Was Kansas Pro-Creationism?

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If you’ve been paying attention to secular media outlets this week, you’ve no doubt read that evolutionists have “triumphed” against creationist forces in the recent school board primaries in Kansas. Misleading headlines such as “Evolution Wins In Kansas” have contributed to the false impression that the ballot presented voters with an alternative between creation and evolution.

But what really happened in Kansas? Has the creation-evolution battle in Kansas “tipped back a bit in the direction of sanity,” as The New York Times editorialized? Did “moderates” triumph against far-right conservatives in this week’s elections?

Let’s take a look at what the standards (approved in late 2005 and again in early 2006 by the Kansas State Department of Education [KSDE] State Board of Education, but not yet implemented in schools) really said—in this case, about life science education for grades 8–12 (specifically, Benchmark 3: The student will understand the major concepts of the theory of biological evolution):

The student … (1) understands biological evolution, descent with modification, is a scientific explanation for the history of the diversification of organisms from common ancestors; (2) understands populations of organisms may adapt to environmental challenges and changes as a result of natural selection, genetic drift, and various mechanisms of genetic change; (3) understands biological evolution is used to explain the earth's present day biodiversity: the number, variety and variability of organisms; (4) understands organisms vary widely within populations. Variation allows for natural selection to occur; (5) understands that the primary mechanism of evolutionary change (acting on variation) is natural selection; (6) understands biological evolution is used as a broad, unifying theoretical framework for biology; (7) explains proposed scientific explanations of the origin of life as well as scientific criticisms of these explanations.
The life science standards provide a framework for a variety of courses in the life sciences. Evolution is a key theoretical framework for the life sciences; these indicators should be part of any life science course curriculum, including biology, botany, zoology, and microbiology.

If that is rampant creationist doctrine that would “brainwash” students into accepting design, we wonder what party-line Darwinism would look like in a curriculum! This is not to deny that there was something in the curriculum to upset evolutionists. For example, in the excerpt above, the bit about “scientific criticisms of these explanations,” or paragraphs like this one:

Patterns of diversification and extinction of organisms are documented in the fossil record. Evidence also indicates that simple, bacteria-like life may have existed billions of years ago. However, in many cases the fossil record is not consistent with gradual, unbroken sequences postulated by biological evolution.

None of these requirements involve teaching design, nor even come close to creation as the Bible teaches. Though many of the criticisms have been made by creationists, they have also been made by secular scientists, like Dr. Michael Denton in his book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis.

But how was this curriculum presented by the media? Ralph Blumenthal, writing for The New York Times, reports in Evolution’s Backers in Kansas Start Counterattack, that:

With misconstructions like Mr. Blumenthal’s finding prominence on the web, it’s no wonder much of the public is under the false notion that evolution was replaced by creation in the not-yet-used Kansas curriculum.

The curriculum standards adopted by the education board do not specifically mention intelligent design, but advocates of the belief lobbied for the changes, and students are urged to seek “more adequate explanations of natural phenomena.”

The first aspect of Mr. Blumenthal’s comment is a non sequitur. Let’s say someone has a child who attends a public school, and part of the public school curriculum requires teachers to explain that Hitler wasn’t necessarily wrong, but that winners write the history. So a group of people—all of whom happen to be theists and advocates of intelligent design—attempt to alter this requirement in the curriculum—not to remove it, nor even to present an alternative view, but simply to require teachers to explain that there is a controversy. By Mr. Blumenthal’s criterion, this would be tantamount to force-feeding theism down students’ throats!

The second aspect of Mr. Blumenthal’s comment is just plain outrageous. He writes as though his quotation of the science standards is straight from the section on the teaching of evolution—as though a paragraph like this exists:

Evolution is probably not true. Therefore, students should seek more adequate explanations of natural phenomena.

But that snippet about “more adequate explanations” is actually from this paragraph, in an introductory section titled “Nature of Science,” on a page without any reference to the topic of evolution:

Science is a systematic method of continuing investigation that uses observations, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena.

With misconstructions like Mr. Blumenthal’s finding prominence on the web, it’s no wonder much of the public is under the false notion that evolution was replaced by creation in the not-yet-used Kansas curriculum. In modern public schools, even the slightest departure from Darwinist dogma becomes “creationism in disguise.”

Of course, despite the fact that the curriculum in question doesn’t include references to creation, AiG still supports more open inquiry in science classes. But the events in Kansas are a reminder that Christian parents must ensure that their children are taught properly about the Bible’s record of history.

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