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Kansas educators criticize policy on evolution

Proposed science standards written by the State Board of Education promote intelligent design and have "no scientific credibility," a group of educators said Tuesday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Proposed science standards written by the Kansas State Board of Education promote intelligent design and have "no scientific credibility," a group of educators said Tuesday.

The educators voted 16-3 to approve a written response to the latest version of the proposed standards. Those standards are designed to expose students to more criticism of the theory of evolution and were tentatively approved by the 10-member board last month. The board plans to take final action on the standards later this year.

The educators said in their response that the critical analysis of evolution in the standards comes from advocates of intelligent design, which says some features of the natural world are so well-ordered and complex that they're best explained by an intelligent cause.

"This critical analysis has no basis in science or science education," the educators' written response said. "The suggested critical analysis has no scientific credibility, yet this ID-inspired language is used repeatedly."

The board appointed the educators last year to recommend changes in the standards, which spell out what students are expected to know at each grade level and are used in tests for fourth, seventh and 10th graders.

Debate among educators
Most the educators want to keep the standards' current evolution-friendly tone, but the board's conservative Republican majority does not. In April, the educators submitted proposed, evolution-friendly standards to the state board.

However, some educators favor the board's language. "Think about the petty level of this response," said Greg Lassey, a former middle-school science teacher.

Board members wanted the educators to consider adding language to the standards dealing with some subjects they felt were given short shrift, including botany and anatomy. The board also sought an overall response to the standards — giving most the educators a chance to vent their opinions.

The board's proposed standards reflect skepticism of evolutionary theory that the development of species is shaped by adaptation and natural selection; and that different species, ranging from one-celled organisms to humans, had common ancestors.

Science or religion?
In their written response, the educators said intelligent design advocates want to "create the opening" for having alternatives to evolution taught in Kansas classrooms, accusing them of promoting religious doctrine. Many scientists and science groups contend that intelligent design is a repackaged form of creationism, which the U.S. Supreme Court has said can't be taught in public schools.

"Public schools, and particularly science classrooms, should not be a forum for any kind of evangelism," the response said.

But John Calvert, a retired Kansas attorney who helped found the Intelligent Design Network, said its goal is to teach good science by having students examine flaws in evolutionary theory.

"We have, from inception, sought only a level scientific playing field," Calvert said.

In May, a board subcommittee had four days of hearings in which intelligent-design advocates pushed for alternative language. National and state science groups boycotted, viewing the hearings as rigged against evolution.

Battles over evolution also have occurred in recent years in Georgia, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

On Monday, President Bush told reporters from five Texas newspapers that he believes schools should discuss "intelligent design" alongside evolution when teaching students about the creation of life. Bush declined to go into detail on his personal views of the origin of life, but he said students should learn about both theories, Knight Ridder Newspapers reported.