Kansas 1999: Evolution and Creation Science

CRN 36443
Schedule TR 1400-1550
Location: 473 MCK
Elly Vandegrift

This game is set in 1999 and 2000. Christian Conservatives on the Kansas Board of Education have deleted macroevolution and Big Bang cosmology from the state science curriculum. The game centers on the election of a new Board of Education which must, for legal reasons, revisit the decision. Students will campaigns for office through press conferences, sponsored debates, and are encouraged to involve the larger campus community in the issues. Following the election, the Board meets to resolve the science curriculum issue.

The controversy in Kansas lies on a continuum that begins with the trial of Galileo. Most states in the South and Midwest have struggled with this issue and even New York limits the teaching of evolution. The Kansas controversy is uniquely interesting. It coincided with the controversial presidential election of 2000 in which both candidates took sides on the issue. It was also part of a struggle for control within the Republican Party of Kansas and involved large numbers of outside interests and national attention for the controversy.

This game raises many questions about the role of religion in American society, the power of religious fundamentalism in the modern world, and the nature of science. Faculty can tailor the course to focus more on issues of civil religion or on modern Cosmology and evolutionary theory. Readings include an excerpt from Darwin’s Origin of Species , Microcosmos by Lynn Margulis and Doran Sagen which presents a modern view of evolution, readings from Hume on natural religion, and a classic essay on civil religion in America.

Labs for this game include building a telescope similar to that of Galileo, observing the moon and planets, learning about observational astronomy, studying physical optics of lenses using ray tracing, an exercise in natural selection, an exercise in allele propagation, and an exercise on radioactive decay. Additional possible exercises include a study of the Hubble Constant using simulation software and the use of ice core and tree ring data in obtaining dates.

The final outcome is a science standards document for use by the state of Kansas.