Last week, the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee voted 10-2 to throw out current standards for the teaching of evolution in tenth-grade biology classes.

Also, the committee sent proposed compromise language to the state Board of Education that would include “critical analysis” of evolutionary theory to said science curriculum.

For those out there not paying attention, “critical analysis” is doublespeak for creationism or its current vogue incarnation, intelligent design theory.

The committee’s action was in direct conflict with the Board of Education’s earlier decision not to include such language in the science standards and over the strenuous objections of state Education Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum (D).

The debate over the biology standards has come during the regular five-year revisions of state teaching standards.

The current standards have been in place since 2000 and have garnered South Carolina high praise from leading educators and nationally known think tanks including the conservative Fordham Foundation.

Oversight Committee member S.C. Sen. Mike Fair (R-Greenville) decided, for reasons that escape The Eye, to inject the intelligent design theory into the curriculum revision debate and that’s when all hell broke loose.

Last Monday’s debate got pretty ugly pretty quickly.

Fair, S.C. Rep. Bob Walker (R-Landrum), and Gov. Mark Sanford political appointee Karen Iacovelli went back and forth with Tenenbaum over the validity of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and demanded that the phrase “critically analyze” be included in state biology standards that address evolution.

Tenenbaum argued that the current standards have passed muster with leading scientists and educators and that ID is merely a back-door way to discredit evolution and bring religion into public schools.

Tenenbaum testified to the committee, “Critical analysis is very good, but by singling out evolution with critical analysis, you imply a controversy that does not exist in the scientific community.”

Walker responded that he was not trying to force religion into the public schools and he disagreed with Tenenbaum’s contention that evolution was accepted science saying, “We’re only teaching one side of evolution.”

He continued with, “We’re not asking for creationism or intelligent design. We’re asking young people to learn what’s right and wrong with evolution.”

Why on earth do people who are not experts in science feel compelled to disagree with those who are? People such as Fair seem to think that just because a theory can confirm aspects of religious belief in some people, that theory is not necessarily unscientific.

The other thing about this debate is that if intelligent design is just another scientific theory, then why are so many Christian activists shouting for it in government and the courts?

The furthering of science has not only brought knowledge and information to the world, but also technology.

As more and more technology becomes involved in daily life, it’s not much of a stretch to find the ignorant, the unsophisticated and the unlearned are intimidated and afraid of it.

The debate over intelligent design is just one aspect of the larger cultural battle over the value of evidence and the relevance of scientific method.

It seems to The Eye that those most clamoring for ID in the public schools are following the lead of the White House: if there’s evidence to the contrary of what one believes, just ignore it until it goes away.

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