Topeka — Public hearings on Kansas science standards next month will have as many as 23 witnesses speaking in support of teaching public school children intelligent design alongside the theory of evolution.
But there won't be much of a voice for people who say the state's schools should teach only evolution. As of Thursday, only one scientist had agreed to testify for the pro-evolution side, and his appearance has not been confirmed, said Alexa Posny, assistant commissioner for the state Department of Education.
"We have contacted scientists from all over the world," she said. "There isn't anywhere else we can go."
A subcommittee of the Kansas Board of Education set up the hearings on evolution and whether state science standards should include criticism of the theory. The hearings are tentatively slated for May 5-7 and May 12-14.
Evolution says species change in response to environmental and genetic factors over the course of many generations. Intelligent design holds that there's evidence of an intelligent design behind the origin of the universe.
The president of Kansas Citizens for Science, Harry McDonald, said intelligent design is the latest form of creationism, which declares that God created the universe, and has no place in a science classroom.
McDonald called for scientists who defend evolution to boycott the hearings, saying they were rigged against evolution and the board's conservatives already have decided to support the proposal from the intelligent design side. He said he's pleased that it appears his request is being honored.
"Intelligent design is not going to get its forum, at least not one in which they can say that scientists participated," McDonald said. "We have learned too much to continue participating in this charade."
Steve Abrams, the state board's Republican chairman, called the contention that board members have decided the issue "bull malarkey," and said the hearings will take place even if evolution defenders don't show up.
"If they've got the guns on their side to defend (evolution), then why not defend it?" he said. "Instead, what they are going to do is take potshots, they are going to do the one-liners, they are going to do the 30-second sound bite instead of coming in and trying to testify and defend a position that they say is the only position in the world."
Conservatives hold six of 10 board seats, and the subcommittee overseeing the May hearings includes three of the conservatives.
Meanwhile, a 26-member committee appointed by Education Commissioner Andy Tompkins has been working since June to revise the state's science standards. It will present its second draft to the board on Wednesday, and the board hopes to approve the revised standards this summer.