Nobel winners defend teaching evolution

State board asked to reconsider science standards

? 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.