The South Carolina Education Oversight Committee approved most of the state's new science standards on Monday but blocked a clause featuring the phrase "natural selection.” According to Republican state Sen. Mike Fair, "To teach that natural selection is the answer to origins is wrong."
"I don't have a problem with teaching theories. I don't think it should be taught as fact," Fair said after Monday’s review, according to the Post and Courier. "Natural selection is a direct reference to Darwinism. And the implication of Darwinism is that it is start to finish."
The clause in question, from page 78 of the South Carolina Academic Standards and Performance Indicators for Science, reads as follows:
Conceptual Understanding: Biological evolution occurs primarily when natural selection acts on the genetic variation in a population and changes the distribution of traits in that population over multiple generations.
Performance Indicators: Students who can demonstrate this understanding can:
Analyze and interpret data, using the principles of natural selection, to make predictions about the long term biological changes that occur within two populations of the same species that become geographically isolated from one another.
The state's board of education approved the "natural selection" clause after squashing an effort to include intelligent design as an alternative theory to evolution. On Monday, the oversight committee passed all other measures in the state’s new K-12 science standards, but it referred the evolution provision back to a subcommittee for review. Both the state board and the oversight committee must agree on the new standards before they can be adopted and implemented by the education department by the fall of 2014.
State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais noted South Carolina’s long-running debate over the issue, arguing "both sides" should be presented to students.
"This has been going on here in South Carolina for a long a time," Zais said on Monday, according to the Post and Courier. "We ought to teach both sides and let students draw their own conclusions."
Science advocates, however, viewed the exclusion as a religiously motivated attack on established science.
"What frustrates us are when pieces of [the standards] -- evolution -- are singled out for religious and political reasons," Robert T. Dillon, a professor of biology at the College of Charleston and member of South Carolinians for Science Education, told The State on Monday. "Mike Fair singles out evolution for special treatment. It is no more scientifically controversial than photosynthesis.”
Prior to Monday’s obstruction, Fair launched several unsuccessful initiatives in the state senate and the education oversight committee to thwart the teaching of evolution in South Carolina schools.
In 2003, Fair sponsored a bill calling for a 19-member committee that would use testimony from science experts and report to the General Assembly on "whether alternatives to evolution as the origin of species should be offered in schools,” according to Greenville News. In June of 2010, two more of Fair's antievolution bills -- Senate Bills 873 and 875 -- were killed in committee.
(h/t Post and Courier)