In Ohio, Science 1, ID 0

Ohio, which borders our fair Commonwealth, has come to its senses and rejected the attempts by Intelligent Design advocates to weasel ID into the public school science curriculum. The Ohio Board of Education voted, 11-4, to remove a pro-ID lesson plan and pro-ID science standards from the state curriculum.

The board had a month earlier voted, 9-8, to retain the material, which essentially gave ID proponents a way to introduce discussion of ID as an alternative to the theory of evolution.

Reactions, as they say, were mixed. From The New York Times:

Darwin’s defenders celebrated the reversal as a sign of a backlash against the inroads made last year by critics of evolution. But leaders of the Discovery Institute, the intellectual home of intelligent design, warned that Ohio’s move would create a backlash of its own.

“It’s an outrageous slap in the face to the citizens of Ohio,” said John G. West, associate director of the Center for Science and Culture at the institute, referring to several polls that show public support for criticism of evolution in science classes.

“The effort to try to suppress ideas that you dislike, to use the government to suppress ideas you dislike, has a failed history,” Mr. West said. “Do they really want to be on the side of the people who didn’t want to let John Scopes talk or who tried to censor Galileo?”

Um, well, right. Good choice of comparable situations, there. Scopes was tried (in State of Tennessee v. John Scopes, in 1925) for violating state law by teaching evolution and Galileo was tried for violating ecclesiastical law by teaching that the Earth orbited the Sun. So, West is saying the Ohio Board of Ed is acting like the state of Tennessee and the Catholic Church by quashing scientific debate? West needs to choose his comparisons more carefully.

Scopes had assigned readings on evolution, from a state-approved text, no less, to his class. He agreed to be the subject of a test case challenging the state’s anti-evolution law. The resulting trial pitted two bulldog lawyers, Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan, in a well-publicized battle. Darrow won the arguments, though he and Scopes technically lost the case. The Scopes “Monkey Trial” is generally regarded as a serious blow to the teaching of creationism in public schools, so in the end Scopes was vindicated.

Galileo, convinced that the heliocentric theory was correct since he actually had first-hand evidence supporting it, was the Carl Sagan of his day. He published popular, easy to read books denigrating the geocentric model and praising the heliocentric model. The Church knew he was correct (after all, the new heliocentric theory was the work of a Catholic cleric, Copernicus), but found Galileo’s disregard for Church authority and overall cheekiness threatening. The Church basically had to shut Galileo up. Like Scopes, Galileo lost his case, but in the end was vindicated.

Why were they vindicated? Because THEY BOTH WERE RIGHT! The ID folks have yet to show scientifically that their proposal — that life and the universe in general is the work of a unnamed designer — has any validity at all. They are in fact trying to sneak their religion into the public schools, by suggesting evolution is a weak theory. Scopes and Galileo, for their part, fought against prevailing religious intolerance by teaching real science.

So, the ID folks have lost their battles in Pennsylvania and Ohio. For now, they are on the defensive, but will likely start other skirmishes against evolution. A fellow blogger, Future Geek, suggests Kentucky could be next battleground. We have all the right conditions: a governor in favor of teaching ID in the schools, laws on the books permitting prayer, Bible readings and creationism, ID heavyweight William Dembski at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, and a strong Bible Belt tradition. You just wait.

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