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Case scientists oppose creationist lesson in school curriculum

One of the nation's top scientists has called on Ohio Gov. Bob Taft to "step up" and announce his position on the state's proposed science curriculum.

Photo: Lawrence KraussLawrence Krauss, chair and Ambrose Swasey Professor of physics at Case Western Reserve University, said the proposed curriculum includes thinly veiled creationism and hoped the governor would "come down on the side of good science."

"The people behind intelligent design creationism find science to be incompatible with belief in God," Krauss said. "That's not the case; most scientists do believe in God. The issue is this: Intelligent design is scientifically untestable. It's not science."

The Ohio State Board of Education will vote on the issue March 9.

"We're not against critical analysis of any theory. That's exactly what scientists do all the time. But this isn't critical analysis about science. It's lies about science," Krauss said. "The minute we erode the educational standards, we erode the scientific method."

The call to action came at a news conference in the "Dinosaur Hall" of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, where Krauss and a group of Case Western Reserve scientists explained the problems of including creationist pseudoscience in a model lesson plan under consideration by the Ohio Board of Education. The proposed lesson was revised this month to remove references to intelligent design creationism but still is based on intelligent design concepts and mischaracterizations of the scientific process, according to the scientists.

In asking for Taft to take a position on the proposed curriculum, Krauss pointed out the governor's Third Frontier program—"which is based on biotechnology, which is based on molecular biology, which is based on evolution."

"Some people are calling for a compromise on this issue," said Professor Patricia Princehouse. "But science is not based on compromise; science is based on vigorous discussion leading to eventual consensus."

Cynthia Beall, Case's Sarah Idell Pyle Professor of Anthropology, pointed out that errors in the proposed lesson plan included an incorrect explanation of the scientific usage of the word "theory."

"They define 'theory' as 'a supposition,' but that's the vernacular usage of the word," she said. "In scientific terminology, a theory is an explanation that has passed a number of tests. The lesson plan uses it like you would talk about your theory of why the chicken crossed the road."

In a related development, the Case Faculty Senate unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday urging the state board to restore "genuine science education to the state's public school curricula."

"Science is the most remarkable set of intellectual activities imaginable," Krauss said. "It's inconceivable that we would want to shield students from the ideas of science. We must never be afraid of science."

The legal aspects of the proposed curriculum also were discussed during "Is it Science Yet?: The Constitutional Problems with Ohio's Proposed 'Critical Analysis of Evolution' Lesson Plan," a public forum at Case during which constitutional law expert Steven Gey of Florida State University explained his analysis of the legality of the controversial creationist lesson.

Three Cleveland-area members of the Ohio Board of Education also commented: Virgil Brown, who voted for including the lesson; Martha Wise, who opposed the lesson; and Rob Hovis, who voted against it, stating he needed more information.

 

About Case Western Reserve University

Case is among the nation's leading research institutions. Founded in 1826 and shaped by the unique merger of the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University, Case is distinguished by its strengths in education, research, service, and experiential learning. Located in Cleveland, Case offers nationally recognized programs in the Arts and Sciences, Dental Medicine, Engineering, Law, Management, Medicine, Nursing, and Social Work. http://www.case.edu.