Evolutionists in Arizona may have reason for concern after the state’s top education official suggested students should be taught the reality many scientists already acknowledge: evolution is a theory, not settled science.
Changes to the state’s science standards, which offer direction for teaching and curriculum choices, would remove references to evolution in some places and describe it as a theory in others. Science Program Specialist Brea Rivera noted the Arizona Department of Education put a lot of thought into encouraging students to think critically about what they’re learning.
“It’s not like we just picked ideas out of thin air and said ‘that looks good right there.’ No, we actually used a lot of research,” Rivera said during a public meeting to discuss the standards.
Still, the relatively minor changes have appeared to create an uproar among evolutionists, especially after media reports revealed Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas previously professed belief in what they consider to be a scandalous scientific theory: intelligent design. During a political event last year in which she spoke about her religious beliefs, Douglas told supporters she thought teachers should present intelligent design alongside evolution in the classroom.
Amid the outcry, Douglas noted the proposed science standard changes never mention intelligent design.
“Evolution is still a standard that will be taught under the Arizona Science Standards,” Douglas said in an email sent to The Arizona Republic. “In addition, you will not find creationism or intelligent design included anywhere in the Arizona Science Standards.”
The state Education Department planned to take public comment on the proposed changes through May 28, but the controversy generated so much interest the feedback website crashed over the Memorial Day weekend. Most of the comments, according to local media reports, opposed treating evolution as anything short of a secular scientific religion.
Gov. Doug Ducey weighed in on the debate Monday, telling reporters he supports keeping the standards the way they are.
“Where I’ve seen it done well is where schools work on the story of creation in some type of literature that they’re teaching,” the Republican governor said. “And evolution will be part of the science curriculum.”
Ducey noted that’s how he learned science at the Catholic schools he attended. He also insisted he believes in God – and the evolutionary forces at work in nature. The two are not mutually exclusive, he said.
Despite the governor’s opposition, Douglas is standing by the proposed changes, pointing out that while scientists have proven some parts of evolution, others remain “very theoretical.”
“And if we’re going to educate our children instead of just indoctrinate them to one way of thinking, we have to be able to allow them to explore all types of areas,” she said.
The state Board of Education has the final say on the changes, which won’t come up for consideration until later this year. While Ducey doesn’t get a vote, he likely will influence the decision: The governor appoints all board members except for the state superintendent.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Leigh Jones writes for WORLD Digital, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)