Cecil to seek Md. help on dispute over evolution

School board members shift course on the issue

February 15, 2005|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,SUN STAFF

ELKTON -- The Cecil County Board of Education decided last night to ask the state's guidance before changing how evolutionary theory is taught in the district's five high schools.

As the board unanimously adopted an updated high school biology textbook, members shifted course from earlier discussions about asking local school administrators to find materials in addition to the textbook representing "dissenting views" on the tenets of evolutionary theory: common ancestry of living things and evolution by natural selection.

Core elements

While these core elements of evolutionary theory are embraced overwhelmingly by mainstream scientists, members William W. Herold and Stewart C. Wilson had argued last month that science classrooms should be thrown open to competing ideas, including "intelligent design" -- which in part argues that some natural forms are too complex to have developed at random.

A disagreement

After the vote, Richard Lonie, who is in charge of the school system's science curriculum, said it appeared that the matter had been put to rest. Herold, who has said he personally embraces a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis, disagreed.

"We have started to make a list of things we want to incorporate into the curriculum," said Herold, of Port Deposit. "We're going to hope we get a real hearing" from the Maryland State Department of Education.

He said he would not be satisfied if the state responds by saying that it is not possible to meet his demand for "reputable sources" in science that take issue with core elements of evolutionary theory.

State curriculum guidelines say that students must be taught mechanisms of "evolutionary change" and "degrees of relatedness" of species, but not origin of life, which is not part of evolutionary theory or the Cecil County curriculum.

After the meeting

School Superintendent Carl Roberts said after the meeting that the local district would not be able on its own to evaluate all the possible choices of scientific materials on evolutionary theory in addition to the textbook approved last night: Biology: The Dynamics of Life.

"What we're going to say is, `What does the state intend to do?' Then we're going to take our lead from there," Roberts said.

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