Monday, June 27, 2005


The Leonard Dissertation Saga

As has been reported by RSR and Panda's Thumb, among others, Bryan Leonard's defense of his doctoral dissertation at Ohio State University's School of Teaching and Learning in the College ofEducation has been postponed.

Leonard's research for his dissertation asks, "[w]hen students are taught the scientific data both supporting and challenging macroevolution, do they maintain or change their beliefs over time? What empirical,cognitive and/or social factors influence students' beliefs?"

Leonard testified here, in Kansas, in May as a witness called by intelligent design attorney John Calvert in the evolution show trial organized by a sub-committee of the Kansas State Board of Education composed of young earth creationists Steve Abrams, Connie Morris, and Kathy Martin.

While in Kansas on the taxpayer's dime, Leonard let on that he hadn't read the draft of the science curriculum written by the majority of the standards committee. He was also evasive about his own view of the age of the earth. He was less evasive about common descent. He doesn't believe in it.

Following the hearings, three professors at Ohio State University, Brian W. McEnnis, a mathematics professor; Jeffrey K. McKee, an anthropology professor; and Steve Rissing, an evolution, ecology and organismal biology professor; raised questions about Leonard's research and the composition of his thesis committee. It was stacked with supporters of intelligent design and had no evolutionary biologists or science educators as required by OSU rules.

Until now, we have not been able to see what professors McEnnis, McKee, and Rissing wrote in their letter. Now, Annie Hall (there's a name with a pedigree) has written an article In the OSU Lantern on the Leonard case, "OSU takes closer look at graduate student's dissertation" that gives us our first chance to see what is actually in the letter.

Here is an excerpt that concerns the ethics of what Leonard has been teaching to high school students that goes to the heart of what the intelligent design movement is trying to do to science education in this country:

"We note a fundamental flaw [in teaching scientific data both supporting and challenging macroevolution-- RSR]: There are no valid scientific data challenging macroevolution. Mr. Leonard has been misinforming his students if he teaches them otherwise. His dissertation presents evidence that he has succeeded in persuading high school students to reject this fundamental principle of biology. As such, it involves deliberate miseducation of these students, a practice we regard as unethical."


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