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7.18 Details of the Campaign

The Discovery Institute’s primary method for achieving their goal is to delegitimize evolution and minimize its profile in science education public school curricula via textbook disclaimers.

As a general approach, Discovery Institute pretends they favour teaching students more about evolution, not less. They say students deserve to know not only about the strengths of modern evolutionary theory, but also about some of the theory’s weaknesses and unresolved issues. In other words, students should be taught that evolutionary theory, like any scientific theory, continues to be open to analysis and critical scrutiny. According to opinion polls, this approach is favoured by the overwhelming majority of the American public.

The institute hopes to take advantage of the opportunity presented by some states currently revising or developing science standards. Viewed as an opportunity to introduce Critical Analysis of Evolution lesson plans, the institute implies it will benefit schools and students.

7.18.1 History behind the campaign

The campaign and strategy was put forth by the institute in anticipation of legal challenges arguing that the teaching of Intelligent Design would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

7.18.2 State education boards

Critical Analysis of Evolution lesson plans have only been accepted in a small number of states as part of new science standards proposed by the Discovery Institute.

In 2002 as Ohio reviewed its science curriculum it was intensively lobbied by the Discovery Institute to include “Intelligent Design theory”. The State Board of Education approved standards including “Benchmark H” and “Indicator 23”, requiring “Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory”. Intelligent design proponents then adopted a new “Teach the Controversy” strategy, and a model lesson plan was prepared including links to Discovery Institute websites and a reference to the book “Icons of Evolution” by Jonathan Wells, an advocate of Intelligent Design. On March 10, 2004, the Board approved a set of model lessons for science including “Critical Analysis of Evolution – Grade 10” which included brief sample “supporting” and “challenging” answers. The lesson plan and associated benchmark and indicator were removed in February 2006 after an 11-4 vote by Ohio’s board of education. In October 2006 the entire State Board of Education rejected consideration of the framework and any further attempts to force the consideration of “teaching controversial issues.”

Standards promulgated by the Discovery Institute were adopted by Kansas in 2005. New Mexico adopted strongly pro-evolution science standards in 2003, but because these standards happen to mention ‘critical analysis’ and evolution in the same sentence, the Discovery Institute and Intelligent Design Network have since claimed (falsely) that New Mexico is “one of five states requiring critical analysis of evolution.”