Saturday, January 21, 2006

"Intelligent design" debate goes to kids' TV

"Intelligent design" debate goes to kids' TV

By Jamie McGeever

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The debate over whether children should be taught "intelligent design" in U.S. public schools as an alternative to evolution is moving to children's television.

"There's a fight going on the science room," says Linda Ellerbee, presenter of "Nick News," a news magazine on the children's TV cable channel Nickelodeon.

The channel is tackling the subject on Sunday by presenting both sides of the controversy in "God, Science, Politics and Your School."

Supporters of intelligent design say that nature is so complex that it must have been the work of an unnamed creator, rather than the result of random natural selection as outlined in Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

"The goal of this show is not to debate the issues of evolution, intelligent design or creationism," Ellerbee said in a statement.

"We just want to give kids a better understanding of what all the shouting is about. We also want to hear from kids affected by these disputes."

The controversy, stirred by a recent court case in Pennsylvania, centers on whether teaching intelligent design violates U.S. constitutional separation of church and state.

Ellerbee talks to religious, scientific and educational figures on both sides of the debate, who use plain English and simple terms to explain the complex arguments.

She also travels to Dover, Pennsylvania, where the teaching of intelligent design was banned last year, and to Kansas where the State Board of Education recently approved a set of science standards that question the evolution theory.

Ellerbee gives young Kansas teenagers the chance to weigh in on the debate.

"They don't have to say that God made everything but I think they should give intelligent design the benefit of the doubt, really," one boy said.

"Science is about facts and I don't see any facts proving that a higher power has created us," countered one girl.

The vast majority of the scientific community believes that the evolution of human life is explained by natural selection. The Roman Catholic Church, the largest single denomination of the Christian faith in the world, weighed in on the debate this week by restating its support of the theory of evolution.

The Catholic Church has sometimes been considered an ally for those promoting intelligent design. While the church is socially conservative, it has a long theological tradition that rejects fundamentalist creationism.

Nickelodeon is owned by Viacom Inc..