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November 13, 2005

Dear Europe and Asia,

We've been meaning to write for a while, got busy, you know how things go. Hope everything is fine with you, we're doing pretty well over all.  However today we realized that there are some things happening, potentially confusing things, that might look more than a little embarrassing if you're paying attention.  So we take it upon ourselves to clear things up for you.

We've got to explain Kansas. We really need to help you understand how they're one of the "special" states over here. Special, kind of like they're all kids who wear crash helmets and harnesses when their parents take them out for a walk.  You know, not really able to think clearly or take care of wiping the drool off their chins, or aware that they've got a big mustard stain on their bib? We're sure you're familiar with the concept. Think about the an outbreak of ergotism that occurred in France in 1039 and you'll have a clue.

We realize that this whole thing about them "voting" evolution into doubt, the redefinition of what science is, may seem a bit backwards to you more mature nations. Be sure that we think so too. Does the USA think that science changes when we cross the border into Kansas? No, that's just silly.  We like to think it's much like talking to a child's invisible friend, you humor them as long as it things don't get out of control. We allow this playpen of a state to form a kind of a play toy government, and see little harm in letting them play like the laws they're forming actually matter.  Think of those same helmeted kids with a miniature tea party set, talking with stuffed animals and drinking muddy water. You get the idea. 

Why do we keep Kansas around?  Yes, we're probably a little remiss in letting them be so vocal.  Sensible people might assume that we think their dribble actually has some merit. And there could be other bent folks, well meaning but similarly impaired, who try to make the case for Kansas law being an example for their state government. They might use it to move the so-called Intelligent Design (see how the irony just piles up here?) and debunking of evolution into law in their own Church and State bonded fiefdoms. We have to admit, it does sound ill conceived. Perhaps a less compassionate nation would consider euthanasia or at least sterilization, but that's never been in our makeup. We're probably a little too soft here for our own good.

So yes, it could be a problem. But the intelligent people here are aware of it and we really think we'll be able to handle things. We're not above trying to make them see the errors in behavior. By way of example, here's a statement from Alan I. Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and executive publisher of the journal Science, in response to the vote:

"Along with thousands of Kansas scientists, educators and other residents, we are deeply disturbed by the vote taken today by the Kansas State Board of Education. No matter how the board's majority tries to cast its action, the meaning is clear:

"This is a vote to mix science and faith in public-school science classrooms, at great risk to the economy, to the educational institutions and, most important, to the children of Kansas.

"We do not believe that science and religion are inherently at odds. On the contrary, we believe they can coexist harmoniously. Thousands of religious leaders nationwide share our view. We would not be troubled to see the issues about human origins discussed in social-studies classes.

"However, we firmly believe that only science should be taught in science classrooms. By definition, scientific explanations are limited to rigorous, testable explanations of the natural world and cannot go beyond.

"Our students, like all of our citizens, need a clear understanding of what science is -- and what it isn't -- if they're going to thrive in the 21st century. The Kansas science standards say that science education must `prepare the citizens of Kansas to meet the challenge of the 21st century.'

"But by endorsing science standards that contain misleading information and literally change the definition of science in order to cast doubt on biological evolution, the Board of Education has taken a vote to confuse students, and to undermine science education.''

Of course Alan's letter had to be translated into words of less than three syllables before most of Kansas understood that the adults were disappointed in them. The letter probably won't have much of an effect as Kansas tends to pout after someone points out that it has soiled itself publicly. But we're used to it and we'll deal with that as well. Of course you may now be wondering about education in Kansas, in particular the Universities and Colleges? Well, you now have a better idea as to the credibility of their graduates.  Again, think invisible friend and you'll be able to turn them down gracefully.

So, we just wanted to fill you in on the background here in case they get hold of sharp writing implements and send you a letter about how their little vote matters to the world.

Trust us, it doesn't matter one bit. 






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