The New York Times reported today on an unusual development in an Ohio election in which 75 professors from Case Western Reserve University entered the political arena by endorsing Tom Sawyer, a candidate for the Ohio Board of Education. Mr. Sawyer is a former mayor of Akron and Congressman.
The scientists were moved to action in the hope of defeating Deborah Owens Fink, "a leading advocate of curriculum standards that encourage students to challenge the theory of evolution." Ohio professors are acting thoughout the state to fight for candidates who support the teaching of science without religious censorship. Physics professor Lawrence M. Krauss was the organizer of the letter and reported nearly 90% of the Case Western science faculty had joined in the signing. They included physicists, chemists, biologists, geologists, and, it was said, psychologists.
When interviewed by the Times, Dr. Krauss said, “This is not some group of fringe scientists or however they are being portrayed by the creationist community. This is the entire scientific community, and I don’t know of any other precedent for almost the entire faculty at an institution” joining in this kind of concerted political effort. Dr. Owens Fink, the other candidate, is a Professor of Marketing at the University of Akron and a registered Republican.
Even back in July, the Ohio School Board debated guidelines to control the teaching, not just of evolutionary science, but other "controversial" subjects such as cloning and global warming. The Americans United For The Separation Of Church And State sent a plea from their Executive Director, Reverend Barry W. Lynn. "Public school students in Ohio deserve sound science education, not religious dogma masquerading as science. It’s time for Religious Right allies on the board to drop their unwise agenda and focus on policies that will benefit all of Ohio’s students."
This type of local and state school board debate is current news, but the freedom of the academic community to teach the natural sciences without interference from some religious groups is a continuing, deep division somewhat unique to the United States. In the rest of the industrialized world it is, as The New Scientist published as reported the August 20 online edition, "Why Doesn't America Believe In Evolution?" just not an issue.
They recounted a study showing the U.S. is above only Turkey (in the 32 countries polled — U.S., Japan, and 32 EU countries) in its unwillingness to accept evolution as scientific fact. The reasons they give for the national blindness are poor science education, a fiery political debate, and religious fundamentalism. "Republicans have clearly adopted this as one of their wedge issues. In most of the world, this is a non-issue," according to Jon Miller of Michigan State, who conducted the survey.