Monday, June 20, 2005


Kansas Science Standards -- Revisions Vulnerable to Challenge

The revisions written into the Kansas science curriculum standards have attracted a lot of attention, but not much in depth analysis to date. In fact, the revisions inserted into Benchmark 3 for grades 8-12, by anti-science sub-committee members Steve Abrams, Connie Morris, and Kathy Martin, are particularly vulnerable to challenge on both scientific and legal grounds. (In the excerpts below, RSR has marked the intelligent design revisions added by the sub-committee in red.)

Benchmark 3 states "The student will understand major concepts of the theory of biological evolution." Here, of course, the young earth creationists who make up the sub-committee are riding that tired old "evolution is a theory, not a fact" nag that really should have been sent to the glue factory by now.

Here are some of the revisions to Benchmark 3 from page 78 under the heading of "Additional Specificity" that the biblical literalists feel students should understand:

c. Patterns of diversification and extinction of organisms are documented in the fossil record. Evidence also indicates that simple, bacteria-like life may have existed billions of years ago. However in many cases the fossil record is not consistent with gradual, unbroken sequences postulated by biological evolution. (Those bad old gaps again -- RSR)

d. The distribution of fossil and modern organisms is related to geological and ecological changes (i.e. plate tectonics, migration). There are observable similarities as well as observable discrepancies in the molecular evidence.

e. The frequency of heritable traits may change over a period of generations within a population of organisms, usually when resource availability and environmental conditions change as a consequence of extinctions, geologic events, and/or changes in climate. However, studies show that animals may follow different rather than identical early stages of embryological development. (Notice, here, the particularly jarring shift caused by the shoehorning of embryology into a section relating to "change over a period of generations." -- RSR)

One of the most difficult problems of the debate with the intelligent design "theorists" has been pinning them down on what they actually believe. With the revisions to the Kansas science standards, we now have written evidence -- and obvious pseudoscience -- on the so-called gaps in the fossil record, on genetics (the molecular evidence), and embryology that can be easily dissected by science and challenged in court.

An additional vulnerability for the ID movement and their allies on the school board is the fact that the ID witnesses who testified at the Kansas hearings do not meet federal requirements on who may or may not be called as expert witnesses. They may not even be able to testify in a real court of law.


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