“Intelligent design is not going to get its forum, at least not one in which they can say that scientists participated.”
Harry McDonald, Kansas Citizens for Science
It looks as if the coming hearings on the Kansas science standards will be a one-sided event.
Proponents of intelligent design have lined up 23 witnesses — including one from Italy and another from Turkey — to support their point of view.
But scientists who defend evolution apparently are boycotting the hearings, said Alexa Posny, assistant commissioner for the state Department of Education.
As of Thursday, the state’s deadline, only one scientist had agreed to testify and his appearance had not been confirmed, she said.
“We have contacted scientists from all over the world,” Posny said. “There isn’t anywhere else we can go.”
The hearings, tentatively scheduled for May 5-7 and May 12-14, were set up by the conservative majority on the Kansas Board of Education.
Board members say they want the public to hear more about intelligent design, the theory that some aspects of life and its diversity are the result of planned processes, not chance or necessity.
The president of Kansas Citizens for Science, who had called for the boycott, said he was pleased Thursday to hear it was being honored. Intelligent design is the latest form of creationism, Harry McDonald said, and has no place in a science classroom.
In addition, he said, he thinks board conservatives have made up their minds to support a proposal from the intelligent design side that calls for students to learn about the weaknesses of evolution.
“Intelligent design is not going to get its forum, at least not one in which they can say that scientists participated,” McDonald said. “We have learned too much to continue participating in this charade.”
The board’s conservative Republican chairman, Steve Abrams of Arkansas City, called the boycott and the assertion that the board had decided the issue “bull malarkey.” The hearings will take place even if evolution’s defenders choose not to show, he said.
“If they’ve got the guns on their side to defend it (evolution), then why not defend it? Instead, what they are going to do is take potshots, they are going to do the one-liners, they are going to do the 30-second sound bite instead of coming in and trying to testify and defend a position that they say is the only position in the world.”
The state board voted 6-4 in February to set up a three-member subcommittee to oversee the May hearings. Abrams is the subcommittee’s chairman.
The state board periodically updates the standards in each of its curriculum areas. A 26-member committee appointed by Education Commissioner Andy Tompkins has been working to revise the science standards since June. It will present its second draft to the board at its monthly meeting Wednesday.
The board also will receive a second draft that day from the eight members of the science-writing committee who are proposing ideas backed by intelligent design supporters. The board hopes to approve revised standards this summer.
The May hearings are in addition to public hearings earlier this year on the first draft from the 26-member committee. The first draft from the committee’s minority group was not presented at that time, although members of the public did comment on it.
Posny said the state invited scientists from all of the state universities in Kansas as well as pro-evolution scientists from across the nation who have critiqued the intelligent design proposal. Also, she said, the state posted the invitation on the Internet list serve of the National Science Teachers Association.
She said she still was trying to reach several evolution-defenders whose names were provided Wednesday by John Calvert, the attorney for the eight on the science-writing committee who favor the intelligent design proposal. One of those scientists has agreed to come, she said.
Calvert said he was happy to hear that Abrams wanted the hearings to go forward.
“I think the public will be educated in a major way,” he said.
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