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The pendulum swings in Kansas


With the results of the August 1, 2006, primary election in Kansas, the pendulum swung in favor of the integrity of evolution education. In November 2005, the state board of education voted 6-4 to adopt a set of state science standards that were rewritten, under the tutelage of local "intelligent design" activists, to impugn the scientific status of evolution. Now, no matter who wins in the November general election, two of the members of the board who voted for the standards will be replaced by two new members who have condemned those standards.

  • In District 1, incumbent Janet Waugh, a supporter of evolution education, handily defeated her antievolution challenger Jesse L. Hall in the Democratic primary.
  • In District 3, antievolution incumbent John W. Bacon prevailed over challengers Harry E. McDonald III and David A. Oliphant in the Republican primary, and will face Don Weiss, a supporter of evolution education, in November.
  • In District 5, Sally Cauble, a supporter of evolution education, defeated antievolution incumbent Connie Morris in the Republican primary, and will face Tim Cruz, a supporter of evolution education, in November.
  • In District 7, antievolution incumbent Ken Willard prevailed over challengers Donna Viola and M. T. Liggett in the Republican primary, and will face Jack Wempe, a supporter of evolution education, in November.
  • In District 9, where antievolution incumbent Iris Van Meter was not seeking re-election, Jana Shaver, a supporter of evolution education, defeated antievolution candidate Brad Patzer, Van Meter's son-in-law, in the Republican primary, and will face Kent Runyan, a supporter of evolution education, in November.

The race attracted national attention, with The New York Times observing (August 1, 2006), "God and Charles Darwin are not on the primary ballot in Kansas on Tuesday, but once again a contentious schools election has religion and science at odds in a state that has restaged a three-quarter-century battle over the teaching of evolution," and the Associated Press describing (August 1, 2006) the primary as "the latest skirmish in a seesawing battle between faith and science that has opened Kansas up to international ridicule."

The electoral defeat is clearly a further setback for the "intelligent design" movement, already reeling from the legal defeat in Kitzmiller v. Dover in December 2005 and from the Ohio board of education's decision in February 2006 to rescind a "critical analysis of evolution" model lesson plan and a corresponding indicator in the state's science standards. Both the Kansas-based Intelligent Design Network and the Discovery Institute engaged in massive publicity campaigns in Kansas prior to the election, putatively in defense of the standards themselves.

Speaking to the Kansas City Star (July 28, 2006) a few days before the election, antievolution incumbent Connie Morris -- who notoriously described evolution as "biologically, genetically, mathematically, chemically, metaphysically and etc. 'wildly' and 'utterly impossible'" (sic) in a newsletter (PDF) to her constituents -- acknowledged that if the antievolution faction on the board is defeated at the polls, "the science standards will be removed within an hour" of the new board's first meeting. NCSE congratulates Kansas on the prospect of her prophecy's coming true.