A group with the deeply Orwellian name Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE) have lost their lawsuit to stop the Kansas State Board of Education teaching evolution.
If this sounds familiar, it is because we have been here before. Quite a few times, actually. However, in defiance of their ideology, creationists keep evolving new approaches in response to the courts' determination that you can't will away a mountain of scientific evidence based on your interpretation of a single ancient book.
The cause of this latest flare-up is a result of the Next Generation Science Standards drawn up by 26 states in cooperation with the National Research Council. The standards are based on the idea that, “Science—and therefore science education—is central to the lives of all Americans, preparing them to be informed citizens in a democracy and knowledgeable consumers.” As previous guidelines for science standards are at least 15 years old, it was considered time for an update.
COPE's novel argument was that evolution promotes atheism, whose teaching violates the separation of the church and state. How this squares with the more frequent claim that the Intelligent Design is not religious, since the “designer” does not have to be God, is unclear. John Calvert, an attorney for COPE is also founder of the Intelligent Design Network.
“The state’s job is simply to say to students, ‘How life arises continues to be a scientific mystery and there are competing ideas about it,’” Calvert said when launching the case.
COPE's lawsuit expressed concerns that the Standards will lead, “Very young children to ask ultimate questions about the cause and nature of life and the universe – where do we come from.” This is bad, apprently, because the Standards then allegedly use, “A variety of deceptive devices and methods that will lead them to answer the questions with only materialistic/atheistic explanations.” Presentation of scientific evidence now being classified as a “deceptive device”.
The case gained plenty of attention when it was first brought in September 2013. However, its dismissal by US District Judge Daniel Crabtree earlier this month was much lower profile. Strangely, COPE doesn't even mention that they lost on their website.
Crabtree ruled that COPE had not shown any injury, beyond an “abstract stigmatic injury,” from students learning science.
Kansas has a reputation as a center for extreme conservatism and has a particularly strong anti-science movement. Nevertheless, it is one of only 12 states that have so far adopted the Next Generation Standards, while the Wyoming legislature has blocked their introduction. If that is not disturbing enough, the Wyoming decision was a compromise – the original proposal wanted sought to ban any new science standards at all.