Skip to comments.Science as Kansas sees it
Posted on 11/06/2005 6:26:17 AM PST by Non-Sequitur
In the beginning, when voters created the Kansas Board of Education to oversee schools, those intelligent designers couldnt have imagined it would go forth and multiply all this controversy.
The board could close the latest chapter of the evolution debate Tuesday when it is set to vote on science curriculum standards that change the definition of science and cast doubt on the theory of evolution. Its possible another administrative delay could postpone the vote, but the approval is seen as inevitable.
Inevitable, maybe. Permanent, maybe not. The standards wont go into effect until the 2007 school year. By then the school board could look dramatically different if moderates are successful in unseating conservatives in the November 2006 elections, both sides say. That could make the new standards moot, and start the whole debate over again. Both sides say the controversy has been too heated, and the implications for science, religion and education too great, for any easy solution.
The boards conservative majority says its merely injecting criticism of what it calls a blindly accepted theory, and allowing students to decide for themselves. And they have their supporters. Polls indicate most Kansans have doubts about evolution and dont dismiss the idea of teaching alternatives. Other states like Ohio and schools in Georgia and Pennsylvania have joined the debate as well.
We want students to understand more about evolution, not less, said John Calvert, leader of the Intelligent Design Network and one of the driving forces behind the changes. Intelligent Design is the belief that aspects of the natural world show signs of design, and not random evolution. To understand a claim, you should also understand those aspects of the claim that some people think are problematic. Thats all these changes do.
Moderates disagree and arent conceding defeat. They hope to unseat enough conservative board members in November 2006 to retake control of the board in time to change the standards back. They say the revisions to the standards are a step toward creationism and an unacceptable marriage of religion and public education. The changes, they say, jeopardize the states efforts to grow the bioscience industry and hurt school children who will one day graduate to an ever globalizing high-tech economy.
This is distracting us from the goal of making sure every kid is well-educated, said board member Sue Gamble, a Shawnee moderate. Regular people are starting to say, Enough is enough. Weve got to stand up for ourselves.
In 1999, the board voted to remove most references to evolution, the origin of the universe and the age of the Earth. The next year, voters responded and the boards majority went to moderates. The standards were changed back.
In politics, however, theres no such thing as extinction: conservatives regrouped, retaking the majority in 2004.
The state board used to be a pretty mundane office, said Kansas State University political science professor Joe Aistrup. But this is a clash of ideas, and it reverberates up and down, with everything thats going on with conservatives and moderates. Its not surprising that its become this high-profile, and voters will remember.
The boards 10 members serve four-year terms. Every two years, five seats come up for election. Conservative board members John Bacon of Olathe, Connie Morris of St. Francis, Iris Van Meter of Thayer and Ken Willard of Hutchinson all face re-election in November 2006, as does Waugh. Not every incumbent has announced re-election plans, but most are expected to run.
Conservative groups say theyre ready for a fight, and say the evolution issue cuts both ways.
People will vote their wishes, Bacon said. I think the public of Kansas supports what were doing.
Doubts about Darwin
The board routinely reviews curriculum standards for just about every facet of education, kindergarten through high school. The standards are the basis for state assessment tests and serve as a template for local school districts and teachers. Local districts are not required to teach the standards they just risk lower assessment scores if they choose not to.
When a 27-member committee of scientists and teachers began the process of updating the standards, a vocal minority proposed inserting criticism of evolution. Six members of the Board of Education applauded the changes, and agreed to put most of them into the standards. Now the board is poised to put the amended standards to a final vote.
The changes to the standards incorporate substantial criticism of evolutionary theory, calling into question the theory made famous by Charles Darwin. Supporters say there isnt proof of the origin and variety of life and the genetic code. The changes also alter the definition of science to allow for non-natural explanations.
Supporters of the changes say they dont want children indoctrinated with an unproven theory. The board had two weeks of hearings in May to hear testimony from scientists who dispute evolution. Conservative board members said they made their case.
Calling them a farcical publicity stunt, mainstream scientists boycotted the hearings. Nobel Prize winners, scientists and religious leaders signed petitions opposing what they said was a blurring of the lines between science and religion and thinly veiled push for creationism.
Bloggers and national comedians lampooned the hearings as national and international media poured into Topeka. Board members say they received mocking e-mails from around the world. If the ridicule got to them, the conservatives wont say. But they admit to a certain evolution fatigue.
Im extremely anxious to put this behind us, Morris said. She has been a strong critic of evolution, even calling it impossible in a newsletter to supporters.
Other states have seen similar fights to change the way evolution is taught. Education officials in Ohio changed science standards there to cast doubt on evolution. A Georgia school district tried to put stickers on textbooks that read Evolution is a theory, not a fact. A judge later ruled the stickers illegal, saying their message promotes Christian fundamentalism. And a legal challenge is now in court in Dover, Pa., where school officials voted to include alternative explanations to evolution.
Morris and her fellow conservatives cite polls that show Kansans have doubts when it comes to evolution. The Kansas City Star conducted a poll last summer and 55 percent said they believe in either creationism or intelligent design more than double the 26 percent who said they believe evolution to be responsible for the origin of life. But opponents say thats beside the point: Most Americans say they believe in God, too, but that doesnt mean he should be taught in public schools.
I believe in the Biblical account of creation, Waugh said. But it has no place in the science class. In a comparative religions class, sure. The best place to teach is at home or at your place of worship.
Board members say the public is behind them, and that unseating them on Election Day wont be easy.
People come up to me and tell me were doing the right thing, Van Meter said. We wouldnt do this if Kansans didnt support it.
All eyes on Kansas
Evolution turned this little-known governmental entity into a battleground in the states clash between conservatives and moderates. And thats the way its likely to stay for a while.
This year, its not just the boards take on evolution thats stirred controversy. Conservatives also want to make it easier for parents to pull children from sex education classes, and last month they chose Bob Corkins as education commissioner, even though he had no experience teaching or running schools.
All those issues prompted a group of Kansas residents to form the Kansas Alliance for Education, a group with the goal of defeating board conservatives. Alliance leader Don Hineman, a cattle rancher from Dighton, Kan., said the group will work to support candidates and get out the vote.
Theres a sense of frustration that I think many Kansans share, he said. The conservative majority on the board is focused on a narrow agenda, at the expense of their objective, which is improving education for Kansas children.
Hes not alone. Harry McDonald, an Olathe resident and the leader of Kansas Citizens for Science, has announced his candidacy for the seat now occupied by John Bacon. More candidates are expected.
We need to take down two to retake the majority, Gamble said. Im focused on four, but thats an enormous undertaking.
Calvert, the intelligent design leader, said he knows the evolution debate will factor into the election. No matter what happens at the polls, he said the public is coming around to the notion of challenging one of sciences sacred cows.
Its going to happen, he said. Its really what the public wants. Anybody who takes these changes out really needs to be thinking seriously about what theyre doing.
If conservatives hold on to the majority, Gamble said she expects a legal challenge to the new science standards. If moderates unseat conservatives, the latter will pour its energies into the next election, even if some conservatives admit to being weary of the fray.
Kris Van Meteren is a conservative activist who helped get his mother, Iris Van Meter, on the school board. Hes part of the effort that has kept evolution front and center. He said he hopes its not necessary, but his side will keep pushing until evolution comes down from its pedestal in the academic world.
Were not in this for one or two elections, said Van Meteren, who changed his name to reflect his Dutch heritage. That was clear in 99 when we lost control of the board. Everybody thought, Theyre gone, thats over. But even if we lose another election, were not going away.
May you be touched by His Noodly Appendage...
Gravitation: a theory in crisis! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!
< /Luddite mode>
I'm going to take your time machine away! It's not for picking up girls.
Ha! Your so-called Time Theory doesn't have any explanation whatever for picking up girls!
According to evolution, everything is about picking up girls.
The changes also alter the definition of science to allow for non-natural explanations.
In other words, the changes allow for "explanations" for which there is no evidence, can be no evidence and THEREFORE can only be taken on faith.
But ID doesn't have anything to do with Creationism, now does it?
But then again, it doesn't have anything to do with science either.
This is funny. If Goddidit, wouldn't that be completely natural?
I am about a third of the way through. Nice quote:
Many of the witnesses for the defendants did not tell the truth. They did not tell the truth at their depositions, and they have not told the truth in this courtroom. They are not telling the truth when they assert that only Intelligent Design, and not creationism were discussed at the June 2004 board meetings. They are not telling the truth when they place the "2000 years ago" statement at the meeting discussing the pledge rather than the June 14, 2004 meeting discussing the biology textbook. The did not tell the truth in their depositions, or for that matter to the citizens of Dover, about how the donation of the Pandas books came about. (p. 5)
Thanks, that was worthwhile ping - good overall summary of the plaintiff's points.
The quote of I'm currently reflecting upon: "He [Behe] acknowledges that the more one believes in God, the more persuasive Intelligent Design is."
I hardly think so. The God that ID proposes is one that made a world created with the appearance of naturalistic evolution, except for a few places here and there where apparently God wasn't smart enough to cover His tracks. Personally, I think this is a pretty demeaning view of God as well as being a deplorable way of doing science.
Is scientific materialism merely dialectical materialism.. cross dressed in/as another gender.?..
True, the ID'ers are Agnostic Creationists, maybe.. but is Scientific Materialism Atheist Evolutionism couched in great swelling words.. as it seems so to me..
< /honest reply >
How do you make a lying troll go away?
Yes, and therefore utterly undetectable as being from a "non-natural" source as its explanation.
A crushing condemnation of the fraudulence and arrogance of the Dover Board, as well as the intellectual vacuuity of ID.
Many quotes I wish I could lift from it to share.... but it's a pdf...
I seem to remember a few threads ago, you had great disdain for sex.
What's changed your mind, hhhmmmmmm?
Has the comely edweena turned your head from the straight and narrow?
Perhaps you should just give me your keys, young man :-)
As William Dembski stated in What Every Theologian Should Know About Creationism, Evolution and Design, unless the ground rules of science are changed to allow the supernatural, Intelligent Design has no chance Hades.(sic) In this courtroom, Steve Fuller confirmed that changing the ground rules of science is Intelligent Designs fundamental project.
Change the rules of science to include that which, by definition, there cannot be any evidence for. In other words, destroy science in favor of religion.
Welcome to the Dark Ages II.
As long as the Grand Master smiles upon me, my position is secure.
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