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Intelligent design gets political

Nature volume 443, page 615 (12 October 2006) | Download Citation


Teaching creationism becomes an election issue in Michigan.

After a federal court ruled that intelligent design could not be taught in schools in Dover, Pennsylvania, many thought the idea would fade from public view (see Nature 439 6–7; 2006).

But intelligent design is re-emerging as a political issue. “It continues to have legs, and we're going to have to worry about it,” says Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and chair of the advisory board of Help Ohio Public Education (HOPE), a group that opposes the teaching of intelligent design in the state.

In 2004, the Ohio school board approved language encouraging a “critical analysis” of evolution and a lesson plan that included arguments used by supporters of intelligent design. The plan was repealed shortly after the Dover decision in February, but advocates of intelligent design are again running for positions on the board. In response, HOPE is endorsing its own candidates.

In Michigan, the Republican candidate for state governor, Dick DeVos, has expressed support for teaching intelligent design. He is neck-and-neck with the Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm, and the statement may be an effort to energize conservatives, says Robert Pennock, president of the pro-evolution Michigan Citizens for Science. “This issue is seen by fundamentalists and evangelicals as part of the culture wars,” Pennock says.

But he thinks the endorsement may backfire: “Economic issues are the most important.” By endorsing intelligent design, DeVos could lose the backing of Michigan's thriving biomedical industry.

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