UPDATE, May 6: The New York Times has published this artilce under the new, and vastly improved and accurate headline: “In Kansas, Darwinism Goes on Trial Once More”
Topeka, KS — Indeed, Jodi Wilgoren’s lead from her story in The New York Times sums up what the scene was today in Memorial Hall in Topeka, the first day of hearings on how evolution should be taught in Kansas public schools.
In the first of three daylong hearings characterized here as the direct descendant of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, a parade of Ph.D.’s testified today about the flaws they find in Darwin’s theory of evolution, transforming a small auditorium into a forum on one of the most controversial questions in education and politics: How to teach about the origin of life?
The Times’ headline writers however totally missed the mark by proclaiming that the hearings are about “diluting evolution.” Outside the Times, and probably the me-too wannabees at the Post, no one really thinks that the standards dilute evolution. It was clear all throughout the day that evolution was not being eliminated or watered down, as much as it was being challenged and criticized.
It was standing room only for the opening of the hearings — more from the media attendance than from the room being crowded by citizens anxious to sit through science hearings.
Among the first day’s speakers were CSC Fellows Cr. Charles Thaxton, and Dr. Jonathan Wells. I’d like to reiterate some of Wells’ testimony, with the caveat that he speaks faster than I write, and I have no transcript to work from so this is all from memory.
After outlining his credentials and relationship to Discovery Institute, Wells said that in his view as a scientist if a piece of evidence for a theory turns out to be exagerated or faked students should know about it. He also reiterated several times that students need to learn more about evolution, and that he does not seek to deemphasize the teaching of evolution, nor does anyone seek to include intelligent design theory in science classes.
Wells addressed the issue of the definition of science, pointing out that Kansas has an “absolutely unique definition” of science, completely out of step with the entire rest of the country.
The definition of science proposed in the Minority Report is fully consistent with definitions used by all other states in the U.S. By contrast, the definition of science currently used in the Kansas standards and defended by the Majority is idiosyncratic and out of step with current educational practice.
He studied the definition of science used in all 50 states and found that there is a traditional definition in 40 states and no definition in 8 states. Then there’s Kansas. According to Wells, Kansas gives priority to the explanation over the process. It’s not science if at the outset “we are told what sort of explanation we should find.” Science should follow the evidence where it leads, not just follow the evidence if it leads in one particular direction.
Here are a few samples of how other states define science: Ohio: “Science is a systematic method of continuing investigation, based on observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, and theory building, which leads to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena.”
Connecticut: “Scientific inquiry is a thoughtful and coordinated attempt to search out, describe, explain and predict natural phenomena.”
West Virginia: “Science is a process of discovery. Students will engage in active inquiry through investigations,… These investigations explore the natural world, require critical thinking and develop process skills.”
South Dakota: “Science is a process of gathering and evaluating information, looking for patterns, and then devising and testing possible explanations.”
Arizona: “Science is a process of gathering and evaluating information, looking for patterns, and then devising and testing possible explanations.”
Wells went on to talk about the discrepancies in the evidence purported to support Darwinian evolution. He spoke at length about Phyla and the inability of the molecular evidence to uphold the tenets of Darwinian evolution and the problems posed for Darwinian evolution from the Cambrian explosion.
One of the questions that came up was about the claim that the term macroevolution is not a legitimate scientific term. Wells referred to the origination of the word by evolutionary geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky in 1937 and that the word has been used in the scientific literature ever since.
The most interesting part of Wells’ testimony, for me at least, was his interaction with the Darwinist defense attorney Pedro Irigonegaray, who cross examined the witnesses.
Wells: I’m in the minority. That’s why I’m here supporting the minority report.
Irigonegaray: You like being in the minority more than being right?
Wells: “I prefer to be right, if that puts me in the minority so be it.” Later Irigonegaray said: The insignificant minority.
Wells responded: I don’t find myself insignificant at all, I’ve already admitted to being in the minority.
Frankly, Irigonegaray’s cross didn’t seem all that inspired. He raised his voice a few times, but he didn’t ask very difficult questions. In fact, he almost never asked a question that had anything to do with science. His main question for each person was on their opinion of the age of the earth. All said it was billions of years old, except for William Harris who quipped he thought it was “really old.”
Interestingly, at the end of the day, Dr. Ralph Seelke, biologist from University of Wisconsin (whose stated goal is “to put evolutionary theory on a firmer experimental footing.”) gave the most thoroughly scientific presentation of the day. No one is surprised that discussion of bacteria and trillions of generations of mutations don’t get written up in the Kansas City Star. But, it is surprising that Irigonegaray had NO questions for Seelke at all. Maybe that’s because Seelke derailed his questioning by answering Irigonegaray’s standard question before it could even be asked. “I think the world is four and a half billion years old.”
It was a long day to be sure, but a very informative one. I think that at times, truthfully, the Darwinists were sucessful in diverting some to talk more about intelligent design, philosophy and/or religion than about the scientific challenges faced by Darwin’s theory.
Discovery President summed up the first day this way:
It was made clear early in the Kansas hearings that Intelligent Design is
not slated for inclusion in the proposed state science standards, but much of the initial hearing nonetheless was taken up with a discussion of Intelligent Design. As an alternative theory, design is promising and robust, and therefore of great media interest, but there is a danger that much of the national media will disappear before the state board gets down to hearing about the strengths and weaknesses of Darwin’s theory–the real issue in Kansas science standards.