Educators Support Teaching Evolution, State Lawmaker May Offer Bill

Educators Support Teaching Evolution, State Lawmaker May Offer Bill

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The State Board of Education voted unanimously Friday to continue teaching evolution theory as part of the biology curriculum in Utah's schools.

In a position statement, the board said the theory of evolution is a mayor unifying scientific concept appropriate for public instruction.

But Utah state Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, is countering the board's position with his "Academic Freedom Act," a document that looks like draft legislation to bring "intelligent design" in to classrooms as well.

"Intelligent design" is the belief that the complexities of life cannot be explained through the theories of evolution and natural selection. Proponents contend that a brilliant "designer" is responsible for creating the universe.

Critics say the concept is a veiled reference to creationism, which has been barred from public instruction by the U.S. Supreme Court. In states around the nation, the introduction of intelligent design into schools has triggered controversy and several lawsuits.

Buttars had asked the board for a two-hour session to discuss intelligent design, but the senator has been ignored.

He has not yet opened a bill file in preparation for the 2006 legislative session, but thinks the idea should be taught in schools as a counterpoint to teaching students that humans have evolved from a lesser species..

"The only recourse I've got to get my side heard is to take it to the Legislature," said Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan.

On Friday he told the state board the theory of evolution "has more holes than a crocheted bathtub," adding that to bar a discussion of intelligent design is a move akin to censorship.

Buttars began talking about intelligent design legislation a few months ago after hearing complaints from constituents that evolution was being taught as fact, not theory.

State curriculum director Brett Moulding said his office has received no such complaints.

Buttars is backed in his effort by the conservative advocacy group the Utah Eagle Forum.

But scientists from Brigham Young University and the University of Utah also told the board that the theory of intelligent design is pseudoscience that has no place in science classrooms.

"By definition, science does not attempt to explain the world by invoking the supernatural," University of Utah bioengineering professor Gregory Clark told the board.

"Intelligent design fails as science because it does exactly that - it posits that life is too complex to have arisen from natural causes, and instead requires the intervention of an intelligent designer who is beyond natural explanation. Invoking the supernatural can explain anything, and hence explains nothing."

The board's position statement, which was supported by scientists, acknowledges other "ways of knowing" inducing arts and faith and says those should be respected.

"Teachers should encourage students to discuss any seeming conflicts with their parents or religious leaders," the statement reads.

Board member Bill Colbert said he personally believes in intelligent design, but thinks it should not be taught in schools.

"I believe it needs to be taught in the home and perhaps, religious institutions," Colbert said. "It's a personal issue. Even if we try to teach it in a classroom, (I don't think teachers) can do justice to various beliefs that are out there in our communities."

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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