August 9, 2005
Washington, DC--The Kansas State Board of Education is doing a disservice
to the state's K-12 students by adopting a curriculum that redefines
science such that intelligent design/creationism and other
non-scientific concepts could be taught in science classes.
On Tuesday the school board voted 6-4 to adopt science standards that
question evolution, despite objections from a committee of scientists
and educators tasked with writing the standards. The standards will now
go through an external review panel before they become official, but
observers expect the board to approve them in their current form this fall.
Members of the mainstream scientific research community maintain that
there is no controversy about evolution, a unifying principle of
biology. Concerned by increasing international competitiveness, they
worry that students in Kansas and other areas will be unprepared to
embark on careers in the biological sciences and other technical fields.
"If our students are going to compete in the global economy and if we
are going to attract the next generation into the sciences, we must
teach science," says Dr. Marvalee Wake, president of the American
Institute of Biological Sciences. "We simply cannot begin to introduce
non-scientific concepts into the science curriculum."
In March the committee on science standards issued a draft that defined
science as "a human activity of systematically seeking natural
explanations for what we observe in the world around us." Members of
the board responded by holding taxpayer-funded hearings on intelligent
design--widely denounced in the media and scientific community--and
subsequently changing the standards to remove the phrase "natural
explanations." Critics worry that this opens the door to the inclusion
of supernatural or religious ideas in science classes. The new
standards also single out evolution as a controversial concept,
mirroring the rhetoric of intelligent design proponents.
The majority of biologists utilize the theory of evolution in their work
on a daily basis. The scientific method requires generating
hypotheses, testing the hypotheses with data, and drawing conclusions
based on the data; this is the practice of scientists, including
evolutionary biologists. Intelligent design presumes complexity whose
origins and pathways are not testable and that demand a "designer" to
achieve. This approach is not scientific. A comparison of diverse
approaches is amenable to philosophy or religion classes, but not those
in science, in which our understanding of life's phenomena is increased
through rigorous testing and analysis rather than assumptions.
"The theory of evolution underpins all of modern biology," says AIBS
Executive Director Richard O'Grady. "When teachers are told to treat
intelligent design as science, their students are not learning about the
nature of science. Scientific theories can be tested; beliefs cannot."
Public Affairs Representative
Read more AIBS Position Statements