KCFS Responds to accusations of “denigration of theism.”

This past Tuesday (July 11, 2006) KCFS president Jack Krebs and KCFS Board member Douglas Phenix spoke at the state BOE’s Citizen’s Open Forum, and Phenix also submitted a letter from KCFS Board member Keith Miller. The three were responding to accusations being made by John Calvert and the Intelligent Design network that KCFS has the goal of promoting “a materialist world view that seeks to demean the idea of creation” and of “denigrating theism.”

These accusations are utterly false. Given that Calvert’s accusations are being made in support of the Board’s science standards, we felt that making our objections publicly known in front of the state BOE was reasonable.

Below is a text copy of Krebs’ speech and Miller’s letter. Also, here is a link to a news story the next day entitled Scientist decries ‘smear’ campaign. [Note: I am not a scientist, and I’ve emailed the reporter about that. I’ll also point out that I didn’t use the phrase “smear campaign” in my remarks. At some point in my after-speech interview the reporter asked, “Is this a smear campaign,” and I assented to her characterization.]

Jack Krebs’ speech to the state BOE, July 11, 2006

Jack Krebs, President, Kansas Citizens for Science
June 11, 2006, jkrebs@sunflower.com, 785-840-5113

Hello. I’m Jack Krebs, president of Kansas Citizens for Science.

Last month Kathy Martin handed out an article entitled “The Truth of Science and of Revelation” from the Catholic magazine “Columbia.”

I would like to thank Mrs. Martin for distributing this article, because it supports a major point that we at Kansas Citizens for Science believe: that there is not a conflict between accepting the theory of evolution and believing in God.

Here is what the article says about Catholic doctrine:

“Believing that God designed the world doesn’t mean you have to reject Darwinism or any other scientific explanation… The Church has always taught that natural processes and the laws that govern them are themselves part of God’s design. … It is quite acceptable to say that evolution by natural selection is the way God did it.” (1)

However, the Intelligent Design advocates such as John Calvert claim that one cannot accept both evolution and God. In a new pamphlet entitled “Character Assassination and Denigration of Theism,” Calvert says that Kansas Citizens for Science has been a “tool” used to “promote a materialist world view that seeks to demean the idea of creation, … effectively promoting non-theistic religions and world views over traditional theistic views.” (2)

This is categorically false. Kansas Citizens for Science does not promote any particular religious view. We do not promote materialism, nor do we promote non-theistic over theistic religions.

Board members of KCFS include an evangelical Christian, a Presbyterian minister, and other Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Unitarians, agnostics and atheists. Science can and does accommodate all those religious beliefs, and more. We believe that science is a limited form of knowledge, and that many essential matters of morals, values and spiritual belief fall outside the realm of science.

Calling us materialists and atheists just because we support mainstream evolutionary theory is a blatant falsehood, and those of us with other religious beliefs object to being characterized as such.

John Calvert has been instrumental in developing and promoting your science standards. Therefore, I want to go on public record here, in front of you, in asking that Calvert quit making these false accusations that those of us who accept modern science and evolutionary theory can’t also accept God. Many tens of thousands of religious Kansans would be offended, I am certain, to find themselves being called “tools of atheism” because of their support of science.

Kansas Citizens for Science firmly believes that science, as the “activity of seeking natural explanations about what we observe in the world around us,” (3) is both the best way of learning about the physical world and is fully compatible with a wide diversity of religious beliefs, including traditional Christian beliefs about God.

Footnotes
1. “The Truth of Science and Revelation,“ Columbia magazine, June 2006
2. “Character Assassination and Denigration of Theism to Promote Belief in Unguided Evolutionary Change,” Intelligent Design network, June 17, 2006
3. Kansas Science Standards Writing Committee’s Recommended Standards, January 21, 2006 [Note that this sentence was removed in the Board’s science standards.]

Keith Miller’s open letter to the state BOE

Keith B. Miller, Board member, Kansas Citizens for Science

Open Letter to the Kansas State Board of Education

A pamphlet has come to my attention that makes blatantly false statements about Kansas Citizens for Science (KCFS) and its advocacy for quality science. This pamphlet is being distributed by John Calvert, spokesperson for the science standards “Minority” group, contributor to and advocate for the state BOE’s science standards, organizer of the Boards May 2005 “science hearings”, and director of the Intelligent Design network, Inc. (IDnet).

I will only address two of the false charges made in Calvert’s flyer. Calvert states:

“During the science hearings in May 2005, KCFS was the primary tool of the opposition and has been used and supported by national organizations to promote a materialist world view that seeks to demean the idea of creation. This effectively promotes non-theistic religions and worldviews over traditional theistic views and causes governmental institutions that employ the strategy to engage in religious discrimination.”

Such a portrayal of KCFS is both false and a personal insult. I am a current and founding Board member of KCFS. I am also an evangelical Christian, a fellow of the American Scientific Affiliation (an association of Christians in the sciences) and an officer in the Affiliation of Christian Geologists. There are a number of other Christians on the KCFS Board, as well as members with other religious views. Calvert knows this, and yet he persists in portraying KCFS as advocating a materialist worldview and denigrating faith. KCFS has worked consistently to oppose this false portrayal of science and evolutionary theory as atheistic, and to combat the utterly false “warfare” view of science and faith.

It is Calvert and the Intelligent Design (ID) proponents who believe that science is atheistic, not Kansas Citizens for Science. The ID proponents believe that just because science is limited to investigating natural causes, it implies philosophical materialism or atheism. This is why they eliminated the word “natural” from the definition of science. This association of the method of science with atheism is utterly wrong.

Science is a limited enterprise and can only ask and answer certain types of questions. It only has the tools to study and evaluate natural causes and processes. Science simply cannot say that there is no God or that God is not actively involved in the natural world. It is completely erroneous to state that somehow science provides an argument against God.

Science also cannot be used to prove God’s action. I believe that God is always creatively active in the natural world and that the very existence of physical reality is dependent on God’s continual action. But that is not a statement that science can demonstrate or prove.

Calvert and the Intelligent Design proponents use the term “methodological naturalism” (limiting science to seeking natural explanations) are being equivalent to philosophical naturalism and thus atheism. However, this is the exact opposite of the reason the term “methodological naturalism” was coined. The term was first used in 1986 by an evangelical Christian philosopher named Paul deVries at Wheaton College in order to specifically argue against philosophical naturalism by emphasizing that science cannot make claims about the existence or non-existence of God.

So the Intelligent Design supporters use the term “methodological naturalism” in exactly the opposite way that it was intended. The understanding of science as described by Paul deVries is widely recognized by the scientific community, and was the basis for the description of science in the standards as proposed by the writing committee. What the ID proponents have done is to essentially agree with atheists like Dawkins and Dennett that science does promote an atheistic worldview.

So look at the irony: KCFS and the standards committee support an understanding of the nature and limitations of science advocated by an evangelical Christian philosopher, while Calvert and the ID supporters promote an atheistic interpretation. Who is here supporting an atheistic and materialistic view of science?

In this same pamphlet, Calvert charges that KCFS has a strategy to promote “unguided evolutionary change.” He states,

“… the very idea they seek to promote, unguided evolutionary change, can not be defended in a truly scientific way that involves legitimate scientific critical analysis.”

But the science writing committee’s Recommended Standards, which KCFS supports, does not say that evolution is unguided. It is Calvert and the ID proponents who added the word “unguided” to a statement about evolution. The science writing committee rejected this change, correctly understanding that such a religious statement is beyond the reach of science. However the word was reinserted by the state Board.

Science simply cannot state that evolutionary processes are not directed by God or without divine purpose. The addition of the word “unguided” by the ID proponents is meant to reinforce the false popular view that evolution rejects meaning and purpose in the universe. The ID supporters have taken the arguments of atheists like Dawkins and Dennett as if they were representatives of the scientific community, rather than as advocates of their particular religious views. What they do not do is listen to the counter-voices of the many religious scientists such as myself; and thus they refuse to understand that people of very different religious views support the same conclusions about the validity of evolutionary theory.

As a parent, I do not want my child told in science class that evolution is a meaningless and purposeless process that God has nothing to do with. Ironically the current Board standards ask that teachers do just that. In their misguided attempt to make God a part of science, they have instead instructed teachers to teach that evolution is a Godless process. How very sad!

Sincerely,

Keith B. Miller
KCFS Board Member
1740 Fairview Ave.
Manhattan, KS 66502

Links to downlaodable Word docs: Krebs speech and Miller’s letter.

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