Kansas Board Approves Evolution

Wednesday, February 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Evolution was restored Wednesday as a central theory in the state's science classes, ending 18 months of debate and international ridicule over how Kansas teaches the origins of man.

The state Board of Education approved the new science standards in a 7-3 vote.

``I believe now that we have science standards that the rest of the world could look to,'' board member Carol Rupe said.

The new standards will replace ones adopted in 1999 that omitted references to many evolutionary concepts as well as the big-bang theory of the creation of the universe.

Board member Steve Abrams voted against the new standards, arguing that evolution is a flawed theory and that he isn't espousing any religious doctrine in questioning its teaching.

``What I do espouse is that this is not good science,'' Abrams said.

Evolution, a theory developed by Charles Darwin and others, holds that the Earth is billions of years old and that all life, including humans, evolved from simple forms through a process of natural selection.

Some religious fundamentalists and others object to the teaching of evolution, saying it contradicts the biblical account of creation.

The Kansas board caused an uproar two years ago when it voted 6-4 in favor of science standards that removed evolution from its central place in the teaching of biology.

At the time, Gov. Bill Graves called the board's action ``terrible, tragic, embarrassing.''

Harvard professor Stephen Jay Gould equated the Kansas standards to teaching ``American history without Lincoln.'' Bill Nye, the ``Science Guy'' of children's television, called the board's action ``harebrained'' and ``nutty.'' And a Washington Post columnist wrote a facetious memo from God to board members, with God saying, ``Man, I gave a brain. Use it, OK?''

The 1999 standards deleted references to macroevolution — large-scale evolutionary changes that create new species — but kept references to ``microevolution,'' or changes within species, and natural selection, the idea that advantageous traits increase in a population over time.

Last fall, however, voters ousted two of the board members who de-emphasized evolution, including the chairwoman at the time.

Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center of Science Education, welcomed the renewed emphasis on evolution.

``It's too bad that they got such a black eye over this issue,'' Scott said. ``And it was unfair because other states have gone through similar struggles.''

Kansas is one of several states, including Arizona, Alabama, Illinois, New Mexico, Texas and Nebraska, where school boards have tried to take evolution out of state science standards or to de-emphasize evolutionary concepts.


On the Net:

Kansas State Department of Education: http://www.ksbe.state.ks.us

Intelligent Design Network Inc.: hhtp://www.intelligent Designnetwork.org

National Center of Science Education: http://www.natcenscied.org