evolution in KS

James J. Kruse kruse at nature.berkeley.edu
Wed Aug 11 22:05:39 EDT 1999

The Kansas Board of Education really did it. 

Kansas Board Votes To Bar Evolution From Classroom
            2.01 p.m. ET (1802 GMT) August 11, 1999

 TOPEKA, Kan. The Kansas Board of Education rejected evolution as a
 scientific principle Wednesday, dealing a victory to religious
conservatives who are increasingly challenging science education in U.S.

 The 10-member board, ignoring pleas by educators and established 
scientists, voted six to four to embrace new standards for science
curricula that eliminate evolution as an underlying principle of biology
and other sciences.

 "Evolution has been removed,'' board member Janet Waugh, who opposed the
 new standard, said in a packed conference room near the state capitol.
"Instead of Kansas' curriculum having more and more credibility, it will
have less and less.''

 The board voted on a modified version of curriculum guidelines for grades
 kindergarten through high school that eliminates evolution as a way to
 describe the emergence of new species — for instance the evolution of
 primates into homo sapiens while leaving intact references to
''microevolution,'' or changes that occur within a single species.

 The theory of evolution was developed by 19th-century British scientist
Charles Darwin. His discoveries were famously argued in the 1925 "Scopes
Monkey  Trial,'' in which the state of Tennessee put teacher John Thomas
Scopes on trial for knowingly infringing a law banning the teaching of

 Defended by prominent trial attorney Clarence Darrow, Scopes was convicted
 and fined the minimum $100 but the verdict was reversed on a technicality
by the state Supreme Court.

 Prior to Wednesday's vote, the presidents of Kansas' six public
universities wrote  a letter saying the new standards ''will set Kansas
back a century and give  hard-to-find science teachers no choice but to
pursue other career fields or assignments outside of Kansas.

 "The argument that teaching evolution will destroy a student's faith in
God is no more true today than it was during the Scopes trial in 1925,''
the letter said.

 Banning evolution from the classroom gave conservative forces a victory
after previous attempts to eliminate evolution in states including
Alabama, Arizona, Georgia and Nebraska.

 Religious groups have argued that evolution cannot be proven, and some
feel that evolution is not in accordance with Biblical teachings
regarding the origins of life.

 Teaching evolution misleads students, said Tom Willis, director of the
Creation Science Association for Mid-America, which helped write Kansas'
curriculum  proposal.

 "It's deception,'' Willis said prior to the vote. "You can't go into the
laboratory or  the field and make the first fish. When you tell students
that science has determined (evolution to be true), you're deceiving

 Dozens of books have been published in the past two decades challenging the
 validity of evolution, bearing titles such as ''The Facts of Life:
Shattering the  Myths of Darwinism,'' and ''The Neck of the Giraffe: Where
Darwin Went Wrong.''

 In Kansas, a 27-member state science committee spent a year writing the new
 curriculum standards for elementary and high school students that were
based on national education standards and included evolution.

 But this spring, a school board member introduced a competing proposal to
 remove evolution theories from classrooms. The board deadlocked over the
 matter in May, and the issue has since roiled political circles and
prompted angry debate.

 Kansas Gov. Bill Graves, a Republican, warned board members not to adopt
the anti-evolution curriculum, and has said he would support an effort to
abolish the Board of Education.

 "It's frustrating and it makes me angry,'' said Steve Case, a member of
the state science committee and a University of Kansas instructor. "There
is potentially great damage that can be done to students in Kansas.''

 Prior attempts by religious groups to include "creation science,'' or
Creationism, in school curricula included a failed attempt in Arkansas to
require that it be taught alongside evolution.

 In 1982, an Arkansas federal judge overturned the law, ruling it violated
the constitutional clause barring the establishment of religion by the
state. He said that creation science was not a valid science, had no
secular educational purpose, but served only to promote religion. A
similar law in Louisiana was struck down later the same year.


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