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Bush Remarks On 'Intelligent Design' Theory Fuel Debate

At a morning briefing yesterday, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Bush was simply restating long-standing views. "He has said that going back to his days as governor," McClellan said. "I think he also said in those remarks that local school districts should make the decisions about their curriculum. But it's long been his belief that students ought to be exposed to different ideas, and so that's what he was reiterating yesterday."

In comments published last year in Science magazine, Bush said that the federal government should not tell states or school boards what to teach but that "scientific critiques of any theory should be a normal part of the science curriculum."

The president's latest remarks came less than two months after Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, archbishop of Vienna and an influential Roman Catholic theologian, said evolution as "an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection" is not true.

"Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science," Schonborn wrote in the New York Times. He said he wanted to correct the idea that neo-Darwinism is compatible with Christian faith.

Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy of Sciences, warned this year in a "Dear Colleagues" letter of "increasingly strident attempts to limit the teaching of evolution."

The most prominent debate is underway in Kansas, where the conservative state board of education is expected to require the teaching of doubts about evolution to public high school students. A challenge to the teaching of intelligent design is scheduled for trial in Dover, Pa., while a federal court in Georgia said textbook stickers questioning evolution were unconstitutional.

Slevin reported from Chicago.


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