publisher's note
February 2, 2005

 

Evolutionary leaps
by Bruce Rodgers

Is the glass half full or half empty?” was the phrase lingering inside my head after spending an hour and half at a public hearing of the Kansas Science Standards Committee held Feb. 1 at Schlagle High School in KCK.

It wasn't a philosophical question I was raising with myself — though many of the nearly 60 speakers who had signed up to give their two minutes worth threw the word “philosophy” around a lot. Call it making a judgment in determining just how educated people are in the state of Kansas. Granted, the answer depends upon a point of view.

If you thought evolution was an important part of the current Kansas State Board of Education’s “definition of science” as “the human activity of seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us,” then the glass was half full.

Speaker after speaker, many identifying themselves as a science teacher, biologist, scientist or just a parent wanting to make sure their kid gets an education compatible “to the rest of the world,” spoke in support of the current standards and in keeping “Intelligent Design” — two words now used to describe God — out of the science classroom.

Some spoke of being able to work in science — including supporting the theory of evolution — and keeping their religious faith. Science was something that could be demonstrated and proven. Intelligent Design was grounded in “metaphysics” or “paranormal” experience or the “supernatural.”

A Blue Valley School District biology teacher noted that science is limited to natural explanations, sometimes shown to through an “unguided” natural process. Yet, he added, “God can undetectably ‘guide’ the evolutionary process.”

Another person, describing himself as a “parent,” talked of viruses mutating — “a living process of evolution just as Darwin observed,” he added.

After he sat down, a woman countered that she was concerned “that evolution is being taught as a fact. Students,” she continued, “are not being taught to think (about) the non-naturalistic causes for origins.”

A man right after her went further. “We need to test evolution as true science,” he said. “We owe that to our children. The lack of a fossil record is a fact. It’s fraud to show links to apes.”

Another man agreed, stating that the philosophy of nihilism came from the teaching of evolution. “We’re producing little Kansas Nazis,” he railed.

A “retired engineer,” refuted the theory of evolution by noting “that earth changes can be done instantaneously” as in earthquakes or volcanoes. Another man, a pilot, noted that when he flew over the earth, he knew that evolution couldn’t explain the features he observed.

Some supporters of the current scientific standards, like one woman, highlighted “evolution’s usefulness in improving lives” as a basic scientific standard, concluding that “ID has no real-world usefulness.”

A supporter of ID pointed the microphone in front of him and stated, “This microphone is a product of ID...but I can’t say anything against evolution because it’s unconstitutional!” The man was making reference to a Georgia judge’s ruling against putting stickers on textbooks stating evolution was just one theory.

A young student pleaded with committee members not to “water down the curriculum and hurt my chances for success. ID is not science,” she said, “it’s a theological statement. ID can be in high school but biology class is not the place for it.”

Right after her came a man, a “father,” who stated, “Science is about philosophical materialism. (Let) science be science instead of a philosophy.”

Darwin’s evolutionary theory was called “an apology for slavery” by one man after reminding the group that The Origin of Species was published (1859) while slavery was still practiced in the United States. “The truth needs a hearing,” the man said, raising his voice. The man then ended his two minutes by quoting Genesis with the statement about God creating earth and the universe.

It must be noted that the complete title of Darwin’s book was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

A physician who said he studies astrophysics, which, according to The New Oxford American Dictionary, is a branch of astronomy concerned with the “physical” (my quote marks) nature of stars and other celestial bodies…, said it “points to ID.”

Earlier, a former science teacher had challenged ID supporters to let ID “go through the same scientific rigor” as other theories. “Why let them cut in line?” he asked.

But one ID supporter would ignore such a challenge. “With ID,” she stated, “I call it religion and Christianity. If there’s no religion (in schools) then they don’t need to allow evolution. I don’t believe in evolution; I believe in Christianity.”

We are indeed a divided country; divided between those who understand the country they live in and those that don’t.

From the half-empty point of view: the supporters of ID have yet to be intelligently designed.

Three other public hearings on changing the science standards will be held in February from 7-8:30 p.m.: Board Room, KS Dept. of Education, 120 SE 10th Ave., Topeka, Feb. 8; Derby Middle School, 801 E Madison, Derby, Feb. 10; and Hays High School, 2300 E. 13th St., Hays, Feb. 15. The Kansas State Board of Education can be contacted at 785-296-3201 and comments concerning scientific standards can be made via the Internet at www.ksde.org/commission/science.html.

Bruce Rodgers can be contacted at publisher_editEKC@kcactive.com.


              
              
                 

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