Archive for Sunday, April 17, 2005

Taxpayers to pay tab for debates

April 17, 2005


— What may turn into a cheerleading session for intelligent design won't come cheap.

Conservative members who hold a majority on the State Board of Education have scheduled several days of hearings next month on whether state science standards should include criticism of evolution.

And taxpayers will be paying to bring from across the country to Kansas speakers who plan to criticize evolution. Pro-evolution scientists are boycotting the event.

"It's a raid on the state treasury," said State Board of Education Member Bill Wagnon, "I think it's outrageous."

About two dozen witnesses have signed up to speak in support of providing criticism of evolution in Kansas public schools.

John Calvert, of Lake Quivira, a nationally known proponent of intelligent design, said the final number of people who will speak at the hearings hasn't been determined. The expenses will be paid by the Kansas Department of Education.

But Calvert said the witnesses' expenses would be "nominal" and their testimony would be worth it to help resolve what he said was one of the most important issues in public education.

He said Wagnon, whose district includes Douglas County, was criticizing the expense because he opposed having the hearings. "He's a card-carrying member of the opposition," Calvert said.

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, rather than random selection.

Pro-evolution scientists have decided to boycott the hearings, saying that intelligent design is dressed up creationism and has no business in the classroom.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, based in Washington, D.C., declined an invitation to participate in the forum.

"The concept of evolution is well-supported by extensive evidence and accepted by virtually every scientist," Alan Leshner, chief executive officer of the group said in a letter. "Moreover, we see no purpose in debating interpretations of Genesis and 'intelligent design,' which are a matter of faith, not facts," he said.

Calvert said pro-evolution scientists were "shooting themselves in the foot" by not participating. "They are trying to intimidate members of the science community by subverting the information process," he said.

At this point, the hearings are scheduled for May 5-7 and May 12-14 in Topeka.

The hearings will focus on disagreements in draft science standards. A 26-member standards committee presented its curriculum standards to the board, and eight members have presented a minority report that wants criticism of evolution.

Final details on the process for conducting the hearings will be hammered out at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday when the education board subcommittee of conservative board members will meet at the State Department of Education. Calvert will attend the meeting, and Topeka attorney Pedro Irigonegaray, who has agreed to represent the majority view of the science standards committee, has been invited to attend.

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