09 November 2005

Kansas: The Stupid State, Again.

The Kansas State Board of Education has voted by a 6-4 margin, to ignore modern science.

[S]ome board members who backed the standards have been outspoken about their faith and have criticized evolution for being offensive to Christianity.

Coming soon. . . . Christians criticize helicentric theory for being offensive to Christianity (hey, it isn't like that hasn't happened before in history).

"We're becoming a laughingstock, not only of the nation but of the world."


In 1999, the state approved standards that eliminated all references to evolution. Kansas became the butt of jokes on late-night television, the conservative majority on the board was swept out of office in the 2000 elections, and the anti-evolution standards were repealed.

But religious conservatives recaptured control of the education board last fall amid a statewide campaign against gay marriage, and they quickly went to work on the new science standards.

Those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it.

Tuesday's vote makes Kansas the fifth state to adopt standards that cast doubt on evolution. . . . The National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Teachers Association - two groups whose material makes up the backbone of Kansas' science standards - told the state in advance that they would revoke copyright privileges if the new standards were approved. . . . Ohio, Minnesota, New Mexico and Pennsylvania have adopted standards that encourage questioning of evolution by local school districts.

Joy. None of them have, however, removed "natural explainations" from the definition of science itself.


russ said...

just stumbled in here

great blog! I shall visit again.

Sotosoroto said...

The Theory of Evolution is just that, a theory. It should be taken with as many grains of salt as any other proposed Truth.

I think it's good that the schools will force children to question ideas and concepts instead of being spoonfed information like zombies. Whatever it takes to get them to learn to think for themselves.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Intelligent Design, in contrast, is not a theory. It is more like wall paper. It doesn't predict anything, its premises are based on erroneous facts, and the only people see any merit in it are politicans and theologians who don't understand science, who are the real zombies, indifferent to the overwhelming weight of empirical evidence in favor of theological and philosophical constructs.

Evolution is an area of inquiry that does receive lots of serious critical inquiry and re-examination from respectable scientists. But, those inquires resolve issues within this broad field of inquiry. For example, was human evolution singular, or multi-local? How much of a role as gene change due to viral infection played relative to gene change due to random mutation? Were mastadons killed off by climate change or by overhunting?

There is nothing wrong with an occassional oversimplification for pedagogical reasons. For example, we know for certain that Newton's formulation of the theory of gravity is incorrect. General Relativity has supplanted it and been proved more accurate in a wealth of experiments. But, we still teach it, it is still used every day because it is often a practical approximatation, and our physics textbooks are not full of deceptive "gravity is just a theory" disclaimers. Just as Newton's theory hasn't been thrown out, even though we have better theories now to explain the same thing, evolution will never, ever be thrown out as a mistake. We have to much evidence for that to happen. It may be refined, but that is an entirely different ball of wax.

Part of critical scientific analysis is learning to recognize crackpots. If the Kansas curriculum were geared towards helping students distinguish between crackpot theories that doesn't pose a meaningful alternative to accepted mainstream theoreis, like ID and astrology, and the kind of respectable peer reviewed scientific debates that really take place (e.g. the ongoing debate in physics between dark matter proponents and modified gravity theory proponents), I'd be all for it. But, it isn't.

Schools should not fall victim to the disease that has afflicted so much of the main stream media (CNN, e.g., recently gave its megaphone to a guy who claims, contrary to overwhelming evidence, that vaccinations don't prevent diseases), which is that there are just different opinions and theories, and that there are no such things of facts.

Anonymous said...

Yep, Kansas, as DUMB as you think.