Seventy years after Darwin's theory triumphed in the landmark Scopes trial, a brash new generation of faith-friendly scientists is having unexpected success in reshaping the contentious debate over the origin of life and the universe.

In a stunning development three months ago, social conservatives successfully persuaded the Kansas State Board of Education to issue new standards that would remove Darwinian evolutionary theory from state tests. Local school districts may still decide what to teach. To avoid similar controversy, the Kentucky Education Department quietly dropped the word evolution from its teaching guidelines in October.

But the backlash may already be under way. New Mexico education officials recently banned the teaching of creationism in public schools.

Amid public policy rumblings on creation versus evolution, a fresh crop of scientists—many associated with the Seattle-based Discovery Institute—are developing their theory that the universe shows clear evidence of "intelligent design."

Researchers gathered in New York in September to discuss their work and propose a new way to study the origins of life and the universe. Phillip Johnson, a law professor at University of California at Berkeley and a strategist for the intelligent-design movement, calls the institute's scientists "the wedge" who are driving into the cracks of modernist science. As they push forward, Johnson predicts, Darwinian theory will be split apart like a dry log. He reasons that because evolution cannot be fully proven from science itself, some scientists by default invoke dogmatically held beliefs, not scientific results.

TOO MUCH DESIGN? Origins scientists are going beyond their critique of Darwinian theory to expand their own ...

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