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Pre-election hubbub in Kansas continues


Evolution continues to be a burning issue as the August 1, 2006, primary election in Kansas approaches. In November 2005, the state board of education voted 6-4 to adopt a set of state science standards in which the scientific standing of evolution is systematically impugned. The standards were denounced by a host of critics, including the National Science Teachers Association, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the committee that wrote the original standards, and the Kansas Association of Teachers of Science.

Now three of the six antievolution members of the board are facing challengers in the primary election, while a fourth is not seeking re-election. Thus the primary election (as well as the general election in November) affords a chance for supporters of evolution education to change the balance of power on the board, just as they did in 2000. Turnout in such primary elections is typically low -- in 2002, only 8% of registered Kansas voters went to the polls; in 2004, only 9% -- so even a small number of votes could turn the tide. Understandably, there is a lot of hubbub. A sampling:

  • Writing in the Kansas City Star (July 27, 2006), Keith B. Miller debunked claims that Kansas Citizens for Science -- the grassroots organization that defends the teaching of evolution in Kansas's public schools -- is attempting "to promote a materialist world view that seeks to demean the idea of creation." On the contrary, Miller wrote, "It is ... the intelligent-design proponents, not our group or the Kansas scientific or educational communities, who are responsible for promoting an atheistic view of science," adding, "it was the intelligent-design supporters that inserted the 'unguided' language into the standards against the recommendation of the standards committee."
  • Jeremy Mohn, a biology teacher in Overland Park, Kansas, contributed a piece [Link broken] to the Garden City Telegram (July 27, 2006), observing, "As a Kansas biology teacher, I frequently encounter religiously-motivated objections to evolution. With the current state science standards featuring intelligently-designed "criticisms" of evolution, I think it is reasonable to expect the volume of these objections to increase." He concludes, "please join me in voting for a KSBE candidate who will reject these flawed science standards in favor of standards that are objectively neutral on the question of God's existence."
  • Three church leaders -- Kansas Bishop Scott Jones of the United Methodist Church, Bishop Gerald Mansholt of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and Bishop Dean Wolfe of the Epsocopal Diocese of Kansas -- are encouraging their 225,000 members in Kansas to vote in the primary election. While no party or candidate is endorsed in the letter [Link broken] (PDF), Bishop Jones told the Topeka Capital-Journal (July 27, 2006) that he opposed the present version of the state's science standards: "I think the science standards are using nonscientific ways of questioning evolution."
  • John Rennie, the editor-in-chief of Scientific American (and author of "15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense"), implored [Link broken] Kansas voters to support science at the ballot box, writing (on the magazine's blog), "You need to vote in the primary election and help to defeat the members of the State Board of Education who have inflicted embarrassing creationist nonsense on your home's science curriculum standards." He added, "Kansas voters, if you can remove those antievolution voices from the board, then it should be possible to restore the curriculum standards to their proper standing. It's that simple."
  • Meanwhile, Jack Krebs, the president of Kansas Citizens for Science and a member of the committee that wrote the original set of standards, continues to deliver the message across the state that Kansans need to stand up for science by opposing the deeply flawed set of state science standards. Krebs spoke on July 24 in Overland Park, and audio recordings and visual material from his talk are available on-line. Krebs is also scheduled to speak on July 27 in Hutchinson, July 28 in Garden City, July 29 in Hays, and July 31 in Kansas City.