The school board has ordered that biology teachers at Dover Area High School make students “aware of gaps/problems” in the theory of evolution. Their ninth-grade curriculum now must include the theory of “intelligent design,” which posits that life is so complex and elaborate that some greater wisdom has to be behind it.
Many scientists and other academics came out against this idea, and the story largely died down until Monday when the President said that he believed intelligent design should be taught in tandem with evolution:
“I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought,” Bush said. “You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes.”
Religious Right groups rejoiced in the validation that comes with a Presidential endorsement, and many Republican elected officials joined in the backslapping. So it was a bit odd to see this Reuters story quoting Religious Right golden boy Senator Rick Santorum offering what sounds a lot like dissent:
“I think I would probably tailor that a little more than what the president has suggested,” Santorum, the third-ranking Republican member of the U.S. Senate, told National Public Radio. “I’m not comfortable with intelligent design being taught in the science classroom.“
Maybe the pressure of trailing in his re-election by more than 10 points is starting to affect Santorum. Shortly after the Dover, PA decision, Santorum wrote an Op/Ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Ultimately, academic freedom is at stake. Students should learn both the strengths of Darwinian evolution, as well as the theory’s scientific weaknesses. It is beneficial for our students to discuss the exciting unanswered questions surrounding evolution. If we want our students to become educated citizens, we should all support an open, engaging and broad discussion of evolution theory in our public schools.
I commend the Dover Area School District for taking a stand and refusing to ignore the controversy.
So which is it Senator? Or does it depend on the polls?
(All emphasis added.)