Science teachers pan new standards

Guidelines violate church-state separation, association believes

? Kansas science teachers have struck a defiant stance against the science standards adopted by the State Board of Education.

The Kansas Association of Teachers of Science believe the science standards violate the separation of religion and government by promoting the teaching in public school science classes of intelligent design, an idea that science shows the existence of a creator.

“By redefining science in the Kansas Science Education Standards, the KSBE is promoting intelligent design tenets that purport supernatural explanations as valid scientific theories,” the association said Monday.

In November, the State Board of Education voted 6-4 for science standards that criticize evolution. The decision came after months of often contentious debate.

The association urges science teachers to continue to “not attribute natural phenomena to supernatural causation” and to teach students about the evidence for evolutionary theory and refute the “so-called evidence against evolution.”

Lawrence school officials have indicated that evolution would continue to be taught.

Statewide tests based on the new science standards will not take effect until 2008.

Lynda Allen, director of math and science for the Lawrence school district, said if the new standards remained in place, then at some point school officials would have to confront some of the changes.

But, she added, later this year a new board majority could be elected and change the standards back to those supportive of evolution.

“There are a lot of uncertainties,” Allen said.

The association said the Education Board was irresponsible for ignoring mainstream scientists and “substituting its own religiously motivated agenda.” It called on the board to not include items related to the disputed portions of the standards on statewide science tests.

It also said the standards conflicted with the state’s efforts to increase bioscience research.

Education Board Chairman Steve Abrams, a Republican from Arkansas City, led the charge to enact the standards, and defended them.

He said on Monday that the science teachers association was basing its assertions on a false premise.

“It’s ridiculous to even think that we are suggesting that science ought to be based upon the supernatural,” Abrams said. “Science ought to be based on what is empirical science – what is observable, measurable, testable, repeatable and falsifiable.”

Abrams said the science standards were sound, and he indicated it was late for complaints. Referring to hearings on the standards, he said, “We asked evolutionists to come testify. They refused. If they wanted to have something to say they had an opportunity, and they didn’t,” he said.

At the time of the hearings in May, mainstream scientists boycotted the proceedings because they said they didn’t want to give any credence to intelligent design.

Education Board member Bill Wagnon, a Democrat from Topeka whose district includes Lawrence, said he was glad to see the science teachers taking a stand.

“They are being professionally responsible,” said Wagnon, who voted against the science standards.