Steve Stough was silent.

He had just heard a passage from Texas' new public school science standards, and was processing.


"Oh ----," he said. "That's intelligent design without using the nomenclature. It really, truly is."

Stough was one of 11 parents who sued the Dover Area School District in 2004 after the district became the first in the country to require the mention of intelligent design in high school biology class.

After a six-week trial in 2005, a federal judge ruled intelligent design was a form of creationism that had a primary objective of promoting religion, and that including it as part of the science curriculum violated the separation of church and state.

Michael Behe, a Lehigh University biology professor who supports intelligent design, answers a question from Charles Darwin s great-great-grandson, Matthew
Michael Behe, a Lehigh University biology professor who supports intelligent design, answers a question from Charles Darwin s great-great-grandson, Matthew Chapman, during the Dover intelligent design trial in 2005. Behe said new Texas science standards simply require that the theory of evolution not be treated as something that is beyond questioning. (Daily Record/Sunday News -- File)

Science teachers in Texas and around the country have said the state's new standards, passed last month, represent the next frontier in the battle over how evolution is taught in public schools.

Critics charge that the Texas board has codified many of intelligent design's arguments, but without using the politically-charged term that has been associated with creationism, particularly since the Dover case.

Backers -- many of whom have supported teaching intelligent design or creationism --maintain the language is only an effort toward teaching science better.

The new Texas standards removed a requirement that students analyze the "strengths and weaknesses" of the theory of evolution.


In its place, students must now "analyze, evaluate and critique scientific explanations in all fields of science." Additionally, several amendments require students to analyze and critique specific ideas, such as "explanations concerning the complexity of the cell."

Board president Don McElroy, a creationist, told The Associated Press the later amendment was added "to account for that amazing complexity. I think it's a standard that makes it honest with our children."

Two other amendments McElroy proposed -- that would have required students to study the "sufficiency or insufficiency" of common ancestry and natural selection of species, both key principals of Darwin -- were voted down by the board.

Those involved on the plaintiffs' side of the Dover lawsuit said it all sounds too familiar.

"It just seems to be the next way to bring creationism back in, but they're not so blunt about it," said Tammy Kitzmiller, the plaintiff whose name was listed first on the lawsuit.

"It's definitely a backdoor approach. It's understated. It's re-worded. It's going to fly under the radar for a lot of people."


Michael Baldwin first became concerned about the new standards as ideas for them were unveiled two years ago.

A biology teacher in Brownsville, Texas, Baldwin is the president of the Science Teachers Association of Texas. He was shown a demonstration of an exercise where seventh-grade earth science students were supposed to analyze plate tectonic theory.

The exercise, he said, included two differing explanations for how the plates that cover the earth move. The explanations were presented in such a way as to suggest that plate tectonic theory itself might be wrong because there is disagreement about how it works.

But in mainstream science, tectonic theory is an accepted building block of geology, Baldwin said, just like evolution is considered the foundation of biology.

The new standards, Baldwin said, are filled with such ideological traps that could create the appearance of scientific doubt in areas of certainty.

Ken Miller is the co-author of the most widely used biology textbook in Texas, and was one of the plaintiffs' expert witnesses in the Dover trial.

"(The standard's authors) say 'All we really want to do is propose critical analysis of evolution,'" said Miller, a professor at Brown University. "But then you look at their critical set of arguments, it's the same thing they were saying about intelligent design."

The standard requiring students to critique "explanations concerning complexity of the cell," Miller said, parrots the concept of "irreducible complexity," one of intelligent design's main tenets.

Another standard says students must analyze scientific explanations concerning any data of "sudden appearance," which Miller called an element of intelligent design. In the Dover trial, the plaintiffs showed manuscripts for an unreleased textbook in which the phrase replaced "intelligent design."

Even setting aside ideology, Baldwin said it is not feasible for third- through 12th-grade teachers to cover every argument someone wants to present about a subject. Still, he said, he's optimistic science teachers will be able to do their jobs.

"It's only going to be an issue if some parent says you're talking about natural selection and here's some information from my church that you need to present because it's the law," Baldwin said. "We don't know if that's going to happen or how often, but it's what we're all fearful of."


Those who back the new standards say that there is a stark difference between intelligent design and what the Texas board adopted.

The new standards require teachers to give their students the full range of information on evolution, said Casey Luskin, the program officer for public policy and legal affairs for the Discovery Institute, which promotes intelligent design.

The Discovery Institute does not support teaching intelligent design in public schools because it politicizes the issue and makes it harder for researchers, Luskin said, which is why the institute did not back the Dover school district during the trial.

He said experts like Miller are being disingenuous when they describe sudden appearance as if it's solely associated with intelligent design.

"This is bullcrap," Luskin said. "Terms like abrupt appearance, sudden appearance, you can find them in the mainstream literature.

"We have to get past these bluffs from the evolution lobby or scientific research will just be shut down."

Michael Behe, the Lehigh University biology professor who is a proponent of intelligent design, said the Texas standards simply ask students not to treat evolution as an "icon that cannot be questioned."

"You need at least another view -- if not intelligent design, it's got to be something -- so students get a balanced view," Behe said.

Both rejected critics' suggestions that the new standards are an attempt to confuse students about evolution so they might be more susceptible to creationism arguments made outside the classroom.

"As long as you're teaching science accurately -- which is all I'm asking for here -- why shouldn't children be able to think for themselves," Luskin said, "and reach their own conclusions?"


Right now, all sides are waiting to see how the teachers put the new standards into practice, next fall, and how communities will react.

If Dover was a fight about biology class, the Texas standards -- which require students to analyze "views on the existence of global warming," the age of the universe and the Big Bang theory -- could set the stage for battles across scientific disciplines.

"One of my first concerns when this happened in Dover was what class will be next," Kitzmiller said. "That's what the people in Texas really need to be aware of."

Eric Rothschild, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers in the Dover trial, said if teachers adhere to the language and teach only science, they won't be drawn into arguments about irreducible complexity or gaps in the fossil record.

Should teachers begin teaching creationism, both Kitzmiller and Stough said they hoped some group of parents would make the hard decision to stand up to the state board.

The groundwork for a legal challenge would likely look different, said Rothschild, who could only speak in general since the full text of the Texas standards have not been published.

In Dover, he said, teachers were ordered to read a statement about a concept, and the plaintiffs challenged that concept. In Texas, he said, the board appears to open the door for creationist ideas, but leaves it up to individual teachers to insert religion into the classroom.

The plaintiffs in Dover also had something else on their side.

"There was actually a tangible concept as opposed to more generic ways of diluting how science is taught," Rothschild said. "Having a name helped, because names have meanings."

Still, he said, if schools in Texas attempt to teach some form of creationism, there will be a way to challenge it successfully.


Angie Yingling was a school board member in Dover who voted in favor of intelligent design before changing her mind, voting against it and then resigning.

When told of the new Texas standards, she had words of caution for the state board based on what happened in Dover.

"Look at the outcome," Yingling said. "Look at what happened. A whole bunch of taxpayer money spent and (they) lost."


For the last decade, Texas science standards have required students to analyze the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution. On March 27, the state's Board of Education approved new standards that will govern science education.

The board replaced the "strengths and weaknesses" rule with an amendment stating: students must "analyze, evaluate and critique scientific explanations in all fields of science by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations so as to encourage critical thinking by the student."

Other added standards included:

--- "The student is expected to analyze and evaluate scientific explanations concerning any data of sudden appearance, stasis, and the sequential nature of groups in the fossil record."

--- "Analyze and evaluate the evidence concerning the complexity of the cell."

--- "Analyze and evaluate the evidence regarding formation of simple organic molecules and their organization into long complex molecules having information such as the DNA molecule for self-replicating life."

--- Study "how Earth-based and space-based astronomical observations reveal differing theories about the structure, scale, composition, origin and history of the universe."

--- "Analyze and evaluate different views on the existence of global warming."


Intelligent design asserts that living things exhibit such complex systems that they must have been engineered by an intelligent agent.


The new Texas science standards call for students to "analyze and evaluate scientific explanations concerning any data of sudden appearance, stasis and the sequential nature of groups in the fossil record."

Plaintiffs in the Dover intelligent design trial, their expert witnesses and teachers in Texas noted that "sudden appearance" is an argument frequently made by intelligent design proponents.

During the trial, the plaintiffs showed manuscripts of two editions of the book, "Of People and Pandas," and a manuscript of a then unpublished book, "The Design of Life."

The first edition included the phrase: "Creation means that various forms of life began abruptly through the agency of an intelligent creator, with their distinctive features already intact -- fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, wings, etc."

The second, published after a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court decision that forbade the teaching of creationism in public schools, included: "Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact -- fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks and wings, etc."

The third, from "The Design of Life" included: "Sudden appearance means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact -- fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, wings, and mammals with fur and mammary glands, etc."

After unveiling the evidence, Eric Rothschild, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers asked, "Will we be back in a couple of years for the 'sudden appearance' trial?"

The presiding judge, John E. Jones III, replied, "Not on my docket."