September 1, 1999

On the 1999 Kansas Board of Education Ruling

Here's a heresy of the 19th century: Species change over time.

Here's a heresy of the 20th century: Natural selection is the agent of that change.

Or is it? School kids in Kansas may not learn this, since Kansas teachers are no longer required to teach Darwin's theory.

This can help break the monopoly of evolutionist dogma, and allow other explanations in classrooms. As one Kansas teacher was quoted in the New York Times: "We can present several different theories to help [students] think. Let them do some thinking with the help of their families. Then let them make up their own mind."

In other words, teachers in Kansas are now pitting natural selection against other explanations of species change in a competition to see if "survival of the fittest" is fit to survive in the minds of Kansas schoolkids.

Let's see. Natural selection is the most successful scientific theory of all time. Its explanatory sword for explaining evolution was forged 150 years ago and grows sharper all the time. Like any scientific theory, it is easily falsifiable. Like very few theories, it has yet to be falsified. It's a requirement for a decent understanding of biology and biological sciences, like medicine. Hope your doctor knows Darwin.

What else is out there? Just creationism, whose key hypothesis falls outside the scope of science.

But "survival of the fittest" might not be fit to survive school board curriculum battles, dominated by conservative lobbyists with million- dollar-a-year budgets.

There's any irony to all this. The Kansas evolution debate first arose after a Kansas Board of Education member objected to the science guidelines submitted by a committee of 27 scientists and professors. That Board member, Steve Abrams, was a former head of the Kansas Republican Party, and he, with the help of creationists, rewrote the standards, all but deleting two pages wroth of recommendations on teaching the origin of species.

Abrams even tried, but scientists protested and blocked, the insertion of this passage: "The design and complexity of the design of the cosmos requires an intelligent designer."

Steve a veterinarian -- a profession whose basic training involves anatomy, histology, physiology, pharmacology, microbiology (including bacteriology, virology, and parasitology) -- in sum, all fields whose understanding requires an understanding of evolution and natural selection.

I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.



  1. "Board for Kansas Deletes Evolution from Curriculum", The New York Times, August 12, 1999.
  2. "Evolution Struggle Shifts to Kansas School Districts", The New York Times, August 25, 1999.
  3. Keeton, William T., James L. Gould, and Carol Grant Gould. Biological Science. W.W. Norton and Company. New York, 1996.
  4. "Veterinary science", Encyclopaedia Britannica CD 99 Multimedia Edition, 1994-1999.