Correction - February 2006
by Do-While Jones

Advise or Consent?

Is it the job of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) to give advice about the science curriculum, or control it?

We need to correct an error we made in last month’s newsletter. You may remember that we quoted a letter we got from the American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS] which said,

When the Kansas State Board of Education voted 6-4 to redefine science and introduce intelligent design, we [the AAAS] backed two highly respected science organizations that denied permission for continued use of their copyrighted materials. 1

The letter did not name the two organizations, and did not specify exactly what those copyrighted materials were. We incorrectly assumed that they were talking about biology textbooks. What else could the copyrighted materials be? While tracking down the identity of the two organizations we discovered that our assumption was wrong. Here’s what we found:

For the second time in 6 years, two U.S. scientific organizations have thrown a wrench into plans by Kansas school officials to adopt new science standards that would promote the teaching of alternatives to evolutionary theory. Observers say the move, which prevents Kansas from incorporating copyrighted materials into the state's revised standards, could indefinitely delay their adoption by forcing officials to craft substitute language.

"That could take them several months," says Steven Case, a biologist at the University of Kansas in Lawrence and chair of the science standards writing committee, which has been fighting the 10-member board. "The more we can push back the implementation of the standards, the less damage they can do." Case and others see the board's proposed standards as an attempt to introduce intelligent design (ID) into school curricula.

When drafting new education standards, state officials typically borrow liberally from the National Academy of Sciences' (NAS's) National Science Education Standards (NSES) and the National Science Teachers Association's (NSTA's) Pathways to Science Standards. But … the two organizations denied Kansas the right to incorporate any of their materials into its new standards.

For example, in a section specifying what students between grades 8 and 12 need to understand about evolution, the draft reproduces the concepts listed under the same section in the NSES. But it also contains insertions such as "in many cases the fossil record is not consistent with gradual, unbroken sequences postulated by biological evolution." [ellipsis theirs] 2

The insertion about the fossil record is true. Actually, it might be even more accurate to say, “in virtually every case” instead of “in many cases,” but Kansas was apparently trying to be generous to the evolutionary position. The evolutionists don’t dispute the truth of the insertion. Instead, they say,

The modification seems to be aimed at "open[ing] the door for various kinds of explanations that may not be scientifically based," say NAS's Jay Labov and Barbara Schaal, who reviewed the Kansas standards. 3

They are afraid that if children know that the facts don’t support the theory of evolution, they might be open to another explanation for the origin and diversity of life. Therefore, it is necessary to censor the facts to ensure continued belief in the theory of evolution.

Apparently, “state officials typically borrow liberally” from these copyrighted statements of what should be taught in science classes when writing state education guidelines which are distributed to public school districts throughout the state. The copyright holders normally have no objection to the reproduction of their “intellectual property” in state education guidelines. They only objected out of meanness and spite. They childishly wanted to punish Kansas by making them waste time and money rewriting a document.

This might backfire on the evolutionists. If they try it in other states, those other states might be prepared to simply borrow from the table of contents of Biology: A Search for Order in Complexity to create their curriculum. If they do that, which biology textbook would best match the curriculum?

There might be political fallout, too. Most Americans (if they have even heard of NAS and NSTA) probably assume that NAS and NSTA are simply science advisory organizations, promoting the national good by making useful suggestions to state education boards. Americans generally like that sort of thing.

Now it is clear that they are just political action committees. If the American public comes to view these organizations as some sort of sinister Ministry of Truth, using the public school to indoctrinate innocent children by controlling the science curriculum, they could lose funding. Americans traditionally have not been favorable to government controlled propaganda.

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1 Alan I. Leshner, CEO, AAAS aaas-response@ , December 15, 2005, “Message to Members: Evolution on the Front Line” (Ev+)
2 Bhattacharjee, Science, Vol. 310, 4 November 2005, “Groups Wield Copyright Power to Delay Kansas Standards”, p 754 (Ev+)
3 ibid.