DEBATE OVER EVOLUTION & A WAR OF WORDS
DEBATE OVER EVOLUTION & A WAR OF WORDS
2005-05-06 at 10:16:00 am #9230
Debate Over Evolution Becomes War of Words
TOPEKA, Kan. (May 05) – Eighty years after the first famed
“Monkey Trial,” a second one of sorts opened Thursday, giving critics of
evolution a forum in which to attack the theory.
A State Board of Education subcommittee began four days of
trial-like hearings on evolution, and witnesses were advocates of intelligent
design, critics of evolution or both.
The entire board plans to consider changes in June to
standards that determine how Kansas students are tested on science.
The three board members presiding over the hearings are all
conservative Republicans and receptive to criticism of evolution. Two of them,
Kathy Martin, of Clay Center, and Connie Morris, of St. Francis, agreed several
times with witnesses critical of evolution.
“I was hoping this hearing would give me good, hard
evidence that I could repeat,” Morris said.
There were no protests, but over the lunch hour, the Kansas
Highway Patrol brought in metal detectors for use outside the auditorium where
the hearings were held. Lt. John Eichkorn said the patrol wasn’t responding to a
specific threat, adding, “We’re constantly re-evaluating our security
The board has sought to avoid comparisons of its hearings
with the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tenn., in which a teacher was
convicted of violating a law against teaching evolution. But the hearings
resemble a trial, with attorneys managing each side’s case.
In 1925, attorney Clarence Darrow, representing teacher
John Scopes, attempted to make creationism look foolish. In the Kansas hearings,
evolution is under attack.
Even before the hearing began, Pedro Irigonegary, a Topeka
attorney representing what he called mainstream science, dismissed the event as
a “kangaroo court.”
Nor was Susan Gibbs, a Lawrence mother of two teenagers who
attended the hearings, sure her thinking about evolution would change because of
“I believe in God, but I’m not sure He created everything,”
she said during a break. “I’m right in the middle.”
Last year, the board asked a committee of educators to
recommend changes but eventually received two competing proposals. One, the
majority plan, would continue the existing policy of treating evolution as a key
concept for students to learn. The other, the minority plan, suggests more
criticism of evolution.
Some science groups and many scientists contend the board
is being pushed to adopt language that would enshrine tenets of intelligent
design in the standards – even if that concept isn’t mentioned by name. National
and state organizations are boycotting the hearings, viewing them as rigged
But intelligent design advocates say that’s not true and
argue that they’re only trying to give students a more balanced view of
Evolution says species change over time and that such
changes can lead to new species, giving different ones, such as man and apes,
common ancestors. Intelligent design says some features of the natural world,
because of their well-ordered complexities, are best explained by an intelligent
“Public science education is an institution,” Harris
testified. advocate. “It appoints a teacher to be a referee among ideas …
Nobody would tolerate a football game where the referee was obviously
But Irigonegaray repeatedly attacked Harris’ assertion that
the majority’s proposed standards stifle criticism of evolution in the
Irigonegaray asked him, referring to the majority proposal:
“Where in the standards does it say teachers and students cannot discuss
criticism of evolution?”
Harris replied: “It doesn’t say that. I think it’s
Charles Thaxton, who lives near Atlanta but is a visiting
assistant professor of chemistry at the Charles University in the Czech
Republic, also presented another key criticism of evolution. He testified that
there’s no evidence that life formed from a primordial soup.
Irigonegaray asked Thaxton whether he accepted the theory
that humans and apes had a common ancestor.
“Personally, I do not,” he said. “I’m not an expert on
this. I don’t study this.”