The battle line in the creation/evolution debate (with intelligent design wedged in-between) moved on November 8 from a Pennsylvania courtroom, where the battle had been waged in a federal court case for the past six weeks, to a school board hearing in Kansas.
In a room packed with students, teachers and media (international reports have come from Ireland, Italy, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa and the UK), the Kansas State Board of Education approved (by a 6–4 vote) a new set of science standards (see Kansas school board in international spotlight … again) that will allow students to learn about the scientific evidence both for and against Darwinian evolution, making it the fifth US state (joining Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio and Pennsylvania) to introduce criticism of evolution into the public school classroom.
“This is a big victory for the students of Kansas, providing them with full disclosure of the scientific debate about Darwinism going on between scientists and in the scientific literature,” Casey Luskin, a spokesman for Discovery Institute, an intelligent design think tank, said in a Seattle Times article (November 8).
The new standards, which say that high school students must understand major evolutionary concepts and do not propose teaching intelligent design, recommend changing the definition of science that is consistent with the definition of science used by most other states. Not surprisingly, much of the media has misled readers on this issue through inaccurate reports.
According to numerous Discovery Institute reports, Kansas reinstated a traditional definition of science that reads: “Science is a systematic method of continuing investigation that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory-building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena.”
“This definition is nearly identical to the definition of science adhered to in over 40 states across the country, and gets Kansas back into line with the rest of the country,” said Luskin in a Discovery Institute article (November 7).1
According to a November 8 Reuters article, critics say “the standards go farther than any other state to date in opening up evolutionary principles to criticism, and implementation will lead to more aggressive undermining of scientific principles in other states and will ultimately weaken US achievements in scientific areas.”
Kenneth Miller, a Brown University biologist who testified in the recent Pennsylvania trial against intelligent design, is one critic of the standards that will be used as guidelines for school districts to prepare for statewide science tests.
Commenting on the recent vote to allow criticism of Darwinian evolution, Miller told the Lawrence Journal-World (November 8) that “what’s going on in Kansas is much more radical and much more dangerous to science education” than the contested decision in Dover, Pennsylvania.
Kansas State Senator John Vratil, vice chairman of the education committee and a critic of the standards, said in the same Lawrence Journal-World article, that “there is fear the measure is the ‘camel’s nose in the tent’ and will lead to further inroads of religion in school.”
He went on to say, “The biggest impact will be on the reputation of the state of Kansas. It will reinforce in some people’s minds that Kansas is backwards and illiterate.”
The battle line is expected to shift back to Dover, Pennsylvania in January 2006 when Judge John E. Jones III is expected to issue a ruling on this landmark case of Kitzmiller et al. vs. Dover Area School District.
Regardless of who comes out as the winner in the Dover battle, the losing side is expected to appeal the case, which may eventually find itself at the Supreme Court. And because of a recent school board election that resulted in eight Republican school board members being replaced by Democrats who reportedly want intelligent design stripped from the science curriculum, the Dover side will be fighting with some rookie warriors.
Whether the battle is played out in the courtroom in Pennsylvania or the classroom in Kansas, one thing is certain: while there may be different battles, they are definitely part of the same war—the war to win the hearts and minds of our school children—a war of the worldviews!
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