One from the Kansas School Board, one from Dover, Pennsylvania voters. Amy Sullivan, guesting for Kevin Drum in Washington Monthly, reports:
The big intelligent design story in the news today is the Kansas State Board of Education's decision to approve [by a 6-4 vote] statewide science standards that cast doubt on evolution. More important, however, was what happened at the polls in Dover, Pennsylvania.
In that small, relatively conservative Pennsylvania town, voters booted all eight Republican pro-intelligent design school board members who were up for re-election and replaced them with Democrats who oppose the curriculum policy.
A little more detail than Amy provides: on Kansas:
The new standards say high school students must understand major evolutionary concepts. But they also declare that the basic Darwinian theory that all life had a common origin and that natural chemical processes created the building blocks of life have been challenged in recent years by fossil evidence and molecular biology. [. . .]
In addition, the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena. [. . .]
Decisions about what is taught in classrooms will remain with 300 local school boards, but some educators fear pressure will increase in some communities to teach less about evolution or more about creationism or intelligent design.
And in Dover:
Eight [out of nine] Republican school board members who ordered a statement on intelligent design read in biology class were voted out and replaced with Democrats who oppose the policy. [The ninth was not up for reelection.] [. . .]
A spokesman for the winning slate of candidates has said they won't act hastily. The judge expects to rule on the suit [brought by parents against the previous board] by January and the new school board members will be sworn in December Fifth.
UPDATE: Gwen protests in the Comments that all the news stories about the new Kansas science standards make the same statement -- "the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena" -- but NO ONE QUOTES THE ACTUAL STANDARDS. In fact, most of the media stories are the same story, which originated in the L.A.Times and was syndicated all over the country.
By going to ID-friendly blog Wittingshire (Jonathan Witt is a Discovery Institute fellow) and from there to
the Institute's blog Evolution News & Views, I was able to find the link to the newly adopted Kansas science standards. And then I discovered why no one has pulled out the pertinent quotes: no one's had time to read the goddamn thing yet. It is 123 pages long!
I can tell you one thing. Each set of grade-level science standards begins with instruction in the "Nature of Science." I'd like to quote it, but for some reason I'm unable to copy and paste from the .pdf document. In two paragraphs, it describes how theories are tested and challenged and how scientific knowledge evolves; it is unexceptionable, and does not, as far as I can tell, seek to extend the methods of science beyond the parameters of the "natural."
I've now skimmed the thing, page by page. Starting on p. 112, for the undaunted among you, is the unit for grades 8 through 12 on "History and Nature of Science." If the suspect statement is anywhere to be found, it would be here. But I can't find it. And I have seen elsewhere, and even quoted in this post, statements suggesting that the scientific method as such could be used as well to study some nonmaterial or paranormal phenomena as natural ones. For instance:
[S]cience does not name an ontological domain; it names rather a set of methods for finding out about anything at all that admits of systematic investigation.
-- philosopher John Searle
And this blog calls itself "Science is a method, not a position."
So finding such a statement in the Kansas standards would not shock me, but I just didn't find it. Missing from the document is an Appendix 2, titled "Scientific Thinking Processes" with the note, "(need written permission from Dr Larry Lowrey)". Could that be where it is?
I haven't exactly used a fine-toothed comb, but no such statement jumped out and caught my eye.
UPDATE II: Chris Hallquist seems to have found the change that is the basis for that particular statement in the news story -- "the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena."
Page 4 of the 2001 standards, under "Nature of Science," says this:Science is the human activity of seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us.
Here's the 2005 standards, page ix, same heading:Science is a systematic method of continuing investigation that uses observations, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena.
Pretty keen (and probably correct) of the reporter to detect that ulterior motive in that change of wording, but it's subtle enough to go right by most people, and hardly earth-shaking or paradigm-shifting in effect. Anyway, to my frustration I can't find the quote right now, but leading theorist (and theologian) William Dembski has written that ID is not a matter of resorting to "supernatural" as opposed to "natural" explanations, but of better understanding the nature of nature.