COLUMBIA, S.C. – A South Carolina education panel voted unanimously this week in favor of a measure that would allow teachers and students in public schools to critique evolution and discuss the assumptions underlying the theory.
On Tuesday, a six-member panel of state education leaders met in Columbia to discuss South Carolina’s high school biology standards. The panel was comprised of members of the State Board of Education and the Education Oversight Committee.
As previously reported, South Carolina’s biology standards have recently been the subject of controversy. Earlier this year, Education Oversight Committee member Mike Fair came under fire from evolutionists for objecting to a proposal that supported evolution and natural selection.
“To teach that natural selection is the answer to origins is wrong,” Fair had told reporters. “I don’t have a problem with teaching theories. [However] I don’t think it should be taught as fact.”
According to reports, South Carolina education leaders have now sided with Fair by acknowledging that evolution is a theory that is largely based on assumptions, rather than direct observations.
“Science is the systematic gathering of information through both direct and indirect observation,” a revision to the state’s Biology standards states. “… Scientific conclusions are tested by experiment and observation, and evolution, as with any aspect of science, is continually open to and subject to experimental and observational testing.”
The revision, which was approved unanimously by the education panel on Tuesday, encourages teachers to educate students on the limitations of scientific theories, including evolution.
“Student who demonstrate this understanding can: Explain how scientists develop theories and laws by using deductive and inductive reasoning in situations where direct observation and testing are possible and also by inference through experimental and observational testing of historical scientific claims,” the revised standards explain. “Students should understand assumptions scientists make in situations where direct evidence is limited and understand that all theories may change as new scientific information is obtained.”
The proposed revisions will now be recommended to the full state Board of Education and Education Oversight Committee. In the meantime, Fair says the latest development is encouraging, since the new policy will enable students to be “more involved in critical thinking on these matters.”
“Hopefully, [the standards will] stimulate even more in-depth questions, which then will beg for some critical thinking to come up with some opinions, and some inferences made by the students,” Fair told local affiliate WBTW.
Casey Luskin, an attorney with the Discovery Institute, said the latest development in South Carolina is “good news.”
“It’s good pedagogy to approach controversial scientific claims like biological evolution in a skeptical, scientific spirit,” Luskin wrote. “It’s fine to call biological evolution a ‘theory,’ so long as you treat it in a scientific manner, where students are permitted to learn that new evidence arises that might challenge the ‘theory.’ And that’s exactly what these new standards allow.”
“With these changes, it looks like South Carolina is poised to adopt strong new science standards that will give students the intellectual tools to study and understand evolution,” Luskin added.