Report on KU Speech

Last Tuesday, September 28, 2004, about 300 people attended my speech “Kansas Science Standards 2004: Will It Be 1999 All Over Again?”, sponsored by the Chancellor’s Office and all the natural science departments at the University of Kansas. Generally the audience was supportive and appreciative, although a few ID advocates and supporters were there (including Intelligent Design managing director John Calvert.)

If you are interested, links to some materials, including mp3’s of the speech, are on the Kansas Citizens for Science website Even if you aren’t particularly interested in Kansas, much of this talk is pertinent to anyone interested in the ID movement.

1) The Powerpoint presentation is here.

2) A Word version of the Powerpoint text, with cues to the mp3 files is here. This is a more useful (and much smaller) document.

3) The speech itself is separated into a small mp3 files corresponding to the Powerpoint presentation, which you can either listen to directly or download to listen to consecutively later. I recommend listening while following the Word document. The files are all here.

The reaction by the IDists was strong - perhaps even a little over-the-top.

The Kansas City Star reported here:

“This is an event that is designed to suppress criticisms of the evolution theory,” Calvert said. “Every single bit of it was name-calling. This was a sermon. This was a political event.”

In response to this, today I sent a letter to the Star (which of course I hope they print), saying in part:

The Intelligent Design movement is trying to insert their criticisms of evolution directly into the standards even though the scientific community does not consider them valid. This is wrong. What I am trying to “suppress” is not the discussion itself, but the Intelligent Design movement’s attempt to use the educational system to “cut to the head of the line” without having successfully established their position in mainstream science.

The Intelligent Design movement regularly uses political tactics to try to influence educational standards and policies. Of course they are met with political resistance - that is democracy working. In my speech I explained the situation, offered my opinions, and encouraged people to get involved as citizens. That is proper political activity.

And my speech contained no name-calling. Audio files are at I encourage readers to listen and judge for themselves whether any “bits” of it at all were name calling.

Even worse, the Johnson County Sun reported here

John Calvert of Lake Quivira, a founder of Intelligent Design Network Inc., said Wednesday the forum “reminded me of the Ku Klux Klan with the grand wizard on the stage promoting hate on a particular group, suppressing criticism. This is about whether a particular theory of science affecting origins can be criticized.”

Calvert said if the sponsors had wanted to open the “marketplace of ideas,” quoting Hemenway, they would have invited supporters of intelligent design to participate, effectively legitimatizing the discussion.

“We are seeing a collapse of an orthodoxy and the only way to save it is to disparage (the opposition),” Calvert said. “Biologists are going to have to rethink the way they thought about life.”

Calvert accused Krebs of “prejudicing the ultimate process of the standards review. It is really inappropriate. The whole speech was full of misleading information, and because the opposition was not given an opportunity to speak, the public was not allowed to hear them.”

I certainly intended to respond to the Ku Klux Klan reference, and especially the implication that I am promoting hate. This is a serious accusation, and is completely false - this will be obvious to anyone who listens to the recordings of the speech.

The other issue brought up here is the issue of “debating the issue,” which also came up somewhat heatedly in the question-and-answer period. Their view is that the issue is evolution and that “debate” means one-on-one presentations in front of audience. My view, and I think that of Chancellor Hemenway, is that “debate” refers to the broader scope of public discussion extending over a period of time and in multiple venues.

My point was that the public needs to be debating the issues over the next six months before the standards come before the Board. I don’t mean to imply that formal debates are a particularly good ways to do that. Debates of that sort are mostly soundbite opportunities, which even in general is not the best way to discuss an issue.

Even more importantly, I disagree that the issue (or at least the main one) is evolution. In my view, the issue that needs debating, in the sense of an ongoing public discussion, is whether our state Board should insert their own creationist/anti-evolution/Intelligent Design beliefs into the standards despite the fact that those are not mainstream science beliefs. This subject includes a range of educational, religious, theological, political, and economical issues - and these are properly in the scope of the public’s concern.