The Debate over Evolution in Kansas Public Schools

Aaron White

The Pluralism Project

INTRODUCTION

In recent years, the debate over the role of religion in United States public schools has become especially prominent.  Issues such as holding baccalaureate services in public high schools, including the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, and student prayer have been the source of much disagreement in the public arena as of late.  Debates over the teaching of evolution are no exception.  Currently a controversy over evolution exists in Kansas, the focus of which has been the Kansas State Board of Education.  In May 2005 the Board of Education held hearings to discuss a "Minority Report" written by eight of the twenty-five members of the Kansas Science Standards Writing Committee.  This Minority Report proposes altering state science standards to include strong critiques of biological evolution and has been met with much contention.

These hearings became the center of media attention when groups such as Kansas Citizens for Science and the American Association for the Advancement of Science supported a boycott of the proceedings. Pro-Evolution scientists from across the country considered the hearings to be a political show trial, the outcome of which had been predetermined.  The group who testified at the hearings, comprised largely of those in support of "Intelligent Design" theory, supports including critiques of evolutionary theory in the state's science curriculum standards and affirms that this effort maintains a critical and fair examination of the development of life on earth.  Those boycotting the hearings, however, charge defenders of Intelligent Design and critiques of evolution in curriculum with bringing "creationist" views into the classroom under the banner of "fair" scientific inquiry.  The present dispute is the most recent edition of a six-year long struggle within the Kansas educational system, and the Kansas State Board of Education is set to release a decision on the proposed changes science standards sometime this summer. 

CREATIONISM, INTELLIGENT DESIGN, AND EVOLUTION

In order to gain a clearer perception of the current controversy in Kansas, it is important to have a basic understanding also of the terms "Creationism", "Intelligent Design", and "Evolution."  It is important, also to remember, however, that the terms are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and not all individuals involved in the controversy fit into easily definable categories.

Creationism – This term usually refers to the belief that the universe and life in it were created by a divine force in a single act.  It is most commonly associated with a literal interpretation of the biblical conception of creation from the book of Genesis, in which God created the universe and its inhabitants in six days.  "Young Earth" creationists argue from Biblical evidence that the Earth is anywhere from around six-thousand to ten-thousand years old.  Other creationists, sometimes referred to as adhering to "Old Earth" creationism, are comfortable with associating the events in Genesis with a process that could have occurred over a range of thousands to billions of years, and some Old Earth creationists are comfortable with modern scientific estimates of the age of the universe.

Intelligent Design – Intelligent Design, or "ID", is used to describe the notion that the complexity of life in the universe points to the existence of an intelligent force which aided in its design.  Proponents of Intelligent Design tend to claim that Darwinian evolution cannot account for certain aspects of this complexity or that the origins of life itself stem from inanimate matter.

Evolution – The term "evolution" can refer to any change over time in an individual or system, however in this debate it tends to be associated with the development of life and different species through the process of natural selection made famous in the 1800's by Charles Darwin.  It is also often associated with the notion that all life shares a common ancestor.

A SERIES OF EVENTS

The debate concerning how to approach the topic of evolution in Kansas schools has been ongoing since August 11, 1999, when a conservative-dominated state school board made the controversial decision to remove large parts of the state's science teaching standards which included references to evolution.  The standards are a set of guidelines suggesting how science should be taught in Kansas schools.  While local districts maintain the power to make decisions concerning curriculum, the standards alter what appears on state tests given to students.  The New York Times reported that the 1999 decision removed "not only most references to biological evolution, but also references to the big bang theory."[1]   A recent article in Time Magazine notes that the effort to "downplay the importance of Darwinism" also included the deletion of "references to dinosaurs, the geological time line and other central tenets of the theory."[2]  Mention of evolution in the new set of teaching standards was restricted to instances of microevolution, or the "occurrence of small-scale changes in gene frequencies in a population over a few generations,"[3] a process easily observable in nature.  References to macroevolution, "the concept that evolution of species and higher taxa is the result of large-scale changes in gene-frequencies over time,"[4] was absent from the state's standards.  The Kansas State Board of Education also noted that local school boards should be given the authority to make decisions concerning the teaching of evolution in classrooms.  A statement concerning this type of local authority was not made for any areas of study other than science curriculums. 

           

An election in the year 2000 brought a more moderate group of individuals to power in the Kansas State Board of Education.  It was appearant from the beginning of this particular election that the topic of evolution in the science curriculum had become more of a political issue than ever.  Campaign contributions rose to levels previoulsy unheard of, as citizens fought to ensure that members of the Board of Education agreed with their notions of the role of evolution in science classrooms.  In 2001, the moderate majority overturned the 1999 decision and restored references to evolution that had been erased from the state's science standards.  The 2002 election brought a small change to the board's makeup, providing an even split, with five conservative Republicans making  up one half of the board and five moderate Republicans and Democrats the other.  This split created a stalemate in Kansas' evolution debate that would last two years. 

 

It was not long, however, before the evolution debate resurfaced and became front-page news in Kansas.   The 2004 election once again changed the configuration of the Board of Education, this time restoring the 6-4 conservative majority present during the initial 1999 revisions of state science standards.  In June of 2004, a Kansas Science Standards Writing Committee, made up of 25 teachers and scientists, was commissioned to update Kansas state science standards.  In December of 2004, the first draft of the revised standards was presented to the Board of Education, which included information maintaining that evolution was an important concept to be included in Kansas science curriculums. 

 

A "Minority Report" was also submitted to the Board via email.  The American Geological Institute states that this report was "authored with the assistance of the Intelligent Design Network, which criticized the draft for promoting a 'naturalistic' definition of science and for not sufficiently encouraging students 'to critically analyze the theory of biological evolution.'"[5]  (The Intelligent Design Network is a Kansas based group which describes itself as a "nonprofit organization that seeks objectivity in origins science."[6]) 

 

On February 9, 2005, the Kansas state Board of Education released a proposal stating that there was a "significant disagreement within the Science Curriculum Writing Committee regarding revisions to the proposed science curriculum standards�particularly with respect to the issue of the definition of science and the issue of origins and evolution."[7]  The Board of Education, therefore, voted six-to-four to create a website where minority reports and public statements would be made available alongside proposed curriculum standards.  A decision was also made to "conduct hearings focused on the areas of disagreement,"[1] where those in support of the Minority Report would present their ideas alongside the Pro-Evolution scientific community.  It was determined that these hearings would be chaired by three conservative members of the Board of Education: Steve Abrams, Kathy Martin, and Connie Morris.  The newly formed Science Hearing Committee was set to present its finding to the entire Board of Education no later than June 15, 2005. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE HEARINGS ARE BOYCOTTED

           

From the moment the hearings were announced, they were accompanied by controversy that would again bring the Kansas state Board of Education to the center of the media's attention.  The members of the Science Hearing Committee originally scheduled the hearings for May 5-7, and May 12-14, allotting the first three days for those in support of Intelligent Design and critiques of evolutionary theory, and the latter three days for those in support of maintaining evolution's central role in the science curriculum.  However, the Kansas Board of Education found itself unable to find any member of the Pro-Evolution science community willing to participate in the hearings.  Thus, May 12 was scheduled as the last official day of the hearings.  A mass boycott of the hearings was carried out by many in the scientific community, supported by such groups as Kansas Citizens for Science and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  The New York Times reported that those boycotting the hearings gave two major reasons for their decision.  They argued that "the outcome of the hearings was a foregone conclusion" and also that "participating in them would only strengthen the idea in some minds that there was a serious debate in science about the power of the theory of evolution."[8]  Concerning the approach of evolution's critics in the current dispute, Harry McDonald, president of Kansas Citizens for Science, noted:

 

They are trying to establish that ID [Intelligent Design] is, in fact, a science theory because scientists debate it in science forums.  For too long now, scientists have fallen into this trap of participating in rigged debates which aren't conducted in any way consistent with how scientific discord occurs.  As such, science has played into the hands of creationists who set the rules so that they can claim victory.  KCFS calls upon the science community to halt such practices.  If ID wants to gain acceptance as science, they need to participate in scientific forums under the rules which govern scientific discourse.[9]

 

            Dr. Bill Wagnon is a member of the current moderate minority of the Kansas Board of Education and was also a member of the board for the 1999 controversy. Dr. Wagnon had similar feelings concerning the validity of the May hearings and considered the boycott to be justified because:

 

The Regular Science Curriculum Standards Writing Committee held extensive hearings and did a thorough job of pulling together reputable science curriculum standards. The ID minority felt their views were locked out and got the conservative majority on the board to hold special hearings for them. The regular science community, research scientists and science educators, had already done their jobs and the hearings were unnecessary.[10]

 

           

Those in support of the hearings, however, are disappointed about the boycott, and feel it has denied critics of evolution a chance to participate in a fair debate of the issues.  Board of Education and Science Hearing Committee member, Connie Morris, was quoted by Beliefnet as saying, "I am profoundly disappointed that they've chosen to present their case in the shadows� I would have enjoyed hearing what they have to say in a professional, ethical manner."[11]  Others in support of the hearings point out that the boycott may suggest evidence of weakness in the arguments supporting evolutionary theory.  In a New York Times article, John West states, "If the evidence for modern Darwinian theory is so overwhelming, they should have called the bluff on the other side and come and made their arguments."[12]  West is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think-tank, whose Center for Science and Culture is the nation's leading source of research supporting Intelligent Design.

THE ARGUMENTS 

 

Although no witnesses in support of evolutionary theory were present at the hearings held on May 5, 6, 7, and 12 of 2005, lawyer Pedro Irigonegaray was present to defend the unaltered second draft of the "Kansas Curricular Standards for Science Education" as written by the Kansas Science Writing Committee as well as the views of what he referred to as "mainstream science."[13]  Supporters of the "Minority Report" which included stronger critiques of evolution were represented by John Calvert, a retired lawyer and current Managing Director of the Intelligent Design Network.  During the proceedings, Calvert offered his assessment of the Minority Report:

 

What is it the Minority Report is asking for?  Is it asking that we put theism into the standards?  No.  It's asked that we put objectivity into the standards, that we simply treat evolution honestly and candidly as we subject it to the very same critical analysis that other scientific theories are.[14]

The Minority Report mentioned by Calvert is a set of proposals by eight scientists and educators that served on the Kansas Science Writing Committee given in response to the second draft of the state science standards prepared by that committee. The report lists specific proposed revisions to the Writing Committee's draft.  For example, the Minority Report requests that in a portion of Kansas' Seventh Grade science standards, a statement be made "that evolution is a theory and that the observed facts may not always be consistent with its explanations and predictions."[15]  The report also suggests that Twelfth Grade standards include evidence for the "scientific controversy which surrounds [evolution]" as well as encouraging students to "understand that science: a) affects beliefs about a broad range of issues, b) uses empirical methods where possible; and c) has influenced both positive and negative cultural consequences."[16]  The Minority Report suggests a number of other similar alterations to the Writing Committee's second draft of science standards.  An explanation of the proposed changes in the report states that the absence of critiques of Darwinian evolution in the state's science standards amounts to an "indoctrination in the philosophy of Naturalism" that would "offend Constitutional principles."[17]  In the opinion of the Minority Report, its authors' revisions will ensure that Kansas' science standards "reflect the best of science while also putting the State in a position of Constitutional neutrality rather than that as an advocate for Naturalism, a philosophy key to non-theistic belief systems."[18]  While not explicitly supporting the inclusion of Intelligent Design theory in the curriculum, the Minority Report does spend a number of pages dealing with scholars in support of "design" as opposed to "methodological naturalism" which they say is "scientifically problematic in origins science."[19] 

           

In response lawyer Pedro Irigonegaray began his final statements to the Board of Education by stating that "Draft Two accurately represents science as neutral in respect to the nature of spiritual reality.  The Minority Report, however, advances a narrow, theological view of science that conflicts with mainstream Christianity and many other faiths."[20]  Among many other arguments, Irigonegaray proposed that the hearings themselves were an "unjustified waste of taxpayer money intended first to justify the Board's support for inserting creationist claims into the science standards."[21] Similar to statements made by many boycotting the hearings, Irigonegaray denied the presence of the "scientific controversy" surrounding evolution which proponents of Intelligent Design often use as a foundation from which to argue for a fair representation of ideas in public schools.  Mr. Irigonegaray continued:

 

  The Intelligent Design Movement's anti-evolutionary claims have had virtually no impact on mainstream science.[22]                                   

 

Though absent from the hearings, scientists in support of keeping evolution in the classroom have made numerous public arguments against those proposing adaptations to Kansas science standards.  Generally, two main themes appear in the arguments of those supporting an "evolution-friendly" curriculum.  First, the argument is made that proponents of the Minority Report and Intelligent Design base their opinions on bad science and manipulations of discussions within the scientific community.  The second theme that emerges is the notion that Intelligent Design supporters are promoting a specific theological viewpoint as science and attempting to bring it into public schools. 

 

In January of 2005, Time Magazine quoted Ken Bingman, a Kansas City public school biology teacher of forty-two years, critiquing statements like those in the Minority Report highlighting evolution as a "theory" and criticizing its factual foundations.  Bingman says, "They are playing on the public's lack of understanding on what a scientific theory is.  It's more than a guess.  It's a set of hypotheses that has been tested over time."[23]  Similarly, University of Kansas professor since 1965, Roger Kaeseler, states that, "To say that evolution is just a theory is like saying that chemistry is just a theory.  We have tested it so many ways and have never found reason to doubt that it happened."[24]

 

 

The specific religious motivations of those endorsing the Minority Report and supporters of Intelligent Design in general are also sometimes called into question by those who wish to maintain evolution's central role in science curriculums. 

For example, supporters of the unaltered draft of Kansas science standards point out the large role which the Discovery Institute has played in shaping many of the arguments used in the Kansas case.  One example is the Discovery Institute's attempt at writing national policy.  A great deal of the argumentation for allowing critiques of evolution in public schools is supported by the Santorum Amendment, proposed by Republican senator, Rick Santorum, for the United States 2001 education funding bill.  While the amendment did not become law, the use of its language is widespread in the Kansas case.  The Santorum Amendment states that:

Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society.[25]

 

A June 18, 2001 Washington Times article quotes Phillip Johnson, Program Advisor for the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture as saying, "I offered some language to Senator Santorum, after he had decided to propose a resolution of this sort."[26]  In addition, four individuals who testified at the May hearings were either current or past Senior Fellows at the Discovery Institute, and the "teach the controversy" language espoused by the Board of Education comes directly from Discovery Institute materials.[27] This type of involvement by the Discovery Institute makes many supporters of evolution wary.  They argue that the Discovery Institute promotes a specific theological viewpoint, citing a document made public by the Discovery Institute in 1997 titled, "The Wedge Strategy," which has come to be known as "The Wedge Document" in current debate.  In this document, the goal of the Discovery Institute's then named Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture is stated as "nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies."[28]  The document then goes on to define the overall goals of the new Intelligent Design movement, stating, "Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."[29]  In order to complete this goal, the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture voices that it plans on gaining "a popular base of support among our natural constituency, namely, Christians."[30]

            Critics who charge the Intelligent Design movement as a "Trojan Horse" for creationism call attention to the development of how organizations like the Center of Science and Culture have presented themselves over the past few years.  The banner for the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture from November 1996 - April 1999 displayed the picture of God touching Adam from the Sistine Chapel.  The October 1999 – August 2001 banner features God alone, a double-helix extending from his fingers.  The newest banner removes the picture of God altogether, instead displaying a picture of a planetary nebula taken from the Hubble telescope.  In 2002, the organization's name underwent a change as well and was renamed the Center for Science and Culture.[31]

            The current argumentation and goals of evolution critics on the Kansas Board of Education has changed as well since the beginning of this debate.  In the original 1999 decisions, almost all references to evolution were deleted altogether.  Also, after deleting these references, Steve Abrams and two other Board members inserted "240 sentences that they took verbatim" from a document authored by Tom Willis, President of the Creation Science Association of Mid-America.[32]  Willis, a "Young Earth" creationist, was quoted by the Topeka Capital-Journal at the time as stating the dinosaurs existed on earth until the 20th century.  Wills said, "You find descriptions of dinosaurs in every culture. Government reports in the late 1800's were reporting flying reptiles.  They just didn't know it was politically incorrect to report them."[33]   In the current debate, Steve Abrams and others have taken a different approach in their move to allow critiques of evolutionary theory to enter into science classrooms.  Now, they draw support not from explicit creationists, but from proponents of Intelligent Design, and their proposed alternative science standards now focus on displaying what they see to be the weaknesses of Darwinian evolution.

            The motives of those funding the Discovery Institute have been called into question as well by evolution supporters.  For example, savings and loan heir Howard F. Ahmanson, Jr. provided 1.5 million dollars as start-up funds for the Discovery Institute.  In the past, Ahmanson has been a supporter of the Christian Reconstruction movement and one of its founders, Rev. Rousas John Rushdoony.  The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in 2003 that, "For 10 years ending in 1995, Ahmanson contributed a total of $700,000 to Rushdoony's Chalcedon Foundation and served on its board of directors."[34] The Christian Reconstruction movement formerly led by Rushdoony seeks the application of biblical law in society.  In recent years, however, Ahmanson and his wife, Roberta, have said that they disagree with Christian Reconstructionist philosophy.[35]

            Questions concerning the religious motivations and scientific methodology of those at the Discovery Institute and those desiring revisions of Kansas state science standards have not gone unanswered, however.  Board member, Connie Morris, has said that all supporters of the revised science standards desire is a fair and scientific approach to the study of evolution in public schools.  The Kansas City Star quotes Morris as saying, "The rhetoric has become comical.  We are seeking to get criticism – scientific criticism – about evolution in.  How much more clearly do I have to say that?"[36] The authenticity of these criticisms is something Morris has commented on as well.  In the Wichita Eagle, Morris stated that students "need to understand there are many criticisms, and they're backed up.  This is not a shot in the dark, a flaky proposal."[37]  John West, Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute, stated recently that he does not wish the teaching of evolution to be taken out of schools, but like Morris, desires that critiques of the theory accompany it.  West said, "The majority of biologists obviously support Darwinian evolution in its full-fledged view.  The questions is, are there legitimate, peer-reviewed criticisms?  If there are, students should know about them."[38]

            Official material from the Discovery Institute website provides links to a "Bibliography of Peer-reviewed & Peer-edited Publications Supporting the Theory of Intelligent Design,"[39] and notes that "open hostility from those who hold to neo-Darwinism sometimes makes it difficult for design scholars to gain a fair hearing for their ideas, research and articles."[40]  Also, in response to the question of whether or not members of the scientific community are working in support of Intelligent Design theory, the Discovery Institute provides this response:

Yes. Intelligent design theory is supported by doctoral scientists, researchers and theorists at a number of universities, colleges, and research institutes around the world. These scholars include biochemist Michael Behe at Lehigh University, microbiologist Scott Minnich at the University of Idaho, biologist Paul Chien at the University of San Francisco, emeritus biologist Dean Kenyon at San Francisco State University, mathematician William Dembski at Baylor University, and quantum chemist Henry Schaefer at the University of Georgia.[41]          

            Concerning the allegation that Discovery Institute research promotes a specific theological viewpoint, official materials explicitly state that the institute is "a secular think tank" and not a religious organization.[42]  The Discovery Institute website points to the religious diversity which exists within its ranks, citing that its "Board members and Fellows represent a variety of religious traditions, including mainline Protestant, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Jewish, and agnostic.  Until recently the Chairman of Discovery's Board of Directors was former Congressman John Miller, who is Jewish."[43]

            The Discovery Institute has also published an article titled, "The 'Wedge Document': 'So What?'" which serves as a response to criticisms of its "Wedge Strategy" and the document that outlined it.  One of the major portions of this article is devoted to a rebuttal of the objection made by critics of the institution for the phrase in the "Wedge Document" stating that "Discovery Institute's Center�wants to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."[44]  The article offers an extended statement on this portion of the text as follows:

Please note first, that "consonant with" means "in harmony with" or "consistent with."  It does not mean the "same as."  Recent developments in physics, cosmology, biochemistry, and related sciences may lead to a new harmony between science and religion.  Many of us happen to think that they will, and we are not alone in that.  But that doesn't mean we think religion and science are the same thing.  We don't.  Nor do we want to impose a religious agenda on the practice of science.

This passage instead was referring to our conviction that science, rather than supporting a materialistic philosophy, is at least consistent with theistic belief, including Christian belief.  In fact, some of our fellows actually go further than this.  They think that new developments in science may actually support a theistic world-view or have "theistic implications," even thought they do not think that science can "prove" the existence of God or specific religious doctrines.[45]

 

The article continues to state the importance of realizing the key difference between the basis for an argument, and its implications, which the Discovery Institute sees as an important distinction in this matter.[46]

            Those involved in the Kansas case who support critiques of evolution have turned the claim of religious indoctrination on its head in a way by alleging that it is, in fact, the ardent supporters of evolution who are taking part in indoctrination.  Some witnesses and members of the Board of Education are cited as equating Darwinian evolution with atheism and asserting that evolutionists themselves push for a specific theological world-view to be presented in classrooms.  Board member Connie Morris is quoted by the Topeka Capital-Journal as saying "Evolution is an 'age-old fairy tale,' sometimes defended with 'anti-God contempt and arrogance'"[47] in a newsletter that she circulated in early June of 2005.  Stephen Meyer, witness in the May 2005 hearings and vice-president of the Discovery Institute, in 1999 claimed, "Scientific materialism (evolution) as taught in schools is a religion that denies the existence of God."[48]  In reply to issues of the religious motivations of Howard Ahmanson, Jr. and others who help fund organizations such as the Discovery Institute, Meyer said, as quoted in the Washington Post  Everyone has motives.  Let's acknowledge that and get on with the interesting part."[49]

RESPONSE FROM VARIOUS FAITHS

           

Formal responses to the revisions in state science standards from non-Christian religious communities in Kansas have been few and far between.  However, those that have been highlighted are wide-ranging, and span the spectrum of opinions concerning this matter.  A May 2005 article in the Lawrence World-Journal placed a spotlight on people of varying faith traditions who had reservations about possible changes to science curriculums.  Kansas resident Judith Roitman is a practitioner of both Buddhism and Judaism.  When questioned by the World-Journal, this Kansas University math professor and teacher at the Kansas Zen Center shared her fears about a specific form of Christianity taking dominance in public education.  "This is not just a Christian agenda, but a particular brand of Christianity, and they are trying to impose it on everyone else," Roitman said.[50]  Saibal Bhattacharya, a Hindu and assistant scientist at the Kansas Geological Survey, said that he is "concerned about where it might lead. Compulsory prayers in schools, whether people might have to acknowledge a common creator�That's very disappointing for me, as a Hindu."[51]  Similar reservations were expressed by Stephen Hurst, an attorney and president of the Lawrence Jewish Community Center.  Hurst stated, "I have the concern that it's the camel's nose in the tent, so to speak – that the rest is soon to follow."[52]  More open to the idea of allowing a different set of viewpoints into the science curriculum was Moussa Elbayoumy, a physician and member of the Islamic Center of Lawrence.  The World-Journal quoted Elbayoumy as saying, "As Muslims, we believe in a creation in a way not much different from Christians and Jews�Teaching any theory – whether it is evolution, creationism, or intelligent design – should not be an issue, as long as they are treated equally and subjected to the scientific method and not presented as unquestionable facts."[53]

 

Two particular visitors to the Kansas Board of Education over the course of the debate have been distinctly in favor of the push to add critiques of evolution to science standards.  In October 1999, only two months after the initial controversial decision to remove most references to evolution from Kansas state science standards, Danavir Goswami visited the Board of Education to inform them of his support for their decision.  Goswami is the president of the Rupanuga Vedic College in Kansas City.  The RVC is the "first and only degree-granting seminary of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness."[54] In a statement on his college's website, Goswami states, "We happily explained that Darwin's Theory of evolution is not scientific in the least and that the Kansas Board of Education called Darwin's bluff."[55] 

 

Almost six years later at the 2005 hearings, the Kansas Board of Education invited Mustafa Akyol to be a witness supporting the Minority Report's suggestions.  Akyol is a columnist for a Turkish daily newspaper and the Director of International Relations at the Intercultural Platform.  In addition, Akyol has been a past fellow of the Science Research Foundation, the "main champion of the ID cause in Turkey"[56] and has authored the article "Why Muslims Should Support Intelligent Design" for Islam Online.  In his testimony Mr. Akyol stated that, rather than provide more scientific support for critiques of Darwinian evolution, he would rather inform the board of "the cultural implications of this whole debate, whose importance can't be overemphasized."[57]  Akyol commented to the Board of Education that "design and Darwinism's no design resonate with different philosophical worldviews" and that in "the current situation, the ones who feel deprived and alienated are theists, including Muslims."[58]  Akyol linked what he felt to be a monopoly of materialism in curriculums to a desire by "virtually all" Muslims in the United States to remove their children from public schools.[59]  He expressed his view that cases like this have great implications in the world, and can affect the beliefs that Muslim's across the world have of the United States:

 

  Unfortunately, that is one of the factors that create a breeding ground for radical Islamists – and even the terrorists.  Public school curriculum that focuses on an objective approach to origins can be a very crucial key in altering this bad impression about the United States for the better.[60]

THE FUTURE OF THE KANSAS DEBATE

 

            On June 15, 2002, the three members of the Science Hearing Committee presented their post-hearing findings to the whole of the Kansas State Board of Education, and a final decision is expected to be given in August concerning the future of the science standards in Kansas public schools.  However, the standards are a guide and not a rule as to how science should be taught in Kansas schools.  Local districts still have control over what is taught in their classrooms, and if the altered curriculum is taken on, the effects of the changes might not be visible until after a significant number of students have taken state-wide tests that have adopted the new standards.  In addition, it is important to keep in mind that over the past six years the political and religious makeup of the Board of Education has had much to with how the question of evolution is approached.  Given that the matter has become a political as well as an educational issue, the August announcement of the Board's decision is not expected to be the end of the evolution debate in Kansas.

 

 

SIMILAR CASES

           

            The debate over the role of evolution in state science standards in Kansas is far from an isolated one, and if Kansas does, in fact, adopt the revised curriculum, it will be alongside six other states with proposed legislation that reduces the importance of evolution in public school curriculums in 2005 alone: Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, and [61]  The debate has also spread outside of the United States and into Europe as well.  Just weeks ago, the Dutch Minister of Education, Maria van der Hoeven, announced that she plans to "initiate a debate" between supporters of evolution and those who believe that a divine intelligence could lie behind the creation of the universe, the results of which could possibly affect Holands science curriculums, she says.[62]    

 

           

 

 

 

        

 

           

 

 

 

                           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                             CITATIONS



 



 

[1] Belluck, Pam. 1999. Board from Kansas Deletes Evolution from Curriculum. New York Times. August

            11th, Section A; Page 1.

 

[2] Isackson, Noah, Michael D. Lemonick and Jeffrey Ressner. 2005. Stealth Attack on Evolution: Who is

            behind the movement to give equal time to Darwin's critics, and what do they really want? Time,

            31 January, 53.

[8] Dean, Cornelia. 2005. Opting Out In the Debate On Evolution. New York Times. June 21,

            Section F; Page 1.

 

[9] McDonald, Harry. biologycctrack@hotmail.com, �Re: Questions from The Pluralism Project at Harvard

            University,� private e-mail message to Aaron White. 21 June 2005.

 

[10] Wagnon, Bill. bill.wagnon@washburn.edu, �Re: Questions from The Pluralism Project at Harvard

            University,� private e-mail message to Aaron White. 22 June 2005.

[12] Dean, Cornelia. 2005. Opting Out In the Debate On Evolution. New York Times. June 21,

            Section F; Page 1

 

[13] Kansas State Department of Education. �Presentation Held Before The Science Committee of The

            Kansas State Board of Education – Transcript of Proceedings� – May 12th, 2005.

            http://www.ksde.org/outcomes/schearing05122005.pdf

 

[14] Ibid, 30.

 

[15] Proposed Revisions to Kansas Science Standards Draft 2 With Explinations. March 29th, 2005, p1

            http://www.kansasscience2005.com/Proposed%20Revision%20to%20Draft%202%20KS%20Sci

            %20Stds.pdf

 

[16] Ibid

 

[17] Ibid, 3

 

[18] Ibid, 4

 

[19] Ibid, 5

 

[20] Kansas State Department of Education. �Presentation Held Before The Science Committee of The

            Kansas State Board of Education – Transcript of Proceedings� – May 12th, 2005, p 3.

            http://www.ksde.org/outcomes/schearing05122005.pdf

 

[21] Ibid

 

[22] Ibid

 

[23] Isackson, Noah, Michael D. Lemonick and Jeffrey Ressner. 2005. Stealth Attack on Evolution: Who is

            behind the movement to give equal time to Darwin's critics, and what do they really want? Time,

            31 January, 53.

 

[24] McLean, Jim. 1999. Creationism or evolutionism?  Steadfast in their beliefs, disciples on each side insist

            their position is bolstered by evidence.  The result is a Fundamental debate. Topeka Capital-

            Journal. August 22.

           

[26]  Witham, Larry. 2001. Senate bill tackles evolution debate; Advises states to allow academic openness on

            concept. The Washington Times. June 18.

 

[29]  Ibid

 

[30]  Ibid

[33] McLean, Jim. 1999. Creationism or evolutionism?  Steadfast in their beliefs, disciples on each side insist

            their position is bolstered by evidence.  The result is a Fundamental debate. Topeka Capital-

            Journal. August 22.

 

[35] Ibid

[38] Dean, Cornelia. 2005. Opting Out In the Debate On Evolution. New York Times. June 21,

            Section F; Page 1.

 

[41] Ibid

 

[42] Ibid

 

[43] Ibid

[45] Ibid

 

[46] Ibid

[48] 1999. Design, perhaps, but just how intelligent is it? Topeka Capital – Journal. November 9.

 

[49] Slevin, Peter. 2005. Battle on Teaching Evolution Sharpens. Washington Post. March 14,

Section A; page 1

[50] Baker, Jim. 2005. Christian agenda worries other faiths: push for intelligent design seen by some as

            imposing Christianity on others. Lawrence World – Journal

 

[51] Ibid

 

[52] Ibid

 

[53] Ibid

 

[54] Bavley, Alan. 2000. A Study in Faith. The Kansas City Star. October 24.

            http://www.kcstar.com/item/pages/printer.pat,local/3774dbc8.a23,.html

 

[57] Akyol, Mustafa. Testimony to the Kansas State Board of Education.

            http://www.ksde.org/outcomes/scepttestimonyalyol.pdf

 

[58] Ibid

 

[59] Ibid

 

[60] Ibid