

Everett DeJager, Rossmoyne

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Use courtroom sense; hear all the evidence

The current blow-up over the state's science standards seems to be over something we take for granted in our court system. What? Hearing evidence for and against evolution? Letting the students decide for themselves? What will they think of next?

Janine Miller, South Charleston, Ohio

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Book doesn't advocate design argument

Thank you for your March 4 editorial ("Again, teach the best science") encouraging science students to think critically about evolutionary theory. The editorial was mistaken, however, in calling my Icons of Evolution a "pro-Intelligent Design book." Except for a few paragraphs describing how biology texts misuse scientific evidence to argue against design, and two brief references to the history of the controversy, the book doesn't even mention Intelligent Design, much less advocate it. Instead, it cites scientific literature to show how textbooks distort, misrepresent or even fake much of the evidence for evolution. Apparently, advocates of Darwin-only education don't want students to read it.

Jonathan Wells, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, Discovery Institute, Seattle




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