Monday, November 24, 2014

Brownback’s views on ancient reptiles apparently evolving

5/2/2014

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback sure seemed to be enjoying his state’s “dinosaurs” last month ... at least for a guy who once said he didn’t believe in evolution.

The governor went to the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays, a fitting place to sign legislation — House Bill 2595 — into law that designates two state fossils — the flying Pteranodon and the marine creature Tylosaurus mosasaur. The bill got plenty of ribbing from those who see such legislation as a waste of valuable time.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback sure seemed to be enjoying his state’s “dinosaurs” last month ... at least for a guy who once said he didn’t believe in evolution.

The governor went to the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays, a fitting place to sign legislation — House Bill 2595 — into law that designates two state fossils — the flying Pteranodon and the marine creature Tylosaurus mosasaur. The bill got plenty of ribbing from those who see such legislation as a waste of valuable time.

The other comic undertone was the ceremonial bill signing by a governor who raised his hand during a Republican presidential debate in 2007 when the moderator asked which candidates didn’t believe in evolution. Well, at least Brownback didn’t lead a delegation through the Sternberg to explain how the fossils displayed there are either fakes or wrongly dated by tens of millions of years.

Brownback went on record back in 2007 to try to explain his nuanced opinion blending creationism and evolution in a convoluted New York Times opinion piece. Maybe his position has evolved further since.

But in any event, it is difficult to reconcile fossils of creatures that inhabited the Earth about 80 million years ago with the strict Biblical interpretation of human history that dates the Earth by about 6,000 years. And even if microevolution explains the legitimacy of flying and swimming reptiles, such as the Pteranodon and Tylosaurus, how can it, at the same time, discount fossils of ancient humans that date back only as far as 7 million years?

[Editor’s note: State Rep. Kevin Jones, R-Wellsville, was among those who voted against the bill, noting his objections as follows: “First, we are frequently criticized for spending legislative time and energy on issues that don’t affect the lives of most Kansans; and second, the bill puts into state law that these Kansas fossils lived and moved on the earth during the cretaceous period of the Mesozoic era, about 125 million years ago.”]

Brownback apparently doesn’t discount the fossil records, at least when it comes to Kansas’ ancient reptiles. And variations on intelligent design belief can be used to reconcile creationism and evolution. It doesn’t have to be an either-or argument.

Naming official state fossils might be a waste of time in the big picture. But these new designations do have educational value. When schoolchildren learn about our state history, they will learn about our state fossils, right along with the state bird, reptile, tree, etc. And if our schools have any money left for field trips, they can go to the Sternberg and marvel at the fossil-based depictions of marine and flying creatures that inhabited oceanic prehistoric Kansas.

The governor should be commended for recognizing the state’s ancient history, culture and scientific discovery.

— The Hutchinson News

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