On October 26, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science
Teachers Association, in separate letters, informed the Kansas State
Department of Education that it could not use their organization's copyrighted
materials in the revision of the Kansas science standards. Both organizations
disagreed with the draft standards as they relate to the theory of evolution.
The Academy also disagreed with the redefinition of science in the Kansas
draft. The American Association for the Advancement of Science issued
a statement strongly supporting the action taken by both organizations.
The October 26 letters were addressed to Alexa Posny, Assistant Commissioner
of Education at the Kansas State Department of Education. The National
Academy letter, signed by its president, Ralph J. Cicerone, cites the
request by the co-chair of the Kansas standards revision committee to
"grant copyright permission to the Kansas State Board of Education
to use the NSES [the National Research Council's National Science
Education Standards] as a basis for the new Kansas standards, given
the considerable changes in the content of evolution and the nature
of science" in the proposed standard.
Cicerone noted "many positive changes in the current set of standards
compared with the 1999 version," for which the Academy also denied
copyright permission. Cicerone remarked that the new draft document
"recognizes the overwhelming scientific evidence that the earth
is billions of years old, that the Big Bang is currently the accepted
scientific explanation for the origins of the universe, and that evolutionary
mechanisms such as natural selection are the predominant explanations
for the diversity of life on Earth."
However, Cicerone stated, the Academy review of the new draft standards
"finds that evolution is singled out as an area of science where
there is major scientific controversy because of alleged weaknesses
in the theory." Citing "tens of thousands of peer-reviewed
papers" supporting and strengthening evolution "as the underlying
basis for understanding biology," Cicerone criticizes the draft
standards for attempting "to portray evolution as a theory in crisis."
The letter then states, "perhaps most troubling, however, is
the attempt by those who prepared the revisions to redefine what constitutes
science, from a search for natural explanations of observable phenomena,
to one that does not require natural explanations. . . . The power of
science results from a strict adherence to seeking natural mechanisms
and explanations for natural phenomena. By removing this critically
important caveat from [the standards] . . . the line between
science and other ways of knowing becomes blurred. Kansas students will
be both confused and ill-served by an explanation of science that allows
for supernatural explanations of the natural world."
The National Science Teachers Association letter warns that the draft
standards "will result in Kansas students being confused about
the scientific process and ill-prepared both for the rigors of higher
education and for the increasingly technological and scientific challenges
we face as a nation." NSTA President Michael Padilla offers
to work with the Kansas State Department of Education, as did Cicerone.
In his closing, Padilla states, "We do not maintain that science
is superior to other ways of understanding our world nor do we think
that scientific inquiry is inconsistent with a theological search for
answers. Rather, there are profound differences between these ways of
knowing and failure to understand them will put the students of Kansas
at a competitive disadvantage as they take their place in the world."