US pollsters like to visit Ohio, located in the “heartland” of America, where they can find out what the “average American” is thinking. And he has spoken. According to a recent poll sponsored by the Plain Dealer (a Cleveland newspaper)1 the vast majority of citizens in Ohio believe that public schools should teach the theory of “intelligent design,”2 not just evolution.

What a far cry from the views of the majority of scientific and educational leaders in the country! They sneer that “design theory isn’t science,”3 and they’re running a vigorous campaign to halt any efforts by states to promote open discussion of the pros and cons of evolution in the classroom.

In an editorial in today’s Cincinnati Enquirer (14 June/p. B6), the paper declared that the Ohio state school board “should pay serious attention” to the views of Ohioans that were revealed in the poll, and noted that another poll, conducted in Ohio by Zogby International, had similar results.

Pollsters asked Ohioans two very specific questions.

Question: What should be taught about the development of life?

The first question: “Currently, the Ohio Board of Education is debating new academic standards for public school science classes, including what to teach students about the development of life on Earth. Which position do you support?” Here’s the breakdown of responses, as reported by the Plain Dealer:

  • Teach only evolution (8%)
  • Teach only intelligent design (8%)
  • Teach both (59%)
  • Teach the evidence both for and against evolution, but not necessarily intelligent design (15%)
  • Teach nothing about human development (9%)
  • Not sure (1%)

Question: What is your view about the development of life?

Pollsters also asked, “Which of the following five statements comes closest to your view about the development of life on Earth?” Amazingly, only 13% of the respondents said they believe in strict Darwinian evolution (a percentage that closely resembles several other national US polls over the years).4 Below are the percentages of respondents who held each view:

  1. “All living things on Earth came from a common ancestor and over millions of years evolved into different species due to natural processes such as natural selection and random chance.” Darwinian evolution (13%)
  2. “Living things are too complex to have developed by chance. A purposeful force or being that may or may not be God is responsible for designing life as we know it. Evolution may be part of such a design.” Intelligent Design (15%)
  3. “God created the universe and all living things as claimed in the Bible. Creation took millions of years and evolution is the method God used to achieve this.” Theistic Evolution (26%)
  4. “God created the universe in the manner the Bible describes, but over a long period of time, and the world is millions of years old. God made all living things, including humans, but has allowed some small-scale evolution to take place.” Old-Earth Creationism (13%)
  5. “God created the universe exactly as the Bible describes, in a period of six days, and the world is less than 10,000 years old. God made all living things, including humans, in the form they appear now, and there has been no evolution.” Young-Earth Creationism (29%)

[Unfortunately, question 5 caricatures the Biblical Creation view somewhat, because we certainly believe that living things can change/adapt to a limited degree due to selection of already existing genetic information and even information-losing mutations.]

Where is the debate headed?

The Ohio curriculum debate first flared up in late 2001, when the Ohio Board of Education released the initial draft of its new science standards (see Creationism battle heats up again in US schools). A vocal minority of Ohioans objected that the draft was heavily slanted in favor of evolution, and they asked for revisions that would encourage the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolutionary theory. (AiG, while obviously on the side of academic freedom, has some concerns about the ID movement—see last paragraphs of 13 March article on Ohio and ID.)

The Board of Education decided to host a forum in February, inviting four leading scientists to discuss the merits of including intelligent design (see Eyes of the Science World Turn to Columbus, Ohio, USA). But the people who were writing the standards utterly ignored intelligent design in their next (and final) revision, released this spring. The future of the standards now rests with the Board of Education, which is more evenly divided over whether to encourage open classroom discussion about the pros and cons of evolution.

Contrary to the rhetoric, the basic issue is simple: Who should control the education of children—parents or bureaucrats in the Department of Education? America’s age-old tension between “average folk” and the “educated elite” has percolated to the foreground over this question of origins. Most Americans recognize that the debate about human beginnings is not some esoteric question for academics, but it is a fundamentally religious/philosophical issue that strikes at the heart of human beliefs and purpose in life.

Answers in Genesis strongly supports efforts to confront the destructive philosophy of evolution, which is based on an anti-God worldview that contradicts and undermines the clear, authoritative teaching of the Bible, beginning in Genesis. Debate about the trustworthiness of God’s Word is a matter of (eternal) life and death—and it’s a matter for parents to decide.

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Footnotes

  1. The poll was part of an in-depth Plain Dealer report on the “Intelligent design debate” <http://www.cleveland.com/debate>. Back
  2. Intelligent design is the belief that the “irreducible complexity” of certain biological features, such as the human eye, is evidence for a designer and against blind naturalistic processes. You can read about the history of intelligent design and AiG’s views on this movement at Q&A: Design Features. Back
  3. “Evolution and God: why design theory isn’t science” was the title of a high-profile presentation on 2 March, sponsored by Cleveland’s prestigious Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). The school invited two of evolution’s most formidable combatants—Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard University and Kenneth Miller of Brown University. The purpose of the meeting was not an open debate weighing the merits of intelligent design, but a one-sided excoriation of the view. Gould was sick and could not come (he died on May 20 — see obituary), but Miller—joined by physicist Lawrence Krauss of CWRU—tossed plenty of barbs at creationists. “There is nothing to debate,” said Dr Krauss, and it was “an incredible waste of [his] time to talk about things that are obvious” (quotations taken from notes by Melanie Elsie, a former reporter and educator who is now the chairman of Eagle Forum of Ohio). See Ohio—First US State to Teach “Intelligent Design”? Back
  4. However, the majority of respondents (59%) still believed that the theory of evolution is somewhat or completely valid as an explanation of human development. Back