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Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, had earlier suggested he would propose legislation that would enforce the teaching of alternative concepts of human existence. Now he says conversations with the state superintendent of schools have left him confident that teachers who teach the evolution of humanity "will be dealt with."
But the state's director of curriculum, Brett Moulding, said the standard for the teaching of biological diversity does not prohibit the teaching of human evolution.
Although state policy does not specifically mention human evolution, Moulding said there is nothing to stop teachers and students from making the logical jump that people are biological organisms.
"And most of the textbooks make that jump for them," he said. "That's what has always been taught; we haven't made any changes since 2003."
Moulding said no action would be taken against teachers who taught human evolution as part of their courses.
"If they chose to do so, that would be in the curriculum," he said.
Superintendent Patti Harrington was not immediately available for comment, but on Wednesday told The Associated Press, "There is not enough evidence yet to claim how the earth was created and no evidence to connect the family of apes with the family of man."
Moulding said he was not certain Harrington's thoughts on the matter were accurately reflected by those words, which drew an incredulous response from University of Utah professor Dennis Bramble.
"Most scientists would not find that to be a very credible position," said the biologist, whose study on the evolutionary adaptations of humans was the cover story in the Nov. 18 issue of the journal Nature.
"The genetic similarity between modern apes and modern humans is extremely high," he said. "That combined with an increasingly complete fossil record . . . is compelling."
Bramble lamented the idea of withholding scientific information from schoolchildren.
"I think the job of public schools is to present modern science as we know it and inform students about how science works," he said.
But Buttars said schools need to respect the values and beliefs of students and their parents.
"In my constituency," he said, "the vast majority believe God created man and we are his spirit children, not his spirit apes."
He pledged to give the state's schools a reprieve of one legislative session "to get the people who are out of line into line."
If that doesn't happen, he said, he will resume his quest to force public schools to teach a theory known as "intelligent design" alongside evolution.
The alternative theory suggests that much of human existence is best explained by its creation through an intelligent designer and that there is evidence of the designer's hand in much of nature. Critics say the theory is simply creationism, or the literal belief in the creation story of the Bible.