[Marxism] What's the matter with Kansas?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Nov 9 07:26:10 MST 2005

Kansas Education Board First to Back 'Intelligent Design'
Schools to Teach Doubts About Evolutionary Theory

By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 9, 2005; A01

TOPEKA, Kan., Nov. 8 -- 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 

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."

The bitterly fought effort pushes Kansas to the forefront of a war over 
evolution being waged in courts in Pennsylvania and Georgia and statehouses 
nationwide. President Bush stated his own position last summer, buoying 
social conservatives when he said "both sides" should be taught.

"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."

The Board of Education does not mandate what will be taught to public 
school students, a decision left to local school boards. But by determining 
what students are expected to know for state assessment tests, the board 
standards typically influence what students learn.

Analysts said Kansas delivered a deeper and more detailed challenge to the 
teaching of evolution than other states. While a lawsuit is possible before 
the standards take effect, one organization created to oppose changes to 
science teaching said politics may be the swifter route. Four of the six 
board members voting yes will face reelection next year and three already 
have drawn opposition.

Eight school board members in Dover, Pa., who backed "intelligent design" 
were ousted by voters Tuesday, the Associated Press reported. But a 
spokesman for the Democratic slate that won said it would be guided by a 
judge's decision in a court challenge to the curriculum.

"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 

Members of the Kansas majority insisted that science motivated them, 
although several have made clear their position that life's development is 
too complex to be explained by natural evolution unguided by a higher 
power. That view describes many adherents of intelligent design, a critique 
of evolutionary theory that has gained particular support from the 
religious right -- and ridicule from the vast majority of trained scientists.

Asked about intelligent design last summer, Bush said, "Both sides ought to 
be properly taught . . . so people can understand what the debate is about."

Prominent scientists and scientific organizations dismiss the call from 
intelligent design proponents to "teach the controversy." The scientific 
mainstream says there is no significant controversy, that evidence from 
fields ranging from paleontology to molecular biology shows all life on 
Earth originated from a single simple life-form.

Intelligent design "does not provide any natural explanation that can be 
tested," said Francisco J. Ayala, an expert in evolutionary genetics and 
past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 
He said the Kansas standards "are an insult to science, an insult to 
education and an insult to the American Constitution."

The Kansas board argued about which side was more truthful.

Member Kenneth Willard accused the scientific establishment of having 
"blind faith in evolution." He told his colleagues during a 45-minute 
debate that the anti-evolution view is more intellectually honest.

"What we're dealing with here," Willard said in an argument that infuriates 
mainstream scientists, "is a high degree of fear of change."

Two Republicans and two Democrats opposed the move. Sue Gamble said the 
board, by dropping a phrase that defined science as "a search for natural 
explanations of observable phenomena," was opening the door to supernatural 
explanations. Waugh said she believes in the biblical version of creation, 
but does not believe it should be taught in science class. And Carol Rupe 
mentioned the "hundreds and hundreds of scientists from around the world" 
who wrote to protest the board's impending move.

"I wish you were not changing science to have it fit into your faith," she 
said. "It's a lousy time for us to be lowering science standards in Kansas."


Opinion - William Rees-Mogg
The Times 	November 07, 2005
A pope for our times: why Darwin is back on the agenda at the Vatican

IN THE mid-1980s I was a member of a Vatican body with the impressive title 
International Committee of the Pontifical Council for Culture. Each year we 
had a meeting with Pope John-Paul II; on one occasion he gave us lunch and 
served a light white wine from, I think, a papal vineyard.

The other members of the committee included a splendid Ibo lady, the head 
of the Catholic Women's Movement in Nigeria, an Indian nun, a Japanese 
Jesuit and a Francophone president of an African nation who believed that 
French culture and a sound classical education would be the best answer to 
Africa's educational problems. I enjoyed our discussions, which were almost 
always held in French.

The idea, which came from the Pope himself, was far-sighted. We foresaw 
what has subsequently been called the "clash of civilisations"; we tried to 
relate that conflict to the widely differing cultures of the billion 
members of the Roman Catholic Church. We discussed the impact of particular 
developments in modern science but so far as I can remember we did not try 
to deal with the central problem of the relationship between science and 
religion; that seems to have come now.

Our chairman was Cardinal Paul Poupard, an admirable example of the 
cultivated French intellectual in the Roman Curia; he is still the head of 
the Pontifical Council for Culture. Whether the council still has an 
international committee I do not know, since I left it nearly 20 years ago. 
Last week the cardinal was giving a press conference before a meeting in 
Rome of scientists, philosophers and theologians; this week they will be 
discussing the difficult subject of infinity. Cardinal Poupard had a 
beautifully trained French mind and inner loyalty to the Catholic faith. 
Nothing he says is said without careful thought. At the press conference he 
was discussing the issue of evolution, which is the critical dividing line 
between science and religion. Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species 
shook religious belief when it was first published in 1859 in a way that 
Isaac Newton's equally important Principia had not shaken the faith of 1687.

In The Times Martin Penner reported the cardinal's argument. He had said 
that the description in Genesis of the Creation was "perfectly compatible" 
with Darwin's theory of evolution, if the Bible were read properly. 
"Fundamentalists want to give a scientific meaning to words that had no 
scientific aim."

full: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,1052-1860310,00.html



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