As a doctoral student at the University of Kansas in the ’90s, I found that my professors came in all stripes, and that lazy ideas didn’t get off easy. If some professor wanted to preach the virtues of communism after it had failed miserably in the Soviet Union, he was free to do so, but students were also free to hear from other professors who critically analyzed that position.
Conversely, students who believed capitalism and democracy were the great engines of human progress had to grapple with the best arguments against that view, meaning that in the end, they were better able to defend their beliefs.
Such a free marketplace of ideas is crucial to a solid education, and it’s what the current Kansas science standards promote. These standards, like those adopted in other states and supported by a three-to-one margin among U.S. voters, don’t call for teaching intelligent design. They call for schools to equip students to critically analyze modern evolutionary theory by teaching the evidence both for and against it.
The standards are good for students and good for science.
Some want to protect Darwinism from the competitive marketplace by overturning the critical-analysis standards. My hope is that these efforts will merely lead students to ask, What’s the evidence they don’t want us to see?
Under the new standards, they’ll get an answer. For starters, many high-school biology textbooks have presented Haeckel’s 19th century embryo drawings, the four-winged fruit fly, peppered moths hidden on tree trunks and the evolving beak of the Galapagos finch as knockdown evidence for Darwinian evolution. What they don’t tell students is that these icons of evolution have been discredited, not by Christian fundamentalists but by mainstream evolutionists.
We now know that 1) Haeckel faked his embryo drawings; 2) Anatomically mutant fruit flies are always dysfunctional; 3) Peppered moths don’t rest on tree trunks (the photographs were staged); and 4) the finch beaks returned to normal after the rains returned – no net evolution occurred. Like many species, the average size fluctuates within a given range.
This is microevolution, the age-old observation of change within species. Macroevolution refers to the evolution of fundamentally new body plans and anatomical parts. Biology textbooks use instances of microevolution such as the Galapagos finches to paper over the fact that biologists have never observed, or even described in theoretical terms, a detailed, continually functional pathway to fundamentally new forms like mammals, wings and bats. This is significant because modern Darwinism claims that all life evolved from a common ancestor by a series of tiny, useful genetic mutations.
Textbooks also trumpet a few “missing links” discovered between groups. What they don’t mention is that Darwin’s theory requires untold millions of missing links, evolving one tiny step at a time. Yes, the fossil record is incomplete, but even mainstream evolutionists have asked, why is it selectively incomplete in just those places where the need for evidence is most crucial?
Opponents of the new science standards don’t want Kansas high-school students grappling with that question. They argue that such problems aren’t worth bothering with because Darwinism is supported by “overwhelming evidence.” But if the evidence is overwhelming, why shield the theory from informed critical analysis? Why the campaign to mischaracterize the current standards and replace them with a plan to spoon-feed students Darwinian pabulum strained of uncooperative evidence?
The truly confident Darwinist should be eager to tell students, “Hey, notice these crucial unsolved problems in modern evolutionary theory. Maybe one day you’ll be one of the scientists who discovers a solution.”
Confidence is as confidence does.
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Jonathan Witt received his Ph.D. in English from the University of Kansas and is a senior fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and coauthor of “A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature” (IVP, 2006).