November 21, 2004
School District Challenges Darwin's Theory
HILADELPHIA, Nov. 20 - A Pennsylvania school district Friday defended its decision to discount Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and teach what critics say is a version of creationism.
The district, the Dover Area School District in south-central Pennsylvania, is believed to be the first in the country to approve the teaching of a new theory called intelligent design, the National Center for Science Education said.
Proponents of the theory argue that the complexity of nature is such that it could not have occurred by chance, as Darwin held, and so must have been created by some all-powerful force.
The National Center for Science Education, an organization based in Oakland, Calif., that defends the teaching of evolution, said the district's board approved the policy change last month after a debate that began more than a year ago when a board member objected to a biology textbook because it focused on Darwinism.
The move prompted at least two members of the school board to resign. On Friday, the district defended its decision by issuing a statement saying it intends to present a balanced view and not to teach religious beliefs.
Officials will "make sure no one is promoting but also not inhibiting religion," the statement, which was posted on the district's Web site, says. It also says, "Because Darwin's theory is a theory, it is still being tested as new evidence is discovered."
Many educators, however, see intelligent design as a thinly veiled version of creationism, whose supporters believe the earth was made by God as described in the Book of Genesis.
"Intelligent design is creationism in a cheap tuxedo," said Nick Matzke, a spokesman for the science education group. "If there was a court case, it would not be found constitutional."