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.
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:
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:
[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.]
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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