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Church, state

9/29/2013

We should not have been so foolish to believe having a solid majority of well-reasoned individuals comprising the Kansas State Board of Education would resolve the persistent question of whether science should be treated as science in public schools.

Back in June, the KSBE did adopt the Next Generation Science Standards by an 8-2 vote. The mainstream standards will shift the emphasis to hands-on projects and experiments in K-12 classrooms -- and also accept evolution and climate change as key scientific concepts.

Because of previous boards having conservative majorities, the state has gone back and forth on whether to accept evolution as accepted science or to equate religious explanations such as Creationism and Intelligent Design. This summer's decision resulted in the sixth set of science standards Kansas has adopted in the past 15 years.

Apparently deciding Kansas voters have become wise to repeated takeovers of the state board, conservatives have switched tactics. Last week a federal lawsuit was filed by Citizens for Objective Public Education, which hopes to block schools from using the standards.

"The state's job is simply to say to students, 'How life arises continues to be a scientific mystery and there are competing ideas about it,' " said John Calvert, an attorney involved in the lawsuit who also is a founder of the Intelligent Design Network.

Fifteen Christian parents have joined the lawsuit, saying they want their children to learn "life is a creation made for a purpose."

We would pray these parents teach their children just that. And, if they seem to have difficulty conveying such purpose on their own, they can turn to the church of their choosing. There should be no expectation of public schools to offer such faith-based subject matter.

The Supreme Court long has held educating public pupils about religions is perfectly acceptable; in fact, not to offer such courses would be to ignore a significant component of American life. Proselytization of a religion, any religion, is not permissible.

Attempts to answer the question of how life arises with creationism, intelligent design or simply declaring nobody knows -- and either ignoring the theories of Charles Darwin or somehow equating the differing explanations -- ultimately relies on faith, not fact.

The Citizens for Objective Public Education states on its website "objective" means based on facts; unbiased. "It involves teaching methods which seek to reasonably and objectively inform students about, and cause them to critically analyze, competing viewpoints about religious issues and questions."

Science, simply put, cannot describe the sky as a dome created by God as explained in the Book of Genesis. Science cannot explain the presence of females as having been created by God removing a rib from Adam and making it so and finding it good. Science cannot trace all human life back to Noah, who was 950 years old when he died, and his three sons. To do so would be to ignore objective reasoning and evidence-based research.

All these things are possible and believable, but not from a scientific perspective. The highly educated individuals involved with COPE have found a way to rationalize the co-existence of two unrelated fields. There's not a thing wrong with that, other than when attempts are made to call both objective science.

"This is about as frivolous as lawsuits get," said Steven Case, director of the University of Kansas' science education center.

We'd like to believe the federal court will conclude the same.

At the same time, the changes taking place in how high court judges are selected in Kansas leads us to believe this might not always be the case.

Kansas needs to be on guard to ensure religion and science retain their vital and distinct places in society. Foolhardy attempts to blend the two will result in the loss of one. We will monitor closely the progress of this lawsuit.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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