14 August 2005

Kansas BOE wants to lie to students - Part 3

It's time for our next look at the Kansas Board of Education majority's continuing crusade to push their own narrow-minded sectarian agenda at the expense of actual education. Today's entry can be found on page 80 of the draft science standards (available as a pdf on the Kansas Department of Eduation's website):

Grade 8-12 indicator 7: explains proposed scientific explanations of the origin of life as well as scientific criticisms of those explanations.

It's worth noting at this point that this particular indicator is not present in the March 9th draft of the science standards (also available as a pdf) - the one written by the science standards committee without excessive input from the elected BoE members. It is a recent addition by the Board of Education. I am not, however, planning to devote time and energy to discussing the indicator itself. My concern is more with the "additional specificity" points that they list with this new indicator.

7. Some of the scientific criticisms include:
a A lack of empirical evidence for a “primordial soup” or a chemically hospitable pre-biotic atmosphere;
b. The lack of adequate natural explanations for the genetic code, the sequences of genetic information necessary to specify life, the biochemical machinery needed to translate genetic information into functional biosystems, and the formation of proto-cells; and
c. The sudden rather than gradual emergence of organisms near the time that the Earth first became habitable.

It's really hard to figure out what the most objectionable part of that list is. There are just so many different objections.

It might be the highly questionable accuracy of those statements (for example, see Mark Isaak's Index of Creationist Claims entry CB035 for a discussion of the early atmosphere issue).

It is possible that it is the implication that a current lack of an "adequate" natural explanation is somehow positive evidence that a supernatural explanation is needed. It is also possible that the most objectionable component of this list is their failure to specify what they mean by "adequate".

It could even be the nonsensical nature of some of the "scientific criticisms" - what would a "gradual" emergence of organisms look like, and what evidence of that would reasonably be expected to be preserved?

Any of those things could be the the most objectionable thing about this list. Were the members of the KBOE's conservative majority hindered by even the slightest hint of honesty or ethical conduct, one of them might be. However, the KBOE majority has, yet again, demonstrated an unbelievable amount of sheer chutzpah - because those three items are all of the material that they have seen fit to place in the draft.

Let's look at this again. The KBOE's new indicator reads:
Grade 8-12 indicator 7: explains proposed scientific explanations of the origin of life as well as scientific criticisms of those explanations.
[emphasis mine]

7. Some of the scientific criticisms include...

Wow. Looks like they forgot to mention what the scientific explanations actually are. You'd think that they would at least try to make a point of demonstrating something that bears some faint resemblance to even-handedness, wouldn't you? After all, this is the same group of people who claim that their objectives are:

1) to help students understand the full range of scientific views that exist on this topic, 2) to enhance critical thinking and the understanding of the scientific method by encouraging students to study different and opposing scientific evidence, and 3) to ensure that science education in our state is “secular, neutral, and non-ideological.”

Is it just me, or is their failure to list any of the "proposed scientific explanations for the origin of life" just slightly inconsistent with all three of those stated objectives?
Post a Comment