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

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.