One of America's longest-running dramas is being revived in Ohio. There, the state school board is wrestling with whether to give the theory of evolution sole billing in its revised science curriculum, or to make room for an alternative theory called "intelligent design."
Inevitably, the 1925 Scopes "monkey" trial springs to mind, along with "Inherit the Wind," the perennially popular play based on that trial. And, don't forget, only three years ago Kansas had a major replay of the controversy when its education board removed evolution from the curriculum altogether, a decision later reversed when voters installed a new board.
Ohio is following a somewhat different script. Intelligent design, depending on the commentator's perspective, is seen as either a reasonable explanation of nature's more complex formations - or simply Bible-based "creationism" in a different costume.
Unlike traditional creationists, the proponents of intelligent design don't argue with evolution's eon-spanning time frame. Nor do they deny Darwin's observations about change over time. Their basic point is that a guiding intelligence, instead of natural selection, better explains some of those changes and the intricacies of such structures as cells. They are purposefully indefinite about who, or what, that intelligence might be.
But are these ideas a valid scientific theory warranting equal time in biology classes?