Friday, August 3, 2001

Board of Education member Denise Matsumoto
addressed the gathering before the meeting last night.

Ed board rejects
Bible as science

The BOE votes unanimously
against teaching multiple
theories of origin

By Crystal Kua

Multiple theories on the origin of life such as Bible-based creationism will not be taught in public school science classes alongside evolution as the result of a state Board of Education decision last night.

The board voted unanimously to delete language from performance standards for science that were added in committee -- language that would have opened the door to the teaching of creationism as another scientific theory.

"The original science standards will be intact," Board Chairman Herbert Watanabe said.

The vote came after three hours of testimony by those in favor of evolution and creationism.

"Religious views of creation is not science, and it can never be," said Chris Measures, University of Hawaii professor of oceanography. "We do not teach alchemy alongside chemistry nor astrology alongside physics; neither should we teach creationism in the biology classroom."

The testimony came in a debate over whether to include language in the state science performance standards to require students to identify "multiple theories of origin" as well as the theory of evolution.

In an unusual move, Watanabe allowed board member Denise Matsumoto to address the crowd before the start of the public testimony.

Matsumoto's Regular Education Committee gave initial approval to the science standards with the "multiple theories of origin language."

She said people have been "attacking" her for the move. "The committee never intended for creationism to be taught, and neither did I."

Robert Morgan, left, testified that "the creationist view
should be given a chance to be heard instead of contempt."

But at last week's committee meeting, Matsumoto offered creationism as another theory.

Scientists led the charge against creationism in the science classroom.

Michael Garcia, a UH professor of geology and president of the Hawaii Academy of Science, testified that his organization supports well-established scientific theories including the evolution of life.

Hawaii State Teachers Association President Karen Ginoza said that evolution and creationism should be taught in the public schools, but evolution -- and not creationism -- should be taught in the science classroom.

More than 50 people testified, and the board received more than 200 written comments.

Some in the standing-room-only boardroom wore T-shirts with the word "Darwin" -- as in Charles Darwin, whose theory of evolution was being debated -- written within the outline of a fish with feet on it. The T-shirt design is a take off of the traditional Christian symbol of a fish.

Sue Arakawa testified that people choose to believe in evolution just like creationism. "Both views are religious in nature."

Robert A. Morgan called himself a creationist and said: "I was especially disturbed at the assertion that evolution is based on hard science while creation is based on bad science and whimsical faith. In reality, they are both equally viable theories of origin."

"As a pastor, I don't want your teachers teaching my kids about religion," the Rev. Mike Young said.

"Creationism and the flat Earth is not good science, and it's not very good theology," the Rev. Sam Cox said.

School board member Carol Gabbard said she would propose adding language to the science standards as a compromise, but did not present the board with the proposal last night.

Before the board meeting, she said it is proper to require a student to analyze and explain "the evidence which goes against or is critical of the theories of molecular evolution, natural selection and biological evolution."

Mitchell Kahle, above, testified against creationism
at last night's hearing, saying that science is not
to be feared, but revered.

A week ago, the board's Regular Education Committee approved language for proposed state science performance standards that would require students to identify "multiple theories of origin," not just evolution. The word "creationism" is not specifically mentioned.

In another paragraph, a reference to having students explain the basic idea of "biological evolution" was replaced with students having to explain "the basic idea of the multiple theories of origin."

The changes were made after Matsumoto complained that proposed science standards presented Charles Darwin's theories of evolution and natural selection as fact rather than opinion.

Matsumoto, along with committee members Karen Knudsen, Donna Ikeda, Keith Sakata, Sherwood Hara, voted for the proposed science standards at last week's meeting. All five voted against the language last night.

The board approved two years ago revised standards for academic content, which set out what a child should know. Performance standards would gauge how well the students learn the subjects. Tests will be given to see if the students are meeting those standards.

The Hawaii Department of Education received a grade of "A" from the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation in December for the treatment of evolution in the Hawaii Content and Performance Standards.

The author of that report said that if the "multiple theories of origin" language had stayed in, Hawaii could expect its grade to diminish.

"It certainly will hurt," Lawrence Lerner, professor emeritus with the College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics at California State University at Long Beach, said by telephone.

Lerner called evolution the central organizing principle of biology, and he has seen language like the kind before the board being proposed by proponents of creationism across the country.

"It's really just an entree to creationism nonsense," Lerner said. "It stops students from learning basic science and biology."

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