TB75F : Theory or Intelligent Design - soon in US schools?
Bush wants alternatives to Darwinism taught in school
By Caroline Daniel in Washington
Published: August 3 2005 03:00 | Last updated: August 3 2005 03:00
President George W. Bush stirred the debate on the teaching of evolution in schools when he said this week that he supported the teaching of alternative viewpoints - such as the theory of Intelligent Design - to help students "understand what the debate is about".
"I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," Mr Bush said in comments to five Texas newspapers on Monday. "You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes."
Although Mr Bush did not explicitly endorse the concept of Intelligent Design, which contends that certain features of biological systems are best explained by an "intelligent" cause rather than by natural selection, such influential groups as the National Academy of Sciences strongly oppose the teaching of ID in schools.
Mr Bush's comments threaten to place him outside the mainstream of scientific opinion and align him more closely with social conservatives and with "creationists" who challenge Darwinism on religious grounds.
"Mr Bush would have done better to heed his White House science adviser, John Marburger, who said that evolution was the 'cornerstone of modern biology' and who has characterised ID as not even being a scientific theory," said Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, a group that defends the teaching of evolution. Mr Marburger expres-sed those views in an online discussion with the Chronicle of Higher Education in March, Mr Branch said.
"The federal government has very little influence over curriculums and instruction. The most Mr Bush could accomplish is stirring up the feeling that he supports the creationists' position," said Mr Branch. Yet mainstream Republican opinion has begun to show differences on matters of religion and science. Last week Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, distanced himself from Mr Bush's restrictive position on stem cell research, putting forward a bill that would enable the expansion of research using embryonic stem cells. "It isn't just a matter of faith, it's a matter of science," Mr Frist said.
Efforts to promote ID have been on the rise with the help of such groups as the Discovery Institute in Seattle. In a broadcast yesterday Dr James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, an influential conservative group, also predicted: "We are now on the verge of major changes in how the origins of life and evolution are taught in science class rooms across the nation."
In Kansas, the board of education is concluding hearings on whether creationism can be taught in schools. Georgia's Cobb County school system has placed labels on textbooks saying "Evolution is a theory, not a fact", and New York lawmakers attempted but lost a recent effort to enact a law requiring state schools to teach both ID and evolutionary theory.
John West, a director at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, recently accused "the new Darwinian fundamentalists of becoming just as intolerant as the religious fundamentalists they despise".