By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Backers of an idea that life is so complex that it must have been designed by a higher power said on Monday that teachers in Ohio should be allowed to discuss the scientific controversy about the origin of life and how it has changed.
"Maybe it's compatible with biblical creationism, but it certainly is not that," Jonathan Wells, a fellow from the Discovery Institute in Seattle, said in a panel discussion called by the state school board. "The question is, should teachers be permitted to tell students the controversy over intelligent design?"
The board invited experts of evolution and intelligent design to participate in the panel discussion following criticism that an early draft of the proposed science standards for grades K-12 did not include intelligent design, the idea that life is too complex to have happened by chance and, therefore, must have been designed by a higher power.
The school board must decide by year's end what Ohio's 1.8 million public school students should learn about life.
The board said about 1,500 people attended the discussion, moved to a downtown auditorium that seats about 4,000 because of strong interest in the debate.
While Wells said he would prefer teachers to examine intelligent design, evolution supporters Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and Kenneth Miller of Brown University told the board there is no scientific controversy. They said intelligent design is not science and has not undergone rigorous critique by respected scientific journals.
"There is an agenda here, and it's not science," Krauss said. "Why discuss something that's opposed to the scientific method in a science class?"
Krauss and Miller argued that supporters of intelligent design have bypassed the method of bringing credibility to a theory by testing it, critiquing it and having well-respected scientists support it.
"What they want you to do is leap-frog over the scientific process," Miller said, noting that supporters of intelligent design are trying to promote their theory through legislators instead of scientists.
The state is writing new standards for all core subjects. In April, writing teams began drafting the new science guidelines. The current ones have been criticized as vague, especially in the life sciences section, which avoids the word evolution and recommends covering "change through time."
The state's draft includes evolution, the most widely accepted theory, but does not include intelligent design.
Critics of intelligent design say it's a disguise for creationism, which courts have barred from public schools. But supporters of the idea argue that intelligent design doesn't specify the designer, and that the theory isn't about religion.
Adrienne Johnson, 17, a senior at Whetstone High School in Columbus, arrived at the meeting with her English class. The students are to write essays examining the controversy.
Johnson said she was interested in the issue because she hasn't learned about either evolution or intelligent design in her science classes.
"Evolution was kind of glossed over. It was mentioned, but that's it," she said.
Several members of the board have pushed for other views to be taught alongside evolution, and the board's standards committee appears to favor allowing alternative ideas to evolution into classrooms.
"That's scary," said Pam Keiper, treasurer of Ohio Citizens for Science, a group of parents, teachers and students who support evolution. "I hope the board members understand from the debate that intelligent design is not science and that it should not be in a science class."
The full 19-member board must approve the standards before they go into effect. Teachers will not be required to follow the standards, but the state's new standardized test that students must take in the 10th grade and pass to graduate will be based on the guidelines.