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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Minnetonka, Evolution and ID...oh my!

At a recent Minnetonka School Board meeting, the science curriculum standards were being discussed and the merits of both evolution and ID were part of this topic. The school board contends they have no intention of including ID in the science standards, however, now is the time to quash any members' ideas of trying to include ID in any science based curriculum.

The Minnetonka School District believes an article published in the Star Tribune West regarding Minnetonka Science Standards misrepresented the intent of the Board's future action on science standards.

The proposal before the School Board regarding the Minnetonka Science Standards DOES NOT call for any CHANGE in the way evolution is taught in the classroom. Minnetonka Science Standards do not include any reference to Intelligent Design, a belief which is not accepted as a scientific theory, does not follow the scientific method, and is not taught in science classrooms in Minnetonka Schools.

The Board will discuss Science Standards at a Special Meeting on December 15. An opportunity for Community Comment is available at 7 pm; the science discussion and anticipated Board action will follow.

Source: Minnetonka School District Website, December 15, 2005

Upon a request from the Director of Graduate Studies in Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology at the UofM, several graduate students are writing letters to the Minnetonka School Board to offer expert opinions on this issue. Below is the text of my letter.


David Joseph De Grio
Minneapolis, MN 55414

Minnetonka School Board
Public School District 276

Dear Sirs and Madams:

My name is David J. De Grio, I am a graduate student of Chemistry at the University of Minnesota. My formal undergraduate training is in Biochemistry and Theology. I am writing today in regards to the debate over including intelligent design in the science curriculum and whether evolution should be taught as fact or theory. Please keep in mind; I am speaking from the viewpoint of someone who is trained in both biochemistry and theology. So I am well informed about both sides of this argument.

I think first, that we must distinguish between micro-evolution and macro-evolution. Science has PROVEN micro-evolution has occurred, does occur and leads to changes within an organism and that change can lead to either a dead-end, or to a passed on genetic trait. An example of the former is seen when fruit fly reproductive genes are mutated and they cannot procreate, while the later is demonstrated in antibiotic resistance. Macro-evolution, on the other hand, has never been proven and probably never will be. This is not because macro-evolution is non-existent, nor because it is a weak theory. It is because we simply cannot conduct a scientific study for that amount of time (millions to hundreds of millions of years). However, the differences between humans and our nearest ancestors, the chimpanzee, are mostly the result of micro-evolution.

Creationism/intelligent design is not a scientific theory. I thank the board for recognizing the truth in that statement, however, I wish more people would understand this. It cannot be tested and supported or refuted. The only way this can be done is by having irrefutable proof that there is a designer/God. Were this provable, we wouldn’t have people who study Theology and we would cease to have that which makes us human, the search for higher truth. Furthermore, people who believe in ID/creationism should hope that it is never possible to test this theological assertion. For were it possible to test the theory there is the possibility that ID/Creationism could be disproved by negating the existence of God. Wouldn’t that put us in a tough spot?

Furthermore, it must be realized that even within the Bible there are two different stories of creation, Gen 1:1 – 2:3 and Gen 2:4 – 2:24. These two accounts are even contradictory in the first God creates animals and then man and woman at the same time. In the second creation story, God creates Adam then all the animals of the Earth. When no animal serves as a compatible partner to man, God creates woman from man. If we teach ID/Creationism, which story do we teach?

So where does this leave us? It would be a bastardization of science to include mythological stories and theories of creation in science curriculum. Not only would you be teaching something which spans beyond the realm of science, you would threaten the integrity of the impartiality science. In science we allow for theories to be refuted or modified by new findings. This is not possible in ID/creationism because it is based off a fundamental belief that the Bible is static and unchangeable as it is based of the infallibility of God. Science should remain independent from religion and religion independent from science. Furthermore, to maintain the integrity of the scientific process evolution must be taught as theory, not as fact. It can be emphasized that it is a very good theory, almost flawless, but it is not scientific fact. There are many examples of theories we believe to be fact, but we cannot call them fact, at least not at this point.

A more proper solution would be to integrate comparative theology into the social studies curriculum of students. In this curriculum should be included the creation stories of the major religions: Judaism/Christianity, Islam and Hindu. These courses should be designed by religious scholars from the major religions and monitored by an independent advisory council which can guarantee that no religion is being forced upon students but that the classes offer increased understanding of other religions and hopefully will abrogate cultural misunderstanding.

Because the Minnetonka Schools serve as a high standard of excellence for other districts I encourage open and thoughtful discussion of this issue. I make myself available for any further questions you may have. May peace be with you as we enter into this joyous Christmas season!

Respectfully yours,

David Joseph De Grio

Updated: Added text of Minnetonka school district statement. It appears the district isn't happy about the unwelcome attention creationist school board member Dave Eaton is bringing to the Minnetonka School District.