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Antievolution resolution proposed in the Kansas legislature


According to the Lawrence Journal-World, an antievolution resolution was introduced in the Kansas House of Representatives on February 15, 2005. The sponsor is Representative Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee), who said that the proposed resolution, which is nonbinding, was meant to promote "objectivity in science education."

Although the full text of the bill is not yet available, the story reports that the resolution includes language recommending the teaching of "the full range of scientific views that exist." This language is derived directly from the "Santorum Amendment," which U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) attempted to insert into the federal No Child Left Behind Act in 2002. Phillip Johnson, a leading promoter of "intelligent design," wrote the amendment for Santorum. The Santorum Amendment was passed by the U.S. Senate but stripped from the bill by the House-Senate conference committee, and now only appears in modified form in the NCLB conference report. See NCSE's compilation on the Santorum Amendment for details.

Santorum language appeared in the 2003 Kansas legislative session in the form of Senate Bill 168. SB 168 encouraged curricula that helped students understand "the full range of scientific views that exist," and exempted educational staff from any penalties for deviating from state curriculum requirements. SB 168 further betrayed its creationist leanings when it explicitly singled out "origins science" for special treatment, requiring that "origins science" -- but not other science -- be taught "inclusively, objectively, and without religious, naturalistic or philosophic bias or assumption." The artificial distinction between "origins science" (sciences dealing with the past) and "operations science" (sciences dealing with the present) has been a running theme in creationist publications for decades.

On February 6, 2005, nine days before Pilcher-Cook introduced her antievolution resolution, an op-ed promoting the Santorum language appeared in the Kansas City Star. The opinion piece, written by Kansas City resident Vicki Palatas, was entitled "'Full range of scientific views' includes theory of a creator." Palatas wrote, "The report interpreting this legislation explains that on controversial issues like evolution, 'the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist.'" Palatas cited several talking points popular among intelligent design proponents, and concluded, "Intelligent design teaches the theory of a creator based on scientific observation and analysis, not the worship of one." In another opinion piece [Link broken] on January 2, 2005, Palatas explicitly grouped intelligent design with a laundry list of other conservative religious causes, decrying the failure of public schools to "allow teaching intelligent design as a theory of the creation of the universe." She concluded that governmental restraint in this and other matters amounted to "intolerance and maligning of our faith."

In addition to the proposed resolution, Kansas is experiencing a protracted fight over science standards revisions (see NCSE updates on Kansas for 2004 and 2005). The Kansas-based "Intelligent Design Network" has proposed over 20 pages of revisions to the state science standards, systematically redefining science to allow for intelligent design. The Lawrence Journal-World article alluded to the science standards battle as follows:
Pilcher-Cook denied that she was trying to undo evolution instruction or insert creationism into school curriculum.

"I'm leaving that in the State Board of Education's hands," she said.
Kansas is following in the footsteps of six other states that have introduced antievolution legislation in 2005: Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, and South Carolina. Language derived from the Santorum Amendment is found in five of these six bills. The exception is the Mississippi bill, which seeks to give "balanced treatment to the theory of scientific creationism and the theory of evolution." Kansas brings the total number of states with proposed antievolution legislation to seven.



Links

Kansas Citizens for Science
http://www.kcfs.org

Kansas Legislature
http://www.kslegislature.org/legsrv-legisportal/index.do

J-W staff (2005). "Lawmaker introduces evolution resolution." Lawrence Journal-World. Feburary 15, 2005.
http://www.ljworld.com/section/breaking/story/196350

NCSE staff (2002). NCSE's compilation on the Santorum Amendment.

2003 Kansas Legislature. SENATE BILL No. 168 [pdf].
http://www.kslegislature.org/bills/2004/168.pdf

Joel Mathis (2003). "Senate bill would allow teaching of creationism ." Lawrence Journal-World. February 8, 2003.
http://www.ljworld.com/section/stateregional/story/121171.

Vicki Palatas (2005). "'Full range of scientific views' includes theory of a creator." Kansas City Star. February 6, 2005.

Vicki Palatas (2005). "Christians deserve free speech." Kansas City Star. January 2, 2005.