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Kansas School Board Says Evolution Is Not Science

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From Reuters

The Kansas Board of Education rejected evolution as a scientific principle Wednesday, dealing a victory to religious conservatives who are increasingly challenging science education in U.S. schools.

The 10-member board, ignoring pleas by educators and most scientists, voted 6 to 4 to embrace standards for science curricula that eliminate evolution as an underlying principle of biology and other sciences.

“It’s a step forward. We’re going to improve rather than detract from science education in Kansas,” said Scott Hill, a farmer and board member who helped write the standards.

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“There’s a liberal agenda to build up or glorify evolution in our schools,” Hill said, adding that evolution had been pushed on students as a “dogmatic fact.”

Individual schools may teach evolution from elementary through high school, but knowledge of evolution will not be required to pass state-sanctioned tests.

School board members opposed to removing evolution from the curriculum recoiled at the change.

“In removing an important concept like evolution from life sciences and biology, [students] are going to go essentially crippled. It’s like removing a leg and asking you to run a 100-yard dash,” board member William Wagnon said.

Others predicted that students will fail college entrance exams and be ill-prepared for college science classes.

“Our children will not be prepared,” member Val DeFever said. “It’s sad that people are attacking education.”

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The guidelines eliminate evolution as a way to describe the emergence of new species--for instance the evolution of primates into homo sapiens--while leaving intact references to “microevolution,” or changes that occur within a single species.

Before Wednesday’s vote, the presidents of Kansas’ six public universities wrote a letter saying the new standards “will set Kansas back a century and give hard-to-find science teachers no choice but to pursue other career fields or assignments outside of Kansas.”

“The argument that teaching evolution will destroy a student’s faith in God is no more true today than it was during the Scopes trial in 1925,” the letter said.

The board’s ruling gave conservative forces a victory after previous failed attempts to eliminate evolution in states including Alabama, Arizona, Georgia and Nebraska.

Religious groups have argued that evolution cannot be proved, and some feel that evolution is not in accordance with Biblical teachings regarding the origins of life.

“When you tell students that science has determined [evolution to be true], you’re deceiving them,” said Tom Willis, director of the Creation Science Assn. for Mid-America, which helped write the new standards.

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Earlier attempts by religious groups to include “creation science,” or Creationism, in school curricula included a failed attempt in Arkansas to require that it be taught alongside evolution.

In 1982, an Arkansas federal judge overturned the law, ruling that it violated the constitutional clause barring the establishment of religion by the state. He said creation science was not a valid science, had no secular educational purpose and served only to promote religion. A similar law in Louisiana was struck down later the same year.

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