Reactions to the Kansas vote


Following the August 1, 2006, primary election in Kansas, supporters of the integrity of evolution education are expected to form the majority on the state board of education, no matter who prevails in the November 2006 general election. A likely consequence is a reversal of the board's decision in November 2005 to adopt a set of state science standards that was rewritten, under the guidance of local "intelligent design" activists, to impugn the scientific status of evolution. Within the state and across the country, the election elicited comment, analysis, and congratulations.

Speaking to the Lawrence Journal-World (August 3, 2006), NCSE's Nick Matzke described the result of the primary election as the latest in a series of setbacks for the "intelligent design" movement, citing its legal defeat in Kitzmiller v. Dover and the subsequent decision of the Ohio state board of education to rescind a "critical analysis of evolution" model lesson plan and a corresponding indicator in the state's science standards. "If they are having trouble winning in Kansas, a red state, and in the Republican primary, it has to be somewhat discouraging. This was their crown jewel," he said.

Janet Waugh, a member of the board who won her party's nomination in the August primary and a supporter of evolution education, told the Journal-World that the struggle was not over. Speaking of supporters of "intelligent design," she said, "It's like they won't give up ... They just keep trying. Why won't they accept the fact that we can teach religion in school, but we can't teach it in a science class?" She added, "What I would like to see done is to revisit all 6-4 decisions," which includes not only the vote to adopt the antievolution versions of the standards but a number of other controversial decisions as well.

The New York Times (August 3, 2006) reported, "Several of the winners in the primary election, whose victories are virtually certain to shift the board to at least a 6-to-4 moderate majority in November, promised Wednesday to work swiftly to restore a science curriculum that does not subject evolution to critical attack," and quoted Jana Shaver, who won the Republican nomination for the District 9 seat on the board of education in the August primary, as saying, "We need to teach good science and bring the discussion back to educational issues, and not continue focusing on hot-button issues."

NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott told the Times, "I think more citizens are learning what intelligent design really is and realizing that they don't really want that taught in their public schools." She acknowledged, however, that the supporters of "intelligent design" are resilient. "They've had a series of setbacks," she said, "but I don't think for one moment that this means the intelligent design people will fold their tents and go away." The Times noted that "Kansas has been over this ground before," after the board similarly rewrote the standards at the behest of creationists in 1999.

In its August 3, 2006, editorial, the Times took notice of the ups and downs of evolution in the state standards, remarking, "We'd be inclined to rejoice in this evidence that Kansas may be rejoining the modern world were it not for the state's disturbing habit of backtracking from teaching evolution whenever the anti-science ideological faction gains the upper hand," and urging, "the cause of science would be well served if the pro-evolution side could gain a greater majority. Voters will have another chance in November to oust two Republican conservatives who collaborated in the board’s attacks on the bedrock theory of modern biology."

Also congratulating Kansas was the American Institute of Biological Sciences, whose president Kent Holsinger said, in a press release dated August 2, 2006, "This appears to be a great outcome ... This shows that when scientists, educators, parents and the business community come together to explain the value of quality science education, everyone benefits." AIBS's Robert Gropp added, "The primary results demonstrate that people are not yet willing to accept special political interests redefining science to serve political agendas. Science is a process that we can not afford to let become a political tool."