While South Dakota continues to marginalize itself, Kansas is stepping back from the precipice of kookiness by taking an important step to restore proper science to their education standards:
The Kansas state Board of Education on Tuesday repealed science guidelines questioning evolution that had made the state an object of ridicule.
The board removed language suggesting that key evolutionary concepts are controversial and being challenged by new research, and approved a new definition of science that limits it to the search for natural explanations of what’s observed in the universe…
What is the reaction from the fringies?
John Calvert, a retired attorney who helped found the Intelligent Design Network, said under the new standards, “students will be fed an answer which may be right or wrong” about questions like the origin of life.
“Who does that model put first?” he said. “The student, or those supplying the preordained ‘natural explanation’?”
Mr. Calvert picks an interesting case—the origin of life—because that is truly an elusive, intriguing area of science. We currently don’t have great answers to how life originated on earth. Rather we have several competing theories, each with strengths and weaknesses. The fact of the matter is, all of them may prove to be incorrect (and it is a lot easier to show a theory is wrong than it is to show any given theory is approximately correct). But no scientist is claiming to have unequivocally solved the “origin of life” question.
Mr. Calvert asks who is served by teaching the ideas about the origins of life? I would strongly argue that the students are served. They are served by being introduced to science at the edge of knowledge—something that scientists should neither avoid nor be ashamed of. Science has made progress at different rates across differing areas. Some areas are ripe for innovative ideas and empirical testing; other areas stubbornly resist the best scientific minds. Origin of life studies falls on the stubborn side, and students should know that. After all, the stubborn, poorly developed areas of science offer the greatest and most exciting challenges for young potential scientists.
The students are also served because they receive a proper science education. The “theory” of intelligent design is to evolution what a theory of angels holding up airplanes on strings is to aerodynamics. In my opinion, students who believe airplanes fly because angels sweep them across the sky like puppets have no place in higher education. Likewise, students whose school system forces them to learn that “intelligent design” is a valid scientific theory of evolution, really shouldn’t be allowed into college.
Many colleges have prerequisites for admission that include things like coursework in a foreign language, algebra and trigonometry, English, etc. I think all respectable colleges and universities should add coursework in “scientific biology” to the entry requirements—and they should keep track of school systems that fail to provide courses in scientific biology. That way, school boards that foist anti-science curricula on their students would be excluding their children from qualifying for college. Of course, the students would likely be able to make up the deficiency through night courses, etc., but such school boards would be starting their graduates off with a hefty economic disadvantage.
A harsh policy, to be sure, but nobody said stamping out inter-generational transmission of ignorance was going to be easy.