Bush backs intelligent design in schools
By Erin Curry — BP News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — President George W. Bush set off a new wave of debate over whether intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution in public schools when he gave his opinion in a roundtable discussion with Texas newspaper reporters Aug. 1.

“I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought,” he said. “You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes.”

Referring to his time as governor of Texas, Bush said, “I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught.”

The president also said he believes the matter should be decided by local school boards, not by a federal government mandate, according to The Houston Chronicle.

While running for president in 1999, Bush said schoolchildren “ought to be exposed to different theories about how the world started.”

But he has not said publicly which theory he supports.

As could be expected, Bush’s conservative base welcomed his remarks and used the opportunity to further emphasize their desire for the teaching of intelligent design, which contends that some features of the natural world are best explained as the products of an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection.

“President Bush is to be commended for defending free speech on evolution, and supporting the rights of students to hear about different scientific views about evolution,” said John West, associate director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute, a leading think tank supporting intelligent design.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told The New York Times he was pleased with Bush’s stance.

“It’s what I’ve been pushing; it’s what a lot of us have been pushing,” Land said, adding that evolution “is too often taught as fact,” and that “if you’re going to teach the Darwinian theory as evolution, teach it as theory. And then teach another theory that has the most support among scientists.”

But Susan Spath of the National Center for Science Education said Bush’s comment that “both sides” should be taught is troubling.

“It sounds like you’re being fair, but creationism is a sectarian religious viewpoint, and intelligent design is a sectarian religious viewpoint,” she told The Times. “It’s not fair to privilege one religious viewpoint by calling it the other side of evolution.”

The Alliance Defense Fund’s Mike Johnson told Family News in Focus he hopes schools are not unsettled by threats of lawsuits if they choose to teach intelligent design.

“They should not be scared off and intimidated by the misinformation of these liberal groups,” he said. “They need to stand their ground and if they have a constitutional curriculum, I think they can be confident it will be allowed under the law.”

Published, September 2005

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