Kansas blesses science standards that challenge evolution

Kansas Board of Education representatives raise their hands Tuesday afternoon in favor of adopting the new science standards at the Board of Education Building in Topeka. The measure passed with a vote of 6-4.

? A sharply divided State Board of Education today approved science standards that critics say will promote religion in school, hurt the state’s economy and make Kansas a national joke.

“This is a sad day for the state of Kansas,” said board member Carol Rupe, R-Wichita.

But Board Chairman Steve Abrams, a Republican from Arkansas City, defended the new standards as giving students an opportunity to learn about the controversy surrounding evolution. “This is one of the best things we can do,” he said.

After nearly an hour of debate, the 6-4 majority of social conservatives pushed through the standards that open up criticism of evolution.

Now Kansas joins a handful of states, prodded by supporters of intelligent design, that have taken on evolution. John Calvert, managing director of Intelligent Design Network, who helped produce a four-day hearing in May to bash evolution, said, “No longer will Darwin be taught dogmatically in Kansas public schools.”

The board vote ended nearly 10 months of often rancorous debate that attracted international attention. The decision also signaled the next phase of the struggle — the 2006 election when four of the six conservatives up are for re-election; several have already drawn opponents.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius criticized the board’s action. “If we’re going to continue to bring high-tech jobs to Kansas and move our state forward, we need to strengthen science standards, not weaken them,” she said.