State Board Members Oppose Teaching Intelligent Design in Schools

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AUSTIN — A majority of State Board of Education members said the theory of intelligent design should be left out of the science curriculum for public schools.

The board will rewrite the science curriculum next year and some observers expect backers of intelligent design to push for the theory's inclusion.

In interviews with The Dallas Morning News, 10 of the board's 15 members said they wouldn't support requiring the teaching of intelligent design. One board member said she was open to the idea. Four board members didn't respond to the newspaper's phone calls.

Proponents of intelligent design contend that life is too complex to have occurred by chance, requiring instead the guidance of an unnamed supernatural being. Critics say it's a ploy for introducing creationism, the biblical account of the origin of humans, into science classes.

"Creationism and intelligent design don't belong in our science classes," said Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy, who described himself as a creationist. "Anything taught in science has to have consensus in the science community and intelligent design does not."

McLeroy, R-College Station, said he doesn't want to change the existing requirement that evolution be taught in high school biology classes. But he joined several of his colleagues in arguing that biology textbooks should cover the weaknesses of the theory of evolution.

McLeroy and three other socially conservative board members voted against the current biology texts in 2003 over the evolution issue. The textbook debate comes up again in 2011.

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution describes the process by which new species of life arise from lower life forms. Today, most scientists embrace evolution through natural selection as the cornerstone of biology.

David Bradley, the board's vice chairman, said he believes "God is responsible for our creation." But the Beaumont Republican said he's not interested in changing the current requirement for teaching evolution, nor would he support a move to include the theory of intelligent design in science classes.

Board member Pat Hardy said she was open to the idea of intelligent design curriculum, but she added that she doesn't advocate putting any religious teachings into science classes.

"I am open to having intelligent design in there because there is a large body of evidence unanswered by the theory of evolution. We first need to hear from science educators and experts about whether this should be done," said Hardy, R-Weatherford.

Other board members who said they believe the curriculum should continue to include evolution and not be changed to accommodate intelligent design were: Geraldine "Tincy" Miller, R-Dallas; Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands; Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas; Bob Craig, R-Lubbock; Mavis Knight, D-Dallas; Rick Agosto, D-San Antonio; Lawrence Allen, D-Houston; and Mary Helen Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi.

The four board members who didn't respond to the newspaper's inquiry were Democrat Rene Nunez of El Paso and Republicans Cynthia Dunbar of Richmond, Terri Leo of Spring and Ken Mercer of San Antonio.