Dave Penny isn't shy.
Everybody knows he thinks evolution is a bunch of hooey.
So when a group of Johnson County businessmen asked him to help put up a billboard that poked fun at evolution, he said OK.
"I'm just a point man," said Penny, who lives in Lawrence and served on the City Commission from 1989 to 1991.
The group's members, he said, don't want their names in the newspaper.
"They're not scientific types," he said. "They're businessmen. They don't want to get beat up like the State Board of Education did."
The billboard, near the 151st Street exit on Interstate 35 in Olathe, reads, "Evolution Is A Fairy-Tale For Grown-Ups," and cites a Web site: www.scienceprovesit.com.
The Web site promotes entropy, a concept it describes as ": a scientific law of nature. All things naturally tend to deteriorate over time, therefore nothing can naturally gain complexity."
Or, as Penny explained, in nature nothing goes from order to order; it goes from order to disorder.
"Nothing evolves," he said.
Penny, 61, graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1960s and worked for a subcontractor involved with the Apollo space program.
"We put a man on the moon," 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
Penny also served on the State Board of Education-appointed transition team that, late last year, advised newly appointed Education Commissioner Bob Corkins. Team members served without pay, according to department spokesman David Awbrey.
Penny said he and the no-name group hope the billboard will fuel demand for a public debate on the merits of evolution.
Some in the group, he said, think in 2000 the Kansas-National Education Assn. stifled the debate in ways that helped defeat conservatives on the State Board of Education.
At the time, the 10-member board was evenly split between conservatives and moderates.
The conservatives won a 6-4 majority in 2004 and have since de-emphasized the teaching of evolution.
At K-NEA, communications director Cynthia Menzel denied having anything to do with derailing the debate.
"I don't know what he's talking about," Menzel said. "We're about education, the exchange of ideas, broadening one's horizons - I'll leave it at that."
Still, Penny argued that if more people had a better understanding of the issues surrounding evolution, they would be more inclined to uphold the state board's conservative majority.
"There's not been one, single public debate on this," he said. "All we're saying is 'OK, let's talk about it.'"
Penny said he's met with and challenged Steve Case, Leonard Krishtalka and Adrian Melott - all scientists at Kansas University who have been outspoken in their defense of evolution - to a public debate.
All three, he said, declined.
"As far as scientific credentials go," Penny said, "I don't think we're in the same ball park. I don't think they've ever produced a thing."
Efforts to reach Krishtalka and Case for comment Wednesday were unsuccessful. But Melott, a physics professor, scoffed at Penny's claims.
"I wouldn't debate him for the same reason I wouldn't debate someone who said the Earth was hollow," Melott said.
"He wants to gain credibility by making the arguments appear equal - putting them side by side in a debate - when they're not equal," he said.
Jack Krebs, president of Kansas Citizens for Science and a harsh critic of the movement to embrace intelligent design, dismissed Penny's call for a debate.
"If there are genuine arguments based on entropy, the place to make them is in well-researched, scientific papers," he said. "He won't do that; he won't play the game where it counts. He wants a public forum.
"This isn't about science; it's about public relations."
The Olathe billboard is the second put up by the Johnson County group, Penny said. The first was in Kansas City, Kan.
"I think it's been taken down," he said.
Penny said he didn't know how much the billboard cost.
"I'm not the one who's paying for it," he said.
The first billboard was featured in an article on the Kansas evolution debate in the February issue of Science magazine.