The Personal Blog of Stephen Sekula

Kansas, day 3

It’s day 3 of the hearings in Kansas, held by the state board of education to determine whether science standards should be lowered to weaken the position of the theory of evolution in the classroom. The “Washington Post has an article from the AP reporting that the witnesses are betraying themselves as creationsists first and scientists second”:

Let’s look at some of these gems. Remember, scientists boycotted the hearings, seeing them as rigged (the subcommittee running the hearing is closed-minded and has once already tried to weaken science standards in Kansas). That leaves only the proponents of the hypothesis of intelligent design or creationism, with a lawyer questioning the witnesses to unveil their true motives for fostering doubt about the fact-based theory of evolution.

Witnesses in a State Board of Education hearing on how the theory should be taught also have acknowledged they hadn’t fully read evolution-friendly science standards proposed by educators. Nor had two of three presiding board members.

<irony>Ah, these are trustworthy hearings – the committee members **and** witnesses haven’t biased themselves by actually reading the standards.</irony>

Let’s move on.

Witnesses said they didn’t believe all life had a common origin or that man evolved from earlier, ape-like creatures. Some said they accept the widespread scientific conclusion that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, but two said they believe it is between 5,000 and 100,000 years old.

Nancy Bryson, a biology instructor at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, said having life appear from chemical molecules is “utterly impossible.” Bryson came under fire for giving a public lecture in 2003 criticizing evolution and eventually lost her position as division science director at Mississippi University for Women.

“In my personal opinion, I believe there is an intelligent designer,” she said.

“As I noted yesterday”:48, the witnesses are betraying their true roles as believers first and scientists second by clouding their answers. The example I cited was that when confronted with a question about the age of the universe, the witness replied “probably very old” rather than “several billion years old”; the latter answer would have at least suggested the witness was a good scientist, answering based on known fact rather than Biblical interpretation.

Here we’ve got a boatload more. Witnesses who deny that we are descended from ape-like creatures (another denial of evidence), witnesses that believe the Earth is a few thousand years old (more denial of evidence), and witnesses that don’t understand that the fundamental laws of nature allow for organized structural formation despite the underlying randomness of, say, quantum mechanics (a lack of understanding of simple mechanics, thermodynamics, and quantum mechanics).

What I am trying to get across here is that many of these alleged “witnesses” are not using science at all. Therefore, what say should they have in science standards? They want science classrooms to operate like Fox news: *fair and balanced*. But science is not fair, and it is not balanced. Science is a process that treats credible, verifiable evidence one way and poor, foundationless evidence harshly. Science takes contradictory, well-researched evidence and creates new theories that explain both at once, but it does not take a lack of evidence and do away with theories based on existing evidence. Science is not fair, but it is right.

Board member Kathy Martin, of Clay Center, elicited groans of disbelief from a few audience members when she acknowledged she had only scanned the proposal, which is more than 100 pages. Later, board member Connie Morris, of St. Francis, also said she had only scanned it.

Martin said during a break: “I’m not a word-for-word reader in this kind of technical information.”

Enough said. Kansas is screwed.