County school superintendent blasts evolution

The superintendent of the school system in Hart County, Kentucky, is complaining about the emphasis on evolution in the state's new end-of-course test for biology, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader (December 13, 2011). In a November 21, 2011, letter to state education commissioner Terry Holliday and the state board of education, Ricky D. Line expressed "deep concern about the increased emphasis on the evolution content required in the new End-of-Course Blueprint ... I find the increase is substantial and alarming." He continued, "I have a very difficult time believing that we have come to a point in education that we are teaching evolution, not the theory of evolution, as a factual occurrence, while totally omitting the creation story by a God who is bigger than all of us. I do not believe in macroevolution, and I do believe in creation by our God." Line oversees six schools with about 2200 students.

Toward the end of his letter, Line posed these questions to the commissioner and board: "1. Do you consider macroevolution to be fact or theory? 2. Do you believe that macroevolution contradicts the Bible and God's hand in creation? 3. Are you personally willing to promote macroevolution as what our students should be learning as fact? 4. Do you believe it is the role of the state to mandate the teaching of macroevolution at the exclusion of other theories or beliefs?" He added, "If you don't believe in macroevolution, then please rethink what we are mandating our teachers to instill in our students. ... Stop requiring our teachers to teach, as fact, an evolution that would convince our children that they evolved from lower life forms and, therefore, have reason to discount the Bible and the faith beliefs that follow. This is not an improvement in our public education system."

In a written response to Line, Holliday explained the difference between the vernacular and the scientific uses of the word "theory," emphasized that "science is not a system of belief" and that "creation science" is not considered to be appropriate for science classrooms, remarked that evolutionary theory "is one of the foundational components of modern biology," and reviewed the treatment of evolution in Kentucky's state science standards (which received a D in Anton Mates and Louise Mead's 2009 review of the treatment of evolution in state science standards). Unsatisfied, Line told the Herald-Leader, "My argument is, do we want our children to be taught these things as facts? Personally, I don't," adding, "I don't think life on earth began as a one-celled organism. I don't think that all of us came from a common ancestor ... I don't think the Big Bang theory describes the explanation of the origin of the universe."

Holliday told the newspaper that no further response to Line was contemplated. "I think what was unclear to Ricky is that we certainly are not teaching evolution as a fact, but as a scientific theory," he said. "That's been in the program of study for a number of years." Controversy over the teaching of education in Kentucky is not new, however. Still on the books is a statute (PDF; Kentucky Revised Statutes 158.177) that authorizes teachers to teach "the theory of creation as presented in the Bible" and to "read such passages in the Bible as are deemed necessary for instruction on the theory of creation," although the Louisville Courier-Journal (January 11, 2006) reported that in a November 2005 survey of the state's 176 school districts, none was teaching or discussing "intelligent design." The most recent antievolution bill in the state, House Bill 169, died in committee in March 2011.