Antievolutionism bad for business in Kansas


In the Kansas City Star (October 9, 2005), Jason Gertzen and Diane Stafford report that Kansas's reputation as a state officially hostile to evolution education is having discernible effects on recruitment efforts at universities and in the burgeoning biotechnology industry. "Some business leaders and economic development recruiters in the region say ... the region has acquired an 'anti-science' label in some key professions, fueled by the evolution debate in Kansas and efforts in Kansas and Missouri to impose restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research," they write. For example:

  • "We have become a bit of a punch line ... We just tend to get lumped in there as the stereotypical conservative, backward-thinking area," said Blake Schreck, the president of the Lenexa Chamber of Commerce.
  • When I go to national meetings, people start to buzz about Kansas and 'intelligent design.' When people begin to laugh at you, that is worse than if they disagree with you, and that is what is beginning to happen," said James L. Spigarelli, the president and chief executive officer of the Midwest Research Institute in Kansas City.
  • "People can't believe we'd go backward and lose our standing in the scientific world. ... scientists like to be around other scientists. If the feeling they get is that in this community they can't explore, they can't be curious, maybe they won't come here," said Thomas Giarla, the former president of JRH Biosciences (now SAFC Biosciences).

Gertzen and Stafford acknowledge that the previous debacle over evolution in Kansas in 1999 appeared to have little economic effect, "perhaps because a slate of newly elected board members quickly reversed the previous board's action. As a result, many in the science community at the time wrote it off as a temporary blip." While it is difficult to compile economic data to prove that the region's economy would suffer from the state board of education's expected decision to adopt a set of science standards in which evolution is systematically impugned, they reported a Kansas City economist as characterizing the idea as not far-fetched.