A matter of intelligence 

Last week, Kansas’ State Board of Education decided it would start teaching school kids “intelligent design” along with evolution, ending an argument that had been going on for six years. At the same time, the people in Dover, Penn., went to federal court and got rid of eight school board members who had voted to teach “intelligent design” and replaced them with people who plan to stick with evolution.

There’s going to be a lot more activity about this in the United States. Most people who ever thought of such things usually believed that what was discovered by naturalists Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace in the 1800s was OK, that humans had sprung from the same group of chimpanzee and other apes. But in the 1980s some young biologists started saying that Darwin’s decisions were inadequate, that people were made by an unseen force. That’s when “intelligent design” was created.

A big boost for it came when reporters asked President Bush about “intelligent design.” He said: “Both sides ought to be properly taught so people can understand what the debate is about. I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought.”

A Harris Poll in June found that 55 percent of 1,000 adults said that all children should be taught creationism and “intelligent design.” According to National Public Radio, people in at least 16 states, including Arkansas, have approached federal judges, state legislatures, state educational departments or school districts to teach “intelligent design.”

In Cobb County, Ga., the school board suddenly decided that evolution was “a theory not a fact” and insisted that a sticker saying that had to be put in all the biology books. A federal judge ruled that this was a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution. However, that decision has been appealed.

School board members in Beebe heard about Georgia’s court decision, and told their superintendent to put stickers in their kids’ books that said that the theory of evolution was “not adequate to explain the origins of life.” However, the ACLU in Arkansas warned them of the Georgia court’s decision that they were really violating the First Amendment of the Constitution, and after much thought, the superintendent took the stickers out of the school books.

A front page story in the Wall Street Journal’s Monday edition reports that many college professors are now interested in “intelligent design.” While some college presidents want no part of this new idea, you’ll also find these classes in good universities like Minnesota, New Mexico and Georgia and also in private institutions like Wake Forest and Carnegie Mellon even though most of the classes don’t count for science credit.

Leslie McFadden, chairman of earth and planetary sciences at the University of New Mexico, fought to get “intelligent design” taught in the humanities department rather than science. He said, “You can’t teach whatever you damn well please. If you’re a geologist, and you decide that the earth’s core is made of green cheese, you can’t teach that.”

But everyone knows that college professors easily get bored. Also, they are always on the lookout for grants from foundations and rich alumni, and sure enough several have poured out a lot of money in order to make “intelligent design” popular.

Except for the Beebe school board members, who willingly changed their minds, there hasn’t been any other Arkansas group trying to change world history. Most religious people in Arkansas are Baptists, so I asked the Rev. Grant Ethridge of Lavaca if there had been any motions or discussions about “intelligent design” when he presided last week as president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. According to him, nothing was even said about it. Larry Page, the president of the Arkansas Family Faith and Ethics Council, also said nothing had been said about it, and he talked as if he were glad.

I can’t guess about what the rest of the country is going to do, but I don’t think Arkansans are going to be interested in fighting what Charles Darwin learned 134 years ago.

Did you read in the Democrat-Gazette that the athletic expenses at the 10 state-owned universities were $77.7 million, a $5.3 million increase from the year before? And did you read two weeks ago that in 274 schools in Arkansas youngsters fail to meet the state’s minimum performance levels? Also, did you understand that 22 of them were in Little Rock, 10 in North Little Rock and 16 in Pulaski County?


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