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A Kansan's Guide to Science

An introduction to evolution and the nature of science, including origins of the universe and the Earth and the history of life

Contributing Authors from the University of Kansas
Paulyn Cartwright,
Division of Biological Sciences
Roger L. Kaesler,
Department of Geology;
Paleontological Institute, Natural History Museum
Bruce S. Lieberman,
Department of Geology;
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Adrian L. Melott,
Department of Physics and Astronomy

Originally published in 2000 as Educational Series 15. Please see the KGS Publication Catalog for information on purchasing a copy.


Modern scientific inquiry has provided us with a wealth of insight into the workings of the natural world, and this will in turn lead to great technological advances as we enter the new century. In this high-tech era, it has become more imperative that average citizens, not just scientists, be equipped with a basic understanding of scientific discoveries and the scientific process. The authors of this booklet all are scientific researchers and educators from Kansas with a real interest in the scientific literacy of the people of this state. This interest became concern when, in the summer of 1999, the Kansas State Board of Education (BOE) voted to adopt a new set of standards for the teaching of science in Kansas public schools. The Board voted six to four to approve public-school science standards that downgrade the teaching of accepted scientific concepts: specifically, they de-emphasized or deleted references to geologic time, evolution, and the origin of the universe. We are concerned for several reasons. First, excellent evidence that life has evolved is all around us. Similarly, evidence for the nature and extent of geologic time can be found in rocks under foot in the state of Kansas; many of these rocks are under active study by Kansas geologists. Furthermore, scientists also are watching the Kansas skies to uncover clues to the origin of the universe. Finally, all the challenges to the immensity of geologic time, the nature of evolution, and the origin of the universe that motivated the BOE decision were based on pseudoscientific approaches or qualified as junk science, ideas not backed up by any actual data.

Our concerns motivated us to write this booklet. In the booklet we pose a set of questions that were chosen because they address topics that were most under attack by supporters of the Kansas BOE decision and most misunderstood by the general public. It is our intent to reach all Kansas citizens who wish to learn more about the nature of science, geologic time, evolution, and the origin of the universe from a Kansas perspective.

Next Page--The Nature of Science

Kansas Geological Survey, Educational Resources
Placed online Oct. 2004. Originally printed 2000.
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