I mentioned the situation with Lieutenant Governor candidate Bob Vander Plaats and his support of intelligent design last week (posts here and here). A group of us have put together an editorial discussing Vander Plaats’ position and why it matters to Iowa voters (letter and signatories can be found here at the Iowa Citizens for Science site). Yesterday, a columnist for the Des Moines register also wrote up the story, and our response to it:
Town and gown are often mutual strangers when it comes to political involvement. But the Iowa governor’s race this year is attracting the involvement of university students and faculty over a burgeoning educational issue: whether religion should be taught as science in public schools.
The issue arises because the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, Bob Vander Plaats, has publicly endorsed the teaching of intelligent design along with evolution in public schools.
A collection of 35 academics, students and others from several Iowa universities have signed and sent a letter to the press expressing concern about Vander Plaats’ position.
A professor of religion, Hector Avalos at ISU, organized the letter raising the alarm. Avalos has spoken out against intelligent design in the past. He collaborated in this effort with a professor of public health. [Well, Hector, myself–the “professor of public health”–and others worked on the letter to refine it, but hey…–TS] Though the letter is billed as a community response that doesn’t represent the university, a preponderance of signers have the letters Ph.D. beside their names.
A governor alone can’t change a state’s school curriculum. The Legislature would have to do that.
The governor could advance, encourage and sign such legislation, however. And of equal concern is what that position says about the Nussle-Vander Plaats ticket, and whether it’s extremist.
But the academics are right to sound the alarm on this one. When a candidate for the state’s second-ranking job advocates subverting the Constitution, it does not inspire faith.
I don’t know now if the Register will publish our letter or not (since much of it was discussed/excerpted in this column), but I can’t be too unhappy even if they don’t–we managed to get the word out to a larger audience in any case (and we’re still working to have it published in other Iowa papers), and hopefully voters will consider the attitude of politicians on all matter of things science-related when they go to the polls in November.