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Kansas and regional news

Kansas and regional news

Panel OKs standards criticizing evolution

Board to consider proposal next week

June 10, 2005

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— Three State Board of Education members on Thursday approved proposed science standards designed to expose students to more criticism of evolution in the classroom, but one said the plan didn't go far enough.

Board member Connie Morris, of St. Francis, wanted to add a detailed list of criticisms of evolutionary theory to the standards. Many of the criticisms were presented during four days of public hearings in May.

Other committee members were Steve Abrams of Arkansas City and Kathy Martin of Clay Center.

The three board members' proposed standards listed three criticisms as examples. The entire board is scheduled to consider the proposal June 15, though it may not make a final decision until August.

Morris said the document needed to be comprehensive because students haven't been exposed to criticism of the evolution theory.

"They need to understand there are many criticisms, and they're backed up," Morris said. "This is not a shot in the dark, a flaky proposal."

Groups such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Kansas Citizens for Science disagree with Morris. They boycotted May's public hearings, and there were no pro-evolution witnesses.

"Their criticisms of evolution aren't accepted, valid, scientific criticisms," said Harry McDonald, the Kansas group's president. "Science has rejected these criticisms as invalid."

Battles over evolution also have occurred in recent years in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

For Kansas, the standards determine how students in fourth, seventh and 10th grades are tested on science.

In 1999, the Kansas board deleted most references to evolution from the science standards. Elections the next year resulted in a less conservative board, which led to the current, evolution-friendly standards. Conservative Republicans recaptured the board's majority in 2004 elections.

The board sought to avoid comparisons of this year's hearings to 1925's infamous "Monkey Trial" in Dayton, Tenn., in which teacher John Scopes was convicted of violating a state law against teaching evolution. However, both evolution critics and its defenders were represented by attorneys.

During the hearings, witnesses criticized evolutionary theory that natural chemical processes may have created the first building blocks of life, that all life has descended from a common origin and that man and apes share a common ancestor.

Intelligent design says some features of the natural world are so complex and well-ordered that they are best explained by an intelligent cause.

In their proposed standards, the three board members said they took no position on intelligent design, but their work followed the suggestions of intelligent design advocates.

"For the most part, they validated what we're asking for," said John Calvert, a retired Lake Quivira attorney, who helped found the Intelligent Design Network. "What the changes do is make it clear there is a scientific controversy about evolution and that students ought to know about it."

Critics view intelligent design as creationism repackaged in scientific-sounding language.

"Obviously, what they're trying to do is open up the classroom to the supernatural," McDonald said.

Calvert contends changes such as those backed by the three board members make the standards philosophically and religiously neutral.

But others argue they advance conservative Christian theology. Topeka attorney Pedro Irigonegaray, who represented evolution's defenders during the hearings, said a legal challenge could result.

"This is a sad day for education in Kansas," Irigonegaray said.

Comments

christie 8 years, 10 months ago

Isn't religion based on theory too? I mean the Jews have their theory and the Taliban has theirs and the Hindus have their theory and Christians have their theory and the list goes on and on and on. Even people who worship evil have a theory.... Hmmm I wonder which of these will make it to the text books.

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