Following is an essay by a Discovery Institute fellow criticising the new
Kansas Science Standards.
I encourage everyone to read the standards for themselves.
>Alton (Ill.) Telegraph
>March 18, 2001
>The evolution controversy is getting out of hand. Passions have yet to cool
>in Kansas, where a 7-3 majority of the state board of education has made
>evolution a centerpiece of the state's new science standards. But already
>there's another donnybrook brewing in Pennsylvania-also over state science
>And that's not to mention all the lesser scuffles over the last two years in
>Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Michigan,
>Minnesota, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
>Why does this controversy continue to blaze? The conventional answer is that
>the controversy is fanned by "religious fundamentalists" who mistakenly
>believe that evolution threatens their religious beliefs and sense of
>meaning. As Eugenie Scott, of the California-based National Center for
>Science Education, put it, "I think there's often a sense that accepting
>evolution means losing one's sense of purpose and meaning, the specialness
>humans think they have because God personally created them. To them,
>evolution makes distant the personal, hands-on God they grew up with."
>Although that answer plays well in newsrooms, it overlooks a serious source
>of conflict: namely, the shabby maneuvers prominent science educators have
>pulled to advance the cause of evolution in public schools.
>Such maneuvers are easily spotted in Kansas' recently approved science
>standards. Lauded by the American Association for the Advancement of Science
>(AAAS), the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the National Science
>Teachers Association (NSTA) as "a model for other states," the standards are
>more aptly described as a model of subterfuge.
>For example, the standards state that "natural selection and its
>evolutionary consequences provide a scientific explanation for the fossil
>record that correlates with geochemical dating results. The distribution of
>fossil and modern organisms is related to geological and ecological
>Contrary to what this statement seems to say, the fossil record has always
>been a liability for conventional evolutionary theory.
>According to that theory, species are gradually transformed by random
>genetic changes that are preserved through natural selection. As changes
>accumulate over many generations, they may produce new limbs, tissues and
>organs. Given enough time, organisms may change so radically that they bear
>almost no resemblance to their original ancestor.
>If the theory were true, the fossil evidence should show lots of gradual
>change, with one species slowly grading into the next. In fact, it should be
>hard to tell where one species ends and another begins. But that's not what
>As Darwin himself noted, "The number of intermediate varieties, which have
>formerly existed on the earth, [must] be truly enormous. Why then is not
>every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate
>links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graded organic
>chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which
>can be urged against my theory."
>That problem remains with us today. Most fossil species appear all at once,
>fully formed, and change very little throughout their stay in the fossil
>evidence. Several years ago, this situation led noted paleontologist Niles
>Eldredge to remark, "Either you stick to conventional theory despite the
>rather poor fit of the fossils, or you focus on the [data] and say that
>[evolution through large leaps] looks like a reasonable model of the
>evolutionary process-in which case you must embrace a set of rather dubious
>That problem reaches dramatic proportions with what paleontologists call the
>"Cambrian explosion," which began 543 million years ago. Over a period of
>only five to ten million years, a flash of geological time, virtually every
>major animal group (or phylum) appears in the fossil evidence. This is
>precisely the opposite of what conventional theory would lead us to expect.
>So, far from being a bulwark of support for conventional theory, the fossil
>evidence is something that must be explained away. Of course, the science
>standards don't directly contradict this. But the statement is so thoroughly
>weaseled that you'd never guess how problematic the fossil record really is.
>Why the weaseling? Because the science education establishment desperately
>wants to insulate the science classroom from dissent--and one of the best
>ways to do that is to deny that there are any problems.
>That works particularly well with another maneuver, which is to define this
>dissent as "unscientific" and ban it from the classroom. Kansas' new
>standards do this with flair.
>After first defining science as "human activity of seeking natural
>explanations for what we observe," the standards state that if a student
>raises a question that is "outside the domain of science," the teacher
>should respectfully "explain why the question is outside the domain of
>natural science and encourage the student to discuss the question further
>with his or her family and other appropriate sources."
>Thus, if a student questions the proposition that all organisms were
>produced by the blind processes of natural selection and genetic drift, he
>is politely told to take a hike--no matter what evidence he can produce.
>Although such maneuvers may seem clever to the AAAS, NAS and NSTA, the only
>thing they do is confuse people and stir up animosity and suspicion. That's
>hardly a recipe for good science education, or a healthy society.
>Let's bag the maneuvers--and give our kids an honest chance to think things
>out for themselves.
>Mark Hartwig, Ph.D., is a Fellow of Discovery Institute's Center for the
>Renewal of Science and Culture.
Keith B. Miller
Department of Geology
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506
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