Thursday, November 10, 2005

In Kansas, Science Ain't the Way

Yesterday, Kansas became the first state in the U.S. to require children to be taught that Christian religious belief is scientific fact.

The Kansas Board of Education voted Tuesday that students will be expected to study doubts about modern Darwinian theory, a move that defied the nation's scientific establishment even as it gave voice to religious conservatives and others who question the theory of evolution.

By a 6 to 4 vote that supporters cheered as a victory for free speech and opponents denounced as shabby politics and worse science, the board said high school students should be told that aspects of widely accepted evolutionary theory are controversial. Among other points, the standards allege a "lack of adequate natural explanations for the genetic code."
"This is a great day for education. This is one of the best things that we can do. This absolutely teaches more about science," said Steve E. Abrams, the Kansas board chairman who shepherded the conservative Republican majority that overruled a 26-member science committee and turned aside the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Teachers Association.

Opposing board members accused Abrams and his colleagues of hiding behind a fiction of scientific inquiry to inject religion into science classrooms. They said the decision would be bad for education, bad for business and bad for the state's wounded reputation.

"This is a sad day, not only for Kansas kids, but for Kansas," said Janet Waugh, who voted against the new standards. "We're becoming a laughingstock, not only of the nation, but of the world."

Those Kansans who remain unconvinced that superstition and science are the same thing hold out some hope for their state, and for the rest of us: the power of the ballot.

Eight school board members in Dover, Pa., who backed "intelligent design" were ousted by voters Tuesday. ...

"If this issue can be resolved by voting these people out in the next elections, the standards will never get in place enough to make a court case worthwhile. They'll be lame ducks," said Jack Krebs, vice president of Kansas Citizens for Science.

That is what happened in 1999, when the board sought to undermine the teaching of Darwinian theory. Moderates took control of the board in 2000, only to see it regain a conservative Republican majority in 2004. Krebs also said he believes opponents could win a court case by showing that the Kansas board is violating the Constitution by imposing religion in another guise.

Via Shakespeare's Sister.

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