Iowa/Vander Plaats update

I mentioned the situation with Lieutenant Governor candidate Bob Vander Plaats and his support of intelligent design last week (posts here and here). A group of us have put together an editorial discussing Vander Plaats’ position and why it matters to Iowa voters (letter and signatories can be found here at the Iowa Citizens for Science site). Yesterday, a columnist for the Des Moines register also wrote up the story, and our response to it:

Town and gown are often mutual strangers when it comes to political involvement. But the Iowa governor’s race this year is attracting the involvement of university students and faculty over a burgeoning educational issue: whether religion should be taught as science in public schools.

The issue arises because the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, Bob Vander Plaats, has publicly endorsed the teaching of intelligent design along with evolution in public schools.

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A collection of 35 academics, students and others from several Iowa universities have signed and sent a letter to the press expressing concern about Vander Plaats’ position.

A professor of religion, Hector Avalos at ISU, organized the letter raising the alarm. Avalos has spoken out against intelligent design in the past. He collaborated in this effort with a professor of public health. [Well, Hector, myself--the "professor of public health"--and others worked on the letter to refine it, but hey...--TS] Though the letter is billed as a community response that doesn’t represent the university, a preponderance of signers have the letters Ph.D. beside their names.

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A governor alone can’t change a state’s school curriculum. The Legislature would have to do that.

The governor could advance, encourage and sign such legislation, however. And of equal concern is what that position says about the Nussle-Vander Plaats ticket, and whether it’s extremist.

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But the academics are right to sound the alarm on this one. When a candidate for the state’s second-ranking job advocates subverting the Constitution, it does not inspire faith.

I don’t know now if the Register will publish our letter or not (since much of it was discussed/excerpted in this column), but I can’t be too unhappy even if they don’t–we managed to get the word out to a larger audience in any case (and we’re still working to have it published in other Iowa papers), and hopefully voters will consider the attitude of politicians on all matter of things science-related when they go to the polls in November.

Comments

  1. #1 Sandra in Dallas
    October 26, 2006

    Very well said – brief but to the point, particularly effective are the statement about the major scientific organizations of the US saying it is not science, and the number of University profs signing the letter. You were wise to not try to write an essay debunking it – that would have taken too much space and allowed for debate by the uninformed.

    I’d join the similar Texas organization if they had regular meetings in Dallas, just to be able to get together with like-minded people who really care about science and education.

  2. #2 Stogoe
    October 26, 2006

    I heard on the radio this morning that Bush was going to fundraise in Iowa with Vander Plaats, but that Nussle was staying away.

  3. #3 Seldom
    October 26, 2006

    Tara,

    I hope the Register publishes the whole letter. I suspect a fairly large number of people won’t read word one of Basu’s columns regardless of topic and many of these folks are those who need to hear about ID most.

    And speaking of unsavory characters coming to Iowa…Fred Phelps and company are scheduled to be in West Des Moines on Nov. 4 and 5 to protest Valley High’s production of the Laramie Project.

  4. #4 vhutchison
    October 26, 2006

    Tara:

    Good effort and good luck! Based on our efforts in Oklahoma I have one suggestion for such letters and for contact with politicians. We get more attention when we also point out the negative impact on economic issues such as the recruitment and development of med-tech, high-tech industries to the state. Gov. Sebelius has made strong recent comments on how the Kansas Board of Education shenanigans has hurt Kansas’ ability to recruit scientists and business. Similar comments have been made by KU President Bob Hemenway and presidents of other Kansas colleges. The economic impact statement seems to resonate especailly with Republicans, whereas all the other arguments against creationism/ID do not.

  5. #5 vhutchison
    October 26, 2006

    Tara:

    Good effort and good luck! Based on our efforts in Oklahoma I have one suggestion for such letters and for contact with politicians. We get more attention when we also point out the negative impact on economic issues such as the recruitment and development of med-tech, high-tech industries to the state. Gov. Sebelius has made strong recent comments on how the Kansas Board of Education shenanigans has hurt Kansas’ ability to recruit scientists and business. Similar comments have been made by KU President Bob Hemenway and presidents of other Kansas colleges. The economic impact statement seems to resonate especailly with Republicans, whereas all the other arguments against creationism/ID do not.

  6. #6 Jason Spaceman
    October 27, 2006

    Intelligent Divide:

    INTELLIGENT DIVIDE — Republican candidate for governor Jim Nussle and his running mate, Sioux City businessman Bob Vander Plaats, disagree on whether intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution in Iowa’s science classrooms.

    Earlier this month, according to the Ames Tribune, Vander Plaats told a group of Iowa State University students that the two theories should get equal classroom time.

    “I think from an educator’s point of view, I want to give the theories that have creditability weight in the classroom,” Vander Plaats said during a question and answer session with students, according to the Oct. 12 Tribune article. “There are some credible evidences on both sides, I think from an educator point of view as well as a full discourse to the students of ‘Here’s how people believe the world came to be.’

    “I don’t see where that can hurt.”

    But on Wednesday Nussle broke with his running mate.

    “While I believe and I have taught my children that we are all God’s creations, I do not believe intelligent design should be taught in our public schools,” Nussle said in a statement issued by his campaign.

  7. #7 Tara C. Smith
    October 27, 2006

    :) I have that already scheduled for a post later today, but thanks for the link.

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