Comments and report from
Melanie Elsey of the
Ohio Eagle Forum concerning the
Ohio State Board of Education Standards Committee
Meeting on March 11, 2002 to discuss Intelligent Design
State Board of Education Evolution Debate
Note All comments in [brackets] are my own and only provided for clarification. Once I am able to transcribe from audio, I will send out exact quotations. Videotapes should also be available by the end of next week.
State Board member Joe Roman opened the meeting by summarizing the purpose of the meeting. He stated that the State Board of Education has aimed for improved results in academic learning for K-12 students and adult learners since the proficiency tests were established in 1987. With the passage of Senate Bill 1 [last year], the State Board is in the process of establishing new academic content standards. As a result [of SB1] the new academic content standards, instructional practices, and new assessments "will be ALIGNED." The reading and mathematics standards were adopted last year. This year science and social studies standards are being developed. After this year, foreign language, arts, and technology standards will be developed.
The new standards for science have been written by a 41-member team, geographically diverse. Their initial draft was released in December. [The team is geographically diverse, professionally diverse, ethnically diverse, but not diverse in their philosophy of the origin of life. Out of the 41 members, 40 seem to support evolution. Only one member has been advocating balance in the standards.] The next draft will be ready for review in April. The final draft will be brought to the State Board of Education in September. Mr. Roman stated that throughout the process you could give input. The Standards Committee gave this special consideration at their January meeting. An expert was brought in at the February meeting. Mr. Roman clearly stated that there is general agreement that evolution should be a part of the science standards. The board is considering if "intelligent design" should also be a part of the standards. He stated that the board would not be making a decision until the end of the year. [It is critical to understand that public input at the end of this process will not have much impact. Parents and other citizens need to give their input immediately.]
State Board President Jennifer Sheets was introduced as the moderator for the meeting.
Mrs. Sheets explained that this educational forum was a meeting of the State Board Standards Committee and no public testimony would be permitted. She stated there would be ample time for public testimony late summer or early fall. [This is true. However, the most effective time to provide public testimony is during the time the drafts are being developed, not after they are final. Any impact on the language must be made now.]
Mrs. Sheets explained that each panelist would have 15 minutes for prepared remarks. Panelists had an opportunity to review questions submitted by state board members in order to help frame their remarks. Following the presentations, the state board members would write impromptu questions on index cards and each panelist would be given 2 minutes to respond or defer their time to another panelist.
Mrs. Sheets introduced each panelist.
Dr. Jonathan Wells began with a statement identifying the growing scientific controversy over Darwinian evolution. He outlined his remarks around three points.
1. The accuracy of textbook evidence in support of Darwin [There are serious concerns with fraudulent examples used in high school and college textbooks.]
2. The debate over the sufficiency of evidence in support of Darwin.
3. The debate over the sufficiency of evidence in support of design
He spent a few minutes explaining an example of "faked" evidence. German biologist Ernst Haeckel [a contemporary of Darwin] drew embryos from various classes of vertebrates to show that they are virtually identical in their earliest stages and claimed that this was evidence of common descent. Haeckel's vertebrate drawings were of a fish, salamander, tortoise, chick, hog, calf, rabbit, and human. After showing Haeckel's drawings, Dr. Wells showed actual photographs of the same embryos, which did not look at all similar. He proceeded to show quotations from scientific literature and even from evolutionists that agree this is the "most famous fake in biology."
[Note Dr. Wells has written a book, "Icons of Evolution" (ISBN 0-89526-200-2) which exposes the inaccuracies of the 10 most common textbook examples supporting Darwin's theory of evolution.]
Dr. Wells explained a circumstance in Burlington, Washington in which a biology teacher, Roger DeHart, was prohibited from using supplementary materials, which contradicted Darwin. Then he raised a question of policy Should teachers be permitted to tell students about the problems with textbook evidence? He referred to p. 65 of Ohio's draft science standards, specifically the objective which states, "Analyze how natural selection and its evolutionary consequences provide a scientific explanation for the diversity and unity of ALL past life forms as depicted in the fossil record and present life forms."
Dr. Wells showed a picture of Darwin's "tree of life," which is the only illustration in his book, "The Origin of Species." The picture indicates that life forms were more similar at an earlier time and became more diverse [evolving into different species] over time. Dr. Wells showed 7 examples of life forms in the phyla classification, in which major differences in their physical characteristics appear at the SAME time in the fossil record. This is referred to as the "Cambrian Explosion." Several quotes were provided from the scientific community, which indicated that this was a significant problem for Darwin's theory. Dr. Wells also specified that 100 scientists published their position in the "New York Review" that Darwin's theory should be challenged. Dr. Wells asked, as a matter of policy consideration, if students should be told that some scientists doubt the sufficiency of Darwin's theory.
Dr. Wells then showed statements from scientists, which support the concept of design in living organisms. One peer-reviewed report used the bacterial flagellum as an example of intricate design. Dr. Wells explained that the theory of intelligent design is derived from inferences made from biological evidence. It does not have to be deduced from religious doctrine. From a scientific perspective, he stated that it is not the same as biblical creationism. [This point was made to provide a distinction between teaching about the evidence of design without teaching a particular religious doctrine, which has already been disallowed by the courts.] He then posed another policy question Should teachers be permitted to tell students about the controversy? [There are more viewpoints in the scientific community than just Darwin's]
Dr. Lawrence Krauss began by asking if "intelligent design" should be included in Ohio's standards. "Why not?" he asked. He asserted that "intelligent design" is "an assault on science." He expressed concern when people claim to be practicing scientists. He stated he was even more concerned when people knowingly mislead others on this issue.
Dr. Krauss stated, "There is no disagreement in the scientific community about the fact of evolution." He claimed that "intelligent design" does not appear anywhere in the scientific literature and it is the idea of "special interest fringe groups."
"Is this a fair debate?" he asked. "No," he answered. He claimed that it is not representative at all. It elevates the issue to a level it shouldn't have. He viewed the debate as an attack on science and was concerned that both presenters were from a specific group pushing this issue.
He claimed that the proponents have a goal of "getting rid of evolution." [This is a FALSE statement.]
He pointed out that "Ohio got an F from a national foundation on teaching biology." [This statement is MISLEADING. Ohio received an F from the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation in a report entitled, "Good Science, Bad Science Teaching Evolution in the States." The report wasn't about instruction in biology, in general, as Dr. Krauss misleads. The F was based on the fact that instruction in evolution has not been a part of Ohio's science standards. Furthermore, some of the states that earned an A from Fordham (such as California), scored BELOW the national average on the science portion of the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress). Some of the states which scored an F (such as Ohio), scored ABOVE the national average on the science portion of the NAEP. It seems that students' performance in science is NOT dependent on Ohio's grade from the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation! Dr. Krauss statements could mislead folks into thinking that students won't do well if Ohio doesn't score well with Fordham. Ohio State Superintendent Susan Zelman has publicly stated that it is her intention to earn an A from the Fordham Foundation on this report.)
Dr. Krauss stated that he is in favor of discussing "intelligent design" in religion or philosophy classes.
He conducted a search of articles in "Science" and "Nature" from January 2001 through March 2002. He found 200 articles on biological evolution, but none on "intelligent design." He stated, "They [ID proponents] don't have the courage of their convictions to submit their ideas to [the process of ] peer review. They are attempting to bypass the traditional mechanism of science to go directly to the high school classroom." [Dr. Wells submitted a stack of peer-reviewed articles to the members of the State Board of Education."]
He also stated that the courts have recognized that they [ID proponents] are not experts. [Dr. Krauss did not back this statement up with any reference to a specific court case. On the contrary, according to a legal review of court cases on this issue, published by the University of Utah College of Law, scientific claims could be evaluated on the validation of empirical research, NOT on the basis of a "popularity poll among scientists" or by the "fulfillment of a set of arbitrary criteria."]
Dr. Krauss quoted a few statistics from a National Science Foundation survey [and implied that there was still much work to do to inform the public].
50% of American adults are not aware that the earth orbits the sun and takes a year to do so.
47-56% of the American public does not believe in evolution
He asked a final question, "Should we spend time in biology class teaching some group's unsubstantiated ideas?" He concluded that it would be a "waste of students' time to subject them to the idea of intelligent design."
Dr. Stephen Meyer began by stating that when two groups of relevant experts disagree, students need to understand the controversy. He also addressed the possibility of assessing students on their comprehension of the competing arguments [in lieu of testing their agreement with one side of the controversy]. He included a quotation from Charles Darwin, which states that a fair result can be obtained by stating the facts and arguments on both sides of the issue.
Dr. Meyer made the following distinctions between proponents of Darwin and proponents of intelligent design
Evolutionists believe that the appearance of design is the result of undergoing natural processes.
ID proponents assert that organisms look designed because they are designed.
Evolutionists believe ID is unscientific by definition.
Reference was made to William Dembski's book, "The Design Inference" as a resource to understand evidence of design.
Dr. Meyer presented an analogy to an archeologist's discovery of the Rosetta Stone and hieroglyphics. Proponents of intelligent design would say that these examples could not have come into existence due to wind and erosion. If something appears to be the result of intelligent design, it is.
He posed a policy question Should science seek the best explanation? Or, should science be limited to the best naturalistic explanation? The definition of science itself is part of the controversy. Teachers should be permitted to tell their students about the controversy.
Dr. Meyer gave several examples of ID literature that has been submitted to the peer review process. [This was most likely due to Dr. Krauss accusation that the concept of ID had never been "peer reviewed" in the scientific community.] On the other hand, Dr. Meyer reminded the audience that Darwin's own theory had not been subject to peer review when he published "The Origin of Species." Dr. Meyer asked, "When is there enough scientific dissent?" He referred to 40 peer-reviewed articles, which challenge Darwin's theories.
After confirming that the decision of the State Board would be a difficult decision, with intensity of feelings on both sides, Dr. Meyer suggested a compromise on the policy issue of mandating standards for the purpose of assessments in science. He suggested taking ID out of the discussion.
Teach students the scientific controversy regarding Darwin's theory - arguments for and arguments against.
This would eliminate the debate over science v. religion. It would also eliminate the concern of Darwinists regarding the peer review process. He cited "Darwin's Black Box," by Michael Behe as an example of a Darwinian critique that has sold 160,000 copies and been reviewed in 75 publications. Dr. Meyer urged the State Board to not adopt a definition for science, which would prevent teachers from discussing alternative views.
Case law already indicates that this approach would be Constitutional and federal policy [in the conference report to HR1] calls for this type of instructional approach.
Dr. Kenneth Miller began by summarizing Dr. Wells' and Dr. Meyer's presentations. Dr. Wells asserted that evolution is faulty. Dr. Meyer asserted that design should be an alternative. Dr. Miller expressed concern with the scientific basis of these claims. He said that Dr. Wells "has accused me of fraud." [This was inferred due to the fact that some of the biology textbooks used in Ohio was the focus of criticism in Dr. Wells' book, "Icons of Evolution."] Dr. Miller defended his peppered moth example used in the texts. He also defended the claim that humans have evolved from apes. He stated that human evolution has occurred in the "last 5 million years so there are very few specimens [of transitional life forms]."
He expressed disagreement with Dr. Wells' use of the faked embryos from German biologist Ernst Haeckel, as an example of fraudulent data. He showed where his textbooks had been updated. In the updated texts, the drawings of Haeckel had been replaced with photographs of embryos. [Note There are still textbooks used in Ohio that contain Haeckels faked drawings. There is nothing in state policy or the pending standards that prevents fraudulent data from being used to support evolution. There are also textbooks, with publication dates of 2001/2002 by other authors, which contain the faked drawings.]
Dr. Miller referred to the work of Dr. Michael Behe, which presents the concept of "irreducible complexity" in living organisms as a means of substantiating that the organism was designed. Dr. Miller explained Dr. Behe's views Since organisms are biochemical machines, in which all the parts must work together. If any of the parts are missing, the organism would fail to function. Dr. Behe has used a mousetrap as an analogy to illustrate this point. Dr. Miller asserted that, in the process of evolution, the individual parts originate with different functions. If individual parts were removed from a bacterial flagellum, it would be parallel to the flagellum of eel sperm, which Dr. Miller stated is perfectly capable of making baby eels. [Note Eel sperm flagella may have been designed with fewer parts, but removing the parts from the bacterial flagella would be fatal for the bacteria.] Dr. Miller illustrated his point by using the mousetrap as an example. He wore a mousetrap-style tie clip, which only had 2 of the five working parts. He also said he has mousetraps that have been made into key chains, refrigerator magnets, etc. [Note Mouse traps which are redesigned into key chains, refrigerator magnets, and tie clips will not likely catch any mice.] Dr. Miller also expressed his concern that the concept of "irreducible complexity" is not mentioned in peer-reviewed journals. He claimed that ID proponents have no answer to why the fossil record reflects the historical existence of 23 different species of elephants, of which 21 species are extinct today. [Note He did not substantiate his claim of 23 species with empirical data.] He expressed disagreement with the approach of taking the theory of intelligent design to students, while "leap frogging" the approval of the scientific community. Dr. Miller concluded with a resolution approved by the Ohio Academy of Science rejecting the concept of intelligent design.
[NOTE Dr. Miller was provided the strategic advantage of speaking last. No time was provided to previous speakers to refute Dr. Miller's claims.]
At this point in the agenda, questions from members of the State Board of Education were submitted to the panel. Each question was written on an index card. Each panel member was provided an opportunity to respond.
I will provide a transcript of the Q/A time once I receive a copy of an audio or video record.
Following the question and answer period, the committee meeting was adjourned. Board members were directed to return to their regular meeting location to continue with their meeting agenda on other matters of board business.
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