December 3, 2008
Inter-University Council of Ohio
c/o Susan Tave Zelman, Board Secretary
25 South Front Street, 7th Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215-4183
Dear Members of the Ohio State Board of Education:
We, the presidents of the Inter-University Council of Ohio, request that you adopt elementary through high school science standards that indicate students' understanding of the explanatory and predictive power of science. Such understanding is required for completing a degree at all of our institutions and for functioning as a member of a scientifically literate work force and electorate.
While we recognize the great value of spirituality and faith in today's society, we urge you to reject the concept of intelligent design creationism as a part of the science curriculum. We also request that you establish the foundation for a preeminent science curriculum in Ohio dedicated to rigorous testing and experimentation, strengthened with thorough teaching of evolution in our science requirements.
We have entered a remarkable new era in genetics and biotechnology, one in which we have the opportunity to benefit from the greatest wave of scientific achievement in human history. As Ohio strives to become a leader in this knowledge-based economy, Governor Taft is promoting a multi-billion-dollar "Third Frontier Project" to rejuvenate Ohio's economy through advances in biotechnology and other areas of science and technology. The federal government and private industry are investing heavily in research and development, and our state is dedicating hundreds of millions of dollars to improve science and math education in public schools. Such initiatives rely on the application of basic scientific knowledge and fact-based inquiry to fields as diverse as agriculture, health care, and environmental protection. To adopt intelligent design creationism in our state science standards — or to imply that evolution and intelligent design are equally valid as scientific theories — will sabotage these educational and economic development efforts at the very time when our children and state need them most.
Evolution is the single unifying scientific theory of life and an essential element of scientific literacy. As noted scientist Theodosius Dobzhansky observed, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."
The proposed science standards that the State Board of Education received in December made substantial advances by making evolution a central subject in the curriculum. Now, however, instead of building upon this important step, we risk pushing science education in Ohio back to the 19th century. House Bill 481 and other curriculum recommendations being debate would require public schools to teach concepts such as intelligent design creationism when they teach evolution, or would provide little guidance on the issue, leaving decisions up to local schools. Because no data support the belief of intelligent design, such policies could, in essence, bring creationism into science class and equate supernatural beliefs with scientific theory, which by its very nature is based on testing and rigorous observation of nature. This misrepresents both science and religion and is a disservice to both.
Ohio's young people who are denied a basic understanding of evolution or who are taught the "scientific" validity of non-scientific "theories" will enter college far behind students from other states. A new generation of K–12 teachers that we are now training — and that must pass certification exams — will have significant misconceptions about basic science and scientific methods. Furthermore, if Ohio is perceived as one of the nation's intellectual backwaters, our universities — as well as private industry — will be severely handicapped in trying to recruit and retain top researchers in the biological sciences, as well as other fields. As a result, Ohio will be ill equipped to develop the innovative businesses that will help create the "Third Frontier" envisioned by Governor Taft.
Perhaps most important, in a world in which rapid technological advancement affects nearly every aspect of our lives, Ohio's citizens must possess a solid scientific literacy in order to make intelligent decisions ranging from whether to buy a genetically engineered vegetable at the grocery store to how to determine national policy issues related to human genetics. Understanding the primacy of evolution in the development of such options and the decision to exercise them is fundamental.
Clearly, we must acknowledge and respect the faiths of students and other citizens. Parents and clerics play a crucial role in teaching matters of religious philosophy, and education plays a role in teaching about the history of these ideas. The role of diverse faiths likely belongs in our K–12 curricula in courses on comparative religions and the history of science. However, our public schools and science teachers owe it to our children to pass on to them the very best scientific knowledge available and to instill in them a method of learning based on close observation, thorough testing, and impartial analysis.
For the future well being of Ohio and its citizens, we strongly urge the Ohio State Board of Education to adopt rigorous science curriculum that makes evolution an integral part of our biological science requirements and that limits scientific endeavors to observable and definable phenomena subject to thorough scientific testing and experimentation.
President, Ohio University
Chair, Inter-University Council
On behalf of IUC presidents:
Luis Proenza, University of Akron
Sidney Ribeau, Bowling Green State University
John Garland, Central State University
Joseph Steger, University of Cincinnati
Michael Schwartz, Cleveland State University
Carol Cartwright, Kent State University
Frank McCullough, Medical College of Ohio
James Garland, Miami University
Robert Blacklow, Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine
William Kirwan, Ohio State University
Michael Field, Shawnee State University
Daniel Johnson, University of Toledo
Kim Goldenberg, Wright State University
Daniel Sweet, Youngstown State University