COLUMBIA - A biology professor told an education panel on Monday that members of his organization are frustrated with seeing the state's biology standards become a "political football for religious reasons or political reasons."
Rob Dillon, a College of Charleston professor and president of South Carolinians for Science Education, said members of the organization are "so discouraged" to see the standards of biology that speak of natural selection be pulled out and made a special case out of the other 111 pages.
"Evolutionary science is a fundamental building block," said Dillon to the panel. "It's fundamental to the understanding of biology."
In February, the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee met to review and approve the new set of science standards that the Department of Education will begin implementing by the fall of 2014 for students. But Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, took issue at the time with teaching natural selection as fact, when he said he believes there are other theories students deserve to learn.
Fair was not as controversial on Monday. He said he wasn't prepared to give the subcommittee something to vote on and requested the standards be sent to the full committee - as originally suggested with the wording of natural selection. The committee passed it 3-1 with Barbara Hairfield dissenting.
"Public education in South Carolina is making a differentiation between macroevolution and microevolution," Fair said after the meeting. "They are not making that differentiation as it relates to natural selection. I would like to see that; haven't figured out a way to write it."
Microevolution refers to evolution within a species or closed group, macroevolution goes beyond a single species, according to a Berkeley University website called Understanding Evolution.
Before the meeting ended, Fair did not take kindly to Dillon's statements, who said he believed the biology standards should be moving along the approval process with the rest of the state's standards and performance indicators for science.
Dillon after the meeting referred to the national movement called Teach the Controversy, from the Discovery Institute, a group that supports both the theory of intelligent design and research challenging Darwinian theory, according to its website.
The basis to the objection is religious, which Dillon said he understands.
The strategy is to make evolution seem controversial without offering any alternative, Dillon added. But the other side is never mentioned. It encourages the teaching of both sides, whatever the other side is, he said with a frustrated chuckle.
During an interview in February, Dillon said Creationism serves an important role. He just prefers it confined to religion or philosophy classes. Or church.
"Today, modern life science, all of it - agriculture, medicine - everything that has to do with anything that is alive is organized by evolution," Dillon said. "You can't take that out."
Post and Courier staff writer Jennifer Berry Hawes contributed to this story. Cynthia Roldan can be reached at 708-5891.
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