As reported on the Panda’s Thumb, the Ohio State Board of Education killed off Resolution 31 on Tuesday. The apparent Intelligent Design advocate strategy was to keep the Achievement Committee pondering the issue assigned to it last February until after the November elections. This strategy backfired when the full board met and decided to take direct action. They moved to close discussion on Resolution 31 permanently and remove the Achievement Committee’s authority to do anything about it. They then voted to take up the motion as an emergency measure. That passed by a substantial majority. Then they voted on the motion itself, again passing by a wide margin. The margin would not have been quite so wide but that two of the ID advocates on the board were absent from the meeting.
For too long, the ID advocates in Ohio have taken it as a given that they can manipulate the system at will to advance their agenda. The action by the full board today shows that they are no longer willing to extend that sort of benefit of the doubt to the ID advocates. If the Discovery Institute had advised the ID advocates on the board to wait for a better time, they took a large misstep.
For three years, Ohio was a showpiece for the Discovery Institute, with a state Board of Education that had given the DI what they wanted in terms of “compromise” language in the science standards to be exploited in getting the same old bogus antievolution arguments into the classrooms. That started to go sour for the DI when the BOE last February removed the compromising language from the standards and the deficient “critical analysis” lesson plan from its list of approved curriculum materials. The BOE had given the ID advocates something in return, though, in the form of Resolution 31, which gave the ID advocate dominated Achievement Committee the mandate to suggest whether some further change to the science standards should be made because of the removal of the “critical analysis” indicator. As usual in ID advocate land, the public was not welcome to peek at the progress of the Achievement Committe on this issue. When ID advocate Deborah Owens-Fink for the first time found herself in a real election race for her SBOE position with an accomplished and experienced politician, ex-Akron mayor Tom Sawyer, the wait-until-after-the-elections strategy seemed to be adopted. Perhaps the ID advocates thought that if the evolution/creation issue was not active in the weeks leading up to the election, the voters would simply forget about it. This seems rather doubtful, but I expect that there was a certain amount of desperation in the Fink campaign driving that assessment. The action by the SBOE yesterday both removes the remaining wedge the ID advocates had and raises the evolution/creation issue to prominence in the SBOE election campaigns just a few weeks prior to the elections.
Voters in other places have consistently removed ID advocates when given an informed choice on the matter. In 2004, citizens of Darby, MT voted out a set of ID advocates there. The new school board rejected the ID policy considered by the former board. The reason that most people know about Dover, PA and not Darby, MT lies in the timing of the school board elections: in Darby, the election occurred before the board could implement an ID policy and trigger a lawsuit. In Dover, PA, the voters narrowly turned out all eight ID advocates running for re-election to the board. The election was held just days after the close of the trial about the Dover ID policy. Primary elections in Kansas this past summer are a harbinger of a probable shift in the composition of the SBOE there from creationist dominance to moderate majority, and a likely rejection of the Minority Report science standards that treat antievolution arguments credulously. The ID advocates’ reliance on populist rhetoric somehow has not translated into actual votes in the booths on election day. American voters by proponderance are Christian believers, just as the Discovery Institute often reminds us, but Christian believers also often see passing off untruths to children as just plain wrong. They seem to have in significant measure wised up to the sham that ID’s marketing comprises and the sub-standard science education that ID advocates peddle as their sole product.