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Archive for Friday, October 21, 2005

State Board of Ed member speaks out on evolution’s behalf

October 21, 2005

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Teaching Kansas students that a controversy exists among scientists about evolution would be "a fraud," Kansas State Board of Education member Bill Wagnon said.

Instead, students need to be taught about evolution to see how the scientific process works, Wagnon said Thursday during a wide-ranging online chat on ljworld.com, the Journal-World's Web site.

During the 90-minute chat, the Topeka Democrat, whose district includes western Douglas County, responded to several questions dealing with evolution and the hiring of Bob Corkins as education commissioner.

The 10-member board, which is controlled 6-4 by conservatives, is expected to approve new science curriculum standards next month that downplay the importance of evolution.

In response to one questioner, Wagnon touched on intelligent design, a concept that the universe developed under a planned, rather than a random, process.

"As a Christian, I too am saddened by the confusion of science and religion. Intelligent design is just the latest in a long history of attempts to prove the existence of God, which offends my sense of faith," Wagnon wrote.

"As proposed in changing the science curriculum standards, teachers are supposed to teach the controversy, but that it in itself is a fraud.

Kansas State Board of Education member Bill Wagnon answers readers' questions online.

Kansas State Board of Education member Bill Wagnon answers readers' questions online.

"Within science there is no generally accepted agreement that evolution is inadequate," he said.

"Rather, there is an overwhelming consensus that Darwinian evolution explains in important ways the development of species.

"Indeed, students ought to know about Darwin's ideas because they are a dramatic illustration of how the scientific process works - collect data, draw a hypothesis, collect more data, propose a theory.

"The concept has been under attack since its introduction in 1859, and the evidence favoring it grows each year.

"Since ID introduces a new concept that Darwin didn't address, namely origins science, it raises a real question of whether science can address this.

"Certainly religion has done so, but as you point out there are multiple theories of origins of life. As those have religious basis, they don't belong in a classroom."

Wagnon also told readers that the main qualifications that got Corkins his job as education commissioner was to have the votes of six conservatives on the 10-member board.

Corkins' appointment to the $140,000-a-year job has been controversial because he has no working background in public education and worked as a lobbyist against more funding for public schools.

"The only way the Legislature could impact this decision is to change the Kansas Constitution," Wagnon wrote. "I suspect that will be discussed come January in the Capitol. The real resolution of this is to change the composition of the state board at the upcoming election in November 2006."

For a full transcript of the chat, go to www2.ljworld.com-/news/chats/.

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