Just what IS the matter with Kansas???? Email Print

As Darwin Day approaches, we are facing an increasing assault by right wing extremists on Darwin's theory. Kansas is one of the big battlegrounds, of course, and it is depressing watching the battle unfold.

A recent issue of Science covered the upcoming Kansas state school board elections and let me tell you, it really is embarassing to read about this shit happening in 2006 America!

From the February 3rd issue of Science:

Billboards touting everything from steak to flat-screen TVs assault drivers speeding along I-35 across the American Midwest. But an unusual sales pitch pokes out of the ground just as the interstate leaves Missouri and enters Kansas. "Evolution is a fairy tale for grown-ups," the sign proclaims, steering viewers to a Web site that mocks the idea that evolution can explain the origin of human beings.

Yes. It is the 21st century and yet we are still debating an issue that was scientifically settled in the 19th century. America is being swept by a movement that wants to teach stupidity to our students.

The above sign is part of a fiercely fought campaign for Kansas State School board. And the fight is between those who support science and those who support stupidity. The incumbents introduced new science standards last year that include the teaching of Intelligent Design, a bastardized Creationism that is the real fairy tale for grown-ups, being consistent neither with the bible nor with scientific evidence. Against these incumbents are those who believe that science should be taught in schools, not bastardized Creationism.

Do these people really think that God wants the children of America to be stupid? If not, then why are they against the teaching of one of the most well-supported theories of science?

Well part of the problem is that the people who want to teach stupidity to our children are stupid themselves. I can think of no other explanation for this statement, quoted in the same article:

John Bacon, [an anti-evolution incumbent]...Bacon told Science he hasn't decided whether to seek reelection to another 4-year term. But he says that, should he run, he would have no qualms advertising his role in promoting the new standards, even though it would not be a centerpiece of his campaign. "I've seen polls showing that the majority of people in the state want their kids to be exposed to all theories of origin science in the classroom," he says. "If evolution is a theory, they want it taught as a theory, not as a fact."

In other words, Bacon, a man in charge of determining what should be taught in Kansas science classes, has no clue what a scientific theory is. This man would call Intelligent Design a theory along side with evolution and would call neither of them facts. Well, Mr. Bacon, "theory" is the best you ever get in science. You have hypotheses, which are proposals that are tested experimentally. If a hypothesis receives ample experimental support, it becomes the basis of further scientific understanding and becomes a scientific theory. Evolution is one of the best-supported scientific theories in the history of science. Intelligent Design is nothing more than a deceptive ploy to introduce religion into science classes and which has been more accurately termed Intelligent Deception by more honest people. The sheer stupidity of Bacon's statement can be illustrated by a satirical article in The Onion wherein evangelicals now want to teach "Intelligent Falling" along with the Theory of Gravity.

Yes, our understanding of gravity is a theory. Yet anyone who wants to call gravity "only a theory, not a fact," is going to be put in a lunatic asylum. Or be voted onto a school board in Kansas.

This is not a conservative vs. liberal issue. It isn't even about science vs. religion. Most religions have NO PROBLEM accepting that science tells us the truth about the world and that their religious books are complex, sophisticated allegories, not literal truth. Folks, this is an issue of science, a rigorous process designed to use our best understanding, logic and technology to discover the truth about our universe, and the mythology of people whose faith in their religion is so weak that they cannot accept the fact that their bible is allegorical and that when it says "God created the earth in 7 days" it wasn't trying to be literally accurate! Kansas can be as conservative as they want. They can have a death penalty and free access to guns and all that. That is all up to a voter's choice and voters in Kansas are not going to agree with voters in Park Slope, Brooklyn or in San Francisco. Fine. That's politics. That's freedom.

But science is NOT politics. You can't make shit up and call it "science." That is what the Intelligent Deception people like Bacon are doing. They are grafting on poorly thought out religion onto poorly understood science and trying to teach it as a scientific theory. Their deception is NEITHER scientific NOR a theory. It is a myth they made up. Making stuff up and calling it "science" is insanity.

We can hope that the voters of Kansas are smart enough and mature enough to see through the Intelligent Deception of the current extremist incumbents and vote for a moderate school board. But it seems like it is an uphill battle where stupidity has the upper hand: (from the same Science article)

Supporters of evolution admit grudgingly that ID proponents have successfully framed the issue as a battle between science and religion. "It's a tricky line for the candidates to navigate," says [Kansas Citizens for Science] KCFS's Jack Krebs, who spoke at [a Kansas] meeting alongside lawyers representing the Dover parents who prevailed in December (Science, 6 January, p. 34). "Since sophisticated discussions on evolution and religion are not common in our society," Krebs says, "it's very easy for right-wing groups to brand the challengers as godless atheists."

A former president of KCFS who now conducts workshops for science teachers and cultures butterfly larvae to donate to schools in his district, [Harry] McDonald takes care not to come across as a passionate evolutionist. His literature mentions the new standards as an example of micromanagement by the current board, which took over the writing of the standards last year after rejecting a draft submitted by the science standards writing committee. "There are ID sympathizers in my constituency who might be willing to forgive me my transgressions for being a strong science supporter because of other issues. But if I spent too much time on evolution and ID, they might not."

I sympathize with Mr. McDonald, but is this how low our society has fallen? New science standards that encourage teaching the made-up myth of Intelligent Deception is opposed because it is "micromanagement" and not because it is a pack of steaming, stinking cow dung?

I do not engage in Red State bashing very often because I know that a.) most states are really purple, b.) there are many conservative values that are perfectly reasonable, even if I disagree with them, c.) there are always blue areas within red states and visa versa, and d.) if you look at the political history of many states they shift from conservative to progressive and back from time to time. I never like to look at a state and say, "what the HELL are they thinking?" But looking at Kansas and its school board, I can't help but think there is something deeply wrong in the state of Kansas. Lies are being taught as truth and one of the greatest scientific theories in the history of science is being taught as a "fairy tale for grown-ups." With all apologies to the many good people in Kansas, but I am sorry, that is stupidity, pure and simple.

For those who want to help in the fight for science against the people who prefer stupidity, please visit the websites of the National Center for Science Education and the Kansas Center for Science.

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