Kansas School Board Approves Science Standards Casting Doubt on Evolution - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Kansas School Board Approves Science Standards Casting Doubt on Evolution

TOPEKA, Kansas(AP)_Among mainstream scientists, there's no real debate over Darwin's theory of evolution -- it's considered a cornerstone of biology.

But new science standards approved Tuesday for Kansas public schools cast doubt on the theory, a move that may cause scientists to see the state as backward.

"This is a sad day. We're becoming a laughingstock of not only the nation, but of the world, and I hate that," said board member Janet Waugh, a Democrat.

The state Board of Education approved the new standards in a 6-4 vote, revisiting a topic that exposed Kansas to nationwide ridicule six years ago.

The vote was a victory for intelligent design advocates who helped draft the standards. Intelligent design holds that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power.

Critics of the new language charged that it was an attempt to inject God and creationism into public schools in violation of the separation of church and state.

Supporters of the new standards said they will promote academic freedom. "It gets rid of a lot of dogma that's being taught in the classroom today," said board member John Bacon.

The new standards say high school students must understand major evolutionary concepts. But they also declare that the basic Darwinian theory that all life had a common origin and that natural chemical processes created the building blocks of life has been challenged in recent years by fossil evidence and molecular biology.

In addition, the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena.

The new standards will be used to develop student tests measuring how well schools teach science. Decisions about what is taught in classrooms will remain with 300 local school boards, but some educators fear pressure will increase in some communities to teach less about evolution or more about creationism or intelligent design.

"What this does is open the door for teachers to bring creationist arguments into the classroom and point to the standards and say it's OK," said Jack Krebs, an Oskaloosa High School math teacher and vice president of Kansas Citizens for Science, which opposes the changes.

But John Calvert, a retired attorney who helped found the Intelligent Design Network, said changes probably will come to classrooms gradually, with some teachers feeling freer to discuss criticisms of evolution.

"These changes are not targeted at changing the hearts and minds of the Darwin fundamentalists," Calvert said.

The vote marked the third time in six years that the Kansas board has rewritten standards with evolution as the central issue.

In 1999, the board eliminated most references to evolution. Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould said that was akin to teaching "American history without Lincoln." Bill Nye, the "Science Guy" of children's television, called it "harebrained" and "nutty." And a Washington Post columnist imagined God saying to the Kansas board members: "Man, I gave you a brain. Use it, OK?"

Two years later, after voters replaced three members, the board reverted to evolution-friendly standards. Elections in 2002 and 2004 changed the board's composition again, making it more conservative.

The latest vote is likely to bring fresh national criticism to Kansas and cause many scientists to see the state as backward.

Many scientists and other critics contend creationists repackaged old ideas in new, scientific-sounding language to get around a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1987 against teaching the biblical story of creation in public schools.

The Kansas board's action is part of a national debate. In Pennsylvania, a judge is expected to rule soon in a lawsuit against the Dover school board's policy of requiring high school students to learn about intelligent design in biology class. In August, President George W. Bush endorsed teaching intelligent design alongside evolution.

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