Kansas Info Quartermaster

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Is it the Devil, or is it God, Who's in the Details? I think it may be God.

The leader of the conservative majority of the KS BOE, Steve Abrams, provides an interesting column about the KS BOE efforts on a web page of the “politically neutral” Kansas Republican Assembly. In the document “A Column About Kansas Science Standards”, Abrams states:

7) explains proposed scientific explanations of the origin of life as well as scientific criticisms of those explanations.
"As anyone can see, Intelligent Design is not included. But many of our critics already know this. This is not about Biblical creation or Intelligent Design… it is about the last 5 words of indicator 7… “scientific criticisms of those explanations.”

He further elaborates:

“Instead of discussing the issues of evolution, noisy critics go into attack mode and do a character assassination of anyone that happens to believe that evolution should actually be subject critical analysis.”

At the heart of all of Abrams comments on this controversial subject is his contention that he is doing all of his activism with open-minded goodness, whereas his opponents are resorting to “character assassination” and other bad habits so that “evolution can be taught as dogma.” His motives are pure, he’s doing it “for the kids of Kansas”, whereas his opponents are pursuing their goals in the service of a naturalistic, and deeply flawed theory/dogma.

All Abrams wants is the “scientific criticisms of those explanations [evolution]”. What could possibly be wrong with that?” He asks. Let’s see if we can provide some answers for Steve Abrams’ inquiring mind.

In the 2001 Kansas State BOE Science standards there are a group of numbered items that specify the standard that is to be taught. There are under these standards “Examples” that explains the standard in greater detail. The 2005 KS BOE standards continue this tradition, but instead of calling these elaborations “Examples”, the 2005 standards labels these elaborations as “Additional Specificity”. The number one standard under Life Science for Grades 8-12 is:

“1. understands biological evolution, descent with modification, is a scientific explanation for the history of the diversification of organisms from common ancestors.”

No argument from me on this standard, but when one gets into the details, problems start to raise their ugly heads. Under the above standard, Additional Specificity letter f. states:

“The view that living things in all the major kingdoms are modified descendents of a common ancestor (described in the pattern of a branching tree) has been challenged in recent years by:
i. Discrepancies is the molecular evidence (e.g. differences in relatedness inferred from sequence studies of different proteins) previously thought to support that view.
ii. A fossil record that shows sudden bursts of increased complexity (the Cambrian Explosion), long periods of stasis and the absence of abundant transitional forms rather than steady gradual increases in complexity, and
iii. Studies show animals follow different rather than identical early stages of embryological development."

Let us take each of these “challenges” one at a time:

Regarding i. –
RESPONSE OF MAINSTREAM SCIENTISTS:The family tree relationships of some of the early life forms remain unclear. But fossil and biological evidence argues that all life today descends from the earliest organisms. Not surprisingly, new methods like comparison of proteins or genes have generated family trees that differ somewhat from those deduced from fossils. But those differences have not fundamentally changed scientists' view of evolution or common descent.


Concerning ii –
Karen E. Bartelt, PhD, Professor of Chemistry, Eureka College, Eureka, IL replies:
“Straw man. There are many transitional forms in the fossil record.”
Ken Miller of Brown University states:
“In reality, evolutionary theory encompasses both gradual and non-gradual (punctuated) change. Also, the fossil record contains scores of examples of exactly the sort of lineages expected for evolutionary change, and the proposed revision misleads students by concealing this fact from them. Page 16 [the author is citing the earlier proposals and the pagination does not match the approved standards pages] makes the incorrect claim that fossil record lacks “transitional forms.” This statement has been repeatedly rebutted by scientific evidence. As the National Academy of Sciences noted in 1999 , “nearly all fossils can be regarded as intermediates in some sense; they are life forms that come between the forms that preceded them and those that followed.”


And, finally regarding iii. –
Ken Miller again, asserts:
“Page 16 [see the above note about pagination] makes another incorrect claim: “Studies that show animals follow different rather than identical early stages of embryological development.” This claim is based on the work of embryologist Michael K. Richardson, who found significant differences between early embryonic development and widely-copied drawings used in many biology textbooks. Textbooks have long been corrected to reflect Richardson’s observations. However, Richardson himself points out that “All vertebrates develop a similar body plan (consisting of notochord, body segments, pharyngeal pouches, and so forth). This shared developmental program reflects shared evolutionary history” (Richardson et al. Science, 280: 983. [1998]). Telling students that vertebrate embryos differ in ways that they in fact do not is misleading.


So, these errors as pointed out by knowledgeable scientists, begs the question, are Steve Abrams and his conservative supporters:
a) too stupid and ill-informed to do their job? Or…
b) intent upon pushing a narrow-minded partisan agenda and lying about doing so the whole time?

You know what? To me,the answer to these questions is immaterial. The solution to the problem is the same – we need to get these bums off of the KS BOE!!!

Visit this PAC that is trying to accomplish this goal:


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