Abrams: Evolutionists engaged in character assassination

Abrams: Evolutionists engaged in character assassination
JOHN HANNA - Associated Press, Nov 14, 2005
TOPEKA, Kan. - Evolutionists have resorted to character assassination and are misleading people into thinking new science standards for Kansas' public schools promote creationism, the State Board of Education's chairman said Monday.

Steve Abrams also accused evolution's defenders of trying to stifle scientific questions about the theory and said the new Kansas standards merely endorse critical analysis of evolution.

Abrams made his comments in a column distributed to newspapers across the state, as well as CNN, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post.

The new science standards challenge some evolutionary theory, treating it as the subject of scientific controversies - defying the views of national science groups. Critics have accused Abrams and other board members of promoting creationism or intelligent design, which says an intelligent cause is the best way to explain some complex, orderly features of the natural world.

"Evolutionists do not want students to know about or in any way to think about scientific criticisms of evolution," Abrams said. "Evolutionists are the ones minimizing open scientific inquiry from their explanation of the origin of life."

Evolution has been an issue in other states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, where voters ousted most members of the Dover school board last week over a pro-intelligent design policy. But the Kansas debate has received international attention, partly because it was the third time in six years the board has debated science standards with evolution as the key issue.

"What's next, werewolves and vampires being discussed in the same class as mammals and amphibians?" the Berkshire, Mass., Eagle wrote in an editorial. "Are witch trials far behind? Can psychics testify in court?"

Not all comment has been negative, of course. On one of its Web sites, the conservative Focus on the Family headlines its story on the debate with, "Kansas schools to teach the controversy over evolution," and "Mainstream media are suckered into getting the story wrong."

Abrams also said that instead of discussing issues surrounding the theory, "noisy" critics "go into attack mode" and assassinate the character of people who want a critical analysis of evolution.

"I would encourage those who believe we are promoting a back door to creation or Intelligent Design to actually do your homework," he wrote. "READ and investigate the Science Curriculum Standards."

But Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, Calif., said while mainstream scientists debate the mechanics of evolution, there's no real controversy over the theory, such as its conclusion that all life had a common origin.

"For those of you who think scientists debate whether evolution actually happened, do your homework and take a look at the scientific literature and find out for yourself," she said.

The standards, approved on a 6-4 board vote last week, say the theory that small changes over time in one species can create a new species is controversial. Another statement says the theory that all life had a common origin has been challenged by fossil records and molecular biology.

Scott said introducing already discredited criticism of evolution is promoting creationism, banned from classrooms by a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Scott and other critics of intelligent design argue it's repackaged creationism.

"Do your homework, and you'll find that creationists believe that all you have to do is disprove evolution, and creationism wins by default," Scott said. "Teach children that evolution is lousy science, and they will automatically default to 'God did it.'"

Abrams said during an interview that he doesn't know whether his column will change any minds.

"I was trying to do some clarification," he said. "I expect that some will still say that I'm an absolute idiot and have no understanding of science."