Although most Panda’s Thumb readers are probably not in northeast Kansas, I would like to announce here a speech I will be giving at the University of Kansas on September 28th. The speech is being sponsored by the science departments and the Office of the Chancellor. Complete information can be found here.
If you or people you know might be interested in this and able to attend, please pass the word on to them.
For those of you are who are watching Kansas from a distance, let me explain that there are issues here that we should all be concerned about. If for no other reason, watching what happens in Kansas will help prepare science activists for episodes that might show up in your backyard.
The first issue is that the ID movement targets science standards and related curriculum policies, with both boards of education and legislatures, as convenient places to influence the teaching of science without establishing ID as science - attempting to do an end-run around established procedures both for getting ideas accepted as scientifically solid and for getting ideas into the core public education curriculum.
The second issue is the nature of the Wedge strategy itself: given that ID is not established yet as science (which many ID advocates admit), how do they justify these actions? Their targets are the nature of science - attempting both to “upgrade” the definition of science to include supernatural intelligent causation and to downgrade the “historical” sciences, so as to put the theory of evolution and the “theory” of ID (non-existent as it is) on an equal footing.
The third issue is the effect this has on targeted states - why should a concerned citizen be worried about this (besides the reasons listed above)? One reason is that these affairs take up a large amount of time and energy that could be more profitably be spent improving science education. Secondly, the resulting negative publicity is not good for a state. Mention Kansas in scientifically literate circles anyplace in the world, and people are likely to first remember that we were the state that passed anti-evolution standards.
The third reason is a critical subset of this second reason: just as with many states, Kansas is trying to attract bioscience industry to Kansas. Companies thinking about locating in an area want an well-educated work force, with universities training knowledgeable workers at many levels as well as good public schools for the children in the industries. Being known as the state that again adopted anti-evolution, creationist/ID-influenced science standards will be no good for Kansas. Stakeholders at all levels - university and industry leaders, legislators, educators, scientists, and all citizens concerned about the education of their children, should be concerned about the prospect of the ID movement being successful in Kansas.