Kansas City Star, September 7, 1999

Hugh Hasn't a Clue about Kansas

By John D. Altevogt
Special to The Star

Well folks, we're almost a month out from the State Board of Education's courageous and enlightened decision, and the campaign of hate and disinformation continues unabated.

Bob Schieffer questioned presidential candidates' reaction to his statement that Kansas was prohibiting its children from learning about evolution. Wrong! I called the "news" director at our local CBS affiliate and asked if anyone from the station had called the mother ship to give Bob the news from Earth. He said he'd check and get back to me.

Then good old Hugh Downs displayed his ignorance, real or conveniently acquired. In a column on ABC's World Wide Web site, Hugh condescendingly gave religious folk a science lesson on the notion of falsification. A concept he apparently assumes they're ignorant of.

Well Hugh, let me introduce you to another scientific concept called research; as in do some! Maybe next time you'll know what you're talking about.

A poll on that same ABC Web site revealed that only 29 percent of those surveyed oppose teaching both creationism and evolution, but 55 percent oppose replacing evolution with creationism. Perhaps this fact is behind the lie that evolution has been removed from Kansas' schools. Clearly the truth would have failed to generate the hatred for conservative Christians and public outrage sought by our liberal media establishment.

But what is the truth? There has yet to be an adequate treatment of what this conservative-dominated board produced.

Hugh might be interested in reading pages 9, 97 and 98 of the new standards where Steve Abrams introduced falsification into the new standards and was opposed by the so-called evolutionary "experts" Downs glorifies.

Indeed, it was the very concept of falsification that formed the basis for why the board de-emphasized macroevolution. It doesn't meet the scientific standard, but this doesn't mean it won't be taught. And, this restriction would obviously impact creation science in exactly the same manner.

Understand that the board has now reworked several of the state's standards. Each of the board's new standards are more rigorous and specific than the previous standards, including the science standards. Nowhere is creation science mentioned.

Lost in the shuffle is the fact that the previous standards only vaguely mentioned evolution. The comparison being made when people refer to de-emphasizing evolution is to the radically different standards suggested by the so-called panel of "experts."

Even so, microevolution takes a prominent place and, again, the definition of science is far more demanding than the one suggested by the "experts."

Also, board conservatives added statements like:

"Nothing in science or in any other field of knowledge should be taught dogmatically."

And ...

"No evidence or analysis of evidence that contradicts a current science theory should be censored."

I suppose it's not fair to demand that journalists should have read these statements. They were, after all, way back on the fourth page of the introduction under the heading "Teaching with Tolerance and Respect."

The real bottom line is that high school seniors may lose a question or two on macroevolution, but if they know everything else these standards demand of them they'll know a lot more about biology and science than the columnists, reporters and hack politicians who criticized them.

The truth will probably never be known in those garden spots of public education like Atlanta, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and New York, places where all the national columnists and network readers live.

They'll probably chortle about the hicks in Kansas as they bundle their own kids up in shiny new flak jackets and send them off to private schools.

I really don't care whether Bob Schieffer or Hugh Downs likes our new science standards, assuming that they actually find out what's in them. But it would be nice if some of our own area papers would have the intellectual honesty to let the people decide based on reality and not propaganda.

Ironically, the answer to the mystery of macroevolution may be found in Mary Brown's challenge to Gov. Bill Graves. Mary asked Bill to debate whether or not he might have descended from an ape. Now why would either God or evolution transform a perfectly good fur coat into an empty suit?

John D. Altevogt's column appears on alternate Wednesdays. To reach him, send e-mail to jacolumn@toto.net.

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