Evolution Wins Latest Round in Kansas Education Battle

In a landmark vote Tuesday, the Kansas State Board of Education once again adopted science standards regarding instruction in evolution.

The new guidelines reflect an overturn of previous standards, written in part by advocates of “intelligent design,” that earned Kansas international ridicule in 2005. Advocates of intelligent design believe that life is too complex to have been created by anything other than a higher authority, and they reject most concepts of evolution.

The state has had five sets of standards in eight years, including both pro- and anti-evolution versions. In the 2006 elections, moderate Republicans won two seats away from conservatives, setting the stage for the recent 6-4 vote.

A New Definition

As a result, the board has removed language suggesting that key evolutionary concepts, such as the notion of a common origin for all life on Earth, are controversial and being challenged by new research. It also accepted a new definition of science limiting it to the search for natural explanations of what is observed in the universe.

The state uses its standards to develop tests that measure how well students are learning science.

“I was a member of the committee that wrote the new standards,” Jack Krebs, a Kansas math and technology teacher who is also president of Kansas Citizens for Science, told TechNewsWorld.

“We were appointed to revise the standards back in 2004, but the process got taken over by intelligent design advocates and was subverted. Some of those conservatives were defeated in the last election — this was a campaign issue — and [on Tuesday], the proper product was finally put in place,” he added.

“I doubt if any schools ever took intelligent design ideas seriously,” Krebs continued, adding that the mainstream ideas accepted by most scientists have now been made official in the state.

Just Another Religion?

Of course, not everyone agrees. “Basically, they did what’s done in every state in the union: They established atheism as the Kansas state religion,” countered Tom Willis, president of the Creation Science Association for Mid America.

“They’re just using the word ‘science’ to decorate their religion. Evolution is a belief system imposed by the government. These guys are religious zealots — or you might say anti-religious zealots — and they hover around science classrooms because they’re paid by the state to evangelize,” Willis told TechNewsWorld.

The question of whether science and religion can coexist is central to the debate.

Contrary to what creationists claim, the newly incorporated definition of science does not mean that one needs to be an atheist in order to accept it, Massimo Pigliucci, a professor of Ecology & Evolution and Philosophy at SUNY-Stony Brook, told TechNewsWorld.

“It simply means that science does not (and cannot) deal with supernatural phenomena. It’s a bit like what would happen if your computer broke down: You would assume a natural explanation and bring it to a hardware store — you wouldn’t seek a supernatural explanation and ask your preacher to fix it,” he said.

Divisive Arguments

“There is an extremely false idea that evolution and science are atheist,” Krebs claimed. “Creationists use that idea to fuel divisive arguments that science and religion are incompatible.”

“In reality, no more biologists deny evolution than, say, physicists reject quantum mechanics,” Pigliucci noted. “They are both among the best established scientific theories to date. This doesn’t mean that they are unchanging truths, of course, since it is in the nature of science to change and improve our understanding of the world. But to represent evolution as controversial is intellectually dishonest.”

Given the issue’s history in Kansas, it remains to be seen whether the new science standards will last.

An Ongoing Battle

“I wouldn’t bet on the current standards to stay in place past the next election,” Pigliucci predicted. “However, I do think they ought to stay in place, simply because they accurately reflect both our understanding of science and the nature of the scientific process itself.”

“We have a large educational project ahead of us in this country,” Krebs concluded. “It’s heartening to see creationists keep losing in the courts and at the ballot box, but they keep upping the ante from a cultural viewpoint, and that’s potentially dangerous.”

1 Comment

  • When we talk about evolution, we can’t say
    we do or do not believe in evolution.
    You have to decide, do I believe in evolution
    within a species or do I believe in evolution
    from one species to another.
    I AM a Christian, who loves God and who can be
    flexible within the confines of the Holy Bible.
    And yes, Atheists, the Bible is flexible in a
    lot of ways, more flexible than your tolerance
    for it.
    The Bible does not imply that evolution within
    a species did not or could not happen. It does
    imply that evolution from one species to another
    was not God’s plan in his original creation of
    all creatures.
    God did not create a monkey and a man in the
    beginning to change his mind later and decide to
    make the monkey evolve into something else. That
    would mean he originally made a mistake.
    Evolution within a species would mean a small
    horse, over time and breeding, evolved into a
    larger horse. Or a brown bird over time, breeding
    and environmental conditions evolved into a blue
    colored bird.
    But, the evolution happened within the species.
    The bird was still a bird, not a lizard. Maybe
    it was a larger bird with longer feathers or a
    shorter bird with thicker feathers, but still a
    bird.
    So, as a Christian, I would say I do believe in
    evolution as it occurs within a species. But, I
    do not believe in evolution from one species to
    another.
    Christians should accept evolution within the
    species, because there’s nothing non-biblical
    about that, which would refute the creation story.
    Atheists should just quit hating Christians and
    face their own demons. Atheists hate Christians
    primarily and tend to seek out scientific ways
    to demonize them to get them to shut up.
    Christians are primarily good people who in this
    day and age are facing the loss of their freedom
    of speech to express their beliefs and to practice
    them. Don’t expect Christians to shut up and
    just take it.
    Christians spread their belief in God througout
    the Roman Empire 1500 years ago or so, and were
    burned to death, crucified and fed to the lions
    for it. Yet you won’t see them run out into the
    middle of the street and blow up innocent people
    for that belief.
    Better re-evaluate where the real threats are
    coming from and who the really good people are.
    Evolution is the knot in the rope, dangling over
    the cliff that the atheist desperately clings to
    in order to resist God and his existence. If the
    knot unravels, the atheist falls to his peril.
    That’s why the knot is so important. Christians
    should not fight the atheist, but love him. For
    he will eventually get tired of hanging on to
    the knot and either ask God to save him or let go.
    My opinions, nonetheless!!
    GaryB

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