ASEE Prism On-line, February 2000

The Politics of Evolution

    Did the person who wrote "Devolving in Kansas" in the Briefings section of the December 1999 Prism actually take the trouble to read the new Kansas education standards? Evolution was not taken out of the curriculum. Instead, local boards can approve teaching whatever they wish in regard to evolution. This is called local control. The standards will not require testing of macromonkey boy! evolution (evolution across species boundaries). Micro evolution (evolution within species) will still be tested. Local boards can also endorse teaching the "big bang" theory.

    I took some flack from my non-engineering colleagues on the Wichita State University campus because in an interview with the Eagle (the local paper) I said that, "never during my career as an engineer in industry and academia have I been asked if I accept the theory of evolution." I also stated that, "we make a lot of very good airplanes in Wichita and to my knowledge it is unimportant if those involved accept evolution as an explanation of life on Earth."

    I also pointed out that we teach English and mathematics for many years in the public school system and still have placement tests and remedial courses for those subjects because of the deficiencies many students have in those areas. We can easily implement a placement test covering knowledge of evolution and a remedial course, if required, in order to prepare students in the natural sciences. We are only talking about the material in a part of one biology course in high school in most cases.

    I also stated that, "I can accept the evidence of evolution, though currently incomplete, and I accept the evidence of the 'big bang.'" Perhaps what really upset my colleagues was my statement that, "whatever the theory, I believe God initiated and controlled the events." Those for whom the theory of evolution has become a religion—primarily members of academia and the press—jumped on the change in the education standards in Kansas without reading them in order to knock the perceived backward beliefs of those of us who live in the "Bible Belt."

    Any school board can include whatever they wish about evolution or the "big bang" in their curriculum. The issue was local control of schooling, which is still popular in Kansas. Do your homework! 

    Everett L. Johnson
    Wichita State University


Ed. Note: In the article in question, we stated specifically that "the move does not prevent the teaching of evolution." We didn't draw a distinction between micro and macro evolution because of limited space.

Another Kind of Evolution

    October CommentsI enjoyed Frank Huband's comments ( "The Evolution of Engineering Education" ) in the October issue of Prism.

    I am a former dean of a major college of engineering (University of Utah, 1983-87) and have served several terms as chairman of the department of bioengineering at the University of Utah.

    The future of engineering, in my opinion, is in biology. The entire field of engineering is likely to change dramatically in the next several decades, with a growing emphasis on biologically based approaches to engineering problems and activities. Many engineering faculty members now work on bioengineering topics, and engineering is developing a strong interest in and reliance on biology. I fully expect that nearly every engineering department and program will begin to develop a biological or bio-based component.

    As traditional engineering disciplines begin to apply modern biological principles and tools, the present field of bioengineering will cease to be unique. What indeed is the future of bioengineering in an engineering environment in which all engineering disciplines go biological?

    Joseph D. Andrade
    University of Utah

ET, Phone Home?

    Each month I look forward to reading Prism to learn what my colleagues in engineering technology are doing. Unfortunately, nothing in the January 2000 issue pertains to that world. The word "technology" appears in several articles, but relates to graduate research, not the real-world applications of ET. Even the president's article talks about EAC of ABET, but does not mention ET. The closest to our world would be Henry Petroski's concept of using real-world artifacts in the classroom. Been there, done that for 20 years.

    To balance the focus of ASEE again, I assume some future issue will discuss only issues related to engineering technology, with not even a whisper of the "E" word in the issue.

    David Meredith
    Pennsylvania State University

What do YOU think?

Send your comments to

Because of space limitations, not all letters can be published, and those that are may be abridged.

Navigation bar