TOPEKA, Kan. (BP)–The results of an Aug. 1 primary election in Kansas likely will shift control of the state board of education to members who favor changing the state’s current science education standards toward declaring evolution as the only thesis for the origin of man.
Moderate candidates in the Republican primary election won two of four primary races for the 10-member state school board. Although the Republican winners will face Democratic opponents in the November elections, the balloting results likely means that Kansas’ science standards will be revamped for the fourth time since 1998.
The moderate candidates campaigned against new science standards that were instituted in 2005 under a 6-4 conservative majority. The current standards do not dismiss the theory of evolution. Instead they urge students to seek “more adequate explanations of natural phenomena,” a clause that stirred controversy.
Critics of the science standards in Kansas contend that they promote Intelligent Design, which holds that living organisms are so complex they must have been designed by a higher, but unspecified, intelligence. The critics also say the parents and school districts that are in favor exposing students to Intelligent Design and other theories for the origin of humanity, including evolution, are trying to advance religion.
But the board majority that made the current changes in the science standards said the guidelines reflect updated science; promote decision-making that is both informed and reasoned; and do not prohibit the study of evolution.
A more liberal state board instituted a definition of science in 2002 stating, “Science is the human activity of seeking natural explanations of the world around us.” In 2005, the board changed that reference to: “Science is a systematic method of continuing investigation, that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building, to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena.”
The current board also added a qualifying sentence to an introductory paragraph that suggests a self-existing universe: “Although science proposes theories to explain changes, the actual causes of many changes are currently unknown (e.g. the origin of the universe, the origin of the fundamental laws, the origin of life and the genetic code, and the origin of major body plans during the Cambrian explosion).” In addition, the board added information to better describe the core postulates of evolutionary theory and relevant information about its mechanisms.
According to a board press release, “Biological evolution postulates an unguided natural process that has no discernable direction or goal,” and “the sequence of the nucleotide bases within genes is not dictated by any known chemical or physical law.”
Terry Fox, senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita, Kan., said the vote shows that the community is divided over how science should be taught in public schools.
“I think that evolution is the mother of all liberalism,” Fox told Baptist Press. “I think it’s so divided that the majority will swing back again in our favor. No matter who wins, it’s always by a few thousand votes. I personally expect the pendulum to swing back our way again.”
Fox was disappointed that more candidates didn’t encourage the Christian community to get out and vote, especially on issues such as creation and evolution, and “that’s not how you win close elections,” he said. Those candidates who sought support from churches and spoke to congregations tended to be more successful, he said. “What we’re discovering is these candidates that are running on social issues need to connect to the churches if they’re going to get elected.”
Control of the Kansas school board has switched between conservatives and liberals since 1998, resulting in changes to the science standards in 1999, 2001 and again in 2005. Board conservatives made changes to the standards after taking over in 1998, which were reversed when they lost the majority in 2000. The board was equally divided among conservatives and their opponents after elections in 2002. In 2004, conservatives regained the majority and instituted the current standards.
Joe Aistrup, a Kansas State University political scientist, told the Wichita Eagle that in the latest balloting voters decided that conservatives had gone too far and an ideological shift was needed in the board’s majority yet again.
Opponents of the board’s conservative majority also have criticized them for pushing through changes to require students to get parental permission before taking sex education and policies that encourage the teaching of abstinence.
“It’s very important to put conservatives on the board of education for a lot of reasons,” Fox said. “Two important ones are the impact of the National Education Association and the homosexual agendas, which are being worked big-time through the NEA and public education. Therefore, it’s important that conservatives elect conservatives to be a watchdog over the public education and because of a lot of these other issues of political correctness. For example, taking Christ out of Christmas and calling it ‘winter break’ instead of Christmas break.”
The Kansas vote follows a decision by the Ohio State Board of Education to remove language from the state’s biology standards that was critical of evolution in February. Last December, a federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled that the school district in Dover, Pa., violated the Constitution’s establishment clause by instituting policy that exposed high school students to information about Intelligent Design.
“If conservatives are going to win on anything that deals with evolution, then they are going to have to work extra hard,” Fox noted, “because evolution is a religion. Evolution, in my opinion, is a cult. They’ve done a masterful job convincing America that evolution is correct. It’s an uphill battle anytime you oppose evolution in America.”