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AAAS, Nobelists, Lawrence mayor criticize Kansas board of education

Speaking at the monthly meeting of the Kansas board of education on September 13, John Staver, a professor of science education and the director of the Center for Science Education at Kansas State University, delivered a message from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, of which he is a Fellow. He told the board, "AAAS is deeply concerned about the changes that have been made in the Kansas Science Education Standards in order to discredit the theory of evolution," citing both the redefinition of science in the section on the nature of science and the addition of "examples of facts that supposedly provide evidence against evolutionary theory, and statements that encourage students to distrust science." "Some of these are inaccurate," he explained, "and others are simply irrelevant or misleading." The full text of his statement is contained in a press release from the AAAS.

The board was also taken to task for its attempts to compromise the place of evolution in the state science standards by a group of thirty-eight Nobel laureates headed by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Elie Wiesel. Dated September 9, 2005, their letter to the board deplores "efforts by the proponents of so-called 'intelligent design' to politicize scientific inquiry" and describes "intelligent design" itself as "fundamentally unscientific because its central conclusion is based on belief in the intervention of a supernatural agent." Evolution, on the other hand, is described in the letter as "the foundation of modern biology," and the letter expresses concern about the board's recommendation to adopt standards that include scientifically unwarranted criticisms of evolution. Among the signatories are recipients of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Physics, and Medicine or Physiology, the Nobel Peace Prize, and the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.

Closer to home, the Lawrence Journal-World reports (September 13, 2005) that Boog Highberger, the mayor of Lawrence, Kansas, publicly complained that the efforts of the creationist majority on the state board of education is hurting the reputation of the state. Speaking to the Lawrence Rotary Club about the city's vision for the future, Highberger reportedly commented, "Lawrence has this vision thing down ... I wish I could say the same thing about our state board of education. I don't think some of its members understand the national damage they are doing to our reputation." Lawrence is home to the main campus of the University of Kansas, whose provost David Shulenberger recently told the Journal-World that the debate over the place of evolution in the state's science standards was damaging the university's national reputation and its ability to attract the top faculty and students.