Topeka At separate events Wednesday, opponents in the evolution debate threw verbal jabs in preparation for the start of historic hearings today on Kansas public school science standards.
"These 'science hearings' are meant to further a political and theological agenda," said Pedro Irigonegaray, a Topeka attorney representing pro-evolution scientists.
Irigonegaray and numerous scientists say critics of evolution want to inject into science class religious theories, such as intelligent design -- an idea that life is evidence of a master plan.
Across town, heavy hitters from the Seattle-based Discovery Institute pushed the idea that evolution was on the ropes, and said they wanted students taught about scientific controversies surrounding the topic. But Discovery officials disputed allegations they wanted intelligent design taught in schools.
"This is a way to throw sand in the eyes of the public," said Bruce Chapman, president of the think tank.
The debate moves today from dueling news conferences to a subcommittee of the State Board of Education.
Critics of evolution, many of whom are proponents of intelligent design, are lined up to testify during three days of hearings to whack at evolution being included in proposed science standards.
The standards adopted by the State Board of Education will be used as the foundation for science instruction for Kansas' 450,000 public school students.
With a conservative majority on the board, it is expected that the science standards will include language that questions basic precepts of evolution.
Pro-evolution scientists are boycotting the hearings, saying the debate is an ambush of sound science, and a national stage for intelligent design.
At Memorial Hall, where the hearings will be held, staff of the State Department of Education on Wednesday set up video and sound systems for the meetings, which are expected to attract media from across the country.
Outside the hearing room, Kansas Citizens for Science will staff an information booth to counter arguments made by the witnesses testifying before the subcommittee.