New Mexico Rejects Effort To Add Creationism To Science Standards

New Mexico's Board of Education has voted unanimously to retain science standards that emphasize evolution and do not mention creationism or "intelligent design."

The board had been under pressure by intelligent-design proponents to include those religious concepts in the standards. But the board's Instructional Services Committee voted 4-2 in late August to keep intelligent design out of the standards, and the full school board followed suit a few days later.

The standards state that students in high school should "understand the data, observations and logic supporting the conclusion that species today evolved from earlier, distinctly different species, originating from the ancestral one-celled organisms."

The New Mexico Academy of Science and the New Mexico Con­fer­ence of Churches supported the standards, reported the Albuquerque Journal.

"There should be no fear of conflict between religion and science," said the Rev. Barbara Dua, executive director of the church conference. "God has given us the intelligent capacity for critical thinking."

New Mexico has been grappling with this issue for several years. In 1996, the board removed references to evolution from the science standards. At that time, Larry Lerner, a California professor who works with the Fordham Foundation, awarded New Mexico's science standards an F.

In 1999, members of the scientific community in the state got involved and advocated for reinstating evolution to the standards. The board agreed, and the new standards earned an A.

Americans United weighed in on the controversy in June, calling on state education officials to keep creationism out of the standards.

"[W]e urge you to reject any proposed language which promotes a religious alternative to evolution, or that strives to maintain a 'balanced approach' between religious and scientific teachings," wrote AU attorneys. "While we recognize that consensus-building on controversial educational matters is a difficult task, the inclusion of unconstitutional language to appease interested parties would be an impermissible result."

In other news about creationism:

 The Worland, Wyo., school board hopes to adopt a new policy that critics say will water down the teaching of evolution. The policy states that public schools in Washakie County will teach "Darwin's theory of evolution...only as a theory and not a fact. Teachers shall be allowed in a neutral and objective manner to introduce all scientific theories of origin and the students may be allowed to discuss all aspects of the controversy surrounding the lack of scientific evidence in support of the theory of evolution."

Several local ministers pressed for the change.

Pastor Bud Surles told the board, "Evo­lu­tion is more a product of Hollywood movies than based on real science."

The proposed policy now goes to the board's policy committee for consideration.

 North Carolina's Board of Edu­cation is reviewing state science standards, and education officials in one community hope the state makes room for creationism. Board members in Union County are pushing for a revision that would require teachers to discuss "both the strengths and weaknesses of the Theory of Evolution without religious, naturalistic or philosophic bias or assumption."

Although the policy has not passed yet, two Union County board members are pushing it. Dean Arp told The Charlotte Observer, "The way it is now, we are teaching an evolutionary-only, naturalist-biased approach."

 Legislators in Michigan are pushing a bill that would require the teaching of intelligent design alongside evolution. The measure was introduced by State Reps. Bill Van Regenmorter and Barb Vander Veen, both Republicans. It would require that students be told that evolution is "unproven" and mandate that any time evolution is taught that students also learn about "the theory that life is the result of the purposeful, intelligent design of a Creator."

The bill is pending before the House of Representatives' Education Com­mittee.

 Intelligent-design proponents are pressuring the school board in Rose­ville, Calif., to include their ideas in biology classes. At a three-hour open meeting Sept. 2, members of the community addressed the issue, many opposing intelligent design in class.

During the meeting, Trustee Jim Joiner criticized the board for getting bogged down in a debate over religion instead of addressing more important issues, such as school funding and class sizes.

Attorneys with Americans United have warned the board not to adopt a policy that introduces religious concepts into science class.