Jack Krebs posted Entry 2946 on March 1, 2007 09:44 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2936

Four little mini-posts:

1. Good standards have returned - what now?

2. The threat of suit?

3. The Intelligent Design network’s rejoinder to Dodos: “Kansas Science Hearings: Exposing the Evolution Controversy”

4. The Discovery Institute hits bottom

Good standards have returned - what now?

Well, as you all probably know, Kansas once again returned to having good science standards which properly describe the nature of science and the basics of evolution. On Tuesday, February 13 the state Board of Education voted 6-4 to adopt the standards written by the duly-appointed writing committee, thus throwing out the standards containing all the material inserted by the Intelligent Design advocates back in 2005.

However, we are not breathing too big a sigh of relief.

As virtually every news story has pointed out, this is the fifth set of standards in the past eight years. Two pro-science incumbents on the Board have already announced that they are not running in 2008. The prospect of anti-evolutionists regaining control of the Board in two years is real, and given the contentiousness of the evolution issue, they certainly could revive the issue even though the standards are not due for revision until at least 2010 (or 2014, depending on who you talk to.)

Reasonable voices in the state are already pointing out how disruptive this would be. The Lawrence Journal World, in a recent editorial entitled Kansas voters must maintain their focus on stabilizing the Kansas State Board of Education, said,

What’s important is that Kansas voters not let their attention to the affairs of the state school board lapse in the next two years. Only the voters can ensure a stable long-term direction for the board that plays such a vital role in the education of Kansas youngsters.

However, being dependent on the voters for stability is obviously an iffy proposition. As Steve Case, chair of the writing committee, has said to me, “The Board runs the risk of becoming irrelevant.”

So, in my opinion, we have two tasks before us in Kansas:

First, we need to educate the public about the nature of science, and about evolution in particular. We need to focus on the voters in the middle of the socio-political spectrum, and we need to directly address, in a positive, accessible way, the misconceptions and concerns people have, including their concerns about the relationship between science and their religious beliefs.

We also need to find a better way to produce science standards: the current method is too vulnerable to political whims. The Kansas state BOE has more autonomy than any other BOE in the country, I think, so when we get a Board with the votes and the political will, any policy can be overturned. Somehow we need to get a firm process that respects the scientific and educational communities.

The threat of suit?

On the day of the vote, right before the science standards were to be discussed, Board member Ken Willard called for an executive session for a matter of attorney/client privilege. As was later reported in the news, the subject of the executive session was the possibility of the Board being sued if they passed the new standards, on the grounds that science, by “seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us,” is inherently materialist (philosophically) and atheistic. Lawyer John Calvert, head of the Kansas ID group, has long argued that therefore teaching “evolution only” is unconstitutional: he says that the Kansas science standards constitute “state endorsement of materialism.”

In fact, it turns out that Calvert, in response to questions Willard had asked the previous month, had submitted a fourteen page brief addressing the question of whether it was permissible for the state to endorse materialism, and to suppress evidence that is critical of evolutionary theory. (See here for a scanned pdf of Calvert’s letter.)

So even though it seems extremely unlikely to me that anyone would be misguided enough to sue on these grounds, Calvert and Willard are certainly making some noise about the possibility. (See Red State Rabble’s post here for more.)

The Intelligent Design network’s rejoinder to Dodos: “Kansas Science Hearings: Exposing the Evolution Controversy”

On Darwin’s Day we had a nice event at KU: various activities at the Natural History Museum, and then a showing of Flock of Dodos. Presumably in a countermove, IDnet premiered their documentary “Kansas Science Hearings: Exposing the Evolution Controversy” at the Glenwood Arts Theater in Kansas City.

The IDnet press release had this to say:

Exposing the Evolution Controversy

Now showing at local theaters in Kansas!

Is there a genuine scientific controversy over evolution? A new documentary movie about Kansas Science Hearings held two years ago answer that question with a resounding “Yes.” The film also shows why the controversy needs to be addressed in public schools….

Where did humans come from? What is the origin of life and its diversity? Any answer to these questions have a major impact on what we believe about religion, ethics, morals and even government. The US was founded on the idea that we derive unalienable rights from a Creator. However, materialistic cultures claim that because life is not a creation it has no inherent purpose or rights. Human rights exist only to the extent provided by government….

The documentary is fast-paced and filled with drama as witnesses testify about systematic suppression of the controversy, fear in the class room and loss of jobs for teaching Darwin objectively. All of the witnesses were cross examined by an ACLU attorney. The hearings end with fireworks - a shocking refusal of the Materialists to submit to questions from the other side.

I was intrigued: I wondered how many people would show up at the Glenwood Arts Theater (which we found out had been rented for the occasion), and what the ID folks had done to make a “fast-paced” show, “filled with drama.”

As it turns out, Calvert gave all the state Board members DVD’s of the film, in two versions: the 2.5 hour public version and the special 5+ hour version! Since the Board can’t actually accept gifts like this, I got copies of both DVD’s from the Board clerk.

So how is this fast-paced, drama-filled film? Well, actually, it is nothing more than excerpts from each of the 23 ID witnesses. The only commentary is a voice-over at the start of each presentation reciting the speakers credentials - these guys love Ph.D.’s. It was boring then, and it is boring now; there is nothing there that you can’t get by reading the transcripts. And, of course, there are none of the juicy moments, such as the steady confusion over how old the earth is, the consistent denial of common descent, or the clueless questions and gushing cheerleading from the Board members on the hearing committee.

The Discovery Institute hits bottom

The day before the vote, in a desperate attempt to drum up outrage, the Discovery Institute wrote in a press release,

A national group [the DI)] is urging the Kansas State Board of Education to reject on Tuesday a plan to delete coverage of the historical misuses of science from state curriculum standards, including a reference to the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment targeting African-Americans.

“The board’s plan to whitewash the history of science is shameful,” said Dr. John West, Vice President for Public Policy and Legal Affairs at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. West sent a letter to the board on Monday opposing the change.

(Source)

This was silly. The ID folks, in an effort to put part of their standard complaint that evolution is responsible for all sorts of evils, including eugenics, Nazism, abortion and everything else bad under the sun, had inserted a phrase in the old standards that said,

Science has led to significant improvements in physical health and economic growth; however, modern science can sometimes be abused by scientists and policymakers, leading to significant negative consequences for society and violations of human dignity (e.g., the eugenics movement in America and Germany; the Tuskegee syphilis experiments; and scientific justifications of eugenics and racism).

The Board was not “deleting” this statement. The Board was replacing the entire set of standards written by the IDists with the standards written by the duly-appointed committee, and we on the committee never even considered a sentence like the one inserted by the IDists. We didn’t edit or revise the old ID standards, deleting this and adding that - we just ignored the ID standards and went back to the standards we were writing before the ID folks were allowed to take over.

There are two things about this that upset me. The first is the implication that we on the committee and on the state Board, because we are “evolutionists,” are somehow supportive of the above “violations of human dignity” but don’t want students to know about them. This is insulting, and shows how low the DI will go to stir up divisive and hateful emotions.

Secondly, this illustrates again that the ID movement has no shame in abusing the educational system for their own purposes. It should be clear that if the topics mentioned belong in standards of any kind, they belong in social studies standards, not science standards. Throughout this whole affair, and repeatedly in other states, the anti-evolutionists are using the educational system as a convenient vehicle for their cultural agenda, and our children don’t deserve this.

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Comment #163507

Posted by Les Lane on March 1, 2007 10:58 PM (e)

“Kansas Science Hearings: Exposing the Evolution Controversy”

To the appropriate audience the 5 hour version must be twice as exciting as the 2.5 hour version. It could be still more exciting if Casey Luskin gave a 2 hour introduction.

Comment #163508

Posted by Kevin on March 1, 2007 11:02 PM (e)

“However, materialistic cultures claim that because life is not a creation it has no inherent purpose or rights. Human rights exist only to the extent provided by government”

WHAT?

that is so odd. LIfe has one main purpose, to live. second is to procreate and third is to have a good time (art, science, blogs, beer) I don’t think anyone claims inherent rights as a sack of bacteria, people claims rights as part of living in society. In fact, rights are a construct of civilization and when you strip off the veneir (sic) then its doggy eats doggy.

and its not us who made up the divine right of kings……so progressives think that people neeed to force the government to Protect our rights in society, not provide them

is there a right to shelter? a high school education? medical care? Do we EXPECT the government to provide them…

well for your grandmother I guess so! for you, not so much.

Comment #163509

Posted by Sir_Toejam on March 1, 2007 11:05 PM (e)

As it turns out, Calvert gave all the state Board members DVD’s of the film, in two versions: the 2.5 hour public version and the special 5+ hour version! Since the Board can’t actually accept gifts like this, I got copies of both DVD’s from the Board clerk.

uh, congratulations?

..and…

congratulations, for real, on making through this living nightmare. Kansas wakes up to a new day. let’s just hope the nightmare doesn’t repeat itself tommorrow.

cheers

Comment #163511

Posted by Gerry L on March 1, 2007 11:42 PM (e)

A thought for disposing of the DVDs: The BoE clerk could run a contest.
1st prize - the 2.5 hour version
2nd prize - the 5+ hour version
And 3rd prize - both

Comment #163562

Posted by Christophe Thill on March 2, 2007 7:11 AM (e)

“The US was founded on the idea that we derive unalienable rights from a Creator. However, materialistic cultures claim that because life is not a creation it has no inherent purpose or rights. Human rights exist only to the extent provided by government…”

The European monarchies of the 16th/18th centuries were based on the notion of “divine right”, that is, the idea that a Creator gave the King his special power, and that opposing the monarchy is going against God’s will.

Political philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau retorted with a materialistic view called the “social contract” doctrine. One day, it says, before there was a real society, all the people got together and agreed to live as a social whole and to create a government whose purpose was to make sure that everything could go on in harmony. No need of a god, who is (here just as elsewhere) an unneeded hypothesis.

(Of course, it’s a fable. But at the time, it was a weapon.)

Those guys also built the notion of “human rights”: all humans are products of nature, not one of them is above the others from right of birth. So they all should have equal rights.

(Of course, the poor remain poor and the rich remain rich. But its only because the rich are “hard-working” and the poor “lazy”. No gift of God here.)

So, here in Europe, it’s rather the other way round. In the God-driven monarchic system, the government is everything and you are nothing. In the godless republican system, the power derives from the will of the people, and this is the government’s only source of legitimity.

Well, what does that prove? Perhaps that the DI folks are just as ignorant of history and politics as they are of science… ?

Comment #163579

Posted by DM on March 2, 2007 9:14 AM (e)

Is it just IDist abusing the educational system?

How about USING science to push atheism, as Sean Carroll advocate?
http://cosmicvariance.com/2007/02/14/thank-you-r…

Comment #163582

Posted by Jack Krebs on March 2, 2007 9:34 AM (e)

No one is pushing atheism in public education using the science standards. People are arguing for atheism in the public arena, which is where the argument belongs. There’s a huge difference between these two things.

Comment #163597

Posted by FL on March 2, 2007 10:22 AM (e)

First, we need to educate the public about the nature of science, and about evolution in particular. We need to focus on the voters in the middle of the socio-political spectrum, and we need to directly address, in a positive, accessible way, the misconceptions and concerns people have, including their concerns about the relationship between science and their religious beliefs.

Absolutely true……for all sides. May the best side (the nondarwinist side) win!

Comment #163598

Posted by Mike on March 2, 2007 10:28 AM (e)

“And, of course, there are none of the juicy moments, such as the steady confusion over how old the earth is, the consistent denial of common descent, or the clueless questions and gushing cheerleading from the Board members on the hearing committee.”

Seems like it might be A Good Thing to have the tapes of the Kansas Kangaroo Court edited specifically to show the confusions and cluelessnesses, pass it around on DVD or Youtube and call it ‘What is the Discovery Institute Hiding?’.

Comment #163600

Posted by Jack Krebs on March 2, 2007 11:03 AM (e)

I’ve respomded to FL over at the KCFS forums, here, which is the appropriate place for further discussion with FL, I think.

Comment #163602

Posted by Pat Hayes on March 2, 2007 11:19 AM (e)

I listened to Sean Carrol speak at K-State last night. He does not advocate using science to push atheism, quite the contrary. He believes that science and religion can co-exitst quite comfortably. The problem, he said, is not religion, but biblical literalism.

And, he pointed out to all that heard him that he was taught evolutionary theory by a Catholic priest.

Comment #163617

Posted by DragonScholar on March 2, 2007 1:49 PM (e)

Don’t be surprised at the low blows. Literally the ID/DI groups have nothing left to use but lies. It’s the only kind of arrow in their quiver.

I suspect in the next few years the ID/DI line will get more and more fevrent, possibly until people bring defamation suits against them.

Comment #163620

Posted by Sir_Toejam on March 2, 2007 1:56 PM (e)

I’ve respomded to FL over at the KCFS forums, here, which is the appropriate place for further discussion with FL, I think.

Actually, I rather think the best place to engage FL would be here:

[From Jack: I’m sorry, but I’ve deleted the link here. For both personal and principled reasons, I don’t think statements about people’s mental health, joking or not, should be part of our dialogue.]

Comment #163626

Posted by Keanus on March 2, 2007 3:48 PM (e)

I do a slow burn whenever someone mischaracterizes the teaching of evolution as promoting atheism. Such a belief comes either from a genuine ignorance of evolution, from which most people suffer, or from outright lying, the practice of FL, Casey Luskin, and other acolytes of the DI. They revel in a strawman image of evolution that’s unrecognizable to anyone who knows anything about evolution, but insist their description is accurate. Yet it bears about as much kinship to evolution as Tarzan’s vine swinging does to flying an F-16.

Comment #163633

Posted by wamba on March 2, 2007 4:35 PM (e)

The US was founded on the idea that we derive unalienable rights from a Creator.

Nope. That is presumably based on a line from the Declaration of Independence,

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…

See also the bit about “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” To say that a “Creator” (presumably other than my parents) endowed me with a right, but I can’t enjoy that right without the benefit of a human-made government is quite empty.
However, this is irrelevant as the U.S was not founded on the Declaration of Independence. That was, well, a declaration of our independence from Great Britain. The nation was founded on the United States Constitution, which says:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America….

Once again, we see that it only through our own efforts that we can secure any liberty. No Creator need apply.

Comment #163635

Posted by wamba on March 2, 2007 4:38 PM (e)

The Discovery Institute hits bottom

Don’t be too sure. They’ve got a shovel and they know how to use it.

Comment #163637

Posted by Sir_Toejam on March 2, 2007 5:05 PM (e)

actually, Wamba, I think the key issue in the declaration is in the very first word:

We hold these truths to be self-evident…

WE decided which truths were self evident.

this is how all rights ARE decided.

not by “god”

not by Allah

not by Zeuss.

the rest of the language is irrelevant.

Comment #163638

Posted by Sir_Toejam on March 2, 2007 5:06 PM (e)

er, just to refocus pretty much exactly what you said.

Comment #163640

Posted by FL on March 2, 2007 5:16 PM (e)

I am going to engage Jack for a while at KCFS, Sir Toe. Now, as for you, you clearly ain’t got what it takes to go there and help him out on this particular subtopic that he’s brought up, so you just wait here in the corner till I’m done givin’ him the bizness, ok?

FL :)

Comment #163649

Posted by John Krehbiel on March 2, 2007 8:26 PM (e)

Seems the creationists have almost as much trouble recognizing ceremonial deism when they see it as some of us atheists. “Endowed by our creator” means about as much as “In God we trust.” No sense making a big deal about it either way. (Not to mention “Under God”)

Meanwhile:

Creationist: “If we are not specially created by God, we might as well all climb trees and throw our feces.”

Me: “Do you really want to throw feces?”

(These comments have really been made. I didn’t make it up.)

Comment #163650

Posted by Chris Harrison on March 2, 2007 8:28 PM (e)

Pat Hayes wrote:

I listened to Sean Carrol speak at K-State last night. He does not advocate using science to push atheism, quite the contrary. He believes that science and religion can co-exitst quite comfortably. The problem, he said, is not religion, but biblical literalism.

And, he pointed out to all that heard him that he was taught evolutionary theory by a Catholic priest.

I could be wrong, but I think the Sean Carrol you’re talking about here is the evolutionary biologist and geneticist Sean B. Carroll( http://seanbcarroll.com/ ). The Sean Carrol DM mentioned and linked to is a physics guy at the Calif. Institute of Tech.

Comment #163654

Posted by Jack Krebs on March 2, 2007 8:54 PM (e)

You’re right, but that is confusing. One of them needs to change their name. :-)

Comment #163687

Posted by WAI on March 3, 2007 9:54 AM (e)

Teach what we observe in the world around us

As posted also at KCFS in response to the same, Calvert raised “the possibility of the Board being sued if they passed the new standards, on the grounds that science, by seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us, is inherently materialist (philosophically) and atheistic.”

Unlikely as such a suit may be, perhaps some actually believe it would have merit. They might well revise their position by considering the consequences, should it succeed.

Education according to any sect surely would distress every other sect, including yours, unless you fatuously imagine that only your own sect would prevail. What can be taught secularly is limited precisely to “what we observe in the world around us” — namely, the crass material common to the world and us. What can be taught is not what some claim to see in some other world, but what is universally accessible to all of us in this world, under appropriate circumstances. The Board of Education is charged with such secular education to the exclusion of all alternatives.

As much as religion is the art of the extraordinary, science is the art of the ordinary. If science is to respect religion it must teach only the mundane, not the miraculous. If there truly exists anything other than the material world, that is for religion to claim, not science.

Secular abstention from teaching of the miraculous is thus done not from scorn of religion, but from respect for it. To insist that science teach the miraculous would be to insist that it invade religion; an invasion it is dedicated to renounce.

Furthermore, it is precisely the teaching of immaterialism, not materialism, which would raise the possibility of the Board being sued.

Comment #164133

Posted by Sir_Toejam on March 5, 2007 3:16 PM (e)

I am going to engage Jack for a while at KCFS, Sir Toe. Now, as for you, you clearly ain’t got what it takes to go there and help him out on this particular subtopic that he’s brought up, so you just wait here in the corner till I’m done givin’ him the bizness, ok?

ROFLMAO.

yeah, right.

are you sure you shouldn’t have left that link there, Jack?