Antievolution proposal rejected in South Carolina

The South Carolina state board of education rejected the Education Oversight Committee's proposal to revise the state science standards to require students to "[c]onstruct scientific arguments that seem to support and scientific arguments that seem to discredit Darwinian natural selection" at its June 11, 2014, meeting, according to the Charleston Post and Courier (June 11, 2014). 

Ultimately, the board voted not to accept the EOC's proposal on a voice vote; only one member of the board, Neil Willis, was recorded as favoring it. Rob Dillon, a professor of biology at the College of Charleston and president of South Carolinians for Science Education, told the Post and Courier, "I was very gratified by the support for rigorous science education that came from the State Board of Education."

Still, the impasse over South Carolina's state science standards continues. As the Post and Courier (April 28, 2014) previously explained, "both bodies must agree on what the language should say. Otherwise, the state keeps the current language," i.e., of the state science standards adopted in 2005. The relevant standard (H.B.5C) now presumably returns to the EOC to accept, again propose to revise, or reject.

As NCSE previously reported, in January 2014 the state board of education voted to adopt a revised set of science standards, rejecting two different proposals — one from the Education Oversight Committee, one from a member of the board — that would have compromised the treatment of evolution in the process. Although the board's vote was supposed to be final, the standards then returned to the EOC for its approval.

In February 2014, the EOC voted to approve the standards with the exception of a clause involving the phrase "natural selection." Senator Mike Fair (R-District 6), a member of the EOC and a long-time opponent of evolution education in South Carolina, told the Charleston Post and Courier (February 10, 2014), "Natural selection is a direct reference to Darwinism. And the implication of Darwinism is that it is start to finish."

Subsequently, Fair seemed to reverse himself, telling the Charleston City Paper (February 13, 2014), "I support the scientific standards as they were given to our subcommittee," adding, "I just needed a few days to look at the possible overreach of the terminology, and it's not there." It was expected, therefore, that the material about natural selection would be restored, and the standards would be approved, at the EOC's April 2014 meeting.

But Fair reversed himself again during the EOC's April 28, 2014, meeting, saying, according to the Post and Courier, "We must teach the controversy ... There's another side. I'm not afraid of the controversy." He proposed to amend the standards to call for students to "[c]onstruct scientific arguments that seem to support and scientific arguments that seem to discredit Darwinian Natural selection." The amendment passed on a 7-4 vote.

When the EOC's proposal reached the board at its June 11, 2014, board meeting, the proposal was defended by two speakers affiliated with the Discovery Institute. But a number of South Carolina scientists and educators, including Rob Dillon, Ed Emmer, the Reverend Jeremy Rutledge, Kelly C. Smith, Michael Svec, and Valerie Waite, as well as a representative of the state department of education, spoke in opposition to it.