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August 02, 2006

The Forces Of Rationality Triumph, Undoubtedly Temporarily

So, the good news is that the majority of people on the Kansas Board of Education are once again people whose opinions regarding evolution approach the rational. The bad news is that I will lay money on the table betting that within two evolution cycles, anti-evolution nutbags will find their way back onto that Board of Education and the whole process of trying to hijack educational standards because Jesus didn't come from no monkey will start over again.

That's because the nutbags know something rational people seem to forget, which is that the fight is never over and that there's always another election. I suspect the folks who voted in these new pro-evolution folks will go "well, that's settled," and then not bother voting in a Board of Education again until after some new anti-evolution jackasses come in. They're reactive voters. Whereas nutbags are proactive voters; they always vote, and they rely on the fact rational people don't always vote to push their agenda. This model works well beyond anti-evolution folks and boards of education, mind you. This is how any committed group of nutbags gets their agenda on the table.

So for those folks who have voted to return Kansas' schools to rationality: Good job. But if you don't keep voting, you're just going to keep fighting this same stupid battle over and over, because the nutbags will keep voting. I'm laying odds you won't keep voting. But I would be delighted if you prove me wrong.

Posted by john at August 2, 2006 10:32 AM

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Jon Marcus | August 2, 2006 11:41 AM

From the article:

"Control of the school board has slipped into, out of and back into conservative Republicans' hands since 1998, resulting in anti-evolution standards in 1999, evolution-friendly ones in 2001 and anti-evolution ones again last year."

Four sets of science standards in 6 years. (Presumably the latest election will give us change number 4.) Now that's some quality edycationamlizing!

John, do you think there are really that many anti-evolution nutbags? Or was this just the cause du jour (du decade?) of a group of religous extremists? Maybe I'm being too optimistic, but it feels like this particular nutbag cause has jumped the shark...

Rich | August 2, 2006 11:44 AM

Kansas has had a history of educational issues. Hence Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas. My well earned lack of faith in the inherent rationality in human beings leads me to the conclusion that the anti-evolution nutbags will continue to pursue their policy by whatever means necessary.

Tripp | August 2, 2006 11:45 AM

Around these parts we had one stealth nutbag member voted in about 10 years ago, and then never again. So far, at least, voters are reasonably diligent, but the fight will never be over.

The whole stealth and 'ends justifying the means' part of this really bugs me. To me that is not anywhere close to true Christian morals or proper Christian behavior. It breaks at least one of the commandments.

John Scalzi | August 2, 2006 12:07 PM

Jon Marcus:

"Maybe I'm being too optimistic, but it feels like this particular nutbag cause has jumped the shark..."

I think the "Intelligent Design" chapter of the anti-evolution playbook is largely behind us at this point, yes. I don't think the anti-evolutionists are done doing their thing, however.

Martin Wagner | August 2, 2006 12:09 PM

My feeling is that the pro-science crowd is finally starting to figure out that the fight, indeed, is never over. Naturally, creationism will evolve once again, and in a few years they will attempt another stealth manoeuver to get religion into science classes under some other spiffy name. But in the last few years, I think that the reality-based community has decided enough is enough. The important truth is that, after a couple of decades and several million dollars, ID has been rejected time and time again, and the Discovery Institute is no closer to fulfilling the goals of their "Wedge Strategy" than they ever were. That's something. It's past time school boards got back to the business of educating kids instead of fighting "culture wars".

rayyy | August 2, 2006 12:22 PM

I'm not sure any voter has time to track all the issues and distractions these days.

Reactionary voting is here and, in that respect, Kansas works well as America's "ascending-nutbag-warning-device:" Like canary in a coal mine.

Nice of them to take care of that. Even nicer they keep it local.

Until next time. (and remember to watch the birdie)

CoolBlue | August 2, 2006 12:25 PM

John, it seems the headline confirms your suspicion

"Evolution opponents suffer setback"

Setback, not defeat. Not utter annihilation.

Democracy is a process not an event. People must keep informed an vigilent because there a lot of psuedo-science crap out there and it's not just creationism in all its forms we have to worry about.

JonathanMoeller | August 2, 2006 12:29 PM

"There is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come."

-Victor Hugo.

Alas, the great man was wrong. Ideas are strong, and rationality is stronger, but irrationality is the strongest of them all.

John H | August 2, 2006 12:47 PM

For every IDiot nutbag they kick off the board, I suspect there are half a dozen waiting to take their place. In the meantime, the children attending school in Kansas are hurt the most by this schizophrenic policy-making.

Dr. Phil | August 2, 2006 01:07 PM

Worse, I fear, is that school districts simply cannot rush out and buy the book of the month club for the science classes. Whatever books were purchased on whatever version of the board are likely to remain in the hands of students through economics, ignorance and/or sloth for years to come.

Worse yet again is the possibility of growing up a cynical student body which views textbooks with distrust or hatred, and won't give any argument its due just on general principles.

I'm so glad I am no longer in school. I am so glad that I teach college physics. Oh crap, those students are going to be in my classes in the next couple of years.

Dr. Phil

John H | August 2, 2006 01:12 PM

Don't worry Dr. Phil. They are likely to be rejected for simply having a Kansas diploma...

CoolBlue | August 2, 2006 01:51 PM

Dr. Phil

I am so glad that I teach college physics.

When I was first starting out working towards my degree in Engineering, I was taking Community College course at night. I signed up for my first College Physics class and showed up on the first night. The professor gave her introductory speech which included the statement that her class wasn't going to involve much in the way of mathematics.

Physics without math.

That was a concept I simply couldn't get my mind around but rather than argue with her, I did the drop/add thing and got a professor who thought differently.

Chang | August 2, 2006 01:52 PM

Perhaps someday there will be a country/city-state called Kansasistan. And they will be rule dby Mel Gibson. And they can DUI all the time while feeling safe in the knowledge they didn't come from no monkey.

And leave us all the hell aloooooooone!

Jeff Hentosz | August 2, 2006 03:19 PM


Naturally, creationism will evolve once again...

You mean to say that since the ID folk lost this round they'll avoid doing in the future what brought 'em low, then try again until they win, then use that strategy to keep winning until their views are dominant?


A concept like that could have all kinds of implications.

wesuilmo | August 2, 2006 03:29 PM

The KBOE new science standards were "advisory". No local board had to adopt them and as far as I know none did. At least two explicitly rejected them. The KBOE has almost no real power to enforce its desires. It also attempted to butcher the sex ed standards and appointed a leader with no education background but plenty of ultra right credentials.

Dr. Phil | August 2, 2006 04:29 PM

CoolBlue -- it depends on what the course you signed up for was supposed to be about. There is a legitimate form of physics class called Conceptual Physics which emphasizes concepts over formulae. You can do it without math or minimizing math.

See, we've gone to all the trouble to make higher math "scary", along with stuff like physics. Rather than play high priest and declare that none shall study physics without benefit of surviving the tortuous hazing rituals of mathematics, fact is we are surrounded by physics. I'd rather have some community college student take a conceptual physics class and have a better concept of what happens when they get behind the wheel of a ton or more of automobile, than let them out in the world in ignorance which is what too many school systems do. (grin)

Having said all that, I should point out that when I taught a Conceptual Physics course at a community college, I made a deal with the students that I'd only "use" one new equation a night -- we met twice a week. Amazing how much ground you can cover by letting them spot me 32 equations... (grin)

Now if this was supposed to be a College Physics course, algebra or calculus level, and the professor was going to avoid math -- then this is probably a person who is in love with some of the conceptual physics curriculum reform projects. If you're going for a technical degree, this is NOT the course to take.

Either way -- Conceptual Physics still uses the laws of Physics as established in the last thousand years of human culture. There is no attempt to replace Real Physics with "Intelligent Physics" or "Creation Physics".

But yeah, it's kinda easy to make fun of it unless you're into physics pedagogy... (grin)

Dr. Phil

CoolBlue | August 2, 2006 04:40 PM

Dr Phil

Either way -- Conceptual Physics still uses the laws of Physics as established in the last thousand years of human culture. There is no attempt to replace Real Physics with "Intelligent Physics" or "Creation Physics".

Well that's assuring. After that first class, I walked out to the parking lot and on the bumper of the professor's car was a sticker that read

"There is no gravity: The earth just sucks"

Now that's Conceptual Physics....

Tripp | August 2, 2006 05:11 PM

I took college level physics about six times, mostly because I loved it and my Frat buddies would let me play their online Plato games if I kept their Physics homework up to date.

After about the second time I stopped using Math altogether. Educated guessing could usually get me the correct answer within five tries.

The Plato education system would allow multiple guesses, so my interaction would be something like:

Me: 5.0
Plato: No
Me: 5.1
Plato: No


Me: 5.3
Plato: Okay!

Scorpio | August 2, 2006 06:59 PM

There's proof, if you will, that Bush is a nutbag. The Chinese Water-Torture style of repeating issues over and over belongs to him and all his crazies. No Estate tax break? Bring it up again. And again, And again.
How about show trials and indefinite imprisonment? Well as soon as the current excuse is negated, invent another! And the next doesn't even have to be diferent from the last one as long as someone *claims* it is. How beautinful! How exhausting to the opposition!

The definition of insane is repeating behavior, expecting a different outcome. It is also the description of nutbag behavior, but ballot box exhaustion brings a miracle: the outcome *can* be different if enough opponents get tired.

I live in Kansas.

Dane | August 2, 2006 07:24 PM

If more nutbags were commited...our asylums would be full and our voting booths would be empty.

Mike Kozlowski | August 2, 2006 08:01 PM

If reasonable people have to spend time thinking about, and voting in, school board elections, the nutbags have won.

Josh Jasper | August 3, 2006 09:57 AM

But if you don't keep voting, you're just going to keep fighting this same stupid battle over and over, because the nutbags will keep voting. I'm laying odds you won't keep voting. But I would be delighted if you prove me wrong.

Fortunatley, ID is not a big issue with Manhattan school boards, or even our national candidates. Possibly in some of the more rural areas of upstate, but I don't vote there.

mythago | August 3, 2006 10:12 AM

For every IDiot nutbag they kick off the board, I suspect there are half a dozen waiting to take their place.

It's not that there are many of them. It's just that they are persistent and single-minded, so they seem larger and stronger than the really are. Kind of like cats fluffing up their fur.

Mark Tiedemann | August 3, 2006 10:21 AM

The nutbnags keep voting because that IS their life/lives.

This is the hard lesson liberals have yet to really learn, and it's an unfortunate conundrum--that when the current argument is over, we can't go home. This happened in the 70s when Vietnam ended. The war was over, we won, let's party!

And what happened? The neocons were conceived, to be born in the 80s, and now to rule over us, because this is theis hobby, their passion, their very lifeblood.

Liberals, for the most part, have other things to do.

Plus liberals tend to be too nice.

Michael Patty | August 3, 2006 12:39 PM

Just for the record, not all conservatives and Republicans support "Intelligent Design." In fact, there are LOTS of us that are firmly behind the obvious FACT of evolution. It's a simple matter of evidence. Evolution has tons of it, while Intelligent Design has none. Despite their attempts to discredit it as a bad theory, the Intelligent Design guys are only making themselves look bad. The specific of Evolutionary theory may still be under debate, but the general idea is not contested by any scientist with two brain cells to rub together.

Andrew Wade | August 3, 2006 02:51 PM

> "There is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come."
> -Victor Hugo.

Maybe young-earth creationism is an idea whose time has come. Granted, it's a moronic idea. But that makes it a good fit for the agressive ignorance and anti-intellectualism that is so popular today. :sigh:

Smurf | August 4, 2006 11:07 AM

I always liked the bit in "The Killer Angels" where two reb soldiers are discussing evolution.

"I may come from an ape... you may come from an ape... but General Lee didn't come from no ape."

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