Kentucky State Senator Criticizes New Science Standards for Emphasizing Evolution and Climate Change

Here’s some advice to politicians out there: If you’re going to say something stupid, don’t do it in writing where all of us can see it.

Mike Wilson, a Republican state senator from Kentucky, not only ignored that wisdom, he doubled down on his ignorance in an op-ed for the (Louisville) Courier-Journal in which he railed against recently-released “Next Generation Science Standards” for promoting human activity as a factor in climate change and — wait for it — evolution:

The standards place substantial emphasis on teaching climate change and there is considerable discussion describing human activities as major factors in global warming…

The National Research Council appears to be carving out positions and expressing the beliefs of U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

There are those in the scientific field who question the beliefs of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. A statement signed by 16 scientists listed several stubborn scientific facts contradicting the Intergovernmental Panel’s beliefs

16?! That’s how many scientists he’s basing this judgment on? Not the tens of thousands who have said otherwise?!

It makes no sense to ignore the overwhelming majority of experts in this field who say human activity is an important factor in climate change in favor of the fringe minority. What an idiotic way to settle the issue — you can find dissenters for anything; it doesn’t mean they have anything legitimate to say. That’s why you don’t hand over sex education to a group of abstinence-only ideologues and why you don’t let pseudo-historian David Barton write your history textbooks. You have to learn how to separate the bullshitters with loud voices from the people who actually understand the issues at hand. Wilson obviously hasn’t figured that out yet.

He’s even more out of sync with reality when it comes to evolution, which he doesn’t understand and categorically denies:

The standards make it clear that evolution is fundamental to understanding the life sciences. Generally, the standards focus on changes in gene pools, genetic mutations and effects of the environment on changes within species. The controversy arises with the statement that “Students can evaluate evidence of the conditions that may result in new species and understand the role of genetic variation in natural selection.” This is supposition and implies that one species may evolve into a different species. There is no factual evidence that this has ever occurred and to suppose that it happens is counter to the beliefs of many Kentuckians.

No factual evidence… except for the fossil record and DNA evidence and the tens of thousands of peer-reviewed published papers.

And the fact that accepting evolution “is counter to the beliefs of many Kentuckians” says more about the state of science education in Kentucky (and the people who get elected) than it does about evolution.

That many people don’t understand evolution is exactly why we must make sure teachers are educating students about what it is and why it’s central to all of biology.

Oh. By the way. Wilson chairs the state’s Senate Education Committee. And he’s the also the General Manager of WCVK Christian Family Radio. So that should make you feel better… or give you nightmares.

The best part of his op-ed piece, though. has to be this:

Standards should encourage teachers to create and foster an environment that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of multiple theories.

Wilson is lecturing us on the importance of critical thinking. Let that sink in.

At least he’s right on this point — we should discuss multiple theories… when warranted. If there are different, credible, evidence-based theories in major scientific areas, we should discuss them with students. But those kinds of debates are not happening when it comes to the subjects discussed in high-school-level textbooks. There’s no debate when it comes to the basics of photosynthesis or the structure of DNA or how evolution works. Those issues have been settled for a long time.

The science standards Wilson is opposing here were written by people who know what they’re talking about:

Writing and review teams will consist of K–12 teachers, state science and policy staff, higher education faculty, scientists, engineers, cognitive scientists, and business leaders.

Wilson believes his collection of 16 fringe scientists and, I assume, a cohort of evangelical Christian pastors know more about science than the people who study and work with it on a regular basis.

He doesn’t deserve his seat on the Senate Education Committee. And when an opponent runs against him, I hope that person uses this op-ed as Exhibit 1 as to why he has no business in a position of power.

(Thanks to Joshua for the link)

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.