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Public floods Kansas board with input on science standards

The Intelligent Design Network's John Calvert has provided us with this first-hand account of Tuesday's meeting where the public could share their opinions with the Kansas SBOE on proposed revisions to the state's science standards.

Report on a public debate about evolution

Last night I went to the public meeting at Schlagel High in Kansas City, Kansas. It focused on the Kansas Science Standards and Proposals by the Harris group to increase their objectivity in the area of origins.

I thought there would be a crowd, but not 400. The place was packed. Even if I wanted to speak, the line that had been open for speakers was closed well before my arrival. They cut off the list at 60 but allowed time for only 45 or 50.
Diane Carroll, a reporter for the Star published this morning a Front Page Metro Section story on the event. Once again, her coverage is very accurate and balanced. Although most of the opposition characterized the Proposals as seeking to teach ID and Religion, Diane makes their intentions clear:

"The eight committee members proposing the changes say intelligent design is too new to be taught. Instead, they are asking that students study evolution more carefully to become aware of the questions that they say it does not answer. They also contend that the current definition of science limits inquiry, because it allows only natural explanations. They propose changing it to encourage students to "follow the evidence wherever it leads."

Diane estimated that roughly half who testified favored the proposals. I think that assessment was true up until the last half hour. Toward the end of the debate most of the speakers were for the Proposals.

Any objective observer would wonder what was going on, because the two sides tell such conflicting stories. It is really odd when so many say there is no controversy, while so many others disagree. Ultimately the truth will emerge on this issue. Misinformation has a finite life.

I think we won the battle for the minds of the lay person, but probably not of those leaning to a more liberal view. The latter would say there were more credentialed scientists on the other side.

One thing is obvious. This is not the proper process for deciding this issue. Focused hearings from experts are desperately needed to cut through the misinformation, ridicule and half truths.

It would have helped to have more scientists on our side. If that had been the case we would have won the debate hands down. As it was, the objective observer would leave scratching his head.

We also need theologians who can rebut the argument of the Christian biology teacher that there is no conflict between evolution or naturalism and Christianity. We need someone to explain the two logical conflicts that allow Dawkins to claim to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist and that precludes a Christian from making the same claim.

The most interesting talks of the entire evening were delivered by two Muslims for the Proposals - Fahti Ozcan and David Aslanov. I am going to issue a separate post on what they had to say. We can thank fellow Netter Mustafa Akyol for their joining the cause.

Doug Johnson was really excited after the meeting. He felt that it was a real victory for our side because of the number of parents who charged the science community with suppressing the evidence and not satisfying the concerns of the patrons of public education - the parents. However, in my view we need to begin to pull minds from the left side of the aisle to our side. To do this we need to explain the parental need, but we also need to explain the deep scientific problem with methodological naturalism in origins science.

Interestingly, the debate last night exposes what I believe is the ultimate legal and factual issue: Does methodological naturalism in origins science have an EFFECT equal to or worse than philosophical naturalism. In my view the EFFECT is worse than philosophical naturalism. The reason this is the key issue is that the opposition agrees that the state should not be promoting philosophical naturalism. I plan to issue a separate post on this subject alone.

You can read the Kansas City Star's coverage here (registration required).

A draft of the proposal from the science-writing committee is at www.ksde.org/outcomes/sciencestd.html.

John Calvert
Feb 3, 2005