Kansas Creationism: “We’re Not Crackpots”

Things are almost ready to explode in Kansas. As we reported in Kansas Creationism: Alive and Well in 2012, the Kansas State Board of Education is getting ready to entertain the world again, just as they did back in 2005 when they went all out for creationism (see Kansas Flashback: The Crazy Days).

The occasion this time around is the review of new science standards proposed by the National Research Council. The standards are being considered by Kansas and 25 other states, and are intended as voluntary guidelines to be adopted by all states for use in their public schools. But any consideration of science in Kansas is a risky business, and especially this time, because the proposed standards straightforwardly regard evolution as good science appropriate for the classroom.

The chance to comment on — and perhaps reject — the proposed standards offers the good folks of Kansas the same kind of opportunity that a full moon offers to a werewolf. And they’ve already started howling.

In our last post on this topic we mentioned that:

Board member Ken Willard, a Hutchinson Republican, said he’s troubled by the first draft of the proposed standards. … Willard said the draft embraces naturalism and secular humanism, which precludes God or another supreme being in considering how the universe works. He said he intends to raise the issue Tuesday.

At the website of New England Cable News (NCEN) we read: Kan. official wants evolution concerns considered. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

People who question evolution shouldn’t be treated as “crackpots,” and their concerns should be addressed seriously as states consider new science standards for public schools, an elected Kansas official said Tuesday during a preliminary discussion about the work on new guidelines.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Willard is already reaping national ridicule. NECN continues:

Ken Willard, a member of the Kansas State Board of Education, described a draft of proposed science standards as “flawed” because of how it treats evolution.

[...]

Some board members expressed surprise that the early work on guidelines would receive much public notice, especially with it being months before the board is likely to consider adopting the standards. But from 1999 to 2007, the state had five sets of science standards as conservative Republicans gained and lost board majorities, bringing Kansas international attention and some ridicule.

They’re surprised? Hee hee. Let’s read on:

Willard, a Hutchinson Republican, distributed a nine-page letter criticizing the draft multistate standards from the group Citizens for Objective Public Education Inc., which lists officers in Florida and Kansas. The letter suggested that the draft standards ignore evidence against evolution, don’t respect religious diversity and promote secular humanism, which precludes God or another supreme being in considering how the universe works.

We can’t find a link to Willard’s letter, but it doesn’t matter. We’ve all seen that stuff before. Let’s continue with the news story:

“I hope that it will be taken seriously and not as just information from a bunch of crackpots,” Willard said. “Anybody who deigns to take a questioning position regarding anything to do with evolution is pretty well named to be a crackpot or a kook of some sort.”

Oh, how unfair! Here’s more:

Board Chairman David Dennis, a Wichita Republican, said he’d like to have the board consider the new science standards by the end of the year. Under that timetable, the board would likely adopt evolution-friendly guidelines because Democrats and moderate Republicans, including Dennis, have a majority.

Ah, we see the problem. For the moment, the … uh, crackpots are out-voted. But next year may be different. Moving along:

Five of the 10 board seats are on the ballot this fall. Dennis and two other members aren’t seeking re-election, and those who are running again face contested races. Also, Willard, who doesn’t face re-election to the board until 2014, is running for a Kansas House seat. The board could have as many as six new members next year, and Dennis said the newcomers will have to catch up to months of information. But state Department of Education officials said the standards probably won’t be ready for a board vote until early next year.

This is delicious. It means that evolution will be the big issue in the Kansas school board elections. Kansas will once more be the intellectual center of the flat earth. Another excerpt:

Willard said: “Many people worry about being embarrassed, that Kansas is being embarrassed by asking questions, being inquisitive, about these matters. I think that’s just off the charts, because I cannot imagine somebody being embarrassed about trying to get the truth of the matter.”

Don’t worry about being embarrassed, Willard. Our readers need the entertainment. One more excerpt:

Joining Willard in expressing concern about the draft multistate standards was board member Kathy Martin, a Clay Center Republican who opted not to run for re-election this year. She said the draft “grieves” her because it contains “some ideology.” “It’s not objective,” she said.

Kathy Martin! Our joy is complete. Well, almost complete. She won’t be around next year. That’s okay. The battle for her seat should be fun. We’re confident that Kansas can find someone to replace her who will be just good. We’ll be watching.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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21 responses to “Kansas Creationism: “We’re Not Crackpots”

  1. People who question evolution shouldn’t be treated as “crackpots, …”

    Maybe they would feel better if there was a more politically correct term for these people …

    Fractured Ceramicists
    Clay Crumblers
    Vase Vanquishers
    Bowl Breakers
    Container Impaired
    Earthenware Damagers
    Clownish Creationists

  2. I like “Container Impaired.” Impaired seems to fit so well.

  3. Even without reading the letter, I can say with a fair amount of confidence: sir, your concerns were addressed seriously at the talk origins archive 6-10 years ago.

  4. e who question evolution shouldn’t be treated as “crackpots, …”

    The only way to answer that is:

    “You are absolutely right. Evolutionary biologists question evolution every day, and the overwhelming majority of them are not crackpots. You, however, do not question it, but misrepresent it. That makes you either a crackpot, a scam artist, or one of their victims. Or some combination of the 3.”

  5. “With the thoughts you’d be thinkin’,
    You could be another Lincoln,
    If you only had a brain…”
    —Dorothy, frustrated taxpaying citizen of Kansas

  6. Retired Prof

    ” Willard said the draft embraces naturalism and secular humanism, which precludes God or another supreme being in considering how the universe works.”

    I see. Just as long as some supreme being is considered, Willard will be satisfied. So one Kansas teacher should include Allah in considering how the Universe works; another should teach that the universe is an effect that must have had a creator using the Hindu idea of Karma; another could explain things through the Baha’i prophets called manifestations of God; and so on, different teachers using other monotheistic religions.

    Then see how many of Willard’s ilk are happy with the policy of including “God or another supreme being” in the science curriculum.

  7. To continue on the point raised by Retired Prof

    We can teach that the Earth goes around the Sun if we mention that God or another supreme being provides the motion. We can teach about the periodic table if we mention the role of God or another supreme being in chemistry. We can teach algebra and trigonometry if we mention about how God or another supreme being is the reason that 1+1=2.

  8. Of course there’s no scientific value in seeing the COPE Inc. letter. However, seeing that letter is politcally important. We need to know who’s spending money to fight the teaching of evolutionary theory in our public schools. Florida Citizens for Science has a dog in this hunt as well, since the article mentions officers residing in Florida as well; indeed, FCfS has requested its readership to try to learn the identities of the Florida COPE officers.

  9. rubble – I would not be surprised if “officers” turned out to be singular rather than plural. Or if all the ‘officers’ had the same mailing address and last name. Typing up a 9-page manifesto and some misleading letterhead is cheap. In this day and age, the fact that they have no web presence doesn’t just ring alarm bells, it means that as (probable) fake organizations go, they aren’t even a very good one.

  10. Jack Hogan

    I’ve noticed that creationists are sensitive about being called crackpots. All the more reason to call them crackpots.

    But calling them crackpots is almost being too kind. Crackpots can be benign. Aggressive militant creationists are not benign. The goal of creationist crackpots is to undermine public confidence in science and scientists.

    I’ve also noticed they exercise little or no sensitivity in the things they say about “evolutionists”. Things that explicitly or implicitly say that millions of scientists over the course of 150-200+ years are stupid, because they have concluded evolution is valid and that the earth is not 6000 years old, and/or they are engaged in a vast conspiracy to deceive the world for the nefarious purpose of deliberately undermining religion, in particular their sectarian religious beliefs.

    The one advantage of calling them crackpots instead of something worse is that it is dismissive. They absolutely hate being dismissed as crackpots.

  11. retiredsciguy

    Not quite on the same topic, but it is about creationism and it is in a state with the initial letter “K” —
    There’s an Associated Press article in the local paper (Lafayette, Indiana Journal & Courier) informing that Ken Ham is launching a national billboard effort featuring cartoon dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden. Cities mentioned where billboards will appear include San Francisco, Chicago, and Houston.

    I’m not linking it since AP is touchy about that, but it’s on page A4 of the print version of today’s (June 13) rag paper.

  12. retiredsciguy says: “I’m not linking it since AP is touchy about that”

    Yes, they are. But I just noticed that the news article I quoted for this post is an AP story. I thought it came from a TV network. Now I’ll just have to see if they get upset.

  13. eric, you may be right. OTOH we’re talking about Ken Willard here. Willard was very effective in getting the 2005 KSBoE to adopt a Creationist, science-killing agenda. He very nearly ran unopposed for president of the NRC, the organization now responsible for drawing up the national science standards; just think how effed-up things would be, if somebody else didn’t turn out to run.

    Stealth organization is a common tactic for these crackpot activists; so is drumming up public sentiment. It’s likely that Willard has some knowledge about the NRC’s political workings. While there may indeed be nothing of considerable concern, we should keep our eyes on the ball.

  14. “I hope that it will be taken seriously and not as just information from a bunch of crackpots,” Willard said. “Anybody who deigns to take a questioning position regarding anything to do with evolution is pretty well named to be a crackpot or a kook of some sort.”

    Insisting that science needs to start accepting supernatural causes doesn’t exactly help reassure people that you and your fellow travelers aren’t crackpots, Willard.

  15. RSG said:

    There’s an Associated Press article in the local paper (Lafayette, Indiana Journal & Courier) informing that Ken Ham is launching a national billboard effort featuring cartoon dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden.

    Just saw one of Ham’s billboards, but it was on the PA Turnpike near the Ohio border. It featured a man walking a dinosaur on a leash followed by “Come visit the Creation Museum” (or something to that affect). Fortunately, my wife was driving; that prevented us from running off the road due to my bout of side-splitting laughter.

  16. Ceteris Paribus

    There may be more sound and fury than substance to the budding Willard/science conflict story. Simply put, Willard just knows how easy it is to use the press for free political advertising ahead of his August Republican primary contest for a state House seat.

    The retiring incumbent is the current Republican House speaker, and I’m guessing the redistricting maps released a couple days ago won’t change anything that would make it less certain that a Republican will always come from that district. So if Willard wins his primary, he moves another step up the political ladder.

    Which could make the 2014 election even more fun for Willard, because he is in the Congressional district of current Tea Party yayhoo Tim Huelskamp, and Huelskamp is likely salivating at the chance to take over Pat Roberts Senate seat, which is up in 2014.

    Roberts will be 78 years old at that election, and may well decide to retire, especially since there is already speculation that the Tea Party may run a primary challenge against Roberts just as they did successfully against Indiana Senator Lugar. And of course if Huelskamp moves to the Senate, Willard can set his sights on the US House.

    I suspect after August there won’t be much more in the way of news releases sourced to shadowy, poorly known, anti-evolution groups coming from Willard. There will be plenty enough anti-evolution support tor Willard coming from the well known usual main-stream creationist hacks.

  17. retiredsciguy

    @Gary: “Just saw one of Ham’s billboards…”

    Too bad you were laughing too hard to snap a photo. Some things are just made for sharing. If anyone else sees one and you have a camera (or cellphone) handy, well, isn’t that what Curmy’s blog is for?

  18. retiredsciguy says: “Too bad you were laughing too hard to snap a photo.”

    No need for that. The AIG website has an article about their billboard campaign, with photos.

  19. Gary: “Just saw one of Ham’s billboards…”

    @Gary: I’ll know your car if I ever see it. It will be the one with an auxiliary Mt. Dew tank and windshield washers on the inside.

  20. @SC: Unfortunately, none of those feature a man walking a dinosaur on a leash.
    @TA: Shhhhhhh! Not so loud. Otherwise, everyone will want one!

  21. NCSE posted a column yesterday that proves Kansans are capable of being embarrassed:
    http://ncse.com/news/2012/06/cringing-kansas-007454

    As a resident of California, I know how it feels to be embarrassed by your state. I feel sorry for them.