Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Evolution Battle Flares in States

by Pauline Vu, Staff Writer

Creationism v. evolution in schools has been for many years a battle in the nation’s culture war, and these days it’s no different.

Texas had an evolution casualty in the recent resignation of a state education official over the divide, Florida next week will consider acknowledging evolution by name for the first time in its proposed new curriculum, and South Carolina in December approved a textbook teaching evolution after a skirmish over its content.

But though evolution has won some recent battles, its supporters aren’t relaxing. Instead, they’re bracing against what they see as a growing effort to undermine the theory’s credibility.

“There’s a big push to teach the weaknesses of evolution,” said Dan Quinn, a spokesman for the Texas Freedom Network, which supports separation of church and state. “It’s all just phony arguments in an attempt to raise doubt among students that evolution is a valid theory.”

But evolution’s detractors argue that the science has too many gaps to be considered ironclad. They say, for example, there is an incomplete fossil record to support evolution’s claims and that random processes are incapable of producing complex systems.

“There are some very specific items where students are only getting one side of the story and we would like to see students getting all of the information,” said Robert Crowther, a spokesman for the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which favors more education about evolution’s weaknesses. “If a 10th grader can understand some of the evidence that supports evolution, they can certainly learn some of the evidence that challenges it.”

Over the years, those who oppose evolution have changed tactics. They originally pushed for schools to teach creationism. But when the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987 equated creationism with religion and found it unconstitutional for public schools, the movement began promoting the “intelligent design” argument as a scientific concept which posits that biological processes are so complex they must be the work of a greater force than nature.

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