In Ohio School Board Race, Science Trumps "Intelligent Design"
Ohio's scientists flexed some political muscle Tuesday as four pro-evolution candidates they backed captured or retained seats on the state Board of Education.
In the race that drew national attention, Tom Sawyer, a former Akron mayor and 16-year congressman, beat incumbent Deborah Owens Fink nearly 2-1 for a board seat. Also winning seats were pro-evolution candidates John Bender, Deborah Cain and Sam Schloemer.
Voters were treated to the unusual sight of Kenneth Miller, a nationally renowned biologist, stumping like a ward-heeler for pro-evolution candidates, and Pastor Ernie Sanders, an evangelical radio host, blasting Sawyer as a merchant of sin.
In 2002, the school board adopted science standards that encouraged students to seek evidence for and against evolution. Last February, however, the board rescinded the policy.
Critics of the policy said it was a backdoor attempt to introduce "intelligent design,'' a controversial belief that argues that a higher being designed the complex universe. The belief has been championed by conservative Christian leaders as an alternative to evolutionary theory worthy of being taught in public schools -- creating a "debate" between scientists and non-scientists. It has been fought by supporters of separation of church and state, who see intelligent design as a thinly veiled way to teach religion in public schools.
The terms of four more appointed board members will expire Dec. 31, enabling the new governor, Democrat Ted Strickland, to either reappoint or replace them.
That means the 19-person board could have eight new members come January and be transformed into a bully pulpit for Strickland-backed policy.
And Strickland, like the Ohio scientists, has no plans to teach "intelligent design" in the state's public schools.