- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 2, 2006

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Board of Education members who approved new classroom standards that call evolution into question faced a counterattack at the polls yesterday from Darwin’s defenders.

Five of the 10 seats on the board were up for election in the primary, the latest skirmish in a seesawing battle between faith and science.

In November, the Board of Education’s 6-to-4 conservative Republican majority rewrote testing standards for public schools to incorporate language supported by advocates of intelligent design, which holds that life is so complex it must have been created by some kind of higher power. The new standards say that some aspects of evolution are contradicted by scientific evidence.

Yesterday, three members of the majority faced Republican primary foes who support the teaching of evolution. A fourth Republican conservative is retiring, and her seat was up for grabs.

The fifth seat was held by Janet Waugh, a Kansas City Democrat who opposed the new standards. She faced a more conservative Democrat who favored the language against evolution.

With more than half of precincts reporting, two of the three conservative Republican incumbents were leading, and Mrs. Waugh was also ahead. In the open seat, the moderate Republican who supports evolution was winning.

Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, Calif., which supports the teaching of evolution, said conservative victories would generate attempts to adopt Kansas’ standards elsewhere.

“There are people around the country who would like to see the Kansas standards in their own states,” she said.

Also yesterday, Kansas Republicans chose a nominee from among seven candidates to challenge Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat. With nearly half of precincts reporting, state Sen. Jim Barnett led six other candidates.

The school board contest was part of a larger effort by the intelligent-design movement to introduce its ideas in public schools.

A suburban Atlanta school district is locked in a legal dispute concerning its placement of stickers inside 35,000 biology textbooks declaring evolution “a theory, not a fact.”

Last year, in Dover, Pa., voters ousted school board members who had required the biology curriculum to include mention of intelligent design. A federal judge struck down the policy, declaring intelligent design is religion in disguise.

A poll by six news organizations last year suggested that about half of Kansans thought evolution should be taught alongside intelligent design.

“I feel like if you give two sides of something, most people are intelligent enough to make up their own minds,” said Ryan Cole, a 26-year-old farmer and horse trainer from Smith County, along the Nebraska line.

Proponents of Kansas’ latest standards contend they encourage open discussion.

“Students need to have an accurate assessment of the state of the facts in regard to Darwin’s theory,” said John West, a vice president for the Center for Science and Culture at the Seattle-based, anti-evolution Discovery Institute.

The standards say that the evolutionary theory that all life had a common origin has been challenged by fossils and molecular biology. They say there is dispute over whether changes over time in one species can lead to a new species.

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