South Carolina Education Panel Backs Plan To Encourage Skepticism About Evolution

South Carolina State Sen. Mike Fair (R) CREDIT: WBTW CHANNEL 13
South Carolina State Sen. Mike Fair (R) CREDIT: WBTW CHANNEL 13

A South Carolina joint education panel unanimously recommened a new teaching standard to will force biology teachers to encourage students to consider whether the facts really support evolution. The proposal now goes onto the full state Education Oversight Committee and the full state Board of Education next month.

South Carolina’s current standards require that students “demonstrate an understanding of biological evolution and the diversity of life,” including exemplifying “scientific evidence in the fields of anatomy, embryology, biochemistry, and paleontology that underlies the theory of biological evolution” and summarizing “ways that scientists use data from a variety of sources to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.” Even this was too much for State Senator Mike Fair (R), a member of the Oversight Committee and joint panel, who proposed that the state should teach “Darwinian natural selection” as a theory rather than a fact. His initial proposal would have required teachers to “teach the controversy” about evolution and forced students to construct arguments both in support and against it.

Fair and the five other members of the joint education panel embraced compromise language Tuesday to teach South Carolina students that “scientific conclusions are tested by experiment and observation, and evolution, as with any aspect of science, is continually open to and subject to experimental and observational testing,” and require that they “understand assumptions scientists make in situations where direct evidence is limited and understand that all theories may change as new scientific information is obtained.”

Fair praised these new rules on Tuesday, telling WBTW he hoped they would “stimulate even more in-depth questions, which then will beg for some critical thinking to come up with some opinions, and some inferences made by the students.”

A June Gallup poll found that 42 percent of Americans believe that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.” But according to the National Academy of Science, “the past and continuing occurrence of evolution is a scientific fact. Because the evidence supporting it is so strong, scientists no longer question whether biological evolution has occurred and is continuing to occur. Instead, they investigate the mechanisms of evolution, how rapidly evolution can take place, and related questions.”

The rules are part of a national trend of legislative proposals, led by creationist organizations like the Discovery Institute and climate-change deniers such as the Heartland Institute, to force schools to teach kids to be skeptical of science.