SC senator’s Darwin skepticism halts evolution standard’s adoption

02/10/2014 4:56 PM

02/10/2014 5:29 PM

A state senator’s skepticism about Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory held up the full adoption of South Carolina’s K-12 standards for what students learn in science class.

The S.C. Education Oversight Committee -- the state’s education research and accountability arm -- approved most of the state’s revised science standards at its meeting Monday, sending the standard on evolution back to subcommittee for review. The standards were last updated in 2005.

State Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, objected to the proposed revision of the evolution standard, which asked students to “analyze and interpret data, using the principles of natural selection, to make predictions about the long term biological changes that may occur within two populations of the same species that become geographically isolated from one another.”

“There’s not but one theory coming from the principles of natural selection,” Fair said. “There are more than one (theory of evolution). But the one that is being taught and will continue to be taught is Darwinism.”

Phillip Bowers of Pickens, House Speaker Bobby Harrell's appointee on the Oversight Committee, said he shared Fair's desire to revisit the treatment of evolution and asked whether “we're teaching something that is proven to be false.”

Bowers asked that the board adopt the standards, sending the evolution standard back to committee.

Both the state Board of Education and the Oversight Committee must approve the standards before they take effect.

The state Board of Education approved the standards at its January meeting, rejecting an effort to include “creation by design” as an alternative theory to evolution.

“What frustrates us are when pieces of (the standards) -- evolution -- are singled out for religious and political reasons,” said Rob Dillon, a College of Charleston biology professor and president of South Carolinians for Science Education.

“Mike Fair singles out evolution for special treatment. It is no more scientifically controversial than photosynthesis.”

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