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Curriculum proposal could spark debate over intelligent design

Mlive.com - "Everyting Michigan," January 28, 2006

One sentence in a proposed law to establish a statewide curriculum for high schools could spark a debate over whether "intelligent design" should be taught in science classes.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Brian Palmer, R-Romeo, said it was not his intention to inject the intelligent design issue into the bill.

"That's almost humorous. I think some people like to see a bogyman," Palmer, who chairs the House Education Committee, told the Detroit Free Press for a Saturday story.

The bill would require science classes to evaluate scientific theories and use "relevant scientific data to assess the validity of those theories and formulate arguments for and against those theories."

Educators said that one sentence in the 14-page bill could lead to a battle over whether intelligent design could be used to challenge the theory of evolution.

"We don't want this bill to be used for any other agenda," said Margaret Trimer Hartley, spokeswoman for the Michigan Education Association, the state's largest teacher's union. "We don't need to further complicate the process by bringing in the argument of intelligent design or any other battle over specific curriculum."

Intelligent design's proponents hold that living organisms are so complex they must have been created by a higher force rather than evolving from more primitive forms. Critics say it amounts to a secular repackaging of creationism, which the courts have already ruled cannot be taught in public schools.

The issue has sparked debate across the country and led to a federal court ruling last month that blocked the Dover, Pa., school system from teaching intelligent design alongside evolution in high school biology classes.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III said Dover's first-in-the-nation decision in October 2004 to insert intelligent design into the science curriculum violated the constitutional separation of church and state.

Palmer's bill borrowed wording from a bill by Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, that would require schools to critically evaluate the theories of evolution and global warming.

Palmer's bill does not refer to evolution or intelligent design.

Moolenaar said Palmer's bill would leave the decision on the teaching of intelligent design up to local school boards.

Palmer said he plans to hold a Tuesday hearing on the bill. It seeks to establish high school graduation requirements to include four years of English and math classes and three years of science, as well as classes in economics, geography and U.S. history.

He said the sentence at issue is a "general reference to science."

"You're testing scientific theory," he said. "That's what science is. Anyone who argues this is not a general reference to science and scientific method, I would be pretty amazed."



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