izard of Oz jokes are in vogue as the news media scramble to ridicule
Kansas for downplaying, eliminating, or even banning evolution in its
public schools. But the people who are writing such stuff apparently
havent read the Kansas Science Education Standards. The truth is that
the August 11 School Board decision actually increased public school
emphasis on evolution.
The old science standards, in effect since 1995, devoted about 70 words
to biological evolution. Standards proposed to the Board earlier this
year by a 27-member Science Education Standards Writing Committee would
have increased this to about 640 words. The standards actually adopted
by the Board on August 11 include about 390 words on the subject. So
the Kansas State School Board, asked to approve a ninefold increase in
the standards for evolution, approved a fivefold increase instead.
Of course, word counts dont tell the whole story. But the 390 words
approved by the Board include many of the provisions recommended by the
Committee. For example, the Board adopted verbatim the Committees
summary of Darwins theory: Natural selection includes the following
concepts: 1) Heritable variation exists in every species; 2) some
heritable traits are more advantageous to reproduction and/or survival
than are others; 3) there is a finite supply of resources available for
life; not all progeny survive; 4) individuals with advantageous traits
generally survive; 5) the advantageous traits increase in the population
through time.” It would be difficult to find a better summary of
Darwins theory of natural selection; Kansas students will now be tested
The Board also required students to understand that
microevolution...favors beneficial genetic variations and contributes
to biological diversity, and listed finch beak changes as an example.
The Board declined, however, to adopt the Committees proposal requiring
students to understand that microevolution leads to macroevolution–the
origin of new structures and new groups of organisms. The Boards
reluctance is understandable, since even some biologists doubt that
changes in finch beaks can explain the origin of finches in the first
There were some other recommendations the Board did not follow, as
well. For example, the Committee would have required students to
understand: The common ancestry of living things allows them to be
classified into a hierarchy of groups. This requirement would no doubt
have come as a surprise to 18th century creationist Carolus Linnaeus,
who had no need of common ancestry when he devised the hierarchical
system of classification still used by modern biologists.
Even more interesting than the details, however, was the Committees bid
to inject Darwinian evolution into the very heart of science. According
to the 1995 standards, science embodies four general themes:
Energy/Matter, Patterns of Change, Systems and Interactions, and
Stability and Models. Furthermore, it is the nature of science to
provide a means for producing knowledge, using processes such as
observing, classifying, questioning, inferring,...[and] collecting and
recording data. The Science Education Standards Writing Committee
proposed to add a fifth general theme, patterns of cumulative change,
an example of which is the biological theory of evolution.
As a biologist myself, I find this strange. Why list a specific theory
such as biological evolution among general themes such as systems and
interactions, or basic processes such as collecting and recording
data? Thats like inserting a specific law into a constitution
designed to establish a framework for law-making.
Why did the 1995 standards have to be changed at all? The Committees
proposal was a product of recent nationwide efforts by people who
believe that Darwinian evolution is indispensable to biological
science. A rallying cry for these efforts is Theodosius Dobzhanskys
famous maxim, Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of
evolution. But Dobzhansky was mistaken. There are entire areas of
biology that have no need for evolutionary theory, and there is evidence
that the most sweeping claims of Darwinism are wrong. More importantly,
there can be no such thing as an indispensable theory in science. A
true scientist would say that nothing in biology makes sense except in
the light of evidence.
The standards adopted by the Kansas State School Board are far from
perfect. Biology education would have been better served if students
had been required to understand macroevolutionary theory, though they
should also be taught the scientific evidence against it. Under the
circumstances, however, the Board may have done the best it could.
Faced with national pressure to include Darwins theory in its
description of the very nature of science, the Board courageously
resisted, stocking the shelves with more evolution but refusing to hand
over the store.
News commentators who ridicule Kansas for downplaying, eliminating, or
even banning evolution from its schools not only misrepresent the truth,
but they also miss the real story. Why do Darwinists go ballistic at
the thought of high school students questioning their theory? Why do
biology textbooks continue to cite evidence for evolution that was long
ago discredited? How many qualified scientists have lost their teaching
jobs or their research funding just because they dared to criticize
Darwinism? How many millions of your tax dollars will be spent this year
by Darwinists trying to find evidence for a theory they claim is already
proven beyond a reasonable doubt? Theres enough here to keep a team of investigative journalists busy for months.
Years ago, when asked why the media were spending so much time covering
the O.J. Simpson trial, a news commentator said, “Its easy work.
Ridiculing Kansas is easy work, too. But is it good journalism?
Jonathan Wells is a post-doctoral biologist and Senior Fellow at the
Discovery Institutes Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture in
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