The real cards are now on the table. Steve Abrams, chairman of the Kansas State Board of Education dealt his cards in the game of science education during a recent speech to a Christian group in Independence. As the Journal-World headlined the story: "Official: It's evolution or the Bible, not both."
I missed the speech and the headline. I was out of town at a conference on the evolution of early humans. With the sequencing of the chimpanzee genome now complete, we've confirmed that chimps and humans share 98 percent of their genetic makeup and evolved from a common ancestor. Beginning perhaps 2 million years ago, early humans and their ancestors migrated out of Africa, fanning across the near East, Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.
According to Abrams, that's not what the Bible says, so none of this ever happened. I guess I need to go back to that conference and make the anthropologists, geologists, chemists and biologists get it right. To quote Abrams, "if you compare evolution and the Bible, you have to decide which one you believe. That's the bottom line."
The bottom line is that we know which one Abrams believes, now that his position on science education has emerged. Now we know he uses the Bible to decide for all 450,000 Kansas students what is and is not science. The choice he gives us - the Bible or evolution - is false and dangerous. It also smacks of deception. Clearly, Abrams was well aware that intelligent design is religious creationism, not science, but claimed otherwise.
Abrams and his supporters want the Bible - scripture, the creation story - taught in Kansas science classrooms. Perhaps now people will understand why scientists refused to participate in the Board of Education hearings staged by Abrams and his supporters in June. The hearings were a forum for faith-based biology, where the facts and evidence would not get in the way. Abrams wanted a modern media replay of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, with a different ending. With Abrams as judge, William Jennings Bryan and his Bible clobbers Clarence Darrow and his Origin of Species.
Were Abrams a responsible advocate for educational excellence in Kansas, he would have taken a page out of John Roberts' Senate confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court. Roberts refused to testify about his personal beliefs, despite being berated by Sen. Diane Feinstein for not revealing how his values or feelings as a father would guide his judgment in abortion or rape or civil rights cases. Roberts insisted that his personal beliefs should not and would not interfere with his interpretation of the law of the land.
The Kansas electorate should demand that Abrams and his five supporters on the board do likewise or resign. Board of Education members must quarantine their personal religious beliefs from their elected responsibility to ensure the finest science education for Kansas students. After all, if Abrams believes, as the Bible says, that the sun orbits the Earth, should we be teaching that in geography class? Because Leviticus states that bats are birds, should we teach that piece of nonsense in biology class? And if Abrams believes the Tower of Babel story, should we outlaw foreign languages from the classroom? When knowledge is scrubbed by scripture, nothing is sacred.
The law of the land is clear. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that creationism in any of its guises is religion, not science, and has no place in the science classroom. This might not be popular with some people or some voters, but, as John Roberts explained during the confirmation hearings, neither he nor the law were subject to a popularity contest.
The same standard holds for science education in Kansas. Kansas students deserve a science curriculum based on the best and brightest knowledge, not on polls, public referendums or personal beliefs.