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[P]
Evolution Required in Kansas

By the Epopt in News
Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 05:59:08 AM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

The Kansas Board of Education has approved, by a 7-3 vote, new science standards that emphasize evolution.


In August 1999, the Board voted 6-4 to leave to local school districts whether to teach evolution and to change the definition of science from the "human activity of seeking natural explanations" to "... logical explanations" for what happens in the world. (Sensational reports that the teaching of evolution was banned were incorrect.)

In the November 2000 elections, two of the six religious conservative board members were defeated, and another resigned. Steve Abrams from Arkansas City won re-election, while John Bacon of Olathe and Harold Voth of Haven continued in office. All three voted against the new standards.

Anti-evolutionists are still pressuring the Board in hopes of either revoking the new guidelines or amending them. That effort is led by IDNet (the Intelligent Design Network, Inc.), an organization formed in 1999 that rejects natural selection as an explanation for the origin of life. The group's managing director, John Calvert, presented the Kansas board with suggested revisions of the draft standards, claiming that over 100 scientists, philosophers, attorneys, and educators had endorsed the revisions.

The next state board election is less than two years away, and three of the five open seats are held by moderate Republicans and Democrats. It's too early to say whether the science standards will return as an election issue, but the pro-evolution group Kansas Citizens for Science remains vigilant.

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Evolution Required in Kansas | 23 comments (17 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
Natural selection (3.77 / 9) (#2)
by Delirium on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 07:55:04 PM EST

I don't think IDNet "rejects natural selection as an explanation for the origin of life," or if they do that's a rather unintelligent position to take, since natural selection by definition cannot be the origin of life. Natural selection is the "survival of the fittest" process by which beneficial traits are propogated and detrimental ones are not (and by which evolution is theorized to occur). Where life actually originated is a completely separate issue from how it evolved once orginated, and the natural selection theory does not attempt to address it (some theories which do are the "primeordial soup" theory, which posits that the earth was largely covered with a rich organic "soup" and that sparks of electricity from lightning caused the spnontaneous formation of simple organisms).

Correction (4.57 / 7) (#4)
by SIGFPE on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 08:33:41 PM EST

sparks of electricity from lightning caused the spnontaneous formation of simple organisms
Normally I'm not bothered by simplistic explanations that are made for the sake of brevity but I think that this is so far off the mark that it would be wrong to leave this uncorrected. I don't think that anybody in recent years has suggested spontaneous creation of life by lightning. Lightning has been posited as a mechanism by which energy might be provided to reagents to form more complex compounds that could form the building blocks of life - eg. amino acids.

BTW Some people have argued that natural selection *is* the mechanism by which life formed. In this case it would be natural selection between complexes of non-living chemical compounds that ultimately result in something that could be termed living.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]

Curious on the Figures (4.50 / 2) (#5)
by ncohen on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 11:08:00 PM EST

Since the previous decision merely removed evolution as a mandatory requirement for Kansas schools, how many actually did away with evolution for the period this law was in force?
-----
"(A+Bn)/n = x, hence God exists, reply!"
why do they care? (4.00 / 1) (#9)
by streetlawyer on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 05:28:07 AM EST

Not wanting to be funny about this, but why is this such a big issue? Let's be real here:
  1. Evolution is not exactly something that can be kept secret. Any Kansas resident who wants to find out about it, has always been able to.
  2. For the vast majority of us, evolution is not exactly a hugely relevant factor to our lives. It is not as if these children were being denied the opportunity to learn mathematics.
  3. Was anyone really hoping that the next generation of evolutionary theorists was going to come from devoutly Christian fundamentalist Kansas families? More importantly, if an evolutionary genius does come from that background, isn't it more likely that their contribution will come from their own unique perspective, rather than through being indoctrinated in the received wisdom of Darwinian natural selection?
It's not just religious fundamentalists who seem to have far more than a healthy interest in what other people believe about issues that don't affect their daily behaviour. Quite why evolution is thought to be such a sickly child that, alone among sacred cows, its propagation is something that cannot be left to local democracy and the free market, is beyond me.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
why do they care? (none / 0) (#10)
by DoubleEdd on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 06:05:15 AM EST

Evolution is not exactly something that can be kept secret. Any Kansas resident who wants to find out about it, has always been able to.
Schools have an almost unique position of being able to teach something and have the person being taught accept it as fact. Their official status lends credence to anything they teach. A Kansas resident taught that evolution is invalid or anything less than the fact it is will most likely go on believing that for a very long time.

For the vast majority of us, evolution is not exactly a hugely relevant factor to our lives. It is not as if these children were being denied the opportunity to learn mathematics.
It is one of the mainstays of biology. You have a great deal of difficulty teaching modern biology without incorporating evolution. Biology is probably one of the fastest growing areas of science at the moment, with all the work done on genetics and medical sciences at the moment.

Was anyone really hoping that the next generation of evolutionary theorists was going to come from devoutly Christian fundamentalist Kansas families? More importantly, if an evolutionary genius does come from that background, isn't it more likely that their contribution will come from their own unique perspective, rather than through being indoctrinated in the received wisdom of Darwinian natural selection?
We don't teach people the sciences on the offchance that they may be the next Darwin or Einstein. Sciences impinge on all sorts of aspects of modern life, and at the very least the scientific principle should be properly taught so that people know how scientists come to their conclusions. By disregarding one of the most significant conclusions science has come to you blow a serious hole in that aim.

[ Parent ]

they never stopped teaching evolution (none / 0) (#12)
by streetlawyer on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 06:30:23 AM EST

Kansas in fact never allowed schools to "not teach evolution". The principles of genetics, selection and genetic drift were always compulsory on the syllabus. What they previously had done, however, was allowed schools not to teach the evolutionary theory of the development of human life. I just don't accept that you need to believe in evolution as a theory of natural history in order to do molecular biology.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
Only partly deals with my points (none / 0) (#14)
by DoubleEdd on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 08:54:31 AM EST

Probably my main point was that the tuition of science at this level should be aimed at understanding how scientists do their business. By disallowing a fundamental part of modern biology you play havoc with those ideas. So by Kansas having
The principles of genetics, selection and genetic drift ... compulsory on the syllabus.
whilst also having
allowed schools not to teach the evolutionary theory of the development of human life.
its possibly even worse. You are allowing them to think that science allows this ridiculous arbitrary distinction on the basis of no evidence.

Also, whilst you might not need to believe in evolution to do molecular biology, accepting the principles of evolution and the way they apply to human genetics is important in other areas of biology, and the understanding of the scientific principle is critical to all areas of science. By allowing the religious right to lobotomise parts of the scientific curriculum you damage the teaching of the method which is the vital aspect of science that we need to teach our children.

[ Parent ]

oh for heaven's sake! (none / 0) (#16)
by streetlawyer on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 09:02:10 AM EST

do you not think that people can learn this at a later date? How many of the things that you learned in grade school do you now believe? If you really think that the people of Kansas are the kind who are so uncurious that the lessons they learned as children will stay with them unquestioned throughout their teenage and adult years, then I really don't see why you think they're any sort of loss to science.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
Re: why do they care? (none / 0) (#11)
by voop on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 06:16:14 AM EST

Was anyone really hoping that the next generation of evolutionary theorists was going to come from devoutly Christian fundamentalist Kansas families?

Not sure - the question is rather "why not?" At the very least, I believe that being given the option to recognize that there are alternatives to the "christian fundamentalism" *should* be there.

I live in France, where church and state are completely seperated, however I grew up in Denmark, which is a constitutionally christian country (i.e. the christian church is funded by the state). I also grew up in what might be considred as a "christian fundamentalist" family.

Value-judgements asside, even in Denmark, evolution is taught in schools. As is creationism, actually, to the younger classes (mandatory christian teaching in public schools). That has enabled me to make up my own mind, fairly independant from what my family think (and I turn out to believe in other things than in christianity - however that is entirely another issue).

In France, public display of religion is prohibited in schools - a fact from the church and the state to be seperated. While I am all for that seperation, I belive that it would be only fair to give "religious teaching" space in the public schools. Not as "teaching a religion" (converting people), but rather "teaching about religion" in the later classes. That is: giving the youngsters an informed basis for forming their own opinions, rather than forcing them to subscribe to their parents/teachers dy default.

And I guess that's what it is all about: forming ones own opinion. And I guess that's why I think that the Kansas-issue is worth a concirn.



[ Parent ]
importance of evolution (none / 0) (#21)
by kubalaa on Wed Feb 21, 2001 at 06:02:57 AM EST

For the vast majority of us, evolution is not exactly a hugely relevant factor to our lives. It is not as if these children were being denied the opportunity to learn mathematics.

No, I'd say it's more like they're being denied the opportunity to learn physics. Evolution is the foundation of modern biology, and biology is enormously relevant to our daily lives. Yes, you can live your whole live never knowing basic Newtonian mechanics, but your understanding of the universe is incomplete and you will be at a disadvantage to someone who has learned it. Likewise, I seriously believe that kids who don't understand evolution, genetics, and biology are at a disadvantage when it comes to making informed decisions about their world.

Anyways, that's not to say that we should teach evolution to the exclusion of creationism; as you say, the meme pool can decide for itself which is more relevant. There's also a difference between education and indoctrination, and it's perfectly possible to teach evolution without making any judgements as to its Truth. And let's face it; creationism isn't exactly complicated or hard to understand, while evolution is. It's not, as you imply, the kind of thing that your average Kansas student is going to grasp just by running into it on the internet.

[ Parent ]

not analogous (none / 0) (#22)
by streetlawyer on Wed Feb 21, 2001 at 12:43:12 PM EST

Evolution is the foundation of modern biology, and biology is enormously relevant to our daily lives.

I wholly disagree that evolution is in fact, the foundation of modern biology. The rest of biology simply does not depend logically from evolution in the way that classical physics depends on Newton's laws. If creationism were discovered to be true tomorrow, the rest of biology would stand whole; if thermodynamics or inertia were discovered to be false, classical mechanics would be dead in the water.

Furthermore, evolution is *not* hard to understand. The important idea can be explained within half an hour even to the densest student. What level of knowledge of population genetics, kin selection and similar were you proposing they teach to k-12 students in Kansas?

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Why I think this is OK. (3.00 / 1) (#13)
by lonesmurf on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 07:45:16 AM EST

It surprises me that a community full of such open-minded people would be so close minded on an issue of such great import as education.

I am an atheist and a firm believer in micro-evolution: the astounding and overwhelming volume of facts supporting the theory is just too much for me to put aside. However, I came to the conclusions on how we evolved through reasoning and involved debate.. I took nothing on faith.

I feel that faith is a terrible thing: it blinds and diminishes reason and the ability to doubt. Both of which, reason and the ability to doubt, are not just assets to but are essential for the search for answers.

My position on the Kansas school board's conclusion that the individual schools should make their own decisions regarding the teaching of evolution is two-fold. Firstly, I agree with them. Not because I am a 'god-fearing mormon' or what not, but because I think that the blind belief that evolution is the ultimate answer is no better than the belief that the world is but 6.000 years old. Secondly, I feel that this will give the schools the opportunity -- which, admittedly they most likely will not take -- to teach all view points and perhaps allow the children to make their own decisions. I can't see why this would be detrimental to any of the parties involved; parents, teachers or children.

Just something to think about.



Rami

I am not a jolly man. Remove the mirth from my email to send.


different things (3.33 / 3) (#15)
by dabadab on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 09:01:58 AM EST

You are mixing two things: science (evolution) and belief (creation).
These two are different things.
Belief is about believing, and it's basic reasoning is "it is this way since it's God's will".
Science is about doubt, and it says "it's probably this way because [ insert some theory based on other theories here ]".
The schools are here to teach science, not belief, so evolution has a place there and creation does not, it's that simple (and of course, it does not matter which (if any) of the two is true).
--
Real life is overrated.
[ Parent ]
Schools (none / 0) (#17)
by Simon Kinahan on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 01:54:40 PM EST

Since when do schools allow children to reach their own conclusions about anything ? Surely school is about teaching children to answer exam questions in the accepted manner ?

I'm not being entirely ironic (though I'm certainly being sarcastic). It takes very talented teachers to teach kids to think - most of those who eventually do develop their own opinions about the world do so as a consequence of some event outside of school. Even for those of us who do eventually do so (and I'll immodestly place myself in that category), many ideas remain basically unconsidered: I only got round to actually checking the arguments for evolution were adequate some time last year - previously I just did not care sufficiently.

In spite of the difficulties of forming your own opinions, though, there's a great deal of knowledge required to function in our modern world. Much better, I would have thought that schools teach the accepted wisdom in each subject area, and do what they can to encourage kids to check it for themselves as and when they feel able. Trying to teach "all points of view" will confuse most children, I suspect. This is, after all, what happens in English, Maths and Physics classes. Children are not encouraged to consider what the world would be like if English scentences had the verb on the end, or 2+2 was 7, or if forces acted on objects without reaction. Though these questions are interesting philosophically, schools do not see it as their place to explore them, and I think they are essentially right: kids need to know what is true, more than they need to know why. Evolution should not be any different.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
Of course blind belief in evolution is better... (none / 0) (#18)
by SIGFPE on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 02:15:54 PM EST

...than blind belief in divine creation because it is better to blindly believe that which is more likely to be correct. Isn't it?
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]
Schools (none / 0) (#20)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Feb 21, 2001 at 04:55:40 AM EST

Since when do schools allow children to reach their own conclusions about anything ? Surely school is about teaching children to answer exam questions in the accepted manner ?

I'm not being entirely ironic (though I'm certainly being sarcastic). It takes very talented teachers to teach kids to think - most of those who eventually do develop their own opinions about the world do so as a consequence of some event outside of school. Even for those of us who do eventually do so (and I'll immodestly place myself in that category), many ideas remain basically unconsidered: I only got round to actually checking the arguments for evolution were adequate some time last year - previously I just did not care sufficiently.

In spite of the difficulties of forming your own opinions, though, there's a great deal of knowledge required to function in our modern world. Much better, I would have thought that schools teach the accepted wisdom in each subject area, and do what they can to encourage kids to check it for themselves as and when they feel able. Trying to teach "all points of view" will confuse most children, I suspect. This is, after all, what happens in English, Maths and Physics classes. Children are not encouraged to consider what the world would be like if English scentences had the verb on the end, or 2+2 was 7, or if forces acted on objects without reaction. Though these questions are interesting philosophically, schools do not see it as their place to explore them, and I think they are essentially right: kids need to know what is true, more than they need to know why. Evolution should not be any different.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
Inquiry to Atheists (none / 0) (#23)
by ncohen on Wed Feb 21, 2001 at 01:23:38 PM EST

Okay, I realize this is a little off on a tangent, but this topic has brought it up, and I'm really wondering. I've noticed quite a few posts mention evolution or the evidence in support of evolution as concrete proof that religious belief is false. Why is that?
-----
"(A+Bn)/n = x, hence God exists, reply!"
Evolution Required in Kansas | 23 comments (17 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
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