Jon Huntsman Jr.

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. says so-called intelligent design should not be taught in science classes, but he stops short of saying he would veto a bill requiring such lessons in Utah public schools.

"I'd have to look at it," Huntsman told reporters Thursday after the taping of his monthly news conference on KUED Channel 7.

"Public schools are largely secular institutions," the governor said. "I would expect my kids in science class to be instructed in those things that are somewhat quantifiable and based on thorough and rigorous empirical research."

The times to talk about other concepts, he said, are largely outside the classroom. "At home — and in churches or synagogues — I would hope they could hear different ideas about creation," Huntsman said.

Asked if he was opposed to teaching intelligent design in schools, Huntsman said he was against it being taught in science classes. "If it comes up in sociology or philosophy as differing views on creation, I think that's appropriate," Huntsman said. "But that doesn't happen until college or maybe later in high school."

Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, has been looking into requiring intelligent design be taught in Utah public schools to counterbalance discussions about human evolution.

The State Office of Education opposes the idea.

Yet both sides believe the governor's statements support their widely different stands.

"I think that's a good, clear pathway," Buttars said. "I don't have a problem with that: Don't teach it in science classes. Teach it in humanities or philosophy. He's right."

But state curriculum director Brett Moulding believes the governor is saying such philosophy classes are better taught at the college level.

"That's consistent with what the State Office of Education has been saying about this issue," Moulding said. "When you start having discussions in a philosophy class, I think that belongs at the college level."

Intelligent design is based on the concept that life is too complex to be explained alone by Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection and evolution. Critics, however, call it a thinly veiled reference to God and divine creation and say it can't be taught in public schools under a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Buttars, however, says intelligent design says nothing about God.

Intelligent design has gained support in Kansas and in school districts in other states, including Pennsylvania and California, where lawsuits have been filed.

Buttars is investigating an intelligent-design requirement in Utah schools because he says parents have complained children are taught that they evolved from apes. Buttars, however, says evolution is a theory that shouldn't be taught in schools as fact.

Evolution of species is central to Utah's high school biology core curriculum. While the curriculum doesn't single out human evolution, and teachers' lessons may vary on the subject, Moulding has noted humans are classified within the animal kingdom.

Buttars says that if schools can teach that theory to students, then they should also teach intelligent design. He says intelligent design could be taught in philosophy or another required class outside of science.

He brought that idea to the State Office of Education in recent weeks.

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The office, however, doesn't want to add intelligent design to its curricula, Moulding has said.

The Utah Board of Education will weigh next week a position statement on the matter, as requested six months ago by board chairman and National Association of State Boards of Education President Kim Burningham after watching the issue play out nationally.

The statement likely will support the current curriculum and include language on teacher sensitivity to student beliefs, Moulding has said.

Buttars plans to address the board on his stand. If he cannot reach a compromise, he says legislation will follow.