Echoing similar comments from President Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said "intelligent design" should be taught in public schools alongside evolution.
Frist, a Republican from Tennessee, spoke to a Rotary Club meeting Friday and told reporters afterward that students need to be exposed to different ideas, including intelligent design.
"I think today a pluralistic society should have access to a broad range of fact, of science, including faith," Frist said.
Frist, a doctor who graduated from Harvard Medical School, said exposing children to both evolution and intelligent design "doesn't force any particular theory on anyone. I think in a pluralistic society that is the fairest way to go about education and training people for the future."
Religion masquerading as science?
The theory of intelligent design says life on earth is too complex to have developed through evolution, implying that a higher power must have had a hand in creation. Nearly all scientists dismiss it as a scientific theory, and critics say it's nothing more than religion masquerading as science.
Bush recently told a group of Texas reporters that intelligent design and evolution should both be taught in schools "so people can understand what the debate is about."
That comment sparked criticism from opponents, including Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean, who called Bush "anti-science."
Frist, who is considering a presidential campaign in 2008, recently angered some conservatives by bucking Bush policy on embryonic stem cell research, voicing his support for expanded research on the subject.
Frist said his decision to endorse stem cell research was "a matter of science," but he said there was no conflict between his position on stem cell research and his position on intelligent design.
"To me, I see no disconnect between that and stem cell research," Frist said. "I base my beliefs on stem cell research both on science and my faith."