Wyoming churches endorse science standards

2014-06-16T08:00:00Z Wyoming churches endorse science standardsBy LEAH TODD Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

A group of Wyoming churches has voiced its support for a set of educational benchmarks that are controversial in Wyoming for what they expect students to know about global climate change and evolution.

The Wyoming Association of Churches said last week that it supports the Next Generation Science Standards because science should be taught openly and not be based on any belief system. A leader in the group said the state Legislature's recent move to block the standards infringed on students' rights.

The churches say teaching evolution in public schools should not be an issue for people of faith.

Their rhetoric contrasts with what several concerned religious parents told the state Board of Education at an April meeting where the Next Generation standards were last publicly discussed.

Several parents lambasted the K-12 standards for presenting an "atheistic" worldview by teaching evolution.

"It's just a historical statement," said the Rev. Warren Murphy, a Cody-based Episcopalian minister and environmental projects coordinator for the Wyoming Association of Churches. "None of us have any problems with understanding evolution, and it does not interfere with faith."

The Wyoming Association of Churches represents about 10 Protestant denominations statewide. No representative of the Roman Catholic Church is identified on a list of jurisdictions on the group's website.

Conflicts arise when the Bible is taken literally, Murphy said, which some sects of Christianity do. A literal or fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible suggests that the Earth is about 6,000 years old, he said. The Next Generation standards say the Earth is 4.6 billion years old.

When dealing with evolution, the Next Generation standards suggest that students should be able to identify differences between organisms living today and organisms in the fossil record to reconstruct evolutionary descent, among other things.

The standards, which are guidelines school districts and teachers use when picking textbooks and lesson plans, were developed by 26 states and several national science education groups.

To date, nine states and the District of Columbia have adopted the standards. 

Science and religion

Tension between religious belief and science is not unique to the Next Generation standards, Murphy said.

He cited the historic Scopes Trial of 1925, when a crusade to banish Darwin's theory of evolution from American classrooms put a high school biology teacher on trial for "illegally" teaching evolution in Tennessee.

A court eventually dismissed the case, but not without thousands of bystanders witnessing a days-long standoff between ideals of biblical fundamentalism and scientific discovery.

"Science is important, peer-proven," Murphy said. "Faith is something else. It shouldn't interfere with what science is doing. ... Whether it was 6,000 years ago or Adam and Eve or dinosaurs, it was all created by God."

Mary Walker, a Jackson-based representative for the Wyoming Association of Churches, said that science and faith can go hand in hand but that they are two separate things.

It is a right of parents and students to agree or disagree with what's being taught in classrooms, but it is not the state's or any one parent's right to restrict from children the opportunity to learn about evolution or other topics, like climate change, she said.

"Our concern isn’t fighting the Legislature, and it's not to take issue with other people's faith," Murphy said. "It’s simply saying faith is a belief system; science isn't. Let’s keep them separate."

Not everyone agrees.

A statement to the Board of Education published by the nonprofit Wyoming Citizens Opposing the Common Core called the standards "opinionated" and asserted that they will present an atheistic worldview. The statement questioned whether the origins and nature of life are appropriate questions to ask in a science classroom.

In its release, the churches called on the Wyoming Board of Education to adopt educational standards that include climate change science, another touchy topic for lawmakers who crafted the budget footnote blocking the standards, and environmental advocates and scientists who lashed back.

One of the footnote's authors, Rep. Matt Teeters, R-Lingle, told the Star-Tribune in an interview at the time the footnote passed that he was concerned that teaching global warming in Wyoming classrooms would harm the state's economy, which relies heavily on revenue from the oil and gas industry.

Murphy said the group does not necessarily back the Next Generation standards as "the best thing out there."

"We're just saying that they need to be talked about and discussed," he said. "You don't hide the truth based on how much money you're going to make. That's not good science, and that's not good religion."

A committee will convene in July and August to review the state's science standards, as instructed by the state Board of Education after the footnote passed.

The Wyoming Department of Education has said that documents containing any part of the Next Generation standards cannot be discussed.

Reach education reporter Leah Todd at 307-266-0592 or leah.todd@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter @leahktodd.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(20) Comments

  1. Ruth1940
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    Ruth1940 - July 01, 2014 3:11 pm
    Interesting that folks think the number of adherents to various Christian sects matters. Science is based on evidence and doesn't depend on beliefs and certainly voting can't determine truth. I didn't see anywhere that the churches are ready to accept physics as well as biology.

  2. Kool Kat
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    Kool Kat - June 17, 2014 11:41 am
    Attn Marley, this is today's politically correct world. Agree with us, and everything is fine, disagree with us, and they call upon the "myth" separation of church and state to silence.
  3. Marley
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    Marley - June 17, 2014 8:38 am
    It's quite interesting that when churches say not to teach evolution or whatever, there's a huge cry of "separation of church and state", keep your nose out of politics etc. However, when the church agrees, it's front page news. Can anyone say "complete hypocrisy". There's obviously no separation of church and state in any of this. The criteria, as with everything else in the media and politics, is "do you agree with the editor's point of view" or "does this help the party in power". Separation of the two—complete joke.
  4. ChrisChristian
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    ChrisChristian - June 16, 2014 11:02 pm
    Every bit of historical evidence show that the Christian religion is the most Evil thing ever perpetrated on mankind and all but the ignorant and unschooled, like you kool kat, know that the lie of Christianity is not going to save any of your "selves" or your souls. Mis-education and misguided zeal do not make you right or your will prevail no matter how loud you scream. Most people in the world know that your truth is not true - not even close to true.
    More and more people every day know that the Christian Religion gig is just a racket to keep men fighting wars and subjugating those "inferior" races. Practice your crazy rituals but bigots, hate-mongers and cretans belong to your cults - so stay there and out of the schools and governments and allow educated people with motives other than money to make some better rules to live by than the perverted morality you hypocrites practice. Freedom of religion means the freedom NOT to have one!
  5. Kool Kat
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    Kool Kat - June 16, 2014 8:35 pm
    Attn butch, if you don't want my opinion - then don't ask.
  6. butch coolidge
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    butch coolidge - June 16, 2014 5:28 pm
    Kool Kat, another non-answer from you, what I am coming to expect. Bringing gay marriage into the equation is further proof that you are only interested in mindless trolling and cannot formulate a coherent argument. Enjoy your ignorance
  7. Kool Kat
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    Kool Kat - June 16, 2014 5:17 pm
    Attn butch, surely you're not that dense, are you?
    The "true Church" teaches not only the Ways of Christ but, parishioners are expected to abide by His teachings. And not sway from what is written in the Bible.

    I'm not a Biblical Scholar but, gay marriage is not biblical, as example.
  8. butch coolidge
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    butch coolidge - June 16, 2014 4:54 pm
    Kool Kat, are you saying these churches don't teach from the bible?
    As usual you are more interested in mindless trolling than providing answers.
    I can't believe you call yourself a Christian. There is nothing Christian about your behavior. Then again maybe you're part of that Westboro church which would explain your irrational hatred of ...............well pretty much everything
  9. Kool Kat
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    Kool Kat - June 16, 2014 4:34 pm
    Attn butch, the obvious "litmus test for Christian churches" (as you say) is the bible. They either teach out of it or they're not a true Church the Christ Established while on this earth.
  10. VOR
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    VOR - June 16, 2014 3:30 pm
    Churches. Who needs 'em? If you want community join a bowling league. If you want fantasy watch a Disney movie. If you want an institution telling you how you should think and act, stay in your 'church'. A cult by any other name...
  11. irdrmr
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    irdrmr - June 16, 2014 2:10 pm
    Couldn't be any worse than your church of judgmental bigots
  12. butch coolidge
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    butch coolidge - June 16, 2014 1:20 pm
    According to their website, the following churches/denominations comprise their membership. Not hardcore enough for a religious zealot like Pogo I guess, but they don't exactly sound like snake handlers or the Westboro baptist church.

    So Kool Kat is there a litmus test for Christian churches now? And just what is a "complete biblical" life? I'm guessing something you conjured out of thin air because I was raised attending baptist, presbyterian and methodist churches and never once heard that term. Like most everything else it appears that you have your own narrow and rather uninformed definitions of what is Christian. Ironically your condescending judgement of everyone is decidedly un-Christian.

    Carl Carmichael, Sheridan, Board Chairman United Methodist Church-Yellowstone Conference
    Rodger McDaniel, Cheyenne, Vice Chairman, Presbytery of Wyoming (USA)r
    Linda Fleming, Baggs, Secretary, Wyoming Episcopal Diocese
    Rosemary Bratton, Laramie, Treasurer, Episcopalian
    Bill Mankin, Boulder, CO, Board Member, American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains
    Doug Goodwin, Sheridan, Board Member, Disciples of Christ, Christian Church
    Tonya Eza, Powell, Board Member, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America-Montana Synod
    Tim Trippel, Worland, Alternate, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America-Montana Synod
    Bob McNamara, Casper, Board Member, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America-Rocky Mountain Synod
    Jim Carlson, Powell, Alternate, Presbytery of Wyoming
    John Dyce, Buffalo, Board Member, United Church of Christ-Montana/Northern Wyoming
    Bob Miller, Sheridan, Alternate, United Church of Christ-Montana/Northern Wyoming
    Dee Lundberg, Casper, Board Member, United Church of Christ-Rocky Mountain Conference
    Judy Eicher, Cheyenne, Board Member, United Methodist Church-Rocky Mountain Conference
    Rebekah Simon-Peter, Casper, Alternate, United Methodist Church-Rocky Mountain Conference
    Donn Kesselheim, Lander, Board Member, Wyoming Friends (Quakers)

    Team Leaders:
  13. Kool Kat
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    Kool Kat - June 16, 2014 12:41 pm
    Attn pogo, this group is only using the "Christian" name as they6 don't live "complete biblical" lives themselves. I wouldn't give them much credence in wasting words on them.
  14. Pogo
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    Pogo - June 16, 2014 11:32 am
    A.W. Tozer asked, "What is the supreme sin of a profane society?" This Wyoming Assoc. of Churches(WAC) and "Rev." Warren Murphy have no integrity, credibility and/or expertise per se in telling anyone let alone Christians how they think the world should be. This is utter audacity, hypocrisy and reeks of their politifcal ideologies being foisted on the rest of us. Murphy is a modest man, who has much to be modest about. Sometimes a group like this urges believers to compromise and give only partial obedience to God's commands. But commitment and obedience to God cannot be negotiated. When it comes to obeying God, half measures won't do in my estimation. Voltaire even had it right: "To the liviing we owe respect. To the dead we owe the truth." Truth, it appears would be a far reach for this groups of churches and the WAC.
  15. Kool Kat
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    Kool Kat - June 16, 2014 11:29 am
    Attn clueless Chis, With 78.2 million Catholic Church.members
    Another 78.4 million are protestant Christians - while 80.1 million are all other faiths in Christianity. There are 6.3% of all people that align themselves with other than "only biblical teachings".
    The majority of Americans (73%) identify themselves as Christians and about 20% have no religious affiliation.

    At least I know you stand in the extreme minority. :)
  16. position
    Report Abuse
    position - June 16, 2014 11:13 am
    Again, a diversion from what the concerns actually are. Since this delves mostly into evolution I’ll focus there.
    The NGSS teaches evolution of all creatures and that includes human, which is teaching human evolution as fact.
    I have no problem teaching evolution as theory as back in my grade school days.

    To clarify: I DO NOT want public schools teaching religion, that is my job.
  17. butch coolidge
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    butch coolidge - June 16, 2014 10:59 am
    housemouse, I think seeing your moniker attached to a comment is all one needs to see to know it cannot be taken seriously.
  18. ChrisChristian
    Report Abuse
    ChrisChristian - June 16, 2014 10:58 am
    Catholic and Fundamentalists do not make up the largest proportion of our population and should not hold sway in our school districts where our students should be Nationally recognized as equally brilliant with those of other regions.

    Applause Applause!
  19. thehousemouse
    Report Abuse
    thehousemouse - June 16, 2014 10:01 am
    environmental, was all i needed to see to know this can not be taken serious.
  20. Kool Kat
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    Kool Kat - June 16, 2014 9:33 am
    It figures, the fictitious churches of gay and lesbians along with [Episcopalians and the such] would endorse worldliness. As the mainframe "Christ-ways-teaching" Churches do not endorse this.
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