Reports of the National Center for Science Education

Arizona Regent Protests Evolution Institute Move

In April 1997, the Institute for Human Origins (IHO), a not-for-profit paleoanthropology research institution located in Berkeley, CA, completed negotiations with Arizona State University to move to that university in July of 1997. NCSE Supporter Donald C Johanson will remain Director of the Institute, and senior staffers William H Kimbel and Kaye Reed will hold dual positions as Institute scientists and members of the ASU Department of Anthropology. Also moving to Arizona with IHO are geochronologist Robert Walker and paleoanthropologist Eric Meikle and support staff.

The move is viewed by both IHO and ASU as being to their mutual advantage: ASU receives a prestigious research institution and IHO receives partial financial stability and the many administrative and scholarly advantages of a university affiliation. Johanson and his staff were looking forward to mentoring graduate students.

Of particular interest to NCSE members, however, is the response of Arizona Regent Kurt Davis when asked to approve the University's association with IHO. Although voting to approve the arrangement, he added an amendment that ASU would "come back with a plan that would implement and examine the use of courses to offer alternative theories, as well." The ASU newspaper reported that, in a memorandum to other regents, Davis expressed concern that "we will expend tax dollars to continue research and create debate from only one perspective" (State Press, April 28, 1997). The Board of Regents voted unanimously to approve Davis' motion.

Letters to the editor in local Tempe papers varied from support to criticism of the regents' decision, some assuming it would require the teaching of creation "science" at ASU. As NCSE members know, "alternative theories to evolution" is a popular euphemism for creation science, but the wording of the resolution is vague. Reportedly, both the religious studies program and science departments are uninterested in presenting "alternatives to evolution". Administrators appear to be uncertain as to what to do about Davis' suggestions, which also raises questions regarding Regents' authority to determine curricula.

By Eugenie C. Scott
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