It's a sad day for American science. We've lost Kansas.
Risking the kind of nationwide ridicule it faced six years ago, the Kansas Board of Education approved new public-school science standards Tuesday that cast doubt on the theory of evolution.
The 6-4 vote was a victory for "intelligent design" advocates who helped draft the standards. Intelligent design holds that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power.
Critics of the new language charged that it was an attempt to inject God and creationism into public schools, in violation of the constitutional ban on state establishment of religion.
All six of those who voted for the new standards were Republicans. Two Republicans and two Democrats voted no.
For the next few years, a lot of schoolkids are going to get taught slippery twaddle—instead of learning what scientists actually say about biology, they're going to get the phony pseudoscience of ideologues and dishonest hucksters. And that means the next generation of Kansans are going to be a little less well informed, even more prone to believing the prattlings of liars, and the cycle will keep on going, keep on getting worse.
This, for instance, is baloney.
The new standards say high school students must understand major evolutionary concepts. But they also declare that the basic Darwinian theory that all life had a common origin and that natural chemical processes created the building blocks of life have been challenged in recent years by fossil evidence and molecular biology.
The proponents of these changes don't have any idea what the fossil and molecular evidence says, and they are misrepresenting it. There is no credible evidence against common descent and chemical evolution; those concepts are being strengthened, year by year. What does this school board think to gain by teaching students lies?
In addition, the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena.
Rewriting the definition of science seems a rather presumptuous thing for a school board to do, I think, especially when their new definition is something contrary to what working scientists and major scientific organizations say is science. As for removing the limitation to natural phenomena, what do they propose to add? Ghosts, intuition, divine revelation, telepathic communications from Venusians? It's simply insane.
The clowns of Kansas don't think so, of course.
"This is a great day for education. This is one of the best things that we can do," said board chairman Steve Abrams. Another board member who voted in favor of the standards, John Bacon, said the move "gets rid of a lot of dogma that's being taught in the classroom today."
John Calvert, a retired attorney who helped found the Intelligent Design Network, said changes probably would come to classrooms gradually, with some teachers feeling freer to discuss criticisms of evolution. "These changes are not targeted at changing the hearts and minds of the Darwin fundamentalists," Calvert said.
The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which supports challenges to Darwinian evolutionary theory, praised the Kansas effort. "Students will learn more about evolution, not less as some Darwinists have falsely claimed," institute spokesman Casey Luskin said in a written statement.
Casey Luskin is a toady for the DI, so what does he know? There is a straightforward body of evidence for evolution to which students should be introduced—evidence that high school curricula barely touch on as it is. Adding a collection of false and confusing claims about what scientists say is only going to diminish the legitimate science that can be taught. And teaching absurdities, such as that science deals with the supernatural, represents a load of garbage that instructors at the college level are going to have to scoop out of the brains of these poor students. At least, that is, out of the diminishing number of students who will pursue genuine science, rather than the dead-end vapor of Intelligent Design creationism.
Goodbye, Kansas. I don't expect to see many of your sons and daughters at my university in coming years, unless the teachers of your state refuse to support the outrageous crapola their school board has foisted on them. I hope the rest of the country moves on, refusing to join you in your stagnant backwater of 18th century hokum.
Since I got a useful list of the pro and con members of the board in the comments, I thought it would be a good idea to bring it up top and spread the word.
Here are the Kansas good guys. When they come up for re-election, vote for them.
Here are the Kansas bad guys. Vote against them whenever you can.