Kansas School Board Approves Criticism of Evolution

The Kansas State Board of Education recently voted in favor of new state science standards that could lessen the role evolution plays in teaching about the origin of life. However, there will be an external academic review of the policy before the final vote later this year.

Although the 10-member board voted 6-4 on Tuesday in favor of the new curriculum that has been advocated by supporters of “intelligent design,” the draft of standards will first be sent to a Denver-based education consultant before the board will make its final decision in September or October. If approved, Kansas will be the fourth state to adopt a critical view of evolution in the past four years. Other states include Minnesota, Ohio, and New Mexico.

Last week, the debate over intelligent design being taught in schools received a jolt when President Bush said he favored teaching the theory in schools. Critics of intelligent design have said that it does not qualify as science. However, conservative Christians say evolution is largely unproven and can undermine religious teachings about the origins of life on earth.

The new standards in Kansas will not eliminate the teaching of evolution, nor would they require that creationism be taught.

Critics, however, view intelligent design as part of a push by conservative Christians to introduce religion by another name.

"This is neo-creationism, trying to avoid the legal morass of trying to teach creationism overtly and slip it in through the backdoor," Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, told Reuters.

The difference between creationism and Intelligent Design is that the former relies on God as the creator, while the latter gives room for interpretation. It states that an intelligent designer is behind some aspects of nature that are too complex to have come into being by chance alone.

In his book, “Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology,” William A. Dembski, an associate research professor in the conceptual foundations of science at Baylor University, states that Design Theory can be classified into three categories.

"Intelligent design is three things: a scientific research program that investigates the effects of intelligent causes; an intellectual movement that challenges Darwinism and its naturalistic legacy; and a way of understanding divine action," he states.

Since 1999, the Kansas State Board of Education has been involved in controversy after voting to decrease the emphasis of evolution in its classes. In 2001, the board reversed itself, but the tide shifted back again in 2004 with a more conservative board.

In May, the Board sponsored a series of debates over evolution. Proponents from both sides were invited. However some scientists refused to participate, saying they were merely being brought in as tokens to a debate that had already been decided.

The proposed science standards would affect state tests for fourth, seventh, and tenth graders, although local schools will retain the ability to say what is taught in classrooms.