The state of Kentucky is solidly in the Bible Belt. When it was finalizing the revision of its science standards in a document called the Next Generation Science Standards, there was the usual push from some quarters that the teaching of evolution and climate change should be removed or that at least criticisms of both and alternative theories (such as creationism and intelligent design) be included.
But the state’s Board of Education emphatically rebuffed those efforts. In its final Statement of Consideration, the Board included comments made by people at its hearing, and some of them are doozies. (Click on the link to section XII.A)
Here is the section that records the arguments against the teaching of evolution (p.103).
Commenters objected to the continued inclusion of evolution in the science standards and stated that the teaching of evolution will lead to a variety of negative social consequences, including the negation of religious belief, the marginalization of students with religious beliefs, the promotion of socialism and resulting genocide and murder, drug abuse, suicide, hopelessness, the limitation of personal freedom, and the belief that might makes right.
A commenter expressed concerns that humans are classified with primates because primates have four hands, not two.
A commenter stated that the science curriculum should not include Darwinism.
A commenter stated that asking educators to teach evolution would violate the educators’ right to exercise their moral and religious beliefs.
A commenter stated that outsiders are imposing the elitist and rich man’s religion of evolution on the families of public school students, taking away the right to worship God.
Commenters stated that if evolution is in the standards, and taught, they will remove their children from the public schools and homeschool their children.
The Board rejected all those arguments, saying:
Biological evolution is the fundamental, unifying theory that underlies all the life sciences. It has formed the basis of productive research for over a century. Few scientific theories have had as transformative and widespread impact on their respective fields as has evolution. This is why evolution is universally accepted among professional biology researchers. According to the Association of College and University Biology Educators (ACUBE), knowledge of evolutionary theory is essential for success in every biology course of study. There is no significant ongoing debate within the scientific community regarding the legitimacy of evolution as a scientific idea. [My italics-MS]
Another section (p. 105-106) had suggestions that creationism and intelligent design be included “without supernatural or theological explanations”.
A commenter requested that creationism and intelligent design be included in the standards, but through a secular approach, free from supernatural or theological explanations.
A commenter stated that it is a good idea to discuss intelligent design from both a secular and a religious viewpoint.
Here is the board’s response:
No change has been made in response to these comments. The agency has determined that the omission of creationism and intelligent design from the standards was based primarily on overwhelming scientific consensus. The agency has determined that the overwhelming majority of scientists do not consider creationism and intelligent design as scientific theories.
Accordingly, their omission from the Next Generation Science Standards reflects the consensus view among professional scientists and science educators. Even if it were possible to reword the basic ideas of creationism to exclude a theological or supernatural creator, or to discuss intelligent design without discussing the identity of the hypothesized designer (thus avoiding the legal objection), those ideas would still lack meaningful scientific support.
Additionally, courts have repeatedly declared unconstitutional the teaching of creationism and intelligent design on the basis that such teaching violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The way this is worded shows that, as I predicted in my book God v. Darwin, the 2005 Dover court decision on the intelligent design case has had a major impact in stopping efforts to undermine the teaching of evolution.
The board went on to similarly reject arguments that refutations of evolution and climate change be included (p. 106-108), that evolution is a theory not a fact (p. 108-113), non-religious objections to the theory of evolution be included (p. 113-114), and that teaching about climate change be eliminated (p. 114-117). The board said.
The Next Generation Science Standards include only ideas that are widely supported within the scientific and science education communities and represent core disciplinary ideas that have wide utility for students. The agency has determined that many of the ideas proposed for inclusion are not widely recognized. In scientific fields as large as biology and paleontology, there are many thousands of individuals engaging in research. It would be virtually impossible for scientists to agree upon every minute detail of every scientific concept. The fact that a small number of scientists present ideas contrary to the widely accepted scientific consensus does not automatically give their ideas equal weight and credibility. If those ideas gain wide support within the scientific and scientific education communities, it is more likely that they will be included in future revisions of the Kentucky Core Academic Standards for Science. Only scientific ideas are eligible for inclusion in science standards. [My italics-MS]
I can’t believe that in the year 2013 we are still arguing about whether evolution should be taught. But the fact that the state Board of Education in a religious and conservative state like Kentucky has provided such a ringing endorsement of good science with statements that reflect an excellent understanding of the nature of science, should give us hope that this absurd ‘debate’ may soon come to an end.