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Chicken Little: Why The Sky is NOT Falling in Kansas, Even Though “Pro-Darwin”-Only Proponents Say Otherwise

Casey Luskin

Critics have been loudly proclaiming that the sky is falling because Kansas is daring to teach lines of scientific evidence which challenge Neo-Darwinism (evidence which is based in mainstream peer-reviewed literature). These critics have provided a parade of horribles that these standards will lead to everything from “teaching creationism,” to “teaching religion,” to “teaching intelligent design,” to ridicule, and worst of all, God. Yet the latest draft posted on the Kansas State Board of Education website (from August 9, 2005) says the following about teaching intelligent design:

We also emphasize that the Science Curriculum Standards do not include Intelligent Design, the scientific disagreement with the claim of many evolutionary biologists that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion. While the testimony presented at the science hearings included many advocates of Intelligent Design, these standards neither mandate nor prohibit teaching about this scientific disagreement.”

(Kansas Science Education Standards DRAFT 2(d) August 9, 2005)

In other words, the standards “emphasize that the Science Curriculum Standards do not include Intelligent Design” and state that the “standards neither mandate nor prohibit teaching about [intelligent design].” Oh wait, those were the EXACT words! How could the board have been more clear? These standards do not “mandate” nor even “include” teaching about intelligent design!

The Board needed to include this statement because many of the scientists who testified at the hearings were pro-ID. But the Board in its wisdom chose not to mandate the teaching of ID, and it needed to include a statement making its position clear.

If Darwinists are going to continually claim that the new standards “open the door” for teaching intelligent design (or creationism, or religion, etc.) then I challenge them to produce language in the standards which sanctions the teaching of such. From what I can read, the standards specifically disclaim endorsement or prohibition of teaching ID. The standards explicitly go out of their way to be neutral on the subject.

Darwinist Namecalling and Scare Tactics
When I was a graduate student at UCSD doing coursework at Scripps Institution for Oceanography, I once attended a seminar by UCSD biochemist Russell Doolittle who was attempting to rebut Michael Behe’s chapter on the blood clotting cascade in Darwin’s Black Box. Doolittle did make various scientific arguments (which were entirely based upon sequences similarities of genes), but during the told my class he told us that the best tactic he had in fighting creationists was “ridicule.” This advice has apparently been taken to heart by Darwinists who want to shame Kansas into submission.

Various recent articles about Kansas have recounted that in 1999, when Kansas removed some references to macroevolution from its standards, critics of Kansas said the following:

Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould said that was akin to teaching “American history without Lincoln.” Bill Nye, the “Science Guy” of children’s television, called it “harebrained” and “nutty.” And a Washington Post columnist imagined God saying to the Kansas board members: “Man, I gave you a brain. Use it, OK?”

(‘Intelligent Design’ Wins In Kan.)

Now granted, if there is a solution to this problem, the solution is NOT to remove macroevolution. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: students need to learn more about evolution, not less.

Evolutionary theory is an extremely important concept in biology, and learning about evolution without talking about macroevolution would be like learning about intelligent design without talking about the bacterial flagellum. The current Kansas standards do mention macroevolution (and allow for critical analysis), and that is good.

Namecalling should be avoided by all on all sides in this debate. I’m sure that both sides are guilty of it, but right now all I’m talking about is Kansas. Thus I was particularly intrigued by the comments of one board member who was quoted as follows:

“This is a sad day. We’re becoming a laughingstock of not only the nation, but of the world, and I hate that,” said board member Janet Waugh, a Kansas City Democrat.

(Kan. school board OKs evolution language)

Now there’s a good reason to oppose a policy: because people will laugh at you. After all, we know that America was founded by pushovers and yes-men (or yes-women) who simply did what the tyrannical majority wanted them to do, regardless of whether it was good, just, or right. I hope my sarcasm is coming through loud and clear.

Don’t people get it? Ms. Waugh has either (1) caved in to Darwinist namecallers who used ridicule as a tactic to psychologically beat Kansans into submission or (2) is a Darwinist herself and wants to inflame namecalling and social fears of such because she knows it will cause more public opposition to the new standards (which she opposes).

In fact, the namecalling has already started, exemplified in this brilliantly original and witty piece entitled Kansas Education Board Touts Flat Earth Curriculum (note again: sarcasm). But Kansans should not be scared off by Darwinist namecalling. One Ohio Education Board member wrote a letter to Kansans retelling how she experienced precisely the same scare tactics in Ohio after they passed their standards providing for accurate and critical analysis of Neo-Darwinism. As she explains below, these scare tactics turned out to be nothing but mean-spirited misconstruals, dogmatism, and empty threats:

“So you see that what is now being proposed in Kansas, and other states is not so radical. Indeed it is in line with how evolution is being taught in other states, such as Ohio, which did not cave in to the evolutionary dogmatist. Indeed the efforts of many in the self designated elite scientific community have been to preach chemical and biological evolution as the total explanation for everything. This is one of the central issues in this controversy.

These same dogmatists will likely use their scare tactics in Kansas, and elsewhere just as they did in Ohio. They will try and tell you that challenging any aspect of evolution will lead to turning the science classroom into a bible study on Genesis. They will contend that it will make states appear backward, and companies will flee, along with much needed investments in science and technology.

Rest assured that virtually none of this has happened in Ohio.

(Letter from Deborah L. Owens-Fink, Ph.D., member of Ohio State Board of Education)

My encouragement for Kansans is thus this: stand united against those who would subject you to namecalling and mockery. That’s all they have going for them, and it’s just a scare tactic. Kansans: Stand united, be American, and reject the empty sting of namecalling tactics, and follow the lead of this board member:

“We are being very brave. We are brave enough to have all areas discussed,” said board member Kathy Martin, a Clay Center Republican. “Students will be informed and not indoctrinated.”

(Extremely biased article that uses a totally straw-version of ID in the Colorado Daily)

Kansans have my empathy if now they must suffer the consequences from those who have no better arguments than to use Russell Doolittle’s “ridicule” tactic to attempt to shame and humiliate you into opposing these new, excellent standards.


Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.