Kansans will have a ringside seat in the next year to another verbal battle between creationists and those who support teaching evolution in Kansas public schools.
Creationists once again are pushing views that could lead to a repeat of 1999 when the Kansas State Board of Education voted to de-emphasize evolution and put the state up for ridicule, a crowd of about 450 people was told Tuesday night in the Kansas Union's Woodruff Auditorium on the Kansas University campus.
"They think there is no way life could have been caused by natural causes," said Jack Krebs, an Oskaloosa High School teacher and vice president of Kansas Citizens for Science.
Krebs spoke on the issue because he thinks evolution supporters shouldn't stand idly by and allow drastic changes in state education science standards, upon which school curricula are based.
Behind a new movement is the Intelligent Design Network Inc., of Kansas City, and Intelligent Design of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Young Earth Creationists, according to Krebs. The groups believe science is a decay into materialism, he said, and they are using an attack on science to achieve philosophical goals.
"I am not saying there is anything wrong with religion," Krebs said. "Their statements are about what they say science can establish, and that is where they are wrong. It's trying to wedge people into either being for God or science."
Krebs urged Kansans to start lobbying the state education board early on the issue. He said Kansans should appear and speak to the board at its regular monthly meetings. He also suggested e-mails and letters to local newspapers on the issue.
The state's science standards are under review by a special committee. The first draft of new standards, if there is one, will come in December. The board could approve new standards as early as next spring.
After voting to de-emphasize evolution in 1999, changes on the board through elections in 2000 led to a reversal of that decision. By the end of the year it is expected the board will again be primarily composed of members who favor creationism/Intelligent Design emphasizes.
Krebs said the issue should be left for the science community to decide before it is placed in the schools.
Krebs' comments brought some emotional responses during a question-and-answer session after his speech. One man said the issues should be debated by both sides at the same time. Then angrily stalked out of the auditorium.
Also angered was Don Covington, vice president of networking with Intelligent Design Network with an office in Johnson County. He said Krebs was incorrect in his description of Intelligent Design.
"We are not against science," Covington said. "We're very much pro science. We want to teach more about evolution, not less. We don't have the answers."
Also listening to Krebs was Linda Holloway, who chaired the state board in 1999 when the standards were changed to de-emphasize evolution. She said she urged KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway to allow an open debate with representatives from both sides at KU.
Hemenway, who introduced Krebs, said classrooms should be open to all possibilities.
"We are a marketplace of ideas," Hemenway said. "If evolution is to be challenged, let the debate begin here, and let it be a civil debate."
Krebs was commended by John Martellaro, president of Kansas Families United for Public Education, an organization that pushes for more funding for public schools.
"We think that dumbing down the standards is just as dangerous as not funding schools," Martellaro said.