Kansas Educators Deny `Naturalism' Claims

By Witham, Larry | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 7, 2001 | Go to article overview

Kansas Educators Deny `Naturalism' Claims


Witham, Larry, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The panel of educators writing science standards for Kansas public schools has rejected a complaint that the guidelines teach "naturalism," which is a kind of atheism.

"These standards do not foster teaching naturalistic philosophy," said the statement. But, it said, "Science itself is limited to natural explanations."

The rebuttal, the latest exchange in a debate over teaching evolution in Kansas public schools that flared in 1999, comes as the state school board is expected to adopt the science standards in a vote Feb. 14.

The 27-member science writing panel also suggested in their brief statement that introducing students to an idea of science "not anchored in the natural world would make these [Kansas science] standards the first to invite non-science into the science classroom."

Advocates of evolution use "non-science" to describe religious explanations of nature.

The public challenge, which recommended 10 changes in the Kansas science standards, came last month from the Intelligent Design Network. The Kansas group says natural science instruction often urges students to reject all non-material influences in the world, such as God.

The network, for example, has urged that the standards define science as "logical explanations" of patterns in nature instead of "natural explanations," which rules out non-material forces such as divine intelligence.

They want the standards to soften claims of scientists by saying "many" rather than all scientists agree on something.

In a fourth-grade lesson where students learn the difference between a "natural" and "designed" object, the group said students should be introduced to the idea that "some" scientists think humans are designed objects.

A petition backing the recommendations has been signed by 95 persons, including 50 with doctorate degrees.

"Our proposal is focused on one issue," said John Calvert, a lawyer and trained geologist who is president of the network. "It seeks only to stop the teaching or preaching of naturalism to our children in the area of origins science," he said.

The group defines origins science as science that "deals with the origin of the universe [and] or life and its diversity. …

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