COLUMBIA -- The way South Carolina schools teach evolution gets another public airing today.
The state Board of Education tackles the topic when the 17-member panel convenes in Columbia for its regularly scheduled monthly meeting.
Expected to attend and possibly speak will be biologist Kenneth Miller of Brown University. Miller's views on teaching the origin of the species in a textbook he co-wrote have been called into question.
The state school board withheld an endorsement of Miller's book in December, when Charles McKinney of Clinton said he needed more time to weigh issues raised in a critique by Horace Skipper, a retired Clemson University botanist.
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Skipper challenged two dozen passages in Miller's take on evolution, including one where Skipper wrote that "Charles Darwin shifted his thinking on origins (of species) after he became anti-God."
The mainstream scientific community has long recognized Darwin's groundbreaking, 19th-century work in establishing an explanation for the basic building blocks of life on Earth.
Miller's book came up for scrutiny during a routine textbook evaluation the state Department of Education organizes periodically to update the list of teaching materials that meet teaching standards. Several other biology textbooks passed through the latest review without question.
A previous edition of Miller's book is used in roughly half of South Carolina's public high schools, according to state Education Department records.
Two years ago, the state school board wrestled with revising language in guidelines high school biology teachers should follow when teaching evolution. State Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, successfully led a campaign to include the phrase "critically analyze" in biology standards, terminology some scientists and educators viewed as an attempt to introduce the biblically based theory of creationism into public school classrooms.
Miller is well known in circles where the creationism vs. evolution debate rages. He testified for parents in Dover, Pa., who successfully sued their local school board to block religious-themed instruction about the origins of life in high school science classes.
Miller said he would visit South Carolina to answer questions the state school board might have about the seventh edition of the book he and co-author Joseph Levine have updated. He acknowledges Skipper's review identified two errors or clarifications that will be dealt with when the new book is published for distribution.
Even if the state school board withholds its endorsement of the new Miller-Levine book from the officially approved list, a state law gives local school systems the option of using it anyway if two districts, with a combined enrollment of 25,000 students, decide they want to use it.
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