Kansas Creationism: What’s Happening?

Although somewhat quiescent lately, the state of Kansas has never truly emerged from The Crazy Days in 2005 when the Kansas State Board of Education, led by Kathy Martin and Connie Morris, actually decided to re-define the meaning of science in Kansas so that it would include supernatural phenomena — thus allowing creationism to be taught in science class.

But things changed in the next school board election when the creationist majority lost control. Since then things have been tolerable, but that may only be until the November elections, which may change the balance of power on the Board. The situation has been simmering, and we’ve been expecting the pot to begin boiling again.

As we wrote back in July, in Kansas Creationism Is National News:

Kansas is considering new, evolution-friendly science standards proposed by the National Research Council, which are intended as voluntary guidelines to be adopted by all states for use in their public schools.

One faction on the Kansas State Board of Education wants to approve the standards now, before the November elections — which could swing the Board back to a creationist majority.

[...]

Five of the 10 Board seats are on the ballot this fall. Kathy Martin, the queen of the Kansas creationists, won’t be running for re-election, so it’s all up for grabs this year. Evolution is the big issue, because Kansas is on the cutting edge of science — Tenth Century science.

There hasn’t been much news out of Kansas since then, so what’s been happening in their ongoing evolution war? In the Topeka Capital-Journal we read Kansas school board members like drift of science standards. Unfortunately, it’s an Associated Press story, and they don’t like bloggers using their material. So we’ll do some summarizing, along with copying a phrase here and there, plus a few direct quotes provided by the AP.

They begin by saying that the new, evolution-friendly standards are gaining approval by the Kansas State Board of Education, “even from members who have worried the new guidelines will be too friendly toward evolution.” They remind us that Kansas has gone through five different revisions of their science standards since 1999, as creationist majorities ebbed and flowed.

Then we’re told that the creationists aren’t expected to win a majority in the coming elections, so things may remain evolution-friendly. Maybe so, but that remains to be seen.

To our great surprise, the AP story quotes Ken Willard, about whom we wrote “We’re Not Crackpots”. According to AP:

“I’m very supportive of most everything that I’ve seen,” he said.

That doesn’t sound like the same Ken Willard we’ve written about before. But that’s not all. Then AP quotes Kathy Martin, the queen of the Kansas creationists:

“I really like what these new science standards are doing,” she said. “I like the discovery-based, project-based learning.”

None of this makes any sense to us. This is Kansas, folks! What’s going on? It would be lovely if Kansas adopted rational science education guidelines, and if the November elections preserved the currently sane majority on the Board. But ya’ know — your Curmudgeon gets suspicious when things seem to be going too well — especially in a creationist state like Kansas. So we’ll keep watching.

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

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22 responses to “Kansas Creationism: What’s Happening?

  1. Dorothy clicked her heels?

  2. The whole truth

    I read the AP story and I’m not convinced that the creobots are approving of ‘evolution friendly’ science. For one thing the science standards haven’t been finalized yet and could have loopholes that may not be ‘evolution friendly’. Second, willard and martin are only quoted as being in favor of hands on experiments, not necessarily in favor of ‘evolution friendly’ science. Third, the students would be allowed to “design and pursue their own experiments” which could be woo friendly, not necessarily ‘evolution friendly’ (depending on the final, adopted standards and whether teachers and students adhere to them).

    krehbiel said:

    “The intent of the last round was to highlight inquiry by setting it apart as its own standard.” What kind of “inquiry”? In godbot speak “inquiry” could mean challenging the ToE with religious woo.

    And then there is:

    “…Chappell, a Wichita Republican, who questioned whether standardized tests can measure creativity.” The words “Republican” and “creativity” in the same sentence is worrying.

    The AP story implies that willard and martin approve of evolution friendly science standards but it is not clear that they do by a careful reading of the wording of the article. I’m very skeptical that such gung-ho creobots would suddenly change their tune and accept evolution friendly science standards. There must be more to the story and/or a catch of some sort that wasn’t stated in the article.

  3. Of Ken Willard’s and Kathy Martin’s reported Damascene moments and apparent turnings toward the path of Reason, our Curmy declares:

    None of this makes any sense to us. This is Kansas, folks! What’s going on?

    It is initially a puzzle, but here is my considered conjecture:

    Willard and Martin, ever faithful to their pledge to drag humanity back to the Good Ole Dark Ages, stumbled upon an account of the Indiana legislature’s failed 1897 act to replace the dark, Satanic value of pi with the wholesome Judeo-Christian value of 4.

    Unfortunately for them, when they then plugged this new Family Values Pi into Dembski’s notorious mathematical formulae for demonstrating the statistical impossibility of evolution, the results were different! For now, Dembski’s calculation demonstrated that:

    • Even a light breeze of Beaufort Force 1 (1-1.5 km/h) across a junkyard for 15 minutes was sufficient to assemble a functioning Boeing-747 (probability of 83.08%)

    • Only seven chimpanzees pounding randomly at typewriters would produce the entire oeuvre of Shakespeare in less than a fortnight (probability 87.62%)

    • The atomic particles making up the Turin Shroud will spontaneously reassemble themselves into a set of Easter Island heathen moai before next Arbor Day (probability 96.31%)

    • The Discovery Institute is flat-out wrong about everything (dead certainty, 100% probability)

    I have no evidence for my conjecture here, but – in the manner of the Creationists – offer instead my intuitive sense of plausibility about it and my personal reputation for moral probity as sufficient cause for commending my guesswork as worthy of your belief.

  4. Discovery-based, inquiry-based learning, and project-based learning are new educational trends that have been adopted more and more commonly over the last ten or fifteen years. There’s nothing nefarious or creationist about them.

  5. The whole truth notes:

    Second, willard and martin are only quoted as being in favor of hands on experiments, not necessarily in favor of ‘evolution friendly’ science. Third, the students would be allowed to “design and pursue their own experiments” which could be woo friendly, not necessarily ‘evolution friendly’

    Good points, both, and ones that must give us pause. The notion of a student-designed ‘hands-on experiment’ concerning ToE admits of some worrying possibilities, such as the fabled Tornado in a Junkyard Experiment

  6. Megalonyx says: “when they then plugged this new Family Values Pi …”

    I’ve done the math (but I can’t show it because the dog ate it), and it turns out that the global oceanic turbulence during the Flood was much less than with secular pi, so the Ark would have had smooth sailing.

  7. Ceteris Paribus

    Some of the earlier comments on junkyard airliners come close – the satan in the schoolhouse is found in the hands-on, student designed, structure.

    Molly designs an experiment carefully watching and caring for her Ant Farm. At the end of the semester notes that not a single one of those ants evolved into a mouse. Conclusion: Molly, and no one else will ever see a CrockoDuck, and evolution is false.

    Unlike chemistry or physics experiments which produce an immediate observable effect, biology will always require old fashioned book learnin.

    The predictable result is that any local school boards or teachers who want to diminish teaching of evolution will feel free to leave those troublesome biology books collecting dust while the students are fed just-so stories they can verify by their own experiments.

    But I can report that Kansas is making progress toward reality. It was only just last Monday that our esteemed Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, having performed the due diligence of his own personal inquiry and calling a public hearing on the matter, decided that Barack Obama is properly credentialed as a native born US citizen, and therefore eligible to appear on the Kansas election ballots in two months.

  8. Pretty much everyone commenting on this so far is falling into tribalist thinking–if creationists are fer it, it must be something that furthers creationism. This is false. These approaches to teaching first took root in math and physics and are now being applied across the science curriculum. They are not designed or intended to promote creationism, nor do they easily lend themselves to it. These approaches are endorsed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and are incorporated into state-level implementations of Race to the Top.

    I have grave misgivings about the effectiveness of these techniques, but that has nothing to do with creationism. They are no more likely to be misused to promote creationism any more than traditional instruction typically is.

  9. Did no one use the Google? Did no one bother to look these things up for themselves? A creationist says good things about them, so they’re automatically condemned, and we begrudge the time spent on a Google search?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inquiry-based_learning

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Based_Learning

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discovery_learning

  10. The whole truth:

    I’m not convinced that the creobots are approving of ‘evolution friendly’ science. For one thing the science standards haven’t been finalized yet and could have loopholes that may not be ‘evolution friendly’

    The cynic in me agrees. I’m inclined to read Willard and Martins comments as “we are pleased with trojan horse lines we’ve been able to sneak in to the recommended standards.”

    But, if Gabriel is right and this is just a case of creationists agreeing with the recommendations of mainstream science education, then good for them.

  11. eric notes:

    But, if Gabriel is right and this is just a case of creationists agreeing with the recommendations of mainstream science education, then good for them

    Agreed. And, even more to the point, good for the students in Kansas.

  12. Ceteris Paribus

    Yes, yes. Let the children run both creationist and evolutionist experiments, and decide for themselves. Just like we would permit them to experiment in the lunch room with both cannibal based menu items, and non cannibal menu items, and decide for themselves.

    The problem for biology education is that all creationist models are by definition based on sectarian presuppositions rather than reason based rational inquiry.

    It is not likely that creationists are any more likely to permit public school biology students to be exposed to experimental methods confirming evolution better than they are to let them rely on the current references to evolution in their textbooks.

    Bear in mind that creationists insist that while physics and chemistry are empirical sciences, biology, as an evolutionary processes, is a historical quest that is not open to experiment. “Were YOU there?”

  13. @ceteris:Let the children run both creationist and evolutionist experiments, and decide for themselves.

    You have no evidence that anyone is intending to do that, or anything else that goes against the science standards. We’ve established that you don’t know what inquiry-based learning is, and that’s fine, it’s no sin to be ignorant, but you have what you need to educate yourself and it is a sin if you refuse to because you’d rather fling feces at the primates who don’t smell like you. These methods have been used for a long time in a lot of places in a lot of subjects and are now the new hot thing, and it’s got sweet F.A. to do with creationism.

    Everyone gets excited by inquiry-based learning when they first hear of it. Creationists are no exception. It IS exciting. The problem is no one has ever proved that it works, but that’s no different from any other educational technique that has been invented. It’s a lot more fun for the people who love and know a great deal about the subject they teach, and a miserable chore for those who don’t, and that’s no new thing either.

    Any teacher has ample leeway to warp the minds of their students in any number of ways. There’s no point in getting worked up over inquiry-based learning just because a creationist praised it.

  14. Gabriel Hanna says: “There’s no point in getting worked up over inquiry-based learning just because a creationist praised it.”

    That’s true, but my suspicion (based on my knowledge of creationists and their methods) is that they see it as a way to slip in their material about the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution.

  15. @SC:(based on my knowledge of creationists and their methods)

    and not on anything these creationists actually said or did. Based on tiny snippets of quotes divorced from their context. When they said they were in favor of inquiry methods, were they asked in the context of teaching evolution? There is no way to tell that from the information you have.

    The article had two topics–new science standards, and the now-old controversy over teaching evolution in Kansas. It’s the journalist who has put those topics together. You are inferring a cause-effect relationship from the mere proximity of the two subjects in an article written by a third party, for reasons essentially tribal.

    And that is all the scolding you get from me, as you are our gracious host.

  16. Gabriel Hanna says: “And that is all the scolding you get from me”

    It’s sufficient. I know I’m serving thin gruel, but that’s all we’ve been given. We’ll soon learn what’s really going on in Kansas. One of us will be wrong. I’ve been there before.

  17. SC:I know I’m serving thin gruel.

    I like what you’ve done here, but nonetheless I hope someday your website becomes obsolete. Be comforted in that. Thin gruel means that the creationists have had little grist for their mills.

  18. Toto: “I’ve got a feeling we’re still in Kansas, mom.

  19. Gabriel Hanna says: “I like what you’ve done here”

    As Don Corleone would say: Some day, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, consider this humble blog a gift.

  20. Cheryl Shepherd-Adams

    I’d rather be pessimistic-then-pleasantly surprised, than optimistic-then-get caught short.

    Gabriel Hanna, I hope you had the chance to check out the first draft of the NGSS when they were up for public review in late May. I think you’d be relieved to know that the term “inquiry” only appears as a reference to the Common Core Standards for English/Language Arts: “Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the
    inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.”
    That’s because too many folks used the term “inquiry” to describe distinctly non-constructivist learning.

    The NGSS are unique in that scientific and engineering practices are interwoven throughout the document. Instead of language like “students will understand” “students will describe” we see that students will be:
    1) Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering); 2) Developing and using models;
    3) Planning and carrying out investigations;
    4) Analyzing and interpreting data;
    5) Using mathematics and computational thinking;
    6) Constructing explanations (for science) and developing designs (for engineering);
    7) Engaging in argument from evidence; and
    8) Obtaining, evaluating and communicating information.

    For example: at the middle-school level, students will be expected to “Analyze and interpret data to determine the cause and effect relationship between the motion of an object and the sum of the forces acting upon it.[Clarification Statement: An example of the additive impact of forces on the motion of an object could include a situation in which one
    person may not be able to push a heavy object, but several people pushing and pulling in the same direction may move it.] [Assessment Boundary: Simple free-body diagrams are acceptable. The use of trigonometry is not an expectation. Assessments should include situations with both balanced and unbalanced forces.]


    Hopefully the next draft will be ready for public comment sometime soon. I’ll try to remember to post a link when it’s up so y’all* can provide input.

    (*helpful to become familiar with the 248-page NRC Framework upon which the NGSS are based.)

    Oh yes – about the Kansas creos. I’d prefer to be pessimistic-then-pleasantly-surprised than optimistic-and-caught-short.

  21. The whole truth

    SC said:

    “(based on my knowledge of creationists and their methods)”

    Gabriel Hanna said:

    “and not on anything these creationists actually said or did.”

    Well, SC did say based on his knowledge of creationists and their methods, and those methods are VERY unlikely to change in creationists as staunch as the ones mentioned in the article. Those creationists (and many others) have said and done plenty to force or try to force their religious dogma into public schools and to stop good science standards from being adopted and implemented. Yeah, the AP article leaves some unanswered questions, and that is what is worrying. It’s not unreasonable to be suspicious of creationists, and especially the ones who have a history of vigorously fighting against good science standards in public schools.

    Gabriel Hanna also said:

    “You have no evidence that anyone is intending to do that, or anything else that goes against the science standards. We’ve established that you don’t know what inquiry-based learning is, and that’s fine, it’s no sin to be ignorant, but you have what you need to educate yourself and it is a sin if you refuse to because you’d rather fling feces at the primates who don’t smell like you. These methods have been used for a long time in a lot of places in a lot of subjects and are now the new hot thing, and it’s got sweet F.A. to do with creationism.”

    The history of the methods, words, and actions of creationists is more than enough evidence to be suspicious of creationists.

    Inquiry based learning may not (and likely doesn’t) mean the same thing to creationists (especially zealous ones) as it does to non-creationists. The still in discussion and not yet adopted science standards may specify what “inquiry” and other particulars mean but the standards may leave some loopholes that creationist teachers/superintendents/school boards/etc. can exploit to push their religious agenda or to at least improperly teach evolutionary science.

    “…you need to educate yourself and it is a sin if you refuse to because you’d rather fling feces at the primates who don’t smell like you.”

    If you want to see the people to whom that really applies, look at god pushers. Creobots have avoided educating themselves about reality (at least the parts they don’t like or that scare them) and have been pushing impossible, ignorant, insane fairy tales for thousands of years and have killed millions of people and caused enormous destruction in the name of their imaginary so-called gods and have flung feces at “primates” who don’t “smell like them” for thousands of years and have brainwashed, oppressed, tortured, threatened, lied to, neglected, robbed, raped, and abused children and adults and have done lots of other horrible things for thousands of years (including to other god pushers of a different or even the same persuasion) and are still doing horrible things, so I don’t think it’s a bad thing to point it all out and/or to throw some feces back at them.

  22. Thought everyone on this site would enjoy this site. Gets to our point:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d6/Evidence_and_Theory.svg