Science or faith? Theory or fact?

December 06, 2005|by MATT NEWTON

Nineteenth-century British naturalist Charles Darwin's theory of evolution claims that complex creatures evolve from simple ancestors naturally over time. Mankind, for example, evolved from primates. And all multicellular animals - mammals, fish, birds, worms, etc. - evolved from single-cell creatures over billions of years.

This familiar theory, generally accepted as factual among biologists, is facing challenges in school districts across the country.

The Kansas State Board of Education prohibited nearly all in-school references to evolution in 1999. Two years later, that vote was repealed by new board members. But in November, the school board voted to adopt new science standards which assert that there are gaps in the theory of evolution.

Last year, the school board in Dover, Pa., also voted to tell students that there are gaps in the theory of evolution. Parents sued the school board and a court ruling is expected early next year.

Instead, some school officials across the country are promoting the idea that there are too many gaps in Darwin's theory, and that all life might be the design of greater intelligence. This concept is referred to as Intelligent Design.


There must be a designer

The theory of Intelligent Design, according to Intelligent Design Network (at, holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection.

"Logically, if you look at how our bodies are made, and how the universe itself is set up, it makes sense that there is an intelligent creator," said Brad Nigh, a youth pastor at Grace Brethren Church in Hagerstown.

Is that creator a deity?

"Well, being a Christian, I believe that, yes, it is God," Nigh said.

Nigh said intelligent design should be taught in schools as evolution is. Sandra Graff, supervisor of secondary science at Washington County Public Schools, disagreed.

"Intelligent design is a faith-based idea that cannot be tested through scientific processes," Graff said. "Since schools are required to be religiously neutral by the U.S. Constitution, it would be inappropriate to teach religious-based doctrine in science classes."

Nigh said that evolution also cannot be proven.

"It's only fair that they teach intelligent design. Intelligent design can't be completely scientifically proven, but neither can evolution," he said. "They shouldn't only teach Darwinism."

Graff pointed to educational standards.

"The national and state science standards identify evolution as a unifying scientific theory," Graff said.

Students weigh in

Local students are divided on whether or not evolution should be kept in the classroom.

"You can't deny kids the chance to learn about evolution. They should be able to decide what they want to believe," said Craig Smith, 16, of Hagerstown.

"People need to be well-rounded, and learn both sides of everything," added Alice Groesbeck, 16, of Hagerstown. "In schools, they should teach both sides, so you can come up with your own conclusions."

"(Intelligent Design should be taught) to those who actually believe in God," said student Erin Howard, of Keedysville, "but they can't force it on anyone who doesn't believe."

"Intelligent Design should be taught in schools, but only as an option," said Stan Miles, a student in Hagerstown.

Clifton Mowell felt Intelligent Design could not be separated from religion.

"Religion shouldn't be in school because some people don't believe in God," Mowell said. "They might start an uproar, and start a nuclear war - maybe World War III."

Has man really been evolving from more simplistic ancestors naturally over time? Or did an intelligent creator (God perhaps) shape man and the universe to its present state? Which of these ideas should be taught in the classroom? Whatever you decide, the question of evolution vs. intelligent design will be an ongoing controversy.

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