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 user 2005-05-06 at 10:16:00 am Views: 68
  • #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
    the testimony.

    “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
    against evolution.

    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.”