[Taxacom] evolution education

fautin at ku.edu fautin at ku.edu
Wed Feb 2 20:43:14 CST 2011

When the Kansas law was passed several years ago there was no perceptible 
effect.  I say that for several reasons.

1) The law did NOT outlaw the teaching of evolution, as was widely 
reported.  It mandated that the standardized test administered to Kansas 
students would not include evolution.

2) Many teachers do not get to the chapter of evolution in their textbook 
anyway.  For one thing, it is usually the final chapter in the book.  For 
another thing, in many small towns (not just in Kansas), teaching 
evolution may be inviting trouble.  Even though we think, to quote 
Dobzhansky, nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution, 
many "facts" of biology can be taught outside that context -- so it was 
done.  And a final reason teachers skipped (and still skip) that last 
chapter and do not put everything in an evolutionary context is that they 
themselves are uncertain about the principles of evolution (as I like to 
say, it's not rocket science -- it's harder!!; evolution is a difficult 
concept to understand at a level that allows one to teach it effectively), 
having had a deficient scientific education, which they blithely pass on. 
It is certainly possible to love nature and deny evolution.

3) The law was reversed before it could be implemented.  At the next 
election, the populace of Kansas voted out of office some of the members 
of the board of education who had enacted that law, and the new majority 
put it back the way it had been.  But the next election, 
scientifically-minded folk, thinking they had won, lost interest in the 
next election, and other evolution-deniers were elected so they had a 
majority again, and the same thing happened all over.  Focus was not lost 
in subsequent elections so we have not had a third cycle (although Kansas 
still gets a bad rap, despite far worse laws being passed in other 
states), and now boards of education seems to have shifted to other 

So I am not sure that even the premise "as they once did" is justified.

Daphne G. Fautin
Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Curator, Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center
Haworth Hall
University of Kansas
1200 Sunnyside Avenue
Lawrence, Kansas 66045-7534  USA

telephone 1-785-864-3062
fax 1-785-864-5321
evo user name fautin
website www.nhm.ku.edu/~inverts

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On Wed, 2 Feb 2011, Kenneth Kinman wrote:

> Hi All,
>      Another conservative state legislature is facing renewed
> proposals to challenge evolution in classrooms (which would require
> teachers to do so whether they like it or not). But in the present day,
> do such state laws (if passed) actually have a significant impact on the
> biological education of the vast majority of high school students?
>       I suspect that those students most likely to be
> seriously torn between evolution-only scenarios and God-only scenarios,
> increasingly opt for something in between (God created species,
> including humans, but through an evolutionary mechanism). An
> understandable stance for those torn between their parents' God-only
> scenarios and the scientific evidence for evolution.
>         So the question is, would a few such state laws (which would
> presumably be eventually overturned anyway) have any significant
> long-term effect in the teaching of evolution?  But even if not, would
> it still (in the short term) be an unfair burden on biology teachers in
> those states who might be subject to law-suits if their presentation of
> evolution was not critical enough and angered some conservative parents
> of those students?   Not that such proposed laws should not be resisted
> in those states, but do such laws (if they are passed) cause as many
> problems and harm as they once did?
>         ---------Ken Kinman
> http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/01/oklahoma-bill-would-mandate-educators-question-evolution-in-classes/
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