Thursday, November 10, 2005

Win a few, lose a few

Because my post yesterday was linked to the anniversary of a specific historical event and I didn't want to dilute the message by writing about anything else, I intentionally did not comment on rather important events that occurred in the unending struggle of religious fundamentalists to foist "intelligent design" off as science on students in public schools.

First up, the good news. In Dover, PA, where the school board who supported the introduction of "intelligent design" creationism as an "alternative" to evolution lost their bid for re-election. It was a clean sweep, or, as the NYT put it, a "repudiation of the first school district in the nation to order the introduction of intelligent design in a science class curriculum." Another likely cause was voter dissatisfaction with the perceived waste of school money paying for the lawsuit that resulted. They were replaced by a slate of candidates who support the teaching of intelligent design in the classroom--the comparative religion classroom, where it belongs. Now, with the finish of the Dover intelligent design trial, we can only hope that the court puts the final nail in the coffin by ruling against the school board. The beautiful thing about this case was that the utter vacuity of the arguments for ID and the connection between creationism and intelligent design was publicized and put in the public record for all to see.

Unfortunately, all is not well. In Kansas, the state Board of Education has approved new science education standards that downplay evolution:
OPEKA, Kan. - Risking the kind of nationwide ridicule it faced six years ago, the Kansas Board of Education approved new public-school science standards Tuesday that cast doubt on the theory of evolution.

The 6-4 vote was a victory for “intelligent design” advocates who helped draft the standards. Intelligent design holds that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power.

Critics of the new language charged that it was an attempt to inject God and creationism into public schools, in violation of the constitutional ban on state establishment of religion.

All six of those who voted for the new standards were Republicans. Two Republicans and two Democrats voted no.

“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.
Sadly, it's true. Although it's unfair to consider Kansas a laughingstock, it's hard not to consider the Kansas state government and Board of Education to be utter laughingstocks, given that the Board even went so far as to change the definition of science such that it will no longer be limited to a search for natural explanations of observed phenomena. Gee, does that mean I can postulate ghosts, angels, or evil spirits as the cause of various natural phenomena? After all, if you don't limit science to naturalistic explanations, why stop at evolution?

We can only hope that the good voters of Kansas, spurred on by people like Pat Hayes and Josh Rosenau and others who know what science is and support the teaching of good science in public schools, throw the bums out next year. Here's also hoping that the present Board of Education doesn't do too much damage in the year remaining.

In the meantime, perhaps we should all all heed these warning stickers that I found at the Annals of Improbable Research (which also noted that Kansas, in its previous attempts to undermine the teaching of evolution, is the co-winner of the IgNobel Prize for Science Education:

as per order of the Board of Education,
November 8, 2005

Use of this device or substance may
require, imply, and/or endorse the existence
of one or more of the following:
chemistry; evolution; electromagnetism;
gravity; mathematics; thermodynamics;

A printable PDF file can be found here.

2 example(s) of insolence returned:

At 11/10/2005 2:05 PM, Anonymous DawnCNM said...

OK, so do I move to Kansas, refuse to let my children be exposed to ID, get arrested and become the next Swopes? Or do I stay where I am and shake my head in sorrow for the children who have this muck dumped into their heads? This is so sad.


At 11/10/2005 6:20 PM, Blogger The Probe said...

Pat Robertson has said:

"Robertson told Dover residents, "If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God." The founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network explained, "You just voted God out of your city.""

What a maroon!


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