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Archive for Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Scientists: Board of education can’t determine evolution issue

May 4, 2005

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— Science can't be determined by 6-4 votes on the Kansas State Board of Education.

So say numerous scientists in explaining why they are boycotting the hearings that start Thursday that will put evolution on trial.

"The state board may have the right to provide poor science standards in Kansas, but they can't change the definition of science," said Harry McDonald, one of the leaders of Kansas Citizens for Science.

Plus, he said, the outcome of picking science standards for Kansas public schools has already been decided.

Conservative board members who have been disparaging evolution for years now outnumber the moderates, 6-4, and the subcommittee that is overseeing the standards hearings is made up of three conservatives.

"The judge and jury is picked by them. In fact, it is them," McDonald said.

But proponents of intelligent design -- which says life originated from a master plan -- say it's the evolution scientists who are rigging the hearings.

"The only manipulative device I am aware of is the boycott," said John Calvert, the head of a group that promotes intelligent design, and who has put together the witnesses who will testify to criticize evolution.

Calvert said the boycott "seeks to subvert the information-gathering process."

In dispute are the science standards that will be used as guidelines in teaching science to Kansas' 450,000 students.

A major foundation of that teaching is evolution.

Conservatives on the State Board of Education have set up hearings to consider criticisms of evolution.

Although the scientists are boycotting the hearing, Topeka attorney Pedro Irigonegaray, who supports the teaching of evolution, will cross-examine Calvert's witnesses.

Irigonegaray has criticized the hearings, saying the conservatives are simply trying to provide a "facade of credibility" to change the science standards and to give intelligent design proponents a forum to present "their theological and anti-science ideas."

He said the education board's "actions are an unprecedented political attack on the educational establishment, are damaging to the science education of every Kansas child, and are potentially damaging to the future economic welfare of our state."

But Calvert said the hearings would help resolve the evolution disputes. "I don't believe the controversy will go away until the board critically analyzes the problems in a focused inquiry open to the public," he said.

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