Topeka Religion and science clashed frequently Tuesday in a meeting to set ground rules for next month's hearings that could decide what Kansas students learn about the origins of life.
At the end of the nearly two-hour meeting, it was decided that proponents of intelligent design -- an idea that the world was started by a supernatural power -- will provide testimony from May 5 through May 7.
And in a surprise move, it appears that supporters of evolution will present their side May 12 through May 14.
Scientists in Kansas and across the nation had previously said they would boycott the hearings on science standards because they felt that conservative State Board of Education members were using the hearings to criticize evolution and introduce religion in science classes.
But on Tuesday, the majority of scientists serving on a committee that composed the pro-evolution science standards for Kansas students indicated they were ready to challenge the conservatives.
Attorney Pedro Irigonegaray, representing the majority on the science standards committee, blasted the hearings process, criticized the use of taxpayer funds to bring in anti-evolution witnesses, and said he would probably call some witnesses of his own.
"We would object to the use of a single penny to conduct what we believe is a political process as opposed to a legitimate issue regarding science," he said.
|A forum on the evolution debate, and its possible effect on science research, will be from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Plymouth Congregational Church, 825 Vt. The meeting features no speakers from the intelligent design side; rather, it provides a platform for pro-evolution scientists.|
The three State Board of Education members on a subcommittee overseeing the hearings -- Steve Abrams, Kathy Martin and Connie Morris -- have agreed to allow John Calvert, a proponent of intelligent design, to spend up to $5,000 to bring in witnesses. The board members offered to allow Irigonegaray the same amount for witnesses' expenses, but he said he would not spend any state money on his side. Another $5,000 will be spent for a court reporter to transcribe what could turn into six days of hearings.
Calvert defended the expenses. "This is one of the most important issues facing education in the entire country," he said.
A combative Irigonegaray argued with Calvert and board members, who were part of a teleconference call, over several procedural issues for the hearings.
While Calvert's list of 24 witnesses is already public, Irigonegaray said he may use May 12-14 to present the pro-evolution side, but he would not reveal whom he may call as witnesses.
This angered Morris and Martin. Morris said Irigonegaray should cooperate so that board members could have a "definite agenda that we could be working on and praying over."
Irigonegaray said he couldn't be compelled to produce a witness list "so that a prayer service could occur."
Earlier, Harry McDonald, president of Kansas Citizens for Science, said he would continue to ask scientists to boycott the hearings because he didn't want to give any credibility to intelligent design.
But, he said, the group would provide scientists to speak with the media to critique the testimony of Calvert's witnesses.
After Irigonegaray indicated he may use three days of hearings to support the majority report of the science standards committee, McDonald said he wouldn't stand in his way.
"If Pedro gets scientists to agree to come, that would be their prerogative," he said.
Following the hearings, the subcommittee will make a recommendation on science standards to the full 10-member education board.
|¢ Hearings on Kansas science standards will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. from May 5 through May 7, and possibly from May 12 through 14 at Memorial Hall, 120 S.W. 10th St., Topeka.¢ The first set of days will be reserved for witnesses summoned by John Calvert, a proponent of intelligent design.¢ The second set of days will be reserved for witnesses brought in by attorney Pedro Irigonegaray, who is representing the scientists who composed the pro-evolution science standards. He would not commit to needing those days, but he was directed by the State Board of Education subcommittee overseeing the hearings to commit by May 2 on whether he will need those days.¢ The auditorium in Memorial Hall seats 180 people.|