Group promotes science standards

Campaign coincides with state school board elections

? The high-powered Discovery Institute, which promotes the theory of intelligent design, said Friday it will launch a campaign to persuade Kansans that controversial science standards approved by the State Board of Education are sound.

The campaign will coincide with state school board electioneering in which the science standards are expected to figure prominently as challengers seek to unseat board incumbents who voted to put the standards in place.

“Kansas citizens need to have accurate information about what the science standards do,” said John West, associate director of the Center for Science & Culture for the Seattle-based Discovery Institute.

West said the group will start an information campaign and Internet petition drive. He declined to say how much the center would spend.

The decision puts the Discovery Institute in the center of hotly contested State Board of Education school board races.

The board’s 6-4 decision to approve science standards that question evolution has been a major issue in the five board places up for election this year. The science standards are used as guidelines to what students learn in Kansas public schools.

Mainstream scientists have said the standards criticize evolution in a way that could introduce intelligent design in science classrooms. Intelligent design posits there was a master force that designed life. Most scientists consider it a form of creationism, or religious belief rather than science.

“Everybody sees through the intent of the Discovery Institute,” said Kansas University research professor Steve Case.

Case was the chairman of a committee of scientists and educators that put together science standards that were ultimately rejected by the State Board of Education in favor of the standards that raised questions about evolution.

Case said every major science organization in the country has denounced the standards supported by the 6-4 majority on the state education board and the Discovery Institute.

But West said the mainstream scientists are simply trying to squelch views that question the status quo in teaching evolution.

West said the nonprofit group will not endorse nor campaign for particular candidates, but will provide information to persuade Kansans the standards approved by the board are the best ones.

Citing polls, West said, “The vast majority of Americans support what has been done.”

Of those running for re-election to the board, Connie Morris, R-St. Francis, John Bacon, R-Olathe, and Ken Willard, R-Hutchinson, voted for the science standards. Janet Waugh, D-Kansas City, who is running for re-election, voted against the standards.

Case also said he resented the fact that an out-of-state organization was trying to influence Kansas elections.

“Kansans are not appreciative of folks coming in from the outside, trying to explain it to us,” he said.

But West said the group was simply exercising its rights of free speech and felt compelled to combat what it considered inaccurate information given by the other side.