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Case faculty vote to oppose Ohio's proposed evolution plan

Case Western Reserve University's Faculty Senate has unanimously endorsed a resolution opposing the Ohio State Board of Education's plan to introduce a new evolution lesson into public schools' biology curriculum.

Image: Signing offThe faculty resolution was followed by a news conference at which Case professors denounced the proposed changes in the state's curriculum and a faculty-sponsored forum discussing the legality of the lesson plan.

"I enthusiastically support the action of the Case Western Reserve University Faculty Senate in calling for the Ohio State Board of Education to reverse its 'intention to adopt' the proposed 'critical analysis of evolution' lesson plan and restore genuine science education to the state's public school curricula," said Case President Edward M. Hundert. "The proposed state curriculum facilitates the introduction of concepts, such as intelligent design, which are not in accordance with accepted principles of scientific inquiry."

Noting that science is "a systematic method of continuing investigation, based on observation, hypothesis testing, and measurement," and that "the theory of evolution, as presently developed, fully satisfies these criteria," the Case Faculty Senate resolution urges citizens, educational authorities and legislators to "oppose any alteration of the science curriculum or proficiency tests in science that would accommodate approaches based on either religious beliefs or other sources that are not amenable to the scientific process of scrutiny, testing, and revision."

During the news conference, Case faculty members Lawrence Krauss, physics; Cynthia Beall, anthropology; and Patricia Princehouse, philosophy, said the proposed curriculum includes thinly veiled creationism and urged Ohio Gov. Bob Taft to announce his position on the module.

Krauss said he hoped the governor would "come down on the side of good science."

"We are not against true critical analysis, that's what scientists do every day," Princehouse explained. "But this is not critical analysis."

The Ohio State Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the issue March 9.

If the proposed module is adopted, it probably will be challenged in the courts. Should that happen, it will almost certainly be struck down, a noted constitutional scholar predicts.

"Every time the court has encountered creationism in any form it has struck it down hands down," said Stephen Gey, law professor at Florida State University College of Law and legal analyst for ABC News, who headlined the forum sponsored by the Case Center for Policy Studies. "I don't think Ohio will be any exception."

Included in the forum were three current members of the Ohio Board of Education, Virgil E. Brown, Jr., Robin Hovis and Martha W. Wise.

Gey, who represented plaintiffs in the early stages of what became a landmark Supreme Court decision on the teaching of creationism, outlined the arguments that supporters of the lesson plan would likely use to defend it before the courts. One argument is that teachers, as a matter of free speech, have the right to teach critical analysis. But Gey noted that courts have ruled "state actors," such as teachers, "can't have the free speech right to do something on behalf of the government the government can't do itself."

According to Gey, the underlying theme of the lesson plan is the assumption that evolution is incorrect. "But the scientific community is uniformly behind evolution," he said. "Deciding this case will be a no-brainer for the courts. It isn't just bad science, it's illegal."

 

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.