The fight to keep creationism out of public schools is a long one, with many reverses, and won’t be over until America becomes a secular land. Nevertheless, I see the arc of rationality bending upward, and there’s two pieces of evidence this week.
First, from WFPL in Louisville, Kentucky, we learn that public opposition in Kentucky to the eminently sensible Next Generation Science Standards—which, as I noted on July 26, mandate learning the truth about evolution and the facts about global warming—has failed.
The Kentucky Board of Education on Thursday rejected that public opposition and approved a final report from the education department on the new science standards.
Some people were concerned about teaching students evolution. But state officials says evolution is already included in the current set of standards. Further, in the statement of consideration approved Thursday, officials say there’s enough scientific research supporting evolution.
Officials also rejected claims that creationism should be included and that climate change should be removed.
Again, they cite the research. (Click here to read the SOC report).
Great weeping Jebus; there was enough scientific research supporting evolution by 1900. But be grateful for small favors; Kentucky has been a benighted state, science-wise, and kudos to the Board of Education for rejecting the yahoos who lobbied them. Here’s the board’s official response on three issues:
Citing support from dozens of scientific organizations, Kentucky education department officials rejected comments opposing evolution in the new standards, saying it’s “the fundamental, unifying theory that underlies all the life sciences.” It goes on to say, “there is no significant ongoing debate within the scientific community regarding the legitimacy of evolution as a scientific idea.”
KDE also notes that the concept of evolution already exists in the current version of the Kentucky Core Academic Standards for Science and has been assessed since 2006.
Creationism and Intelligent Design
KDE rejected comments related to including intelligent design in the new standards because they lack scientific support. “The overwhelming majority of scientists do not consider creationism intelligent design,” the report says.
Officials also point to court decisions that have repeatedly declared teaching creationism and intelligent design as unconstitutional. The new standards no not attempt to explain the origin of life, while creationism and intelligent design do, the report reads.
I’m glad that the board gave two reasons for opposing creationism and ID: its unconstitutionality as a religiously based theory, but also (my preference for attack, but one harder to implement legally) the fact that creationism and ID are not only religiously motivated science, but simply failed science. I’ve always said that scientists can’t rule out supernatural intervention in the world a priori, but that there’s simply no evidence for it. Any theory saying there is, like creationism is unevidenced and not worthy of presentation as a viable alternative to purely naturalistic evolution.
KDE officials say the standards do not advocate any particular public response, policy change, or civic action related to climate change, but it does ask that schools include climate research and studies within the standards framework.
The standards, “ask students to consider the evidence for the factors influencing climate change.”
Is that so onerous? I’m not quite sure why the religious mindset rejects anthropogenic global warming (after all, they presumably accept the effects of overfishing in the world’s oceans), but it may be a case of simple wish-thinking that spills over from a belief in gods.
Second, as reported by YouGov, an Omnibus poll taken in July, asking Americans the standard question about how they think humans evolved, shows a slight but heartening uptick in those who adhere to naturalistic evolution rather than theistic evolution or creationism.
Note, though, that 62% of Americans believe in God’s intervention in the appearance of humans, with more than half of these adhering to straight Biblical creationism. However, the 21% who are naturalistic evolutionists is an increase from 2004. I’ve always seen the theistic evolutionists as neither allies nor diehard foes of pure science, but tending to the “foe” side since they are enabling superstition as well as seeing humans as being the recipients of divine intervention. These are the people, by the way, whose rumps are osculated by organizations like the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Center for Science Education.
The number, however, who believe in evolution without help from God has increased by 8 percentage points since 2004, when CBS conducted a poll using the same questions. In 2004, 13% of Americans said that human beings evolved without guidance from God. This number may continue to increase in the coming years, as the belief in evolution without the influence of God is most common among those 18-29 years old, with 31% of those in that age group believing it.
I don’t know if the 8% increase is statistically significant, nor whether the two polls use the same methodology, but Gallup polls repeated over thirty years show the same increase in acceptance of naturalistic evolution. Here are the data since 2004:
And, finally, the bad news: only 32% of Americans oppose the teaching of creationism or intelligent design in public schools, while 40% are in favor of it. As courts have ruled repeatedly, that kind of teaching is illegal, so either these Americans are ignorant of the First Amendment or opposed to its enforcement. I suspect many of them are simply ignorant, and have the typically American “let’s-be-fair and teach all sides” attitude. I’d be curious to see how some of the 40% justify their answers, and what proportion of them actually accept evolution vs. Biblical creationism and ID creationism.