Tuesday, August 01, 2006

creationism and evolution

I went to a unique private school from pre-kindergarten through high school.
The heart of my education was centered on a core set of beliefs derived from the texts of the Bhagavad-Gita, as interpreted by Transcendental Meditation founder, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Hours of my school day were devoted to spiritual practices such as meditation, Puja (an Eastern form of worship), and chanting in Sanskrit.
We were considered, by outsiders, a religious school.
In many ways we were, though other religions co-existed harmoniously within the structure of our education and community.
Throughout school, I was exposed to Vedic ideas on creation, life, death, and natural phenomenon. However, I was never deprived of a traditional education in Western sciences, nor were any of the hypotheses about the beginnings of the earth or man ever put into competition with one another.
The idea, I believe, was to saturate us with knowledge so that truth, instead of being falsely imposed, could find us.

When I hear people talk about needing to teach only creationism or only evolution, as if teaching one violates or negates teaching the other, I get frustrated.
Here's what I think:

I think evolution should be the standard teaching in all schools.
Evolution is not complete in its scope or understanding of truth because it is, by its very definition, a work in progress. However, at this time it is the most logical, agreed upon truth we have to work with. As new evidence emerges and breakthroughs occur, the shape of evolutionary theory will morph and shift just as it's done throughout history.

If Christians, or anyone else, want to teach an alternate view on the beginnings of creation, mankind, and/or life as we know it, they should be absolutely free to do so, so long as they teach it in tandem with mainstream ideas of science and evolution.

A greater exposure to various forms of knowledge will only enrich and expand the lives of those who encounter it. I offer testimony to that.

Additionally, to those whose ideas or beliefs are threatened by the ideas or beliefs of someone else, I would ask you to question the depth and authenticity of your faith.

Truth, if it is pure, stands on its own.
It doesn't need you, or anyone else, to scream in its name.

Simply speaking will do.

From the NYT:

August 1, 2006

Evolutions Backers in Kansas Start Counterattack

KANSAS CITY, Kan., July 29 God and Charles Darwin are not on the primary ballot in Kansas on Tuesday, but once again a contentious schools election has religion and science at odds in a state that has restaged a three-quarter-century battle over the teaching of evolution.

Less than a year after a conservative Republican majority on the State Board of Education adopted rules for teaching science containing one of the broadest challenges in the nation to Darwins theory of evolution, moderate Republicans and Democrats are mounting a fierce counterattack. They want to retake power and switch the standards back to what they call conventional science.

The Kansas election is being watched closely by both sides in the national debate over the teaching of evolution. In the past several years, pitched battles have been waged between the scientific establishment and proponents of what is called intelligent design, which holds that nature alone cannot explain lifes origin and complexity.

Last February, the Ohio Board of Education reversed its 2002 mandate requiring 10th-grade biology classes to critically analyze evolution. The action followed a federal judges ruling that teaching intelligent design in the public schools of Dover, Pa., was unconstitutional.

A defeat for the conservative majority in Kansas on Tuesday could be further evidence of the fading fortunes of the intelligent design movement, while a victory would preserve an important stronghold in Kansas.

The curriculum standards adopted by the education board do not specifically mention intelligent design, but advocates of the belief lobbied for the changes, and students are urged to seek more adequate explanations of natural phenomena.

Though there is no reliable polling data available, Joseph Aistrup, head of political science at Kansas State University, said sharp ideological splits among Republicans and an unusual community of interest among moderate Republicans and some Democrats were helping challengers in the primary.

Kansas Democrats, moreover, have a strong standard-bearer in the incumbent governor, Kathleen Sebelius, who has distanced herself from the debate.

And if a conservative candidate makes it through the primary, theres a Democratic challenger waiting in the general election, Professor Aistrup said.

Several moderate Republican candidates have vowed, if they lose Tuesday, to support the Democratic primary winners in November. With the campaign enlivened by a crowded field of 16 candidates contending for five seats four held by conservatives who voted for the new science standards last year a shift of two seats could overturn the current 6-to-4 majority. The four-year terms are staggered so that only half the 10-member board is up for election each two years.

The acrimony in the school board races is not limited to differences over the science curriculum but also over other ideologically charged issues like sex education, charter schools and education financing. Power on the board has shifted almost every election since 1998, with the current conservative majority taking hold in 2004.

Can we just agree God invented Darwin? asked a weary Sue Gamble, a moderate member of the board whose seat is not up for re-election.

The chairman of the board, Dr. Steve E. Abrams, a veterinarian and the leader of the conservative majority, said few of the opposition candidates were really moderates. Theyre liberals, said Dr. Abrams, who is not up for re-election.

He said that the new science curriculum in no way opened the door to intelligent design or creationism and that any claim to the contrary is an absolute falsehood.

We have explicitly stated that the standards must be based on scientific evidence, Dr. Abrams said, what is observable, measurable, testable, repeatable and unfalsifiable.

In science, he said, everything is supposedly tentative, except the teaching of evolution is dogma.

Harry E. McDonald, a retired biology teacher and self-described moderate Republican who has been going door to door for votes in his district near Olathe, said the board might have kept overt religious references out of the standards, but methinks they doth protest too much.

They say science cant answer this, therefore God, Mr. McDonald said.

Connie Morris, a conservative Republican running for re-election, said the board had merely authorized scientifically valid criticism of evolution. Ms. Morris, a retired teacher and author, said she did not believe in evolution.

Its a nice bedtime story, she said. Science doesnt back it up.

Dr. Abrams said his views as someone who believes that God created the universe 6,500 years ago had nothing to do with the science standards adopted.

In my personal faith, yes, I am a creationist, he said. But that doesnt have anything to do with science. I can separate them. He said he agreed that my personal views of Scripture have no room in the science classroom.

Dr. Abrams said that at a community meeting he had been asked whether it was possible to believe in the Bible and in evolution, and that he had responded, There are those who try to believe in both there are theistic evolutionists but at some point in time you have to decide which youre going to put your credence in.

Last years changes in the science standards followed an increasingly bitter seesawing of power on the education board that began in 1998 when conservatives won a majority. They made the first changes to the standards the next year, which in turn were reversed after moderates won back control in 2000. The 2002 elections left the board split 5-5, and in 2004 the conservatives won again, instituting their major standards revisions in November 2005.

Critics said the changes altered the science standards in ways that invited theistic interpretations. The new definition called for students to learn about the best evidence for modern evolutionary theory, but also to learn about areas where scientists are raising scientific criticisms of the theory.

In one of many additional specificities that the board added to the standards, it stated, Biological evolution postulates an unguided natural process that has no discernable direction or goal.

John Calvert, manager of the Intelligent Design Network in Shawnee Mission and a lawyer who wrote material for the board advocating the new science standards, said they were not intended to advance religion.

What we are trying to do is insert objectivity, take the bias out of the religious standard that now favors the nontheistic religion of evolution, Mr. Calvert said.

Janet Waugh, a car dealer and the only moderate Democrat on the board whose seat is up for election, said that just because some people were challenging evolution did not mean their views belonged in the curriculum.

When the mainstream scientific community determines a theory is correct, thats when it should be in the schools, Ms. Waugh said. The intelligent design people are trying to cut in line.

The races have been hard-fought. With the majority of the 100,000 registered Republicans in Mr. McDonalds northeast Kansas district usually ignoring primary elections, a few hundred ballots could easily be the margin of victory.

So Mr. McDonald, who with $35,000 is the lead fund-raiser among the candidates, printed newsletters showing his opponent, the conservative board member John W. Bacon, with a big red slash through his face and the slogan, Time to Bring Home the Bacon. Mr. Bacon did not respond to several calls for a response.

But many of the homeowners Mr. McDonald visited Friday night showed little interest in the race. Jack Campbell, a medical center security director, opened the door warily, and when Mr. McDonald recited his pitch, seemed disappointed. I thought I won some sweepstakes, Mr. Campbell said.

Last Thursday night at Fort Hays State University, Ms. Morris debated her moderate Republican challenger, Sally Cauble, a former teacher, and the Democratic candidate, Tim Cruz, a former mayor of Garden City, whom Ms. Morris once accused of being an illegal immigrant. (He said he was third-generation American, and Ms. Morris apologized.)

The audience asked about Kansas being ridiculed across the country for its stance on evolution.

I did not write the jokes, Ms. Morris said.

Spectators split on the winner.

There are so many more important issues in Kansas right now, said Cheryl Shepherd-Adams, a science teacher. The issue is definitely a wedge issue, and I dont want to see our community divided.

1 comment:

Axinar said...

Well, there is the simple observation that Kansas DOESN'T evolve. :)

As Carl Sagan said - evolution is a fact, not a theory - it REALLY happened ...

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