Creationist plans run for education board

Fossil hunter hopes to unseat Wagnon in '08

A fossil hunter who supports intelligent design will run for the Kansas State Board of Education seat now held by a defender of evolution.

“These evolutionists are saying that Jesus was half-chimpanzee, so was Mohammed and Buddha,” said Alan Detrich, a 58-year-old Lawrence Republican who takes classes at Kansas University. “I don’t think that’s right.”

He said he planned to challenge Bill Wagnon, the Topeka Democrat who represents parts of Douglas, Shawnee, Osage and Wabaunsee counties on the state board.

Wagnon is one of four board members who voted last month against new science standards that critique evolution using an intelligent design perspective.

Wagnon’s seat isn’t up for election until 2008.

“That’s almost tempting enough for me to run for re-election,” he said when told of Detrich’s challenge. “But I’m not running for re-election.”

“Good,” Detrich responded. “I’ve already got him scared.”

Detrich earned fame as a fossil hunter, unearthing a triceratops skull that was displayed at the Lawrence Public Library in the spring, and a Xiphactinus audax – known as an X-fish – that swam in the sea that covered western Kansas about 150 million years ago.

He moved to Lawrence about a year ago, to study at Kansas University and create religious sculptures made out of fossils, precious metals and bits of machinery.

Some of those works, along with his musings about “evil-lutionists,” can be found at his Web site,

Detrich said he was convinced that life is too complex to be the product of evolution, and that those beliefs will be the centerpiece of his three-year campaign.

“I want to get the question out, not the answer, but the question out,” he said. “The question is the story of the rock and the clock. If you find a rock in a field, no big deal. If you find a clock in a field, you look around for who created it.

“Did we just appear like the rock? Or did it take intelligent design to make us?” Detrich asked. “I think it took intelligent design to make us.”

Mainstream scientists overwhelmingly support the theory of evolution and reject intelligent design, which they say can’t be scientifically tested. Detrich’s early candidacy suggests the debate in Kansas won’t quiet down anytime soon.

“These debates have been going on since Darwin wrote his book,” Wagnon said. “They’ve never gone away, and they’re not going to go away.”

Even though the design viewpoint is now written into state education policy, Detrich feels his allies are still on the defense.

“The creationists, their side has not been told. It’s simply been said they believe in God and that’s wrong,” he said. “If that’s wrong, I’m wrong too.”