Topeka — Thirty-eight Nobel laureates led by Holocaust survivor and noted author Elie Wiesel have turned their attention to the Kansas State Board of Education.
The Nobel Prize winners are asking the board to reject science standards that criticize evolution.
In a letter to the board released Thursday, the group of leading scientists and thinkers from around the world said Darwinian evolution was the foundation of biology.
" ... its indispensable role has been further strengthened by the capacity to study DNA," the group wrote.
The conservative majority on the State Board of Education have accepted science standards that were proposed by proponents of intelligent design, which holds that the complexities of life point toward evidence of a master planner. A final vote on the standards is expected in October or November.
The Nobel winners, however, said intelligent design could not be tested as a scientific theory "because its central conclusion is based on belief in the intervention of a supernatural agent."
The group said it wanted to defend science and reject "efforts by the proponents of so-called intelligent design to politicize scientific inquiry."
The Nobel winners also said science and faith were not mutually exclusive and "neither should be threatened by the other."
The signers of the letter from the New York-based Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity include leading physicists, chemists and medical experts. Wiesel, who has written more than 40 books, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Freedom in 1985 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.
It is the most prestigious collection of scientists yet to challenge the proposal before the education board.
Their letter, however, did not convince supporters of the science standards to back off.
Board Chairman Steve Abrams, a conservative Republican from Arkansas City, said evolution shouldn't be immune from critical examination.
"I don't think anything should be taught as dogma," Abrams said.
He said nothing in the standards promoted intelligent design.
John Calvert, director of an intelligent design organization, and who helped the conservatives change the science standards, also wasn't impressed by the letter from the Nobel laureates.
"Until they are willing to address specifics of the changes, this is unhelpful," he said.
Evolution in Kansas
- 6News video: Some question group's move with elections nearing (07-08-06)
- 49abcnews.com video: Discovery Institute starts ad campaign weeks before elections (07-07-06)
- 6News video: Film explores evolution circus (01-03-06)
- 6News video: Group takes shot at Mirecki through postcards (12-15-05)
- 6News video: Mirecki resigns from KU department post (12-07-05)
- Education board to revisit debate over evolution (02-11-07)
- As old board departs, new evolution stance takes shape (12-14-06)
- Biologist speaks for intelligent design (12-08-06)
- Cultures clash in Democratic primary (07-06-06)
- Education department spokesman leaves job (06-15-06)
- Evolution, religion comments put heat on department spokesman (05-26-06)
- KU profs support evolution skepticism (02-21-06)
- Science teachers pan new standards (02-14-06)
- 'Dodos' circling around I.D. (01-04-06)
- Attorneys in I.D. case spread message (01-04-06)
- Professor blasts KU, sheriff's investigation (12-10-05)
- Kansas ranks last in science (12-08-05)
- Discovery Institute
- Evolution timeline: Events related to the Kansas controversy
- U.S. District Court Ruling in Kitzmiller et al v. Dover Area School District (PDF)
- Center for Science and Culture: A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism
- Parody: Intelligent Design Society of Kansas
- Mirecki press release (.pdf)
- More evolution coverage
- LJWorld.com's Evolution in Kansas coverage