Saturday, February 27, 2010

SB142 Amended

Before being sent to the House, SB142 was amended by including language to require other major literary works of similar acclaim to be taught with the Bible. As far as I'm concerned, this legitimizes the proposed course. In fact, I believe a social studies/literature/history course that surveys the world's sacred texts is a missing piece in the public school system.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


SB-142 passed 37-1
Sent from Brandon's BlackBerry

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

SB-142 Status Change

SB-142 has been posted for passage in the Regular Orders of the Day, Thursday, February 25th (tomorrow). I would like to predict it will be defeated, but that isn't likely to happen at this point. I'm afraid it will be on to the House.

Friday, February 19, 2010

SB142 Reported Favorablly

SB142 was reported favorably from committee and is on its way for its second reading. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, one senator voted "amen" and another praised that "angels have sat down on your shoulders." I think these comments speak for themselves as to the actual intent of the bill. The HL story indicates Senators Boswell and Neal might be open to adding amendments to include the texts of other religions.

My question remains what denomination of Judeo-Christianity will be the main flavor of this course?

I'll repeat a joke told to me many decades ago. I grew up in and joined the Presbyterian Church and although it's not the original Protestant denomination used in the joke, it works.

A young family moves to a new community and is looking for a church home. Not far from their new address stand two churches across the street from each other: the Presbyterian Church in America and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The family visited each on successive Sundays and found both to be hospitable with identical professions of faith and liturgy. The family was baffled as to why these two so similar congregations were separate. After the service at the second church, the father asked a Deacon what was the difference? Oh, said the Deacon, we believe Pharoah's daughter found Moses in the bullrushes. They believe Pharoah's daughter SAYS she found Moses in the bullrushes.

(In actuality, the main historic dividing point of the Presbyterian Church was over the issue of slavery.)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Why I think SB142 is a bad idea

If it weren't evident from my previous entries and email posts, I am an ardent fan of the U.S. Constitution especially the First Amendment. I'll defend the rights of anyone to their opinion and their free expression. However, I believe it is essential to defend the separation of Church and State. Why else did the Founding Fathers see fit to include the amendment anyway? (They were deists who didn't want to repeat the mistakes of the theistic monarchies so common in Europe at the time.)

The language that bothers me first appears in the bill summary:

... to establish an elective social studies course on the Hebrew Scriptures, Old Testament of the Bible, the New Testament, or a combination of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament of the Bible ...
The specifics as stated make me question the motive for introducing the bill. Except for identifying the course as "social studies", there appears to be nothing that differentiates the proposed class from a typical Sunday School class. I judge, that even if it is an elective, such a class will do little to promote harmony and tolerance among members of a diverse student community.

I am certainly in favor of moral and ethical education and a child's attendance at the church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or other of their [parent's] choice for place of worship (we have protections guaranteeing those rights under the First Amendment, right?).

Several email respondents were on the same tract as I. This social studies (or literature, or history) class should be a survey of the sacred literature of the world's religious traditions. Such a class would have academic integrity and (I believe) help foster an understanding of the variety of traditional and faith-based beliefs that can be encountered daily. People are different and knowledge will help develop the trust and tolerance for building communities with shared interests.

The introduction of this type of legislation has generally meant that its advocates want to be able to teach the Bible in public schools. My points are that

  1. Bible lessons in public schools are inconsistent with the First Amendment
  2. Such a class will compete for a student's time with science and math courses. For our society to succeed, we need well rounded citizens with a good liberal arts and science background, but religious edification is best dealt with in the family and church.
  3. Such a class in public schools will require teacher, facilities, and materials resources already stretched in this time of bare bones budgets and belt tightening. Sunday schools already have these resources in place and in fact generally offer summer programs.

It is the second point, where in an earlier email I mentioned science and provided an illustration of evolution as science, that the creationism versus evolution thread came into the conversation. Regardless of the number of persons who believe in the Biblical account of creation, those accounts are faith-based. There is no empirical evidence to support the various proposals of creationism (not just Biblical, but mythological origin stories as well). There is a Theory of Evolution, but no Theory of Creation. If someone thinks evolution is "just a theory" then creationism isn't even that. For creationism to be given equal time in a science, it must stand on an equally sound scientific basis.

I will end by paraphrasing a quote I heard (but don't know the original source):

There is no scientific fact that can't be denied on the basis of faith.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

KPS Darwin Lecture 26-Feb-2010

2004 Sawyer Court
Lexington, KY 40514



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 12, 2010


  • WHO – The Kentucky Paleontological Society (KPS).
  • WHEN – Friday, February 26, 7:30 PM.
  • WHERE – Lexington, Kentucky, Mines and Minerals Resources Building, Room 101, Rose Street, UK Campus.
  • SPEAKER – Dr. Jim Krupa, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Kentucky
  • TOPIC - “What Is Evolution and Why Does It Matter.”

Dr. James Krupa, UK Professor of Biology, will once again honor us with a presentation for our commemoration of Charles Darwin's birth, 12 February 1809. His talk, "What Is Evolution and Why Does It Matter?," will include examples of modern medical applications of his theory never dreamed of by Darwin.

For more information, contact Dan Phelps (859) 296-4870.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Why not give equal time to Creationism?

The topic of why not be open minded and give equal time to creationism cropped up on the KYGeologist discussion list. My answer to this query follows:

The proposition that alternatives to evolution (or science) be given "equal presentation" implies that faith-based mystical ideas have the same explanatory power as rigorously tested evidence-based science.

None of the hypotheses for faith-based creation or intelligent design have any evidence to support them. That circumstance has led proponents to take the strategy of trying to cast doubt (stones if you will) by asking questions endlessly and repeatedly without listening to any of the answers (decidedly not open minded behavior). This has generated a "teach the controversy" mantra that when coupled with an appeal to "keep an open mind" has led to the perception that science and evolution are weak and failing. They are not.

The public has a general idea of fairness that is common to the mass media and the legal system (in particular) in which both sides of an proposition are granted equal time. Science doesn't work that way. It is the hypothesis that is consistent with the most and best available evidence that works and becomes a theory. The debate is done in the field, laboratory, peer reviewed journals, and at professional meetings.

If you have doubts about the evidence for evolution, I suggest you read Behe's book Darwin's Black Box, his popular effort to undermine evolution. Then read Monkey Girl (by Humes) that tells the story of how Behe couldn't defend his own work when cross examined under oath at the Dover trial. Finally, I recommend Jerry Coyne's new book, Why Evolution is True. This book discusses the multiple and powerful lines of evidence that support evolution.

Comment added after original posting:
Note that the textbook at the heart of the Kitzmiller v Dover trial was Of Pandas and People by Davis and Kenyon. Behe agreed to act as an expert witness for the Dover Area School District to defend adoption of the proposed reference text. I have also added some informational links.


This blog provides a forum for discussion of issues unique to Kentucky concerning teaching evolution and science in the State's public schools. To make it clear, I am in favor of Kentucky's children being taught the best available science-based curricula and that includes evolution. Creationism and intelligent design are not science; see for example the excellent set of resources at TalkOrigins (FAQ) and the National Center for Science Education.

There are two catalysts for this discussion. A bill now before the Kentucky General Assembly. SB142 is "AN ACT relating to Bible literacy courses in the public schools." The bill, if adopted would:

Create a new section of KRS Chapter 156 to require the Kentucky Board of Education to promulgate administrative regulations to establish an elective social studies course on the Hebrew Scriptures, Old Testament of the Bible, the New Testament, or a combination of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament of the Bible; require that the course provide students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory, and public policy; permit students to use various translations of the Bible for the course; amend KRS 158.197 to permit a school council to offer an elective social studies course on the Hebrew Scriptures, Old Testament of the Bible, the New Testament, or a combination of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament of the Bible.

A second act has been introduced in the House, HB397, the Kentucky Science Education and Intellectual Freedom Act." Such acts are generally introduced under the guise of open-minded and critical analysis of "controversial" topics and are basically intended to allow teachers to introduce non-scientific (and often faith-based) instructional materials into the classroom. This act would:

Create a new section of KRS Chapter 158 to encourage local district teachers and administrators to foster an environment promoting objective discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of scientific theories; allow teachers to use, as permitted by the local board of education, materials in addition to state-approved texts and instructional materials for discussion of scientific theories including evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning; clarify that provisions do not promote religious doctrine or discrimination

These acts are presented against a background I believe is unique to Kentucky. Chapter 158 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes is entitled Conduct of Schools--Special Programs. There are several sections of that chapter that are (IMHO) decidedly not within the provisions of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

  1. 158.170: Requires the Bible to be read in class by the teacher. It has a provision whereby a child can't be required to read the Bible against the wishes of "his" parent or guardian.
  2. 158.175: Specifies the manner in which the Lord's Prayer is to be recited in the public classroom. "Pupils shall be reminded that this Lord's prayer is the prayer our pilgrim fathers recited when they came to this country in their search for freedom. Pupils shall be informed that these exercises are not meant to influence an individual's personal religious beliefs in any manner. The exercises shall be conducted so that pupils shall learn of our great freedoms, including the freedom of religion symbolized by the recitation of the Lord's prayer." In this section, "Pupil participation in the recitation of the prayer and pledge of allegiance shall be voluntary."
  3. 158.177: This section is titled "Teaching of evolution -- Right to include Bible theory of creation." Paragraph (3) states "No teacher in a public school may stress any particular denominational religious belief."
  4. 158.178: Requires the Ten Commandments be displayed. The provisions here state this is only if there are funds and there is a requirement for fine print, "The secular application of the Ten Commandments is clearly seen in its adoption as the fundamental legal code of Western Civilization and the Common Law of the United States."
  5. 158.197: Authorizes the display of historic religious and nonreligious artifacts.