Could Kansas be at the Center of Another War on Science?

The Associated Press is reporting that Kansas is “Headed for Another Debate Over Evolution“:

… a State Board of Education member [said] Wednesday that science standards under development are “very problematic” for describing the theory as a well-established, core scientific concept.

[Republican Ken] Willard said the draft [of proposed science standards] embraces naturalism and secular humanism, which precludes God or another supreme being in considering how the universe works. He said he intends to raise the issue Tuesday.

“That’s going to be very problematic,” Willard told The Associated Press in an interview. “They are preferring one religious position over another.”

Ken Willard

Obviously, Willard doesn’t know how science works. He doesn’t understand that science deals with theories that can be tested and refuted. And if god works the way I imagine he believes, then putting god under a microscope makes no sense. Science deals with facts, not mythology. (Though I appreciate him unintentionally admitting that evidence and reason — the basis of the scientific method — are antithetical to his religious beliefs.)

But that’s just one board member. Not a problem, right? Except five of the ten Kansas Board of Education seats will be up for election this November… and Creationists are probably plotting out how they could take all of them.

Not that they’re going to listen, but if Creationists reclaim a majority of the board and they pass incorrect/god-driven science standards, then the lawsuits will begin. Not only will Kansas lose in the court system, their students will become less scientifically literate, making them unprepared for college-level science courses.

Somehow, Kansas has people on the State Board of Education whose religious views prevent them from making the decisions that are in the students’ best interests. This is not a conversation we should be having in the 21st century.

Let’s see some Christians take the lead for once in denouncing Willard and anyone else who may agree with him.

By the way, more information on the new science standards can be found here.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • The Other Weirdo

    …which precludes God or another supreme being…

    Interesting. So, if not God, then what other supreme being is contemplating here? I thought to someone like him, there was no other supreme being. Is he a polytheist at heart, then?

  • Spurs Fan

    Exactly.  The claim that scientific theory qualifies as a “religious position” makes for a good facepalm.  

  • Thegoodman

    As a 30 yr old engineer with a medical doctor for a wife, I am seriously considering moving to a different country. The religious right in our country is completely out of control, their stupidity is a plague on this nation and it appears as if it actually communicable. Placing my own sanity aside, unless things take a turn in the other direction, I have a hard time believing that this will be a great place to raise a family.

    • judith sanders

      Having the same thoughts myself, as my Daughter works on her STEM degree.  She certainly will not be seeking employment in VA, which is on course to become Vaticanistan and deny her equal pay for equal work and reproductive health rights.   We need our own “Liberia” for atheists, gays, and others who aren’t ready to bow down. I favor moving north to get away from 100F+ summers, but Canada is no longer a good option. 

      • Fsq

        Costa Rica is pretty decent.

        I’m considering a move to Botswana, but that is because it is wild and has very few people! Not progressive, but from a natural histpry perspective it is wonderful!

        But, Norway and Denmark are amazing options for a “Liberia” for free thgouht, and progressives.

        • GZep

           I am very seriously considering taking my STEM training to Europe. I have family in Norway, and moving there is looking all the more reasonable with each passing day.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EAIHLUU3JSTIB3D2OWHGYN5PHA Ingen

             Get a job here before you move. Living here is expensive, by American standards.

            But if you have a Norwegian paycheck, it’s pretty cheap.

          • https://twitter.com/#!/OffensivAtheist bismarket

            If you lot are representative. America will be a very dangerous (for the rest of the world) theological superpower quite soon. I hope i die before that happens;-(

      • https://twitter.com/#!/OffensivAtheist bismarket

        Vaticanistan? Oh that’s GOOD, i’m using that. ;-)

  • Tainda

    If I had the means, I would move out of this country faster than you could sneeze.  The righties in this country are getting more insane by the day and it seems more powerful (in the sense that they band together and get things done) at least it seems that way here in Missouri (or Misery).

  • http://twitter.com/jscotti Jim Scotti

    They’re just envious of the South Koreans: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/south-korea-set-remove-examples-evolution-textbooks-article-1.1091083

  • walkamungus

    From the AP article:

    Board member Sally Cauble, a moderate Republican from Liberal, said she’s comfortable with the language in the draft standards. Cauble, elected in 2006 after ousting an evolution skeptic in the GOP primary, voted for the 2007 standards.Cauble said Kansas is participating in the multi-state effort to draft common science standards because it wants to ensure that its students can compete in a global job market. She said the board should defer to scientists, science educators and business leaders when considering changes.”If we don’t listen to them, then we’re not doing our job,” she said.The state needs to listen to this woman! 

    • walkamungus

      Sorry, that last sentence is mine, not part of the article!

    • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      It must be interesting to be a strong conservative living in Liberal!

  • Fsq

    The thing is, once again, this idiocy will pass and then come the lawsuits that we pay for. We pay the defense, through tax dollars, to the idiots pushing this shit.

    Get out of the USA and get out fast.

    • The Other Weirdo

       Yeah, because people shouldn’t stay and fight for their beliefs, and should just surrender to the rule of the unwashed and the ignorant.

      • Fsq

        Honestly, I don’t think it is going to get any better, and I am getting tired of banging my head against the wall.

        I understand what you are sayaing TOW, but things are truly only going to get worse in this country. The genie is out of the bottle so to speak, and they really don’t like going back in.

        The United States was an experiemtn that lasted a little over a couple of centuries. It is now showikng signs of it being done for and cooked.

        IT also seems to be moving almost logorithmically (SPL?) in the direction of theocracy, female subjugation, and racism yet again. It is too late.

        So while I agree with your sentiment, I am tired. It is exhausting battling the average slob-in-the-street ignorance and jesus-thumping.

        There are much better and more enlightened places out there. We get one shot at life, so whyt waste it in a place that is awful?

        • MariaO

          If it is moving logarithmically there is no great hurry to get out. It will increase more and more slowly. Did you perhaps mean “exponentially”? THAT would be scary…

          • Fsq

            Doh!

            You see, I am the perfect example of the dumbing down of America! I don’t know the difference between logarithmically and exponentially!

            (and yes, I meant exponentially!)
            :)

        • judith sanders

          I must agree.  Look at the people on the Religious Right who are being groomed for national leadership.  Bobby Jindal, Paul Ryan, McDonnell and Cuccinelli of VA.  They are “worse” in flashing neon letters.  This is not a decision I would make lightly, but I would do it to give my kid a fair shot at a life free from persecution.

  • jdm8

    If the creationists pass their changes, they’re going to lose the lawsuit.  That’s all there is to it.  They were more subtle about it being about religion in 2005 and still lost.  Being more overt about religion being a motivator is just going to make the case easier for them to lose.

  • http://www.summerseale.com/ Summer Seale

    Question: Was Kansas ever not a center on the war on science?

  • Annie

    It’s a little unclear, but from the Kansas site, it appears that Kansas will be working in conjunction with several other states (about 20) to develop the next generation of science standards (what is unclear to me is if they are rewriting the National Science Standards, which all states use to develop their own, or if each state is rewriting their own).  If that’s the case, what a few politicians say in Kansas is not going to have much of an impact.  I wish the Next Generation Standards were still available for preview (preview ended 6/1).  I looked over the state’s current standards and they look well written.  The best place to look to find anything about evolution is under the 8-12 Life Science Standard 3, benchmark 3.  I also looked through the 8-12 glossary of terms and it was rich with terms related to evolution, and absent of any religious speak or pseudoscience. 

    On another note, when science standards change, they rarely change a great deal in content, but rather is shifting things around from one grade to the next.  The big boost these days is to beef up (or add) standards related to engineering.  I think it is smart to keep an ear open for what Willard has to say on this matter, but I also think he is acting as though he has more power over this issue than he actually does.

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    Until we can get state and local governments out of the education business completely, this sort of nonsense will continue. Although central funding and a single set of federal curriculum and standards is no guarantee of success, it is probably a required first step… as nearly every scientific and educational organization has agreed.

    • Stev84

      Doesn’t have to be completely. Local school boards can have a say in deciding on certain funds are spent, so their needs are best served. They just shouldn’t have any say over the curriculum

    • meohmy

      This comment reveals a complete lack of understanding of education. A standard is not a curriculum.   It’s simply a well-considered, reasoned, correct statement (in this case about a core idea in science) around which any number of coherent instructional strategies and sequences (a curriculum) can be developed.  The real challenge moving forward will be to ensure that the creativity is there to develop interesting curricula that won’t bore kids and teachers to death.   Who will step up to that challenge?  I hope our most innovative teachers in K-12 and higher ed do.

  • Robster

    ”  This is not a conversation we should be having in the 21st century.” Yep, we maybe in the 21st century, the religiously afflicted are moving slowly into the 12th century and that’s being generous.

  • Sindigo

    If they are so keen to mix religion and science how about teaching an elective course called “God under the microscope: Examining the evidence for Christianity”? Then take some of their firmly held religious beliefs and biblical ideas, off the top of my head: “Did Jesus even exist?”, “Were there any Jews in Egypt in the first place?” and “What does the Bible say about shellfish?” and rigorously apply the scientific method.

    I don’t think it would be important to come to any definite conclusions but it would encourage doubt in some of these ideas and that’s what science is all about, right kids?

  • https://twitter.com/#!/OffensivAtheist bismarket

    NEW script…Dorothy-”I wish we weren’t in Kansas anymore”.
                            Toto-”Woof”.


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