Archive for Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Evolution hearings tab nearly $17,000

June 14, 2005


— Kansas taxpayers are being asked to pick up the tab for more than two dozen witnesses who flew here from across the country to disparage evolution during science standards hearings last month.

State records released Monday showed the witnesses have requested $4,987.73 for travel, lodging and - in some instances - meals and parking.

The science standards hearings, convened by three State Board of Education members for four days, drew international attention as critics of evolution testified for school standards that question the theory.

State education officials say the tab for the science hearings is running about $17,000*, including:
¢ $4,800 for court reporter,
¢ $4,987 for witness expenses,
¢ $4,651 for board salary and expenses,
¢ $1,731 for security,
¢ $740 for equipment and room rental, and
¢ $103 for refreshments.

Harry McDonald, a member of a coalition of mainstream science groups that boycotted the hearings, said the expense and time was a tremendous waste because the conservative majority on the State Board of Education had already made up their minds to adopt standards that will criticize evolution.

"They are going to do exactly what they were going to do all along," McDonald said. "The only difference now is, 30-some thousand dollars of Kansas taxpayers' money has been spent."

Anti-evolutionists, however, have said the expense was minimal and necessary in order to ensure that Kansas science standards were of high quality.

John Calvert, the head of an intelligent design organization, and who summoned all the witnesses, has defended the expenses.

"This is one of the most important issues facing education in the entire country," he said.

The pro-evolution side had no expenses because they boycotted the hearings, and Topeka lawyer Pedro Irigonegaray, who cross-examined anti-evolution witnesses, said he would work for free.

Mainstream scientists boycotted the hearings, saying it was simply a forum to give publicity to proponents of intelligent design, which says that science cannot explain certain complexities of life and that the world is evidence of a master planner.

The full State Board of Education is expected to consider the science standards this week. Because conservatives have a 6-4 majority on the board, it is expected that the criticisms of evolution will be included in the standards, which are the basis for instruction that Kansas students will be tested on.

Board member Bill Wagnon, a Democrat from Topeka whose district includes Douglas County, supports the teaching of evolution.

"It was a gigantic waste of money," Wagnon said of the hearings. "This is an abuse of the responsibility of board members for allowing this to happen," he said.

* The expense amounts detailed in the print version of this story - which inaccurately put the total at $30,000 - have been updated in this online version.


Brian Sandefur 11 years, 11 months ago

Brian, do you actually know anything about John Calvert, the testimony, or subject matter of the hearings?

BrianR 11 years, 11 months ago

The hearings were a ridiculous waste of time to push John Calvert's political/religious agenda. As a Kansas taxpayer, I say this is his expense to pay.

Brian Sandefur 11 years, 11 months ago

Then what content exactly do you object to that was presented at the hearings?

Brian Sandefur 11 years, 11 months ago

You are terribly misinformed about this issue, so much so that I don't think it's worth my time to respond in full. But I will in part. The Establishment Clause of the Constitution states that the government shall make no laws respecting the establishment of a religion. Nothing in the proposed science standards changes violates that, nor do the proponents desire to violate that.

I think it is clear that, perhaps contrary to BrianR (we don't know yet), you have no idea what is actually on the table in regards to the changes. The balance of your post is a rail on Christianity, which is fine, but irrelevant to the issue at hand.

Point 2, there is intense controversy over the tenets of evolutionary mechanisms. Again, contrary to what you seem to perceive, no one is arguing that evolutionary processes don't exist. The question is what do they actually explain. There is considerable skepticism in the scientific community about whether or not natural selection acting on random genetic variation has the ability to produce much of the systems we see in biology. It can certainly tweak existing systems, but there is no demonstration that it can actually produce an integrated, functional system. I challenge you to cite one.

It is interesting that you implicitly brought up the notion of cause/effect relationships with your apple example. That is one of the main issues here - causal adequacy. Are material mechanisms alone sufficient (adequate) to produce things like the bacterial flagellum, or are they not. There is considerable data that strongly suggests they are not. And that is the tip of the iceberg.

Like I mentioned above, the rest of your post is directed at Christianity itself, which is not pertinent in this discussion. I'd also say that the next time you're tempted to go off on someone's poor education and intellect, don't. You have absolutely no information in that regard, and therefore in reality you're totally ignorant of the facts.

TimChase 11 years, 11 months ago

Intelligent Design, Religion and Evolution, and Plenty of Evidence for Evolution

Intelligent Design:

Here is a good overview of the state of Intelligent Design today:

"Master Planned: Why Intelligent design isn't." by H. Allen Orr from The New Yorker

And here are some more links:

"Intelligent Design (Divine Design)" from Answers In Science

The "New" Creationism from Slate Magazine

Irreducible Complexity and Mixhael Behe on Intelligent Design from Talk Origins

Antievolution: Features from The Critic's Resource

Religion and Evolution:

Oftentimes, creationists will conflate evolution with atheism. However, a great many scientists are religious -- they simply do not permit their religious beliefs to interfere with the pursuit of empirical knowledge.

Please see for one example:

"Science and Religion" interview with Kenneth R. Miller

Likewise, a great many religious leaders are well-aware of the fact that there is no conflict between religion and evolution. Please see:

Welcome to the "Clergy Letter Project"

TimChase 11 years, 11 months ago

Intelligent Design, Religion and Evolution, and Plenty of Evidence for Evolution (part II)

Plenty of Evidence for Evolution:

Likewise, many creationists like to deny that there is much if any evidence for evolution, so here are a eight links to some pretty dramatic stuff and links to their associated home pages where you can find out more...

(I am also including links to the homepages, as the websites are well worth exploring and provide additional ammunition for defenders of evolution.)

Whale Evolution/Cetacean Evolution (Atavistic Hind Limbs on Modern Whales) from Edward T Babinski

Smooth Change in the Fossil Record from Don Lindsay Archive

Transitional Fossil Species from Darwinians and Evolution

Observed Instances of Speciation from The Talk.Origins Archive

Some More Observed Speciation Events (Homepage given above)

Ring Species: Unusual Demonstrations of Speciation from Action Bioscience.Org

The Evolution Evidence Page (homepage for website)

The Fossil Record: Evolution or "Scientific Creation" from GCSSEPM Special Interests

Brian Sandefur 11 years, 11 months ago

I've never seen someone post so many hot links and say so little. Care to discuss any of this?

"Creationists" don't conflate evolution with atheism. They do however note that it is exceedingly difficult to separate methodological naturalism from philosophical naturalism in regards to origins sciences - much like Richard Dawkins, William Provine, Michael Ruse, etc. etc. (all Darwinists). The point is that there is indeed compelling debate about that issue - among others.

I do encourage any readers to in fact read intently the responses to irreducible complexity at places like talkorigins. Pay attention to consideration (or lack thereof) of obstacles, means for creating an intricate assembly and not just a parts list, in the cases of co-option, does the evidence suggest the homologous system is actually ancestral to the system in question?, how many "fortuitous" mutations must occur and how many simultaneously, to what degree is that fortuity? In other words, evaluate whether or not the response is an explanation, or a story.

For responses to H. Allen Orr's confusion, see or

BrianR 11 years, 11 months ago

Evolution/ID has become a huge political football. My comment means that if these guys are going to have this argument, they're going to pay for it themselves -- both sides, not just the ID folks.

I've read most of Calvert's ID website and I'm familiar with the theory of evolution though, not being a biologist or scientist, I suppose I have a lay person's understanding of it. I don't understand how evolution gets mixed up with the ID debate since I can't find anything glaring in the theory of evolution that attempts to explain creation--it's more focused on change.

Anyway, my issue is with the taxpayer's money not so much the subject matter of the argument.

Brian Sandefur 11 years, 11 months ago

Got it. While I disagree strongly that the theory of evolution is just "focused on change" and does not attempt to explain the entire history of life, your point about tax money is taken.

TimChase 11 years, 11 months ago

Dear ultimate175,

I regard the links as a resource for anyone who is willing to take the time to look at them.

And as for conflating evolution and atheism:

"The minority group maintains that the proposed standards are biased in favor of atheism because science is defined as the search for natural explanations."

Kansas school board members get legal briefs on evolution

Here is yet another example:

"Evolution is as much a religious theory as intelligent design. It is the way atheists explain the creative profusion of life in the world without having to give God credit for it."

Martin Wishnatsky letter: Evolution is atheist theory of creation

You may also want to see:

Monkey Trial or Kangaroo Court?

Or if you want to find some of your own, try:

As I said, embracing evolution does not imply embracing atheism -- it means embracing real science. And over 4000 clergy (as opposed to fundamentalist extremists bent on taking over the US -- with the war on evolution being only the first front) agree:

Welcome to the "Clergy Letter Project"

Brian Sandefur 11 years, 11 months ago

TimChase, I couldn't care less about what Clergy think about evolution. In addition, you are also apparently forgetting the countless Darwinists who also think evolutionary theory upholds atheism (and even implies atheism). I listed only 3 in my previous post. Given the Constitution's requirement for neutrality, the Minority at the very least has a point worthy of consideration.

You are zeroing in on one statement in the proposals while disregarding the entirety of it's substantive content - like the nature of nucleotide sequencing, the Cambrian, "homologous" structures emerging from non-homologous embryological pathways and/or genes, etc. What are your thoughts on the content? Should students not learn about this data?

What is "real" science to you? A commitment to materialism is not unlike a commitment to Biblical literalism. It philosophically assumes certain causes over others, regardless of data. The history of life is what it is quite independent of the constraints we choose to put on it's study. We may desire "material" explanations, but as life was unfolding, it certainly wasn't obligated to obey. Constraining causal explanations for events in the deep past to a subset of total causes (i.e. only material causes) clearly opens the door to the potential for wrong explanations.

TimChase 11 years, 11 months ago

Yes, there are a few evolutionists who believe that evolution somehow implies atheism. Oddly enough, though, you yourself were arguing that evolution and atheism are not to be equated at 11:42AM. Now you seem to be taking the opposite stand at 3:34PM. Are they to be equated or not? You may wish to check out

"Master Planned: Why Intelligent design isn't." by H. Allen Orr from The New Yorker

But of course, if God is omniscient, omnipotent, exists outside of the world He creates, and expects us to believe in Him through faith alone, then surely He would not have left any traces in His creation which would provide an empirical alternative to that faith. Viewed this way, the world discovered through science -- including evolution and the big bang -- is simply the divinely opaque means through which God created the world we now see. (What atheists who use evolution to argue against the existence of God fail to realize is that a metaphysical doctrine necessarily lies beyond the critique of empirical science -- although perhaps not beyond the critique of philosophy.)

With this in mind, it is not suprising that four out of five of the founders of the modern synthesis were religious:

"The intelligent-design community is usually far more circumspect in its pronouncements. This is not to say that it eschews discussion of religion; indeed, the intelligent-design literature regularly insists that Darwinism represents a thinly veiled attempt to foist a secular religion-godless materialism-on Western culture. As it happens, the idea that Darwinism is yoked to atheism, though popular, is also wrong. Of the five founding fathers of twentieth-century evolutionary biology-Ronald Fisher, Sewall Wright, J. B. S. Haldane, Ernst Mayr, and Theodosius Dobzhansky-one was a devout Anglican who preached sermons and published articles in church magazines, one a practicing Unitarian, one a dabbler in Eastern mysticism, one an apparent atheist, and one a member of the Russian Orthodox Church and the author of a book on religion and science. Pope John Paul II himself acknowledged, in a 1996 address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, that new research 'leads to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis.' Whatever larger conclusions one thinks should follow from Darwinism, the historical fact is that evolution and religion have often coexisted. As the philosopher Michael Ruse observes, 'It is simply not the case that people take up evolution in the morning, and become atheists as an encore in the afternoon.'"

I would say that real science has a commitment to naturalistic explanations -- as these are the only kinds of explanations which can be further studied and be subject to further empirical analysis -- and supernatural explanations in science are simply theoretical dead-ends of the form, "It's that way because God made it that way."

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