Friday, June 10, 2005
Intelligent Design, Kansas Board Members Enlist Child Soldiers
The most revealing addition to the standards is the insertion of a section on origins in Benchmark 3, Indicator 7 for grades 8-12 (p. 80): "The student explains proposed scientific explanations of the origin of life as well as scientific criticism of those explanations."
"Some of the criticisms include:
- "Empirical evidence for a "primordial soup" or a chemically hospitable pre-biotic atmosphere is unknown.
- "Natural explanations for the genetic code, the sequences of genetic information necessary to specify life, the biochemical machinery needed to translate genetic information into functional biosystems, and the formation of proto-cells is unknown.
- "The apparent sudden rather than gradual emergence of organisms that the Earth first become habitable."
The interesting thing about the insertion of origins into the Kansas science curriculum is that it has been put there, not by the scientists and educators on the standards committee, but by the intelligent design movement represented by John Calvert and William Harris of the ID Network, the Discovery Institute, and the conservatives on the board.
The draft written by the majority of the science standards committee doesn't include origins because the science in that area is not yet settled. There are a number of different hypotheses about origins that will be proven or disproven by further research in the area. Unlike creationism or intelligent design, science doesn't claim to have all the answers, it does however, have a proven track record, as a method for learning about the natural world.
That fact didn't stop intelligent design witnesses at the Kansas science hearings from urging that the board teach students about the so-called controversy over origins while they're receiving their first introduction to evolution.
First, since there is no scientific consensus about origins now, it can be used as a straw man to attack evolution as a whole. Second, as board president Steve Abrams wrote into the standards ("Rationale... " p. iv) "... the study and discussion of the origin and development of life may raise deep personal and philosophical questions..."
If that is so, why teach origins in an introductory biology class?
Because, the intelligent design and creationist movements, and their supporters on the Kansas board, want to turn science education in this country into a battle zone in the culture wars, and they want to enlist students as child soldiers in their struggle to turn back the clock.
This is utterly cynical on their part. They have not won the battle in the adult world of science so they inject dozens of criticisms of evolution into the science standards to make children suspicious of science before they have a chance to learn what it is.