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Why the BOE can (and should) reject the Minority Report

(Post: June 24, 2005)

Why the BOE can (and should) reject arguments of authors of the Minority Report

The proponents of the minority report argue that since state required teaching about evolution (which they loosely define as “origins”) inevitably “impacts” with religion, and since the state is only telling students about the scientific/natural view, the state has “suppressed” free inquiry, and has become a “sponsor” of doctrines and philosophies (naturalism, atheism, etc), which violate the establishment clause.

Here is why that argument fails:

Science does not necessarily impact with religion
Because science is limited to dealing with natural phenomena, it simply does not have the tools to address metaphysical questions, and is quite distinct from religion. The practice of science is not based on a particular religious worldview; it is culturally and religiously neutral. Moreover, the implications that various scientific understandings may have for philosophy, religion, ethics, culture, etc are not part of science, but interpretations of it based on particular worldviews.

It’s also worth noting that where the proponents of the minority report state that teaching about origins inevitably “impacts” with religion, many others see teaching about origins as “supporting” their religious worldviews.

The "State" cannot suppress science
The “state” does not, and cannot, suppress ANY scientific criticisms of ANY theory. “States” do not practice science, and short of restricting funding for research, have no means of suppressing its inquiries. It may sound cliché, but “Science is what Scientists do”, and the “state”, especially a state school board comprised of non-scientists, is not capable of directing what scientists do, or how they do it.

Teaching isn’t “Sponsoring”
Teaching science is no more “State Sponsored Naturalism” than teaching Civil War History is “State Sponsored Slavery”, or teaching about the Holocaust is “State sponsored, Anti-Semitism”. The fact is, “science”, by definition, is naturalistic. Acknowledging and teaching this fact is not the same thing as “sponsoring” it.

In conclusion
The minority report is based on non-science, demonstrably false claims, and faulty reasoning. As such, it did not receive the recommendation of the standards writing committee, and is invalid as a viable document.

The proponents of the minority report have failed to make a convincing case that their revisions will serve the students of Kansas’s schools better than the majority-approved standards (“Draft 2”) developed by the standards writing committee. More importantly, the 12 peer reviews of the minority report (available on the KSBOE website) have unanimously recommended that the board reject the minority report. One of the reviewers, Gary Hurd, commented that, “These proposed alterations to the Draft Standards are a mixture of seemingly innocuous word substitutions and flagrant errors of fact and logic that would, if adopted, result in unusable curriculum standards and costly lawsuits.” Given the ongoing events in Dover, PA, this seems very likely, as the recent “science hearings” in Topeka provided very clear documentation linking the religiously motivated criticisms of evolution to the proponents of the minority report. By any criteria, none of this can be considered beneficial to either Kansas’s taxpayers, or students.

Finally, it is not the responsibility of the state school board to provide “handouts” to scientists, or those claiming to be scientists, struggling to get their non-standard ideas taught in state mandated science curriculum. It is very clear that the proponents of the minority report are attempting an opportunistic end-run around both the Establishment Clause, and the scientific community, by appealing to the religious motivations, and lack of scientific training, of the school board.

Pedro Irigonegaray Closing Arguments

(Post: May 12, 2005)

Closing Arguments in support of Draft II of the science standards will be given today by Pedro Irigonegaray. A PDF file of his slides follow.

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Continue reading "Pedro Irigonegaray Closing Arguments"

NSTA Support for Draft 2

(Post: May 04, 2005)

May 3, 2005

Kansas State Department of Education
120 SE 10th Ave.
Topeka, KS 66612-1182

Dear Board Members:

On behalf of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and its 55,000 members nationwide*with more than 700 in the state of Kansas*we urge the Kansas State Board of Education to use the Kansas Science Education Revision Committee's Draft Two to best advise your decision on Kansas Science Standards.

The committee's work represents the best practices of the National Science Education Standards and Exemplifies good science. NSTA strongly supports the position that evolution is a major unifying concept in science and should be included in the K*12 science education frameworks and curricula. This position is consistent with those of the National Academies, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and many other scientific and educational organizations.

Though the Board members' decision has political ramifications, NSTA urges you to base your decision solely on what best represents what Kansas students should know about and be able to do as a result of their science studies.

Scientific evidence should be the primary basis for your decision. It is unfair to the students of Kansas to give them anything less. In addition, we believe the hearings you have planned to hold detract from the decision you must make on science standards because you are seeking opinions regarding language from failed legislation known as the Santorum "Amendment."

Furthermore, the committee's Draft Two represents far more research than six days of hearings could ever provide. Attached is NSTA's official position paper on The Teaching of Evolution. We would be glad to discuss this issue with you in more detail.

Feel free to contact us at 703-243-7100.


Anne Tweede, NSTA Presdient
Gerry Wheeler, NSTA Executive Director

Review of Minority Report: by Robert Dennison

(Post: May 03, 2005)

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"A primary goal of the Kansas Science Standards, like the National Science Standards, is the development of scientifically literate students. All science teachers share this same goal.

Unfortunately, the proposed revisions would seriously undermine the efforts of Kansas science teachers to achieve this critical goal. While a few of the changes seem innocuous at first glance, upon reading the explanations and after considering the sum of those revisions it is clear that the cumulative effect would be to gravely weaken science instruction in the state of Kansas."

Review of Minority Report: by Joe Heppert

(Post: May 03, 2005)

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"The proponent’s proposed changes to the evolution section confuse and obscure the principles of evolutionary theory through the use of erroneous and confusing philosophical language and misinformation. Evolutionary theory is a wellaccepted scientific theory among all mainstream scientific organizations. It is a mature theory that has been refined over the past 150 years. There are no scientifically valid alternatives to evolutionary theory. There is no scientifically or educationally valid rationale for singling out evolutionary theory from among other scientific theories for critical examination."

Review of Minority Report: by James R. Hoffman

(Post: May 03, 2005)

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"Methodological naturalism is simply the search for natural explanations for observed phenomena. It does not entail naturalism, commonly known as materialism, nor does it rule out the existence of supernatural factors that science cannot address."

Review of Minority Report: by Gary Hurd

(Post: May 03, 2005)

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"These proposed alterations to the Draft Standards are a mixture of seemingly innocuous word substitutions and flagrant errors of fact and logic that would, if adopted, result in unusable curriculum standards and costly lawsuits."

Review of Minority Report: by Douglas L. Theobald

(Post: May 03, 2005)

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"These Revisions have been formulated by IDNet, a political “think tank” advocating the pseudoscientific concept of “intelligent design” (ID). While I personally believe that the universe was designed by an intelligence, the current ID political movement has no scientific credibility. ID proponents distort scientific knowledge by claiming that contemporary evolutionary theory cannot explain the diversity of life. So far, the ID movement has failed to provide any scientific evidence to support their claims. ID proponents have never published any original research in peer-reviewed scientific journals providing evidence for ID. Most importantly, ID adherents have not proposed any scientific tests for their claims. ID is therefore rejected by the vast majority of active scientific researchers in the life sciences, not because of any philosophical or religious bias, but rather because ID currently has no scientific support or utility whatsoever."

Review of Minority Report: by Taner Edis

(Post: May 03, 2005)

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"A handful of people who hold scientific credentials disagreeing with evolution is not the same as a scientific disagreement. The "other scientists" in question have not even begun to produce the peer-reviewed research which could eventually lead to a genuine scientific disagreement about evolution."

Review of Minority Report: by Scott Brande

(Post: May 03, 2005)

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"As numerous other scientists have noted, intelligent design isn't really about science. It's about religion, and the Intelligent Design Network must believe either that you're not smart enough to understand this critical distinction, or that you will bow to public pressure..."

"...the core of intelligent design is a master designer who directs the formation of complex life, and indirectly happens to accord with a personal deity and savior for many people. But scientific understanding is not based upon the popularity of religious doctrine."

Review of Minority Report: by E.O. Wiley

(Post: May 03, 2005)

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"...everyone who problem-solves uses methodological naturalism. When we are faced with a puzzle or wish to accomplish some task, we switch to the mode of methodological naturalism and seek natural explanations or solutions. Scientists do this. Bankers do this. Farmers do this. In fact, just about everyone does this. Imagine if I went to my auto mechanic and he said: "Well, it might be the brakes or it might be an evil spirit."

Should I give equal weight to the "evil spirit" hypothesis? After all, someone probably believes it, this mechanic for one."

Review of Minority Report: by Karen Bartelt

(Post: May 03, 2005)

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"As soon as the “Proponents” come up with evidential verification, have it peer-reviewed, and present it at scientific meetings, such “scientific information” may then rightly be discussed at the high school level and below."

Review of Minority Report: by Ken Miller

(Post: May 03, 2005)

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"Unlike the situation in 1999, the authors of the minority report may have hoped to escape scrutiny by leaving evolution in the curriculum -- but what their changes would actually do to Kansas' science standards is far more radical and much more dangerous.

The goals of the eight dissenters are clear. They plan to use the classroom to undermine evolution in a manner that clears the way for supernatural explanations regarding the origins of species. This would allow them to redefine religious beliefs as scientific ones, misleading students as to the nature of science, and entangling science classrooms throughout Kansas in an endless and unproductive battle between the multiple religious interpretations of origins that characterize our pluralistic society."

The Fact of Evolution: Implications for Science Education

(Post: May 01, 2005)

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Creationists who object to evolution in the science curriculum of public schools often cite Jonathan Well’s book Icons of Evolution in their support (Wells 2000). In the third chapter of his book, Wells claims that neither paleontological nor molecular evidence supports the thesis that the history of life is an evolutionary process of descent from preexisting ancestors. We argue that Wells inappropriately relies upon ambiguities inherent in the term ‘Darwinian’ and the phrase ‘Darwin’s theory’. Furthermore, he does not accurately distinguish between the overwhelming evidence that supports the thesis of common descent and controversies that pertain to causal mechanisms such as natural selection.

Position Paper

(Post: April 15, 2005)

Coalition for Science

Coalition of Organizations and Individuals Supporting Quality Science Education in Kansas

Position Paper on the State Science Standards
April 15, 2005

Science has been stunningly successful in increasing human understanding of the natural world and in improving our quality of life. Yet science education is under attack. We support quality science education in public schools, and we oppose politically motivated attempts to insert theological concepts into science in public education classrooms.

Continue reading "Position Paper"