By Philip Timothy, Message Managing Editor
BATON ROUGE — An 86-person committee tasked with developing and writing new science standards for students from kindergarten through 12th grade in Louisiana is stirring controversy ahead of a February meeting in New Orleans.
Wade Warren, professor of biology at Louisiana College and a member of the committee, states there has been complete disregard for the science-based information he has provided and total rejection of the common-sense modifications he has proposed to the standards being written.
In one suggestion, he simply asked the committee to add the words “sudden appearance” in the statement on “patterns of the fossil record” and “change in life forms throughout the history of life on Earth.”
But they dismissed this common observation about the fossil record acknowledged by every scientific authority.
Louisiana College’s Wade Warren is a professor of biology at the school.The group, which met for the first time Aug. 17-18 in Baton Rouge, has held meetings around the state purportedly to gather input for the review of the standards, written in 1997, making them the third oldest in the nation.
The committee is scheduled to make its recommendations to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) Feb. 13 in New Orleans at 6026 Paris Avenue, beginning at 9 a.m., at which time Wade plans to request a public explanation for the decisions that have been made. The public is invited to attend.
BESE will study suggested changes at its March meeting.
Warren is concerned the committee is so adamantly one-sided in its views on evolution, especially given “there is a healthy disagreement in the scientific community surrounding Darwinian ideas,” he said.
In his attempts to point this out to the committee, he submitted statements from a growing body of scientists who assert “Darwinian tenets such as the tree of life and natural selection as the main driving force of evolution have ‘crumbled, apparently beyond repair.’ … all major tenets of the modern synthesis have been, if not outright overturned, replaced by a new and incomparably more complex vision of the key aspects of evolution.”
Warren says the section on standards for evolution should at least acknowledge valid research which calls the Darwinian model into question.
“I have provided dozens of published peer-reviewed research articles to the writers, demonstrating problems with the wording in the standards on evolution,” said Warren. “I also have made recommendations for wording that would more accurately reflect the current state of the science.
“For example: in the proposed standards for High School students, the content standard HS-LS4-1 says, “Genetic information provides evidence of evolution. DNA sequences vary among species, but there are many overlaps; in fact, the ongoing branching that produces multiple lines of descent can be inferred by comparing the DNA sequences of different organisms. Such information is also derivable from the similarities and differences in amino acid sequences and from observable anatomical and embryological evidence.”
Even though, the information is already in most biology texts, Warren claims even a cursory review of the literature reveals major problems in making these inferences.
“I suggested the following wording be added. ‘Results may differ depending on the sequences used,’” said Warren. But he said the committee brushed aside the research and his simple fixes.
“In many ways the Darwinian thinkers and writers of the modern era have become the exact opposite of the hopes articulated in Darwin Day’s mission statement,” Warren said. “Instead, they seem to be trying to create an environment where scientific debate and access to information that disagrees with the Darwinian model is suppressed.
“Does this exemplify intellectual bravery, perpetual curiosity, scientific thinking, or hunger for truth?” Warren wondered. “I think Charles Darwin would be disappointed in a day celebrating his research and thinking that did not allow for intelligent dissent.”