Echoing comments he made about creationism when he was governor of Texas, U.S. President George W. Bush told a group of Texas reporters yesterday that he supports the teaching of intelligent design (ID) in schools. But the president was vague about how the controversial material, which certain school districts are pushing as an alternate theory to evolution, should be presented to students.
Bush's comments come as several school districts press for the teaching of ID, the idea that a higher power had a hand in creating life. In December, parents sued local school officials in Dover, Pennsylvania, for requiring students to learn about ID (Science, 17 December 2004, p. 2023). The Kansas State Board of Education recently held hearings on the subject (ScienceNOW, 22 April). In February, John Marburger, the president's science adviser, stated that ID is "not a scientific theory."
During a roundtable with reporters, Bush made a different point. "Both sides ought to be properly taught," he said, adding that "part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought." When asked whether intelligent design should be presented as an alternative to evolution, Bush dodged the question, saying, "you're asking me whether people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes." In an interview, Marburger says that he and Bush are not at odds over whether ID should be discussed in schools. "I think to ignore [ID] in the classroom is a mistake," Marburger told Science, although he added that ID should not be taught "as an alternative" to evolution.
If Bush wants ID "to be a substitute or alternative [to evolution] ... that would be a terrible mistake," says Leonard Krishtalka, director of the Biodiversity Research Center at the University of Kansas in Lawrence and a longtime critic of ID. However, he notes, it's reasonable for the president to support teaching ID as part of the history of biology. William Dembski of Baylor University and the Discovery Institute, an organization that endorses teaching ID, said that because Bush didn't specify whether ID should be taught in biology classes or elsewhere, the strength of his support "was unclear."