Kansas parents seek fairness in science ed
Carolyn Reeves
Retired science teacher and co-author of a series of elementary science textbooks (New Leaf Press).

April 2015 – A Kansas grassroots group is challenging advocates of Next Generation Science Standards in the schools of this state where conservative and liberal politics often clash. The NGSS will fit hand-in-glove with the Common Core standards, which many states have begun to question – even after having implemented the standards in their public schools.

At the crux of the Kansas debate is the issue of creation education. COPE v Kansas Board of Education is a civil case now making its way through the courts. In numerous previous court cases, Christian parents have been accused of trying to insert their religious beliefs into science classes.

However, in this case, it is Christian parents who have valid reasons to claim that they are being wronged. Their religious beliefs are being ruled inadmissible in the classroom, but the ideas of another opposing religious belief are being freely allowed. The dilemma arose when the Kansas State School Board adopted a new set of science standards known as Next Generation Science Standards.

A parent’s conscience
After studying NGSS, concerned parents and other citizens recognized that in areas related to origins of the universe and of life, religious issues were not being presented in a neutral manner as required by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. They concluded that their best recourse was to take legal action to promote objectivity in the teaching of origins in public schools.

The group’s name, Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE), reflects its mission. They filed a lawsuit in September 2013 against the Kansas State Board of Education for unfairly promoting materialistic/atheistic beliefs in science classes and not teaching origins in a neutral manner as required by law.

In December 2014, the suit was dismissed on the basis that the plaintiffs had not been injured seriously enough by NGSS to win a judgment in their favor. The group immediately appealed the ruling to the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which had not ruled at press time.

To understand this unusual case, it is necessary to clearly define three terms. Courts define religion as any system that attempts to give answers to ultimate questions of life, such as “Where did I come from?” or “Why am I here?” Religion includes both theistic and atheistic beliefs. Theists believe in God, and atheists do not. The religious idea that unguided natural processes resulted in how all life forms and humans came to exist opposes the religious idea of a purposeful, designed supernatural event.

Materialistic instruction omits any possibility of a supernatural event as part of the explanation for the existence of all living things. Since operational sciences are based on observation and experimentation, they use only natural explanations. However, exclusively natural explanations are not a scientific necessity when trying to reconstruct the history of the universe and all living things.

Atheistic instruction results from allowing only materialistic causes to explain origins of the universe and life. A supernatural, designed creation is a logical possibility accepted by the majority of Americans. When only materialistic processes are used to explain what happened in the past, the only choices for explaining where we came from are atheistic.

A scientist’s insights
Dr. Wernher von Braun (1912-1977) addressed this absurd stand by science scholars in a 1972 letter to the California State Board of Education. Von Braun was a German and American aerospace engineer and a leading name in rocket technology.

A portion of his letter said this: “[T]he scientific method does not allow us to exclude data which lead to the conclusion that the universe, life, and man are based on design. To be forced to believe only one conclusion – that everything in the universe happened by chance – would violate the very objectivity of science itself.”

All rational humans at one time or another will ask the question “Where did I come from?” According to NGSS, the universe and all life evolved by chance and natural laws. The standards further claim that biological evolution occurred over billions of years by means of unguided natural selection and other naturalistic processes. The whole evolutionary process is taught as if it were well-proven, although careful examination of the evidence often reveals more assumptions than strong evidence.

Conversely, the logical alternative answer to “Where did I come from?” is an intelligent Creator who designed and supernaturally created the first living things, including humans. But this possibility is not even given a brief mention in NGSS. By omitting this possibility, the materialistic/atheistic explanation will exert a powerful influence in forming the worldviews of children.

Ironically, even scientific evidence that challenges the evolutionary scenario is ruled inadmissible.  Only a few states encourage students to critically examine, question, critique, analyze, or debate the idea that all life evolved from one-celled common ancestors over billions of years from natural selection and other natural processes.

Although naturalistic evolution from a common ancestor has been taught in public schools for over 50 years, NGSS is more systematic and dogmatic in its approach than were most previous standards. The new standards will continue to present evidence in a manner that supports the idea that all life evolved from a common ancestry. 

Furthermore, scientific challenges to unguided evolution will remain inadmissible. The big difference is that evolution will be taught progressively in this way in grades K-12.

A child’s intuition
A recent psychology research study shows that young children from all backgrounds have an inborn natural inclination to favor purposeful design as the best explanation for life, including man.* Most young children find naturalistic evolution to be illogical – which, in fact, it is.

Many opponents of NGSS charge that the exclusive teaching of macroevolution has the effect of challenging or even destroying a child’s theistic beliefs. In fact, the progressive teaching of macroevolution has the effect of indoctrinating students into accepting a materialistic, atheistic worldview. At best, students are confused by attempts to merge both guided and unguided explanations of origins.

The standards use a variety of techniques that convince students to believe that all events in nature, past and present, have been caused by natural processes. Since teleology (purposeful design) and God are never mentioned, students tend to assume that these concepts are unnecessary or irrelevant when reconstructing the history of the earth.

* “Young Children Can Be Taught Basic Natural Selection Using a Picture-Storybook Intervention” Psychological Science. February 6, 2014.   undefined

What recourse do parents have when religious beliefs of their children are being undermined by materialistic/atheistic evolutionary teachings?

• Discuss with children good apologetics materials that challenge naturalistic evolution. (See review of Questioning Cosmos in the review section of this issue.)
• Visit COPEinc.org or email info@copeinc.org for help to address local concerns, analyze local or state academic standards, find knowledgeable speakers or consultants, and find help in drafting legislation, policy statements, or education standards.
Exploring Geology with Mr. Hibb: Discovering Evidence for Creation and the Biblical Flood helps younger children understand the truth of Creation and the Flood (Michael Oard, Tara Wolfe, and Chris Turbuck. Creation Book Publishers, 2nd edition 2014).

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An expanded version of this article is available at undergroundparadigm.com.