Evolution found a home Thursday in the oldest church in Kansas during a forum about the controversy over science instruction for public school students.
"There is no conflict between evolution and the Christian faith," said the Rev. Peter Luckey, the senior pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt.
Luckey was preaching to the choir during a five-hour forum that featured scientists, teachers and politicians who argued in favor of teaching students evolution because it is the foundation of science, knowledge of which will be needed to compete for jobs in the growing bioscience industry.
About 75 people attended the forum at Plymouth, which was founded in 1854 and was the first established church in the Kansas Territory.
Attempts to inject intelligent design -- the notion that there is a master planner for all life -- into science class should be rejected, they said.
"Intelligent design is nothing but creationism in a cheap tuxedo," said Leonard Krishtalka, director of the Kansas University Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center.
The forum was another round in the debate that has thrust Kansas on the national stage.
With control of the State Board of Education in conservative hands, state officials again will consider science standards that will guide teachers.
A committee of scientists has drafted standards that include evolution teaching, but a minority report, led by proponents of intelligent design, wants criticism of evolution included. A State Board of Education committee, comprising three conservative board members, plans six days of hearings that will revolve around that debate.
The speakers at Thursday's forum were adamant that evolution instruction not be reduced, watered down or dumbed down.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' science adviser, Lee Allison, said when the state approved a $500 million bioscience initiative, it included a provision to recruit top scholars who met the standards of the National Academy of Sciences, which supports evolution without equivocation.
"The state really has taken a position on this in a broad, bipartisan way," Allison said.
Charles Decedue, executive director of the Higuchi Biosciences Center, said teaching evolution was critical because bioscience companies want to locate in places where the work force has received a solid education in chemistry, physics and biology.
"They want people who can think critically," he said.
Andrew Stangl, a Kansas University sophomore, said his high school science teachers in his hometown of Andover refused to teach evolution.
He bought books and taught himself. He said fear of teaching evolution would hurt the United States in the long term.
"I don't want to see other countries pass us by. We are going to economically suffer as a result," he said.
In 1999, Kansas made international news, much of it negative, when a conservative board de-emphasized evolution. The 2000 election returned moderates to power, and evolution was reinstated. But with conservatives back in control, international criticism was starting again, several panelists said.
Rachel Robson, a doctoral candidate at KU Medical Center, said one of her friends was applying for a job with a Japanese company, and the company officials made fun of Kansas and questioned whether good scientists could come from there.
Thursday's forum attracted national attention from National Public Radio and NBC.
Krishtalka said even though the battle over evolution was going on in several states, "Kansas will be tarred and feathered by the media as the hayseed state."
Carol and Tom Banks, of Prairie Village, attended the forum, saying they were getting tired of conservatives controlling the political agenda.
|¢ May 5-7: Science standards hearings in auditorium of Memorial building, 120 S.W. 10th St., Topeka. Time to be determined later.¢ May 12-14: Science standards hearings, time and location to be determined later.|
"If intelligent design were taught, that would be teaching religion in public schools," Carol Banks said.
But Jerry Manweiler, a physicist from Lawrence, said he supported teaching intelligent design.
"It's important to know the theory of evolution, but it's also important to understand the nature of God," he said.
Manweiler said he was put off by the forum speakers' "lack of humility."
Don Covington, vice president of networking for Intelligent Design Network Inc., said he disagreed with the speakers.
"They want their kids to know how to think, but you can't develop critical thinking skills when you tell them to memorize Darwin," he said.
|Intelligent design is the assertion that life and the natural world show signs of having been designed by an unnamed intelligent being and that life is too complex to have happened randomly.Evolution is the change in life over time through adaptation. Most biologists agree it is the process by which the earliest organisms have developed into the plants and animals of today.Scientific method is the tool that scientists use to test scientific laws and modify or reject those found inadequate. It generally involves the observation of phenomena, the formation of a hypothesis, and experimentation to test the hypothesis.|