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The latest on the Kansas kangaroo court


The American Association for the Advancement of Science -- the world's largest general science organization and the publisher of the journal Science -- announced on April 12, 2005, that it declined to participate in the scheduled six days of hearings in Kansas on the place of evolution in the state science standards, hearings that have been widely described as a "kangaroo court" on evolution. AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner wrote, "The fundamental structure of the hearing suggests that the theory of evolution may be debated. ... The consensus view of the scientific community on evolution is well-established and presented clearly in the AAAS's Benchmarks for Scientific Literacy and in the National Academy's National Science Education Standards. Although scientists may debate details of the mechanisms of evolution, there is no argument among scientists as to whether evolution is taking place. We do not believe that any useful purpose would be served by our participation in this event."

In a column published on April 12, the Wichita Eagle's editorial board reflected on the success of the boycott: "This resounding rejection of the hearings speaks volumes about how the mainstream scientific community sees the Kansas evolution 'controversy.' It has no credibility." Quoting Steve Abrams -- the chairman of the Kansas State Board of Education, a member of the subcommittee responsible for the hearings, and a creationist himself -- as saying, "It's almost like they're saying, 'We can't defend what's put out there, so we're not going to participate,'" the Eagle replied, "Well, no. It's almost like they're saying, 'This rigged forum, with a predetermined outcome, has no credibility whatsoever in the scientific community. So what's the point?' Baiting scientists won't get them to appear. Because as they rightly perceive, the hearings are a political effort to legitimize ID by parading a small number of 'experts' before the public."

The six days of hearings were foreshadowed at a meeting of the Kansas State Board of Education on April 13, when a discussion of the latest draft of the revised science standards, scheduled to run for one hour, stretched to over three hours. The discussion reportedly centered, unsurprisingly, on the place of evolution in the standards, with proponents and opponents of the hearings taking the opportunity to voice their views. While the six conservatives "used their turns in the discussion to reiterate their support for the hearings as a way to help resolve the dispute," wrote the Wichita Eagle's Josh Funk, the four moderates on the board -- Carol Rupe, Bill Wagnon, Janet Waugh and Sue Gamble -- "reiterated their opposition to the hearings as unnecessary and a waste of time." Interviewed by the Johnson County Sun [Link broken], Harry McDonald, the president of Kansas Citizens for Science, cited a further reason for concern about the hearings: "We will not be a party to spending tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars," McDonald said, "on a political stunt."