State Sen. Chris Buttars will meet with education officials next week to inquire about discussions of evolution and humans in public schools a chat he says could determine whether he'll pursue the idea of requiring schools also teach "divine" or "intelligent design" to explain the origins of life.

Meanwhile, the State Office of Education is preparing a position statement on teaching evolution and its already-established place in the state core curriculum. The statement will come before the State Board of Education in September, state curriculum director Brett Moulding said.

Adding to the issue is President Bush's apparent support of teaching students both biological evolution and "intelligent design," pushed by conservative Christians, "so people can understand what the debate is about," as reported by Knight-Ridder newspapers and The Associated Press.

Intelligent design is based on the idea that life is too complex to be explained solely by Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection and evolution. The unnamed "intelligent designer" is a name that critics say is a thinly veiled reference to God and divine creation.

The theory has been gaining support in school districts in 20 states, led by Kansas, the New York Times has reported.

Teaching both intelligent design and evolution appeared to get some backing from Bush on Monday. Speaking with Texas reporters, Bush, recalling his time as Texas governor, said, "I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught.

"I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," he said, adding that "you're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes," according to Knight-Ridder newspapers.

"I love it," Buttars, R-West Jordan, said of the president's statement. "I believe the president believes exactly as I do. I believe he believes in God, and the story found in the scriptures: We are children of God and created in his image. We didn't wait for some ape to evolve."

Buttars' main concern is whether students are being taught humans evolved from other species.

The state high school biology core curriculum includes the theory that "Earth's present-day species developed from earlier species," and that their evolution is related to their environment. One of its five standards is "students will understand that biological diversity is a result of evolutionary processes."

It doesn't specifically mention anything about humans evolving from apes.

But Buttars says a handful of parents in the past year have told him that's what their children have been taught in school.

"This really bugs me," Buttars said. "I don't want it taught, the evolution of humans, as fact. It's not fact, it's a theory, with holes you can drive a truck through. The missing link's still missing, and so's the rest of the chain."

Buttars and state education officials, including Moulding, are meeting next week to discuss exactly what students are being taught.

Buttars believes that if students are taught humans evolved from ape-like ancestors they also ought to be taught the theory of intelligent design.

"I'm thrilled they're willing to talk and look at this," Buttars said. "I want to see the whole picture."

Buttars says he also might request the core curriculum be worded differently, depending on what arises in the meeting.

Meanwhile, the state office is drafting a position statement on the science core. It may emphasize to teachers that "we respect beliefs students bring to the classroom," Moulding said.

But he says intelligent design has no place in the state core curriculum.

"Evolution is one of the fundamental principles around which biology is organized. It's necessary students understand those concepts in order to advance in the sciences," Moulding said. "We're entering an increasingly global society, and the economy that has sprung forth requires doubling numbers of individuals with backgrounds in science . . . and they need to be taught science."


E-mail: jtcook@desnews.com