Archive for Sunday, January 29, 2006

Is Kansas court battle over intelligent design next?

Attorneys in Pa. case see similar arguments from creationists

January 29, 2006


Intelligent design proponents were trounced in Pennsylvania and can be defeated here in Kansas, the lawyers who successfully battled the Dover, Pa., case said Saturday.

"These same negative arguments against evolution that have arisen out of the creationist movements - and which are outdated and discredited and just plain false - those are the same arguments that were supporting intelligent design in the Dover case," said Eric Rothschild, an attorney for the Dover plaintiffs. "They're absolutely present in Kansas."

Rothschild and Steve Harvey, both of the firm Pepper Hamilton LLP, spoke Saturday to a crowd of more than 100 people at the Dole Institute of Politics at Kansas University.

They joined a lineup that included Richard Katskee of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Jack Krebs of Kansas Citizens for Science and Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education.

In the high-profile Dover case, the attorneys represented parents who battled to keep intelligent design instruction out of area schools. The case ended in December with Judge John E. Jones III's ruling that teaching intelligent design in science class is unconstitutional.

Members of the law team that battled the Dover, Pa., intelligent design case say the same issues loom in Kansas. Speaking on Saturday at the Dole Institute of Politics were, from left, Richard Katskee, Steve Harvey and Eric Rothschild.

Members of the law team that battled the Dover, Pa., intelligent design case say the same issues loom in Kansas. Speaking on Saturday at the Dole Institute of Politics were, from left, Richard Katskee, Steve Harvey and Eric Rothschild.

Jones said intelligent design could not separate itself from its grounding in religion and creationism.

"It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy," Jones said in his decision.

Still in 'development'

Intelligent design proponents have maintained that the ruling would have little effect on the broader debate.

Brian Sandefur, a mechanical engineer in Lawrence who has been a vocal proponent of intelligent design and who did not attend Saturday's event, said he didn't support the actions of those Dover board members that pressed the issue.

"We felt like it was the wrong way to go," he said. "Intelligent design is not ready to be included in public school classrooms. It's not a mature science. There's no good curriculum for it. It's still in the development stage."

Furthermore, Sandefur said, the debate centers on science.

"The crux of intelligent design and the crux of the battle between intelligent design and evolution is not a public school science classroom or the courts," he said. "It is the science behind it all and what explanation is the best for things we see in life and biological systems."

Harvey, an attorney for the Dover plaintiffs, said he hoped the Dover decision marked the triumph of reason and that it might prevent other cases from following a similar path to the courts.

"Do you have to put your own hand on the stove to see that it's hot or can you rely on someone else's word on that?" Harvey said. "This could be the end of the line for intelligent design."

But that's not likely, Katskee said.

"Some people will not be ready to accept Judge Jones' decision," he said. "Some people will have to experience it for themselves."

Challenges ahead

The conservative majority of the State Board of Education late last year adopted Kansas public school science standards proposed by intelligent design supporters and which enable criticism of evolution. Four of the six conservative members and moderate Janet Waugh face re-election.

Though it's possible to legally challenge Kansas' science standards, Katskee said, litigation will have more force in Kansas when the issue comes to a head in a school. That may not be long, he said.

"One would not have to wait, but I would not expect one to have to wait long in any event," Katskee said.

The lawyers cautioned against turning to litigation. The Dover trial was divisive for the community and expensive, Rothschild said.

ID proponents "gave it their best shot in that trial," he said. "They had their best witnesses there to make the case, and it was completely unpersuasive and the judge ruled that the public servants who had promoted this policy had done their constituents a disservice. : It's a lot to go through for something that is not going to advance kids' education at all."

Krebs, president of Kansas Citizens for Science, drew parallels between the Dover decision and changes to Kansas' science standards. Kansas' standards would receive a similar fate if challenged, he said.

Saturday's event, presented by Kansas Citizens for Science and the National Center for Science Education, drew educators, scientists, moderate state school board members and some school board challengers.

Pedro Irigonegaray, a Topeka attorney who represented mainstream science in the state board's hearings on the standards in May, also took part. He said the state had reached its tipping point.

"Anyone from Kansas who loves the state has to be thinking: 'How far are we going to let the pendulum swing?'" he said. "Let's take Kansas back."


Richard Heckler 12 years, 1 month ago

A precedent has been set. Let's hope Kansas legislators are wise enough to not devote further time which equals tax dollars on this issue.

Can this be presented as a philosophy? Should it be mandated? No.

LarryFarma 12 years, 1 month ago

So far, the Kansas state school board has not required that intelligent design be taught in the public schools, so I don't see any basis for a lawsuit against that board.

classclown 12 years, 1 month ago

I agree with LarryFarma to a point. But he forgot to put the word "yet" at the end of his last sentence. When they actually do start requiring preaching ID in the public schools, then it will be the time for litigation. For now, the people of Kansas simply need to vote in a new BOE that will set the standards back so that science will remain science.

Hazel Ripstra 12 years, 1 month ago

I disagree with LarryFarma. The Board Rationale makes it clear that students should learn about ID. See slides 9 and 10 of my presentation, available at

yourworstnightmare 12 years, 1 month ago

Even without explicit mention of ID, the rationale for the KBOE's changes are clear. If I am not mistaken, the Dover ruling stated that criticism of evolution motivated by ID creationism violates the separation clause.

It seems that the KBOE was motivated by ID creationism when they redefined science to include supernatural explanations ("natural" explanations changed to "logical" explanations").

Might not this be grounds for a lawsuit? Hopefully the composition of the KBOE will be markedly different before the redefined standards go into effect and that the standards will have been changed back.

glockenspiel 12 years, 1 month ago

You have to take standards literally. That is what a standard is. The standard does not require teaching of intelligent design in the classroom. This is a non-issue. Move on.

yourworstnightmare 12 years, 1 month ago


You disagree that the KBOE changed the science standards based upon religious convictions?

This is not a non-issue. If the board provided robust scientific reasons for the change, backed by rigorous peer-reviewed research, then I would agree it is a non-issue.

The issue is that science curriculum for public schools was altered due to religious beliefs.

LarryFarma 12 years, 1 month ago

All of this talk about suing the Kansas school board is just a lot of huffing and puffing. If there were solid grounds for suing the board, a lawsuit would have been filed by now.

LarryFarma 12 years, 1 month ago

By the way, I am wondering -- has anyone ever figured out why the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) denied the Kansas board of education the right to use their copyrighted material in the state's new science education standards ? It seems that these two organizations are cutting off their noses to spite their faces. It seems that they should want to get as much of their material into the Kansas state science education standards as possible. Also, NAS was created by the federal government and receives a lot of government funding, and therefore NAS's written material should be in the public domain rather than under copyright. Also, NSTA receives indirect government funding in the form of tax exemptions for the foundations that contribute to NSTA.

Jamesaust 12 years, 1 month ago

Count me skeptical that there is a direct parallel here. Sandefur has his finger on it.

Where in PA, the school board junked evolution and replaced it with ID, in KS, the BOE has voted in a mechanism that, indirectly, would allow criticism of evolution. Those aren't the same things. Evolution will continue to be able to be taught in the schools (whether it will be taught at all is a different matter).

A religious inspiration matters differently upon the context. That religion was the prime (if not sole) basis for junking evolution in PA was indisputable. But that religion may be the inspiration toward questioning is not a constitutional matter.

The role of religion as an inspiration for public matters is an interesting question. For example (for purposes of debate): Religion was an inspiration for the civil right struggle but civil rights is not primarily or exclusively a relgious issue; in contrast, banning same-sex marriage is primarily or exclusively a religious issue.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 12 years, 1 month ago

It is about science. Saying that you are opening the door to criticism of science (in this case, evolution) is one thing, but it means that you let in...what? ID (and whatever else). Despite the fact that the KS BOE policy is different from Dover, it still brings unsustained concepts in and gives them weight against something that is substantiated. That in itself may not be explicitly against the law, but there are likely some civil remedys that exist. Anyway, the BOE will probably back down or get shaken up, settling this matter for at least a couple of years.

Hazel Ripstra 12 years, 1 month ago

glockenspiel says above that the literal words in the standards is what counts, but that's not true. The Dover decision points out that what counts is this:

"The [endorsement] test consists of the reviewing court determining what message a challenged governmental policy or enactment conveys to a reasonable, objective observer who knows the policy's language, origins, and legislative history, as well as the history of the community and the broader social and historical context in which the policy arose." (Kitzmiller v. Dover, page 15)

Also, the Dover policy didn't "throw out evolution"; it claimed that evolution has "weaknesses or gaps", and encourages students to consider ID as an "alternative" explanation. The Kansas science standards do the same thing. Here's what Judge Jones had to say about the "gaps" argument:

"1. An Objective Observer Would Know that ID and Teaching About 'Gaps' and 'Problems' in Evolutionary Theory are Creationist, Religious Strategies that Evolved from Earlier Forms of Creationism."

For what it's worth, I invite you all to read my Powerpoint presentation from yesterday's speech, and then come on over to the KCFS Discussion forum to discuss these matters. (See

Thanks, Jack Krebs president, Kansas Citizens for Science

yourworstnightmare 12 years, 1 month ago

Religion also inspired the idea of slavery and white supremacy. Religion also inspired(s) wars and division and hatred.

I would say that something deeper than religion inspired civil rights, as religion has proven itself to be malleable in accordance with prevailing popular mores and thoughts. I would argue that knowledge and understanding were the primary drivers. Justification for civil rights was certainly to be found in religion, but I would argue that religion was not the main driver. Knowledge and understanding were. It's called the Enlightenment.

yourworstnightmare 12 years, 1 month ago

Thank you Mr. Krebs for clarifying the matter.

The Dover decision did get to the idea of religiously-inspired attacks on evolution.

Jamesaust 12 years, 1 month ago

I think its perfectly fair to say that religion inspired the abolition of slavery (especially since abolistionist were, almost to a man, or woman, religious, and openly cited their religious beliefs for their actions). Religion also ended the absurdity of racism, given that virtually every theology denies any divine separatism from all man.

What you cite are examples of people who use religion as an excuse to carry out their own wickedness - a phenomena not unknown in our current world, as the Dixiecrats are making making a teapot tempest on another page at LJworld today.

What is required is for believers to denounce those who pervert belief.

LarryFarma 12 years, 1 month ago

Posted by jkrebs on January 29, 2006 at 1:11 p.m.

"the Dover policy didn't "throw out evolution"; it claimed that evolution has "weaknesses or gaps", and encourages students to consider ID as an "alternative" explanation. The Kansas science standards do the same thing."

The Dover Area school board required science teachers to read an ID statement to their science classes. The Kansas board of education does not require anyone to do anything. That is the difference.

There will be no lawsuit against the Kansas board of education because ID opponents do not want to risk the probability of an embarrassing defeat.

Hazel Ripstra 12 years ago

Larry is correct that the Kansas science standards do not have any legal weight - they don't require any school to follow them; and therefore it is unlikely that anyone could sue the Board about the standards.

But that is different than not suing the Kansas Board because of risking "an embarrasing defeat." If one had legitimate standing to sue the Board over the standards, I think the probability is high that the standards would be held unconstitutional, according to the Dover criteria.

Now if some school starts teaching the material in the standards, or uses the state standards as the basis of their own standards, then that would change the situation. It will take the parent of an affected child in an actual classroom to allow someone to sue, I think.

(Standard disclaimer - IANAL: I am not a lawyer. But I have been discussing this matter with the Dover lawyers and others interested in the Kansas situation.)

The_Twelve 12 years ago

I hope during BOE elections that someone actually goes back to the transcripts and takes these "professionals" to task. Certain minds were already made up--The questioning by Martin and Morris during these sessions was a farce--they both announced they hadn't read the complete reports, and Morris, at least, admitted she didn't understand some of the theories that were discussed.

These facts must be pointed out every time these individuals speak or show their faces. They may be good servants of (their, not my) God, but extremely poor servants of the public, which pays their salaries. These are not "ad hominem" attacks, as they will claim, but presentations of the truth. A wise writer once wrote,"God Sees the Truth, But Waits." --

We can only hope that God has better plans for them this fall, outside of the public sphere.

Bradley Kemp 12 years ago

Jack Krebs:

Thanks very much for your presentation Saturday -- and for your willingness to wade in here on this forum, which can occasionally get muddy.

Mr_Christopher 12 years ago

Jack Krebs do you plan on writing an article about this event over at PT?

I am very interested to hear more of what was discussed and such.

Mr_Christopher 12 years ago

"I think its perfectly fair to say that religion inspired the abolition of slavery (especially since abolistionist were, almost to a man, or woman, religious, and openly cited their religious beliefs for their actions). Religion also ended the absurdity of racism, given that virtually every theology denies any divine separatism from all man."

Perhaps saying "contrary to the bibical position on slavery, some religionists help bring about an end to slavery, etc." would be a better way of putting it.

Slavery is clearly condoned in the bible. Leviticus is basically a slave owners manual.

The Christians who worked to bring about an end to slavery were considered radicals and liberals of their time.

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