Speech: Jack Krebs on Kansas Science Standards


by Nick Matzke

On September 28, 2004, NCSE member Jack Krebs gave a speech at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, entitled "Kansas science standards -- 2004: Will it be 1999 all over again?" About 450 people attended the speech, which was covered extensively by many Kansas newspapers. Krebs is a Kansas public school teacher, Vice President of Kansas Citizens for Science, and a member of the state science standards review committee in Kansas. The event was sponsored by the KU Departments of Physics and Astronomy, Chemistry, Geology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Molecular Biosciences, the Division of Biological Sciences, the KU Center for Science Education, the KU Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center, and the KU Office of the Chancellor. The speech was introduced by KU Chancellor Bob Hemenway, who said that arguments against evolution, if they were going to be made, belong at the university level.

After the November election it is likely that conservatives on the Kansas Board of Education will have at least a 6-4 majority, and Krebs warned that antievolution policies might be a result: "When the standards come to the board for a vote, an anti-evolution majority will exist ...There is reason to believe the board would be willing to make changes. They have the votes, they have expressed their desires and they have the national intelligent design strategy to guide them." Krebs outlined the organizations and motivations behind the ID movement. "The intelligent design movement is led by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute ...The IDNetwork, IDNet of Kansas City, has also played a major role. They have tried to influence standards in many states since 1999. Their goal is to 'overthrow materialism.' They believe science is the cause of this decay into materialism."

Krebs also commented on the scientific claims of "intelligent design": "[I]ntelligent design is not science ... It has no testable hypotheses, no proposed methodologies, no research data. It is derived from its own claims. Its philosophical arguments have been rejected by the science community." Krebs urged Kansans to get involved ahead of time, saying, "In 1999 all of the uproar was after the fact. The right thing to do is to get people talking about it now." He highlighted possible dangers beyond damage to science education, asking, "Are bioscientists going to be happy to work in a state where their children are not taught evolution?"

Local intelligent design advocates responded harshly, claiming that no plans were on the table to teach "intelligent design," and complaining that ID advocates had not been given a chance to speak at the event. John Calvert, a founder of the Intelligent Design Network, was quoted as saying that the speech "reminded me of the Ku Klux Klan with the grand wizard on the stage promoting hate on a particular group, suppressing criticism. This is about whether a particular theory of science affecting origins can be criticized."

Bill Harris, another founder of the Intelligent Design Network and a biochemist on the state science standards committee, made it clear to the press that evolution was a religious issue for him. Rhetorically asking "Where do we come from?" Harris continued, "As soon as you have asked that question, you have introduced religion. Every religion has an answer to the question 'Where do we come from?' and 'Why are we here?' And when you bring in only evolution, you are not being neutral and you are taking a religious position. You are promoting a point of view that supports atheistic religion against another, and that ain't right."

Press coverage:

Sederstrom, Jill (2004). "Don't ignore evolution issue, crowd told at KU", Kansas City Star, Sept. 29, 2004
http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/local/9785642.htm [Link is broken]

Belt, Mike (2004). "Evolution supporter urges involvement", Journal-World, Sept. 29, 2004

Bessier, Elaine (2004). "Teacher warns of evolution battle", The Johnson County Sun, Sept. 30, 2004
http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=13036736&BRD=1459&PAG=461&dept_id=155725&rfi=6 [Link is broken]

Worth, Tammy (2004). "Local delegates split on evolution", The Johnson County Sun, Sept. 30, 2004
http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=13036754&BRD=1459&PAG=461&dept_id=155725&rfi=6 [Link is broken]

Further links:

Kansas Citizens for Science

KU Center for Science Education

KU Announcement: Kansas science standards subject of forum Sept. 28 by teacher Jack Krebs

Kansas Science Standards - 2004: Will It Be 1999 All Over Again?
http://mactania.phsx.ukans.edu/feldman/standardstalk.html [Link is broken]

http://mactania.phsx.ku.edu/images/standardstalk.gif [Link is broken]