Kansas reporting: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - Evolution News & Views

Evolution News and Views (ENV) provides original reporting and analysis about the debate over intelligent design and evolution, including breaking news about scientific research.

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Kansas reporting: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Kansas is busy reviewing, and proposing revisions to, the standards by which it will measure what students know or don't know about science. Regardless of the tin-ear reporting of some journalists, students in Kansas will continue to learn about evolution. The question is will they know ALL about evolution including the scientific evidence against it? Or, will they learn only about the evidence that supports it?

Reporting on the issue has run the gamut from good, to bad, to ugly. We remarked on the good previously, an article by Diane Carroll of the Kansas City Star. And, there was today another good article, by Elaine Bessier in the Johnson County Sun. In fact, Bessier's article was more than good, it was downright fair and balanced.

Rather than conflate the revisions being proposed with intelligent design theory Bessier correctly reports:

"The revisions would open the door to questioning the theory of evolution by permitting teachers to discuss evidence for and against the theory in a neutral way and making it clear that evolution is a theory, not a fact.

Several professionals and students in the science field warned against impeding Kansas' biosciences initiative by de-emphasizing evolution in the schools."

Obviously these "professionals" didn't understand the proposed revisions. The emphasis is all on evolution. There is no deemphasizing of evolution. What's being proposed is to improve and expand the teaching of evolution.

Bessier goes on to show that Darwinists are throwing intelligent design in where no one else has proposed it:

"Although the revisions don't include intelligent design, which holds that the universe is so complex it could not have been created by an undirected process, several people argued against bringing intelligent design into the science classroom."

Interestingly, Bessier's story gives equal time to both those critical of including the strengths and weaknesses of Darwin's theory, and those who wish to foster critical thinking by including the scientific criticisms.

"Terry Devine, a former biology teacher, said that, for years, he taught evolution as the only theory (of where life came from). 'We know we should have presented other things so students can make the decisions for their lives. This has not been done in the past. I think of all the things I taught as fact that have been proven to be not fact.' Eugene Stohs of Shawnee, an adjunct professor of philosophy, spoke for "academic freedom of science teachers and students, the freedom to examine everything for and against any theory." He said the proposed revisions would allow greater academic freedom."

Other media, as NPR did today, have painted all people critical of evolution as religiously motivated creationists, and report as if criticism of Darwin is indeed the same as intelligent design theory. (Note to NPR: Reading from the Eugenie Scott playbook and calling it a news story isn't journalism.)

NPR isn't alone. The Associated Press' man on the scene in Kansas, John Hanna, is peddling the red-state-on-a-rampage treatment of the evolution debate:

"Emboldened by their success getting a proposal to ban gay marriage before Kansas voters, some clergy leading that fight say they will tackle other issues, including the teaching of evolution in public schools."
Hanna isn't finished pushing the black-helicopters hysteria, reporting a source that says:
"I sure think there's a conservative agenda at work here," he said. "It's to control minds and thinking."
Hanna's story may be the first empirically verifiable example of macroevolution, morphing as it does from a proposal to ban gay marriage to a proposal to improve science standards.

Then he trots out the trusty vague-as-fog definition of evolution:

"And evolution - which describes species changing over time to adapt to their environments and avoid extinction - is a perceived threat."
Why this would be threatening I don't know. No leading design theorists disagree with this definition of evolution as change over time. It's another strawman argument.

To his credit, Hanna does get around to giving some straight facts:

"With the Board of Education, evolution critics aren't yet seeking equal status for creationism, which declares God created the universe, or intelligent design, which says evidence suggests change can't be attributed only to random chance.

Instead, critics want to encourage more criticism of evolution in the classroom.

Bill Harris, a University of Missouri-Kansas City professor of medicine, a leader of the effort, said clergy's support could cloud the issue. People don't have to be religious to see validity in intelligent design, and the goal is a balanced teaching about evolution, he said.

"Clearly, the question of what you teach about origins has religious implications," said Harris, who helped found the Intelligent Design Network."

So, he does interview a scientist supportive of design, although he doesn't quote him on science.

Alas, all this ugly reporting and worried opining, has resulted in opinion pieces based on fallacies and misrepresentations. Now, thanks to the ugly reporting, Sunday the Kansas City Star ran two opinion pieces, one supporting the mythical proposed inclusion of intelligent design in the classroom, and the other making a case for dropping the teaching of either evolution or design.

William Gregor suggests:

&"Pairing intelligent design with the theory of evolution in Kansas' science standards would be a positive step toward improving critical reasoning skills among Kansas' children."
But, no one has proposed this in Kansas.

Even worse is this idea from Deborah Phillips:

"This may be the most radical proposition you'll hear in this debate: Kansas science standards should emphasize neither intelligent design nor macroevolution. Debating science standards is a waste of time; neither side will convince the other."
Amazingly, Phillips manages to come up with the proper solution:
"I don't worry what my children are taught in biology class. It is my responsibility to teach them truth; it is the school's responsibility to impart information and teach them to think critically. Their job is to get good grades by putting down the desired answers; they don't have to believe them."

Darwin did not know what we know about DNA. He didn't know the instructions for humans are roughly three billion letters long. It takes a lot more faith to believe this infinitely complex blueprint happened by chance, than to believe an intelligent designer created it. But either one takes faith; neither belongs in the science classroom.

K. Hsu, geologist at the Geological Institute at Zurich, says it well: "We have had enough of the Darwinian fallacy. It is time that we cry: 'The emperor has no clothes.'"