Creationists Routed in Kansas as Texas Preps for New Evolution Battle

The evolution wars in Texas are still simmering, but creationists in Kansas have suffered a series of routs in recent years. Chalk up another on Tuesday, when the Kansas State Board of Education adopted new curriculum standards that require students in all grades to learn about evolution and climate change as key scientific concepts.

Creationists took control of the Kansas board in the late 1990s and promptly moved to dumb down instruction on evolution in the state’s public schools. Over the next several elections, creationists and moderates alternated in winning control of the state board. As a result, the state’s science standards — particularly what they required students to learn about evolution — changed frequently.

But moderates have now controlled the Kansas board since 2006, and that control was clear when the board voted 8-2 on Tuesday to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). More than two dozen states and the National Research Council have worked to develop those standards. NGSS is not part of the Common Core standards project, and neither one is a federal project. But critics have lumped the two together as examples of federal intrusion into state education policies. (The Texas Freedom Network has taken no position on NGSS or Common Core.)

The Lawrence Journal-World reports about this week’s Kansas vote:

“When I first read the NGSS [Next Generation Science Standards], I was very excited to see it was just a clear description of what I’ve been striving toward for the past 10 years,” said Julie Schwarting, a biology teacher at Free State High School in Lawrence and president of the Kansas Association of Biology Teachers. “It really included all of the things I think are great ways to teach science.”

But the science standards have also drawn criticism from religious conservatives because they treat the evolution of species as a scientific fact and offer no discussion of religious-based theories such as creationism or intelligent design.

Rex Powell of Spring Hill, a member of Citizens for Objective Public Education, or COPE, said the new standards would teach, “that life is a random occurrence, not a creation.”

“These are the tenets of non-theistic religion like atheism and religious humanism,” Powell said, adding that they promote, “an atheistic world view in the minds of impressionable children. They are standards for religious indoctrination rather than objective science education that touches religious issues.”

State board member Ken Willard, a Hutchinson Republican, said he shared that view. In a lengthy prepared statement that he read to the board, Willard said “both evolution and human-caused climate change are presented in these standards dogmatically,” and that the standards amount to “little more than indoctrination in political correctness.”

Willard and board member John Bacon, who also voted against the standards, once were part of a majority on the board which pushed through science standards in 2005 that deleted references to macro-evolution.

But that majority did not last. In 2006, voters elected a moderate majority, which immediately repealed those standards and replaced them with the current standards that emphasize evolution as a key principle of all science.

Four year ago, creationists on the Texas State Board of Education succeeded in passing flawed science curriculum standards that they hope will force publishers to include arguments against evolution in their new textbooks and other instructional materials for science. The state board is scheduled to adopt those new science materials in November, and the Texas Freedom Network is working with scientists to review the materials publishers submitted this spring.

Elections in 2010 and 2012 have weakened the creationist faction on the Texas board, but we still expect that faction to push for rejecting or forcing publishers to alter instructional materials that don’t challenge evolution. After all, that faction includes Ken “Cat-Dog” Mercer, R-San Antonio, and David “Gobbledygook” Bradley, R-BeaumontBuna. In addition, Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, is the third creationist in a row Gov. Rick Perry has elevated to board chair.

The Texas board has its first opportunity to address the new science materials at its meeting in July. Stay tuned.

7 thoughts on “Creationists Routed in Kansas as Texas Preps for New Evolution Battle

  1. Science books should not be based on anyone’s religion. Science is an objective study, based on peer review, and capable of being reproduced by other scientists. Religion is a faith-based feeling, incapable of being “proved,” just believed.

  2. Back in 2005 and 2006, I was one of the people who was instrumental in bringing down the Christian fundamentalist lock on the Kansas State Board of Education—or I would at least like to think that my daily writings on one of the key opposition blogs contributed powerfully to its demise.

    My theme was basically the same that it has been here on TFN for several years. The principal problem is not so much creation science or intelligent design as it is the underpinning foundation on which it rests— Christian fundamentalism. If your house is built on a highly suspect, phoney, and rickety foundation, everything else that rests upon is at risk.

    Christian Biblical scholar James Barr, who was a Professor of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh, University of Manchester, and Vanderbilt University until his death a few years ago, was widely known as the chief critic of Christian fundamnentalism in the United States. It is one thing for an evolutionist, atheist, or humanist to go after your false theology because people in general are easily willing to dismiss such criticism as the babbling of fools already condemned to Hell. It is quite another matter to have one of Christ’s own people go after your theology with knives, straight razors, and battle axes. This is precisely what James Barr did in several profound books and other works that his peers consider to be a mastery of scholarship in the Christian community. Reviewers have basically described his work as being devastating to the Christian fundamentalist cause.

    So far, I have only read book reviews by other Christian scholars and interested people who have read his works, but I hope to begin reading some of them soon.

    Basically, and I think he is totally correct on this from my own experience, James Barr takes the position that Christian fundametalism is not a “Biblical faith” at its base, as is often claimed by its adherents. Rather, at its foundation, Christian fundamentalism is a false, nonBiblical, man-made ideology that developed outside of the Bible and was then imposed on the Bible from the outside. In other words, the foundation on which Christian fundamentalism rests just plain sucks the big one. Therefore, with this rotten, human-conceived foundation, it is more or less inevitable that many of the religious ideas resting upon that foundation will themselves be found to be false and rotten to the core. One of these rotten offspring is the failure of Christian fundamentalists to understand and accept the simple fact that the world is billions of years old rather than 5,000 years old.

    I would like to make one other point here for Texans, and I want to make it crisply and clearly. The Southern Baptist Convention is no longer an evangelical denomination per se. In 1979, it CEASED being the good and faithful church of Jesus Christ that Roger Williams created in Rhode Island in the 1600s. Instead, it became a “Christian fundamentalist church” in the worst sense of that term, and it has added links to its chain of deviation from the will of the LORD through the absolute error of its doctrine of Biblical innerrancy since 1979. As Jacob Marley said to Scrooge, “It is a ponderous chain.”

    Therefore, in the coming fight about textbooks in Texas, I do not want to see anyone here talking about conservative Southern Baptists as if they are some sort of benign evangelical church just like the Methodists or Presbyterians or Lutherans. Nowadays, conservative Southern Baptist Convention Churches are quite literally eaten up by backwoods hick Christian Fundamentalism and a powerful overlay of neo-Calvinism. It is a church that has been utterly and completely deceived by the force of darkness in this world and is, in my opinion, now quite literally owned by the Entity that oversees that darkness. That entity will step onto the stage somewhere in this textbook debate. When it does, I want you to give them the respect that they and what they believe deserve:

    CALL THEM “CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALISTS” IN THEIR FACE AND IN THE MEDIA. DO NOT USE THE TERM “BAPTISTS.” MAKE THE LABEL STICK BECAUSE THAT IS PRECISELY WHAT THEY ARE AND NOTHING MORE.

    1. Good to hear from you, Charles. Haven’t seen any posts from you lately. As a recovering Southern Baptist, I fully agree with your commentary.

  3. Another reason for Texans to vote for a Democrat for next gubernatorial election, Nov. 4, 2014. Science in school. Religion in churches, please. Children will grow up, see the world and will choose what religion or non-religion they will be. If a spirituality is so wonderful, they’ll choose that spirituality. If a spirituality is dogmatic, patriarchial and hateful, that’s not so attractive to people who are looking for where to lite spiritually.

    1. “Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense”

      “Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.”

      “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

      —Winston Churchill

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