New Mexico Rejects Effort to Add Creationism to Science Standards

Church & State, October 2003 | Go to article overview

New Mexico Rejects Effort to Add Creationism to Science Standards


New Mexico's Board of Education has voted unanimously to retain science standards that emphasize evolution and do not mention creationism or "intelligent design."

The board had been under pressure by intelligent-design proponents to include those religious concepts in the standards. But the board's Instructional Services Committee voted 4-2 in late August to keep intelligent design out of the standards, and the full school board followed suit a few days later.

The standards state that students in high school should "understand the data, observations and logic supporting the conclusion that species today evolved from earlier, distinctly different species, originating from the ancestral one-celled organisms."

The New Mexico Academy of Science and the New Mexico Conference of Churches supported the standards, reported the Albuquerque Journal.

"There should be no fear of conflict between religion and science," said the Rev. Barbara Dua, executive director of the church conference. "God has given us the intelligent capacity for critical thinking."

New Mexico has been grappling with this issue for several years. In 1996, the board removed references to evolution from the science standards. At that time, Larry Lerner, a California professor who works with the Fordham Foundation, awarded New Mexico's science standards an F.

In 1999, members of the scientific community in the state got involved and advocated for reinstating evolution to the standards. The board agreed, and the new standards earned an A.

Americans United weighed in on the controversy in June, calling on state education officials to keep creationism out of the standards.

"[W]e urge you to reject any proposed language which promotes a religious alternative to evolution, or that strives to maintain a 'balanced approach' between religious and scientific teachings," wrote AU attorneys. "While we recognize that consensus-building on controversial educational matters is a difficult task, the inclusion of unconstitutional language to appease interested parties would be an impermissible result."

In other news about creationism:

* The Worland, Wyo., school board hopes to adopt a new policy that critics say will water down the teaching of evolution. The policy states that public schools in Washakie County will teach "Darwin's theory of evolution . …

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