Too much evolution for superintendent of schools

| 64 Comments

The superintendent of schools of Hart County, a small county in the middle of Kentucky, has written to the Kentucky Board of Education, complaining about the emphasis on evolution. Specifically, Ricky Line, the superintendent, writes in a long and somewhat rambling letter,

I have a deep concern about the increased emphasis on the evolution content required in the new End-of-Course Blueprint (Blueprint). After carefully reviewing the Blueprint, I find the increase is substantial and alarming .…

I have a very difficult time believing that we have come to a point in education that we are teaching evolution, not the theory of evolution, [sic] as a factual occurrence, while totally omitting the creation story by a God who is bigger than all of us. I do not believe in macroevolution, and I do believe in creation by our God. …

The Blueprint requires both the teaching and student mastery of the form of evolution called macroevolution, defined as evolution occurring on a large scale, e.g [sic] at or above the level of species, over geologic time, resulting in the formation of new taxonomic groups.… Teaching the Blueprint requires students to believe that humans … evolved from primates such as apes and, subsequently, were not created by God .…

The proposed standards and accompanying End-of-Course exam would require many science teachers to sacrifice their values merely so that students can pass the test and course .…

I take no issue with the teaching of microevolution, the documented proof that a species changes over time, just as humans are taller on the average than they were 50 years ago. I also take no issue with macroevolution being taught as a theory.

The Commissioner of the Kentucky Board of Education, Terry Holliday, responded with a clear explanation of how science works:

In science, a theory is a statement of general ideas that explains many observations by natural means. To a scientist, the word “theory” is a very precise term to identify a concept that has great utility in explaining phenomena in the natural world. Ideas only rise to the level of a theory in science if they have withstood much scrutiny and are exceptionally useful in explaining a wide variety of independent observations. Any theory can be altered or replaced if new observations or new scientific evidence cannot be adequately explained by it. In science, facts never become theories. Rather, theories explain facts. No theory is immune to revision or replacement should new evidence surface. There is a substantial difference between the “everyday” meaning of the word “theory” and the scientific meaning of the word. An idea is often labeled a theory for the purpose of painting it as little more than a guess. This use of “theory” demonstrates a lack of understanding of the scientific meaning of the term. Referring to biological evolution as a theory for the purpose of contesting it would be counterproductive, since scientists only grant the status of theory to well-tested ideas.

He went on to explain why science is not a system of belief and further that

Since college and career readiness is our goal for all students, we would be doing them a disservice by denying them the opportunity to learn science concepts required to obtain that goal. Evolutionary theory is one of the foundational components of modern biology, and it most certainly plays a significant part in college biology coursework.

Mr. Line is unrepentant; according to an article that will appear in tomorrow’s Lexington Herald-Leader,

My argument is, do we want our children to be taught these things as facts? Personally, I don’t. I don’t think life on earth began as a one-celled organism. I don’t think that all of us came from a common ancestor … [ellipsis in original] I don’t think the Big Bang theory describes the explanation of the origin of the universe.

And, finally, a quote without comment:

[I]t’s interesting that the great majority of scientists felt Pluto was a planet until a short time ago, and now they have totally changed that. There are scientists who don’t believe that evolution happened.

Acknowledgment. An alert reader sent me the letters from Mr. Line and Mr. Holliday, and a Kentucky state legislator verified their provenance.

64 Comments

I commend Mr. Holliday for writing such a clear, lucid, statement explaining what science is. It is one worth reminding all the creotard lurkers dropping by here.

and Ricky either didn’t read it, didn’t learn it, or choose to willfully ignore the message in order to preach.

I’m guessing that the Kentucky Board of Education doesn’t have the authority to replace the Superintendent for being constitutionally and Constitutionally unfit and incapable of performing his duties? I’m also guessing that Evolution is not taught at all in his district, and that nobody in Hart County is going to complain of the lack. Good for Mr. Holliday for sticking up for science. In Kentucky, yet. At least he’s not another Don McLeroy.

Perhaps Mr. Line should be required to take an introductory course in evolution at the University of Louisville. It’s only 90 minutes away. And their Biology Department has a Division of Evolution, Ecology and Behavioral Biology. Or perhaps Mr. Line would like some one-on-one counseling with the faculty there. I imagine that they would be absolutely delighted to provide some personal instruction to Mr. Line. This could be a wonderful learning experience.

Hello Matt. Do you have a reference for your lengthier quotes? The quotes in the article in the Lexington Herald-Leader don’t seem to be as complete as yours. I wonder if a word to the Biology Department at U. of Louisville would be of any use, or if they could provide any useful instruction for Mr. Line? Professor Dugatkin appears to have recently written a new text book on Evolution, and appears to be an active public speaker.

Is there any precedent for colleges to “adopt” local school districts who might be in academic trouble, such as Hart County? I would probably not recommend the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, also in Louisville. :-)

Ricky: “I never came from no monkey.”

Terry: “Yeah, you did. Suck it up, princess.”

Chris Comer was fired in Texas for forwarding a memo advising a seminar on the Theory of Evolution. Not a peep out of the creationist noise machine.

What’s the chances this bozo will be fired for (a) indicating his unwillingness to supervise the teaching of the State science standards in public schools - that is, his unwillingness to do his job - and (b) indicating his readiness to violate the Constitution by allowing a religious doctrine to be taught in public schools, in terms which imply that he knows that teachers under his supervision are already doing just that?

Not high, I’ll bet, but if it did happen, the screams of privileged entitlement would resound to the Throne of God, if He had one.

Of course he should be out of a job. Right now.

Dave Luckett said:

Chris Comer was fired in Texas for forwarding a memo advising a seminar on the Theory of Evolution. Not a peep out of the creationist noise machine.

What’s the chances this bozo will be fired for (a) indicating his unwillingness to supervise the teaching of the State science standards in public schools - that is, his unwillingness to do his job - and (b) indicating his readiness to violate the Constitution by allowing a religious doctrine to be taught in public schools, in terms which imply that he knows that teachers under his supervision are already doing just that?

Not high, I’ll bet, but if it did happen, the screams of privileged entitlement would resound to the Throne of God, if He had one.

Of course he should be out of a job. Right now.

Am in full agreement, Dave. Line, the bozo, should be getting his walking papers now (though we know damn well that it won’t happen, unless there are some local parents who demonstrated the same courageous resolve as Tammy Kitzmiller and her fellow plaintiffs.).

Before I even read it, the title made a bell go off. The DI keeps whining that schools don’t teach enough evolution. Of course they mean that they want evolution plus misrepresentation, but thay still conflicts with the demand to teach less evolution. This is a golden opportunity to force these scam artists to get their stories straight. IOW to demand that they lead, follow or get out of the way.

Frank J said:

Of course they mean that (the Discovery Institute) want evolution plus misrepresentation, but thay still conflicts with the demand to teach less evolution.

Actually, no, they don’t want “more” evolution plus misrepresentations taught. The Discovery Institute only wants the misrepresentations, alone with no science whatsoever, taught in classes: that is what they want if we see what school curricula they have already corrupted influenced.

Ricky wrote:

“The proposed standards and accompanying End-of-Course exam would require many science teachers to sacrifice their values merely so that students can pass the test and course .…”

Yes, that’s exactly what it does. It requires that teachers put aside their own religious beliefs, their own prejudices, their own misunderstandings, their own needs and desires and teach the actual science in science class. That’s the standard in the profession. That is what is demanded by the constitution.

Now of course Ricky brings his own beliefs into the discussion, as if he had the right to demand that the tax funded school be run according to his personal beliefs. He ignores the fact that others have differing beliefs. He wants those beliefs to be ignored so that his beliefs can have precedence. Hr doesn’t even see the hypocricy in his position.

This is what you can expect to see if you actually start requiring science to be taught in science class as the constitution requires. Teachers and administrators everywhere are going to demand that their own religious beliefs be respected. What they have to realize is that that is not the way a government funded institution can be run in this country. If they are only teaching to promote their own religious beliefs, perhaps they should consider another profession. At least they have Freshwater as an example of what not to do.

Scott F said:

Hello Matt. Do you have a reference for your lengthier quotes? The quotes in the article in the Lexington Herald-Leader don’t seem to be as complete as yours. I wonder if a word to the Biology Department at U. of Louisville would be of any use, or if they could provide any useful instruction for Mr. Line? Professor Dugatkin appears to have recently written a new text book on Evolution, and appears to be an active public speaker.

Is there any precedent for colleges to “adopt” local school districts who might be in academic trouble, such as Hart County? I would probably not recommend the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, also in Louisville. :-)

I sent Dugatkin a link to that article in today’s Herald-Leader, and hopefully, if he has time, might delve further into this.

Do you have a reference for your lengthier quotes?

I am afraid not – I received them from someone who chooses not to be identified. I verified their authenticity by contacting a Kentucky legislator, who also chooses not to be identified. If you like, I can ask permission to forward the letters to you privately. As far as I know they have been e-mailed to a number of people besides me.

It strikes me as odd that the superintendant would release such a letter publicly…unless he’s gearing up for a run for some higher elected office??? This certainly has a lot of the marks of a publicity stunt.

Good for the Comissioner. About the only quibble I can make with his response is that it would’ve been nice for him to mention that there’s both the theory of evolution and facts of it.

apokryltaros Wrote:

The Discovery Institute only wants the misrepresentations…

They have to teach some facts in order to spin them as being “weak,” but I agree that the net effect is at least as bad as omitting all the science. My point is that if they truly intended to teach evolution, plus “weaknesses” that they honesly believed mainstrem science was ommitting “for convenience,” they would vocally oppose those who demand less evolution (or none, e.g. Kansas, 1999), and not just “look the other way.” But they are fully aware that those “weaknesses” are not true weaknesses, and that students do critically analyze evolution at grade-appropriate levels. Actively or passively (“Freshwater” anyone?), the DI supports any strategy that will mislead students about evolution.

What I want to see is more people - those who are not hopeless Biblical literalists, but who find some ID or “fairness” sound bites convincing - to challenge the scam artists with “OK, I have heard your objections to evolution, and insistence that ID is not creationism, ad nauseam, but what other theory do you find convincing, and will students get to critically analyze that one?”

The superintendent who rote-memorized catchy sound bites instead of thinking for himself Wrote:

I take no issue with the teaching of microevolution,…

Really?? Even though “Expelled” made it clear that “microevolution” (within our species) is all the evolution that’s needed to rationalize genocide and eugenics? And even though the micro-macro nonsense has been refuted so many times that to repeat it indicates either a serious learning disability or bearing false witness?

…while totally omitting the creation story by a God who is bigger than all of us. I do not believe in macroevolution, and I do believe in creation by our God.

Just wanted to point out that - whether Line knows it or not - this part of his letter essentially ended any chance he had of sneaking design into the standards by claiming its not religious. Thank you, Mr. Line.

They have to teach some facts in order to spin them as being “weak,”

This is a trivial disagreement, but I concur with those who say that the true desire of the DI would be to see all actual teaching of evolution censored.

I’m sure they would like to argue against straw man versions, but that’s not the same as teaching a fact and then trying to spin it as “weak”. They’d much rather suppress the facts.

As you note, the Kansas 1999 attempt - which is what introduced me, personally, to political creationism - was simply to censor evolution out of schools altogether. I don’t know whether the DI directly influenced creationist school board members in Kansas, but just based on the date and the fact that every creationist whom I saw defending the board invoked “intelligent design” (at that time a “new concept”) makes me think that at least inspiration played a role. I doubt very much if the timing of the emergence of ID and the timing of the Kansas situation are related only by coincidence.

Just wanted to point out that - whether Line knows it or not - this part of his letter essentially ended any chance he had of sneaking design into the standards by claiming its not religious. Thank you, Mr. Line.

Unfortunately, his chances of benefiting from publicly grandstanding are excellent.

I will note, though, that the following things have tended to prove unpopular as well as illegal, even in rural districts, at least in my subjective observation.

1) Censorship - the “teach both sides” meme fools people, but the hard core who support outright censorship of science don’t seem to be a majority even in many rural communities.

2) Costing districts money, whether with court battles or otherwise.

3) Embarrassing publicity for the district.

If Line just postures, he may become a popular bully (or a more popular bully), but as Freshwater, school board members in Kansas, school board members in Dover, etc, have discovered, it’s possible to lose local support.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

Opposition to evolution is very general in the population and its absurd not to teach what somes ignorants ones thinks is wrong but impossible to suffer only what is wrong being allowed to be taught. Its absurd in a free nation in institutions dedicated to teaching the intelligent conclusions on subjects that real science should not be taught. One feels in ones gut the schools are banning the truth and the persuit of truth if they are teaching unscientific nonsense such as creationism. so every now and then someone says somthing, so whats? Here we go again.

Here we go again.

Please do not respond to the Byers troll.

Robert Byers said:

Opposition to evolution is very general in the population and its absurd to teach what ones thinks is wrong but impossible to suffer only what is wrong being allowed to be taught. Its absurd in a free nation in institutions dedicated to teaching the intelligent conclusions on subjects. One feels in ones gut the schools are banning the truth and the persuit of truth. so every now and then someone says somthing. Here we go again.

The trouble, Robert Byers, is that it is YOU who is wrong, you and your co-religionists.

Tell me this: when I say you are the victim of religious delusion, how can you answer me?

Only one sane response is possible: I am not deluded, and here are the facts which back me up.

But you haven’t got any facts, Robert Byers, not a single, solitary one. You have NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER for the truth of your ridiculous claims. All you have is your gut.

Your beliefs are false. You can’t tell truth from fantasy.

Matt Young said:

Here we go again.

Please do not respond to the Byers troll.

Sorry.

Byers, I was going to leave a long reply but it looks like you have been moved to the bathroom wall.

However one point in particular should be made (again) regardless.

A teacher is paid to teach the course outline. The teachers personal views are irrelevant. If I believe the sky is pink and that unicorns disprove the big bang, that is fine as long as I teach what I am paid to teach. It is called professionalism.

Inserting ones own beliefs into a course outline is not appropriate unless one is getting paid to do just that.

The course outline should be determined by the state of the art of that we are trying to teach. In Biology, science says evolution is probably correct and it says evolution is very well established and solid. So that is what we should teach.

If we had a class where the multiverse was appropriate subject matter to teach, then since the multiverse is considered not so well established it should be taught the for and against. Keep in mind that would be the scientific for and against not creationist bovine scatology for and against. It is a science class, not a creationist bovine scatology class.

DS said:

Opposition to evolution is very general in the population and its absurd not to teach what somes ignorants ones thinks is wrong but impossible to suffer only what is wrong being allowed to be taught. Its absurd in a free nation in institutions dedicated to teaching the intelligent conclusions on subjects that real science should not be taught. One feels in ones gut the schools are banning the truth and the persuit of truth if they are teaching unscientific nonsense such as creationism. so every now and then someone says somthing, so whats? Here we go again.

Agreed, and even here in the Northeast we are having serious difficulties. In the last year, a creationist tried to pressure the Hartford, CT school district to include creationism alongside evolution in public school science classrooms. There have also been several notable instances of similar behavior in New Jersey (and, as an aside, I am arguing now elsewhere online with a NJ resident who is a global warming denialist and seems to have accepted the Disco Tute’s mendacious intellectual pornography with regards to evolution being “just a theory”, not scientific fact.).

Now here’s one to watch. The History Channel tonight is airing a show called “Proving God.”

They describe it as “For centuries, science and faith have been polarized on some of the most fundamental questions in the universe, sometimes with deadly consequences. But as mankind seeks to answer the ultimate question – whether God exists – religion and science have joined in an unlikely alliance. Can new scientific discoveries and digital age technology reveal tangible proof of God? From the far reaches of the cosmos to the inner working of the human mind, scientists and believers around the world are using science to open new frontiers in this ultimate quest.”

It’s airing on the west coast at 9-11 PST. You might check your local listings to see if it’s airing elsewhere.

At first I thought it was a Dishonesty Institute special, and likely they might have had some input. Anyway, for what it’s worth, which I suspect it will amount to nothing.

Hmm…

In http://www.kentucky.com/2011/12/12/[…]y-tests.html the writer states

Holliday insisted Monday that Kentucky will not be teaching evolution as fact. Currently, teachers can discuss theories of creation other than evolution but they are not required to teach them.

In an earlier response to Line, Holliday wrote that end-of-course tests are intended to reflect college and career readiness and “promote more rigor and depth in traditional courses.”

Leszek said: A teacher is paid to teach the course outline. The teachers personal views are irrelevant. If I believe the sky is pink and that unicorns disprove the big bang, that is fine as long as I teach what I am paid to teach. It is called professionalism.

This cannot be emphasized enough with the trolls. You CAN teach bible study. You CAN teach the history of design arguments. Real U.S. classes exist that do this. But they do it as an elective - they do not try and hijack the biology curriculum. Because, as Leszek points out, design arguments are not part of mainstream science or mainstream science curriculum.

What the trolls need to ask themselves is why they don’t think this is good enough. Why the insistence on pushing it into the biology curriculum when people who want to take it can do so as an elective?

Could it be because the whole purpose is to force people who don’t want to listen to Christian theology to listen to it? Is it ‘physics envy,’ - i.e., an attempt to illegitimately co-opt some of the reputation and authority of the physical sciences?

Or is it both?

eric said:

Leszek said: A teacher is paid to teach the course outline. The teachers personal views are irrelevant. If I believe the sky is pink and that unicorns disprove the big bang, that is fine as long as I teach what I am paid to teach. It is called professionalism.

This cannot be emphasized enough with the trolls. You CAN teach bible study. You CAN teach the history of design arguments. Real U.S. classes exist that do this. But they do it as an elective - they do not try and hijack the biology curriculum. Because, as Leszek points out, design arguments are not part of mainstream science or mainstream science curriculum.

The trolls and other Creationists want the teaching of Creationism in science classrooms as mandatory, not as alternative electives. They see the latter alternative as an affront to Jesus Christ.

What the trolls need to ask themselves is why they don’t think this is good enough. Why the insistence on pushing it into the biology curriculum when people who want to take it can do so as an elective?

The Wedge Document suggests that (American) Society and Culture is horrible and terrible and full of intolerable sin until literally all aspects of Society and Culture are literally permeated with Jesus Christ. And a lot of Creationists, the trolls here especially, see Evolution and Science as those particularly annoying particular bent nails that are screaming to be ripped out and straightened.

Could it be because the whole purpose is to force people who don’t want to listen to Christian theology to listen to it? Is it ‘physics envy,’ - i.e., an attempt to illegitimately co-opt some of the reputation and authority of the physical sciences?

Or is it both?

Bingo.

And eric wins the Internet.

Creationists want to convert everyone who isn’t like them, or destroy them. AND Creationists also crave the perceived legitimacy they see in Science, thus, they seek to steal this legitimacy and despoil and defile Science out of both revenge and envy. And once they have destroyed what they think is a rival religion, they can then swoop down and claim the bewildered survivors as their own.

The world’s newest logical fallacy: Argumentum ad Plutonium.

Matt G said:

The world’s newest logical fallacy: Argumentum ad Plutonium.

Oh great. Now you’ve got me thinking we are going to see this crop up as a creationist meme all over the place. “They were wrong about Pluto! So…”

Though I have to admit that when I first read your phrase, I thought you might be making a reference to how the US ended the pacific part of WWII.

Matt Young said:

My impression is that Mr. treeowl is merely stating the problem of induction. Why is everyone so bent out of shape?

It may be, Matt, but he’s phrasing it in such a way that I think he’s bought into postmodern thought’s notion of relativism and in viewing the scientific method not as a means of discerning truth, but rather, yet another belief system.

An alert reader (actually the same one who sent me the two letters) has just directed me to a blog that claims to be “in defense of the obvious.” All I can say is, be very, very careful when you think something is obvious; much that seems obvious is dead wrong.

At any rate, the author of the blog ran a post that defends Mr. Line and demonstrates just enough erudition to hide the anti-scientific tenor of the post. If you haven’t enough time or patience, I suggest you scroll directly down to the comment by Scott Goodman, who really hits the nail on the head.

Sorry, it’s late (for me, anyway), and I forgot to add that my informant says that the author “is the Discovery Institute’s point man in Kentucky. He often submits these rants as op eds to state newspapers.”

Matt Young said:

Sorry, it’s late (for me, anyway), and I forgot to add that my informant says that the author “is the Discovery Institute’s point man in Kentucky. He often submits these rants as op eds to state newspapers.”

Your informant might have pointed out that Cothran helps to run a “classical Christian academy” in Louisville that uses A Beka materials in the high school biology classroom. He might also have remarked that Cothran is quite non-committal when it comes to the age of the earth.

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on December 12, 2011 10:28 PM.

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