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Black and White: There’s no ID under the Kansas Science Standards

Jack Krebs has kindly posted on Pandas Thumb a response to my challenge that someone provide some kind of evidence supporting the notion that the Kansas Science Standards open the door to teaching ID. I greatly appreciate that Mr. Krebs contacted me personally to inform me of his post and kindly invited me to respond.

My initial challenge posed an exceedingly low standard to be met, as I wanted to see what people would say in response. I give Mr. Krebs credit: he has made probably the strongest argument possible in favor of the notion that the Kansas Science Standards (KSS) open the door to teaching ID. If this is the strongest argument possible, then I’m fairly confident that the Kansas Science Standards do NOT include ID. What follows is an assessment of Mr. Krebs’ argument.

Mr. Krebs’ argument is a four-step process which goes like this:

  • (1) The KSS requires teaching the “the full range of scientific views that exist” regarding biological evolution (pg. ii). Thus any scientific view regarding evolution should be taught.
  • (2) Intelligent design is defined as scientific (“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.”) (KSS, pg. ii)
  • (3) Intelligent design is also defined as a view in opposition to evolution. (See above quote.)
  • (4) Given (2) and (3), under (1), intelligent design must be taught.

Mr. Krebs calls this issue “black and white.” Once one understands how courts analyze statutes, it’s clear Mr. Krebs is right.

Mr. Krebs’ argument that the KSS include ID is totally ambiguous. It is a tenuous four-step process that requires linking separate paragraphs of the KSS while ignoring other parts, yet nowhere in the KSS is there a clear call to teach students that life was designed. There is a call to teach “the full range of scientific views,” but this comes from a section discussing biological evolution, not intelligent design. Given that ID is not simply an argument against evolution (see below), it’s not clear how this could give rise to the teaching of ID without the positive content required to argue for intelligent design. The content sections of the KSS discuss numerous lines of evidence supporting and critiquing evolution, but nowhere do they invoke replacing evolution with the view that life was designed. Mr. Krebs’ argument is tenuous at best, and complete misreading of the KSS at worst.

A teacher reading these standards and trying to interpret them would not go through Mr. Krebs four-step process. Rather, a teacher wanting to know if the standards require her to teach ID would simply look at the KSS statement “We also emphasize that the Science Curriculum Standards do not include Intelligent Design” and conclude, “Seems pretty unambiguous that I don’t have to teach ID.” Mr. Krebs’ argument requires that every teacher in the state be in on some grand conspiracy, so that when the KSS state “you don’t have to teach ID” that they really know “that doesn’t apply, I’m actually supposed to teach ID.”

Clearly the standards do not prohibit teaching ID. But if ID is being taught, then it isn’t being taught because of a requirement under the KSS. The KSS clearly states that ID is not required nor prohibited.

How would a court deal with this?

The Kansas Science Standards would be interpreted like a statute. Thus, when we analyze them we have to apply the legal rules of statutory analysis. The cardinal rule of statutory analysis has been affirmed numerous times by the U.S. Supreme Court:

“‘In determining the scope of a statute, we look first to its language. If the statutory language is unambiguous, in the absence of `a clearly expressed legislative intent to the contrary, that language must ordinarily be regarded as conclusive.'” United States v. Turkette, 452 U.S. 576, 580 (1981), quoting from Consumer Product Safety Comm’n v. GTE Sylvania, Inc., 447 U.S. 102, 108 (1980). See also Dickerson v. New Banner Institute, Inc., 460 U.S. 103, 110 (1983); Lewis v. United States, 445 U.S. 55, 60 (1980).” (Russello v. U.S., 464 U.S. 16 (1983), emphasis added)

Thus, given the extreme tenuous nature of Mr. Krebs’ argument that the standards require the teaching of ID, we have to look closely at the text and then to legislative intent. In this case, the Kansas Science Standards have an unambiguous textual statement reflecting the legislative intent regarding intelligent design:

“We also emphasize that the Science Curriculum Standards do not include Intelligent Design”

Mr. Krebs was right: this issue is indeed black and white. The text of the KSS has a clear plain meaning that reflects the legislative intent that ID is not mandated. I can’t see how this dialogue isn’t over.

The Take-Home Message: Don’t Listen to Darwinists Who Try to Define ID

Mr. Krebs concludes that “the take-home message” is that “teaching the ‘strengths and weaknesses’ of evolution, teaching evolution ‘objectively’, teaching the students to ‘critically analyze’ evolution, or any other variant of ‘teach the controversy’ is teaching ID.” This is akin to Patricia Princehouse’s intriguingly false statement that “Critical analysis is just another name for creationism.” (Ohio Drops Demand That Evolution Be Challenged, by Stephanie Simon, 2/15/06) Mr. Krebs’ take-home message is based upon a wholly false understanding of ID.

The problem is that Mr. Krebs assumes that the argument for design is entailed in a negative argument against evolution. Thus if we critique evolution, we must be teaching ID. This is the wishful-thinking Darwinist definition of ID. In reality, arguing for intelligent design requires positive content, where we detect information in nature which matches our understanding of the type of information produced when intelligent agents act. Stephen Meyer, William Dembski, and Michael Behe explain this point well:

“Intelligent design provides a sufficient causal explanation for the origin of large amounts of information, since we have considerable experience of intelligent agents generating informational configurations of matter.” (Meyer S. C. et. al., “The Cambrian Explosion: Biology’s Big Bang,” in Darwinism, Design, and Public Education, edited by J. A. Campbell and S. C. Meyer (Michigan State University Press, 2003).)

“Though defined as a negation, design delivers much more than a negation … To see why the filter is so well suited for recognizing intelligent agency, we must understand what it is about intelligent agents that reveals their activity. The principal characteristic of intelligent agency is directed contingency, or what we call choice. … Specification is the only means available to us for distinguishing choice from chance, directed contingency from blind contingency.” (William A. Dembski, The Design Inference, pg. 62, 64 (emphasis in original).)

“As I testified, the ID argument is an induction, not an analogy. Inductions do not depend on the degree of similarity of examples within the induction. Examples only have to share one or a subset of relevant properties. For example, the induction that, ceteris paribus, black objects become warm in the sunlight holds for a wide range of dissimilar objects. A black automobile and a black rock become warm in the sunlight, even though they have many dissimilarities. The induction holds because they share a similar relevant property, their blackness. The induction that many fragments rushing away from each other indicates a past explosion holds for both firecrackers and the universe (in the Big Bang theory), even though firecrackers and the universe have many, many dissimilarities. Cellular machines and machines in our everyday world share a relevant property — their functional complexity, born of a purposeful arrangement of parts — and so inductive conclusions to design can be drawn on the basis of that shared property. To call an induction into doubt one has to show that dissimilarities make a relevant difference to the property one wishes to explain.” (Whether Intelligent Design is Science A Response to the Opinion of the Court in Kitzmiller vs Dover Area School District, by Michael Behe.)

The KSS contains nothing requiring discussion of anything remotely resembling this sort of necessary positive content for ID. Moreover, as Michael Francisco points out, Krebs’ argument that the KSS define ID negatively mis-reads and misconstrues the text. The Darwinists contended vigorously at the Dover trial, “Intelligent design has arguments with fancy names like ‘irreducible complexity’ and ‘specified complexity,’ but these arguments are not a positive case for intelligent design, just negative attacks on evolution.” (Day 1 AM, pg. 11, see also Dr. Ken Miller’s testimony at Day 1 PM, pg 15) They also claimed that ID is nothing more than a negative argument against evolution. They wish to completely ignore the positive case for intelligent design.

So here’s a short lesson in ID for Mr. Krebs and the Darwinists: ID has positive content, and without that positive content you don’t have an argument for design. This positive content is completely lacking from the Kansas Science Standards, so there’s no way that you’re going to get ID out of it.

And for everyone else, the take-home message is don’t listen to Darwinists when they try to define ID. They constantly misconstrue the nature and definition of ID to serve their own ends. Let the proponents of ID define their own theory.

Conclusion: the Real Take-Home Message

Mr. Krebs argument thus employs the “false dualism” that arguments for ID rely solely upon the falsification of evolution. This false dualism exists only in the minds of Darwinists, who subsequently implanted it into mind of Judge Jones. It assumes that the argument for ID is solely based upon a negative argument against evolution. This is not the case, as arguing for intelligent design requires positive content.

Mr. Krebs’ argument also ignores how courts would interpret the unambigously clear statement of legislative intent regarding the KSS. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

“We also emphasize that the Science Curriculum Standards do not include Intelligent Design.”

This isn’t a conspiracy where every teacher in the state somehow “knows” that the KSS don’t mean what they unambigously say. Mr. Krebs’ argument requires the greatest conspiracy in education ever known, and baseless claims that “teaching the controversy” is equivalent to teaching intelligent design. Mr. Krebs’ argument is based upon conspiracy theories and baseless claims that “teaching the controversy” is equivalent to teaching intelligent design. This argument should not sway informed people.

Casey Luskin

Associate Director and Senior Fellow, 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.