Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Calvert Stumps for Morris, ID in Kansas

According to a report by Earl Watt of the Southwest Daily Times, intelligent design activist John Calvert is stumping the western part of Kansas in advance of the primary election to assure voters that "the new science standards in Kansas intentionally remove any religious language as well as any references to intelligent design and that's just how his group wanted it -- no biases, no predetermined conclusions."

Of course, that's not how school board members who actually voted for the new standards see it.

Board chair Steve Abrams told a conservative religious audience last September that, “At some point in time, if you compare evolution and the Bible, you have to decide which one you believe,” Abrams said. “That’s the bottom line.”

And just last week, RSR heard board member John Bacon tell an Olathe audience that "intelligent design was an inference students could draw" from the new science standards.

He might just as well have said that ID was the inference the board intended for students to draw -- that would have been more accurate.

The new standards contain a carefully crafted statement not so intelligently designed to ward off a possible legal challenge:
We also emphasize that the Science Curriculum Standards do not include Intelligent Design, the scientific disagreement with the claim of many evolutionary biologists that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion. While the testimony presented at the science hearings included many advocates of Intelligent Design, these standards neither mandate nor prohibit teaching about this scientific disagreement.
Despite the ingenuous disclaimer, the standards are positively littered with creationist and ID pseudoscience, as here in benchmark 3 for grades 8-12:

The view that living things in all the major kingdoms are modified descendants of a common ancestor (described in the pattern of a branching tree) has been challenged in recent years by:

i. Discrepancies in the molecular evidence (e.g., differences in relatedness inferred from sequence studies of different proteins) previously thought to support that view.

ii. A fossil record that shows sudden bursts of increased complexity (the Cambrian Explosion), long periods of stasis and the absence of abundant transitional forms rather than steady gradual increases in complexity, and

iii. Studies that show animals follow different rather than identical early stages of embryological development.

All of these assertions are untrue. All of these assertions have a long pedigree in discredited creationist critiques of evolution. And, that's the reason the Fordham Institute gave Kansas a grade of F on the new standards. That's the reason the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Teachers Association have refused to grant copyright permission for the use of publications written by the two organizations in the state's science education standards. That's why the Manhattan-Ogden school board voted not to adopt the board's new standards.

The question for Kansas voters -- not much more than a month away now, from a primary election that may very well decide whether the board's new, improved anti-science standards go into effect or are rejected by a newly elected moderate board -- is does any of this matter.

In today's New York Times, Michael Winerip has written an article, "Evolution's Lonely Battle in a Georgia Classroom," that makes absolutely clear what is at stake in Kansas.

Winerip tells the story of Pat New, 62, "a respected, veteran middle school science teacher, who, a year ago, quietly stood up for her right to teach evolution in this rural northern Georgia community, and prevailed."

According to Winerip, New was threatened and harassed for teaching evolution. She received no support from her principal or the district's administration.

On May 5, 2005, she filled out a complaint to initiate a grievance under state law, writing that she was being "threatened and harassed" though "I am following approved curriculum." She also wrote, "If we could get together within 24 hours and settle this and I feel I have support to teach the standards, then I would tear it up."

Suddenly the superintendent was focused on standards.

That is why Calvert is out in western Kansas stumping for Connie Morris. That is why right-wing fundamentalists like Abrams and Bacon voted to change the standards. They want to pull the rug out from under Kansas teachers who have the courage to follow Pat New's example.

RSR readers may also want to read a thoughtful, well-written post by Brandon Haught on the Florida Citizens for Science website that also links to Winerip's NYT article.


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