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Tuesday, August 2, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

Bush endorses teaching "intelligent design" in schools

Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON — President Bush waded into the debate over evolution and "intelligent design" yesterday, saying schools should teach both on the origins and complexity of life.

In a wide-ranging question-and-answer session with a small group of reporters, Bush essentially endorsed efforts by Christian conservatives to give intelligent design equal standing with evolution in the nation's schools.

Proponents of intelligent design suggest that the complexity of life forms cannot be explained by evolutionary theory alone but rather points to intentional creation, presumably divine.

The theory of evolution, first articulated by British naturalist Charles Darwin in 1859, is based on the idea that living organisms developed over time through random mutations and factors in nature that favored certain traits that helped species survive.

Scientists acknowledge that evolution doesn't answer every question about the origins of life, but most consider intelligent design an attempt to inject religion into science courses.

Bush, who is to leave today for a monthlong stay at his Texas ranch, compared the current debate to earlier disputes over "creationism," a related view that adheres more closely to biblical explanations. As governor of Texas, Bush said students should be exposed to both creationism and evolution.

Yesterday the president said he favors the same approach for intelligent design "so people can understand what the debate is about."

The Kansas Board of Education is considering changes to encourage the teaching of intelligent design in Kansas schools, and Christian conservatives are pushing for similar changes in other school districts across the country.

"I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," Bush said.

"You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas; the answer is yes."

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The National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have both concluded that there is no scientific basis for intelligent design and oppose its inclusion in school science classes.

"The claim that equity demands balanced treatment of evolutionary theory and special creation in science classrooms reflects a misunderstanding of what science is and how it is conducted," the academy said in a 1999 assessment. "Creationism, intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science."

Some scientists have declined to join the debate, fearing that amplifying the discussion only gives intelligent design more legitimacy.

But advocates of intelligent design also claim support from scientists.

The Discovery Institute, a conservative think tank in Seattle that is the leading proponent of intelligent design, said it has compiled a list of more than 400 scientists, including 70 biologists, who are skeptical about evolution.

"The fact is that a significant number of scientists are extremely skeptical that Darwinian evolution can explain the origins of life," John West, associate director of the organization's Center for Science and Culture, said in a statement.

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