State teaching mandate precludes intelligent design

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Carl Armstrong is a Christian. He is also a Clovis High School science teacher, and he doesn’t think intelligent design has a place in his, or any other, science classroom, at least for now.

There is just not enough evidence to support the theory, Armstrong said.

In Pennsylvania, eight families are fighting to have intelligent design removed from the Dover Area School District’s biology curriculum. The case will set a precedent for schools across the nation, Clovis Schools Deputy Superintendent Ladona Clayton said.

Thus far, the intelligent design debate has been absent from Clovis schools, according to school officials and teachers.

“It is not an issue with any of faculty, parents, or students I’ve come across,” Armstrong said.

A letter sent to superintendents from the New Mexico Secretary of Education, and forwarded to Clovis principals, may have squelched intelligent design hype. “New Mexico public schools,” the letter states, “are not permitted to endorse a particular religion… We believe this prohibition extends to ‘creation science’ or any of its variations…”

The state mandate puts Clovis High School teacher Peggy Ingram at ease. The biology, human anatomy and physiology instructor does not believe intelligent design should be taught in science class.

“It doesn’t fit the experimentation that is needed for the scientific method,” Ingram said. Furthermore, she said “there should be a separation” between school and religion.

Though intelligent design is compatible with creationist perspectives, proponents of the theory argue it isn’t just a fancy word for creationism. It doesn’t insist the universe was created from nothing, but merely postulates intelligent causes exist and can be observed in nature, according to the Access Research Network Web site.

But it isn’t the tenets of intelligent design or its connection to creationism that bothers Ingram and Armstrong most. It is the theory’s relevance to science that they question — the theory would be better relegated to a philosophy or religion class, they said.

Linda Bolyard, a Clovis Christian School science teacher, is of a vastly different mindset. She teaches creationism alongside evolution in her classrooms. Not doing so, she said, is a disservice to students. In order to become independent thinkers, students need to evaluate various theories, she said.

“Creationism belongs in any honest assessment of where the world came from. Belief in creation is just as viable a belief as evolution. And evolution is a belief system — just like creationism,” Bolyard said.

“I believe scientific evidence backs up the principles of creation rather than the principles of evolution. There is design in the universe — flowers, leaves, and seashell spirals all follow a specific mathematical formula. Things happen in a specific order and obey specific principles. If you took all the parts of a wristwatch and let them sit in a box, they would not compile by themselves into a watch. Someone has to compile them into a watch. I teach that someone is God,” Bolyard said.

Even if the Pennsylvania court does allow the theory a place alongside evolution, Clayton said the decision would be challenged at the Supreme Court level.

And unless a group of vocal Clovis residents lobby for the inclusion of intelligent design theory in the curriculum, the theory will likely stay outside New Mexico classrooms, Clayton said.