[Marxism] Anti-evolution hearings end, board members urge redefining science to include religion

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sat May 14 21:02:15 MDT 2005

Posted on Fri, May. 13, 2005 

Evolution Hearings End Bitterly
Science standards go to vote this summer


The Kansas City Star

"You have a responsibility to the children and to the future of this
state - a responsibility that you have sadly, sadly failed."
Topeka lawyer Pedro Irigonegaray 

TOPEKA - The Kansas Board of Education's hearings on the teaching of
evolution ended Thursday with more name-calling than science.

It was an acrimonious end to four days of hearings that had been
heralded by some board members as a scientific dialogue for the public's

The hearings began last week to worldwide media scrutiny and a packed
audience, but by Thursday there were fewer than 50 members of the public
watching, and much of the debate focused on emotional accusations and
not Charles Darwin.

With the hearings over, two things are clear: The three board members
who had called for the hearings believe evolution is a flawed theory
with atheistic overtones.

And mainstream scientists think the board members are creationists who
want to insert their own beliefs in public schools at the expense of
schoolchildren and the state's reputation.

A proposal now before the board would incorporate greater criticism of
the theory of evolution and allow alternatives to be taught. It would
also change the definition of science to allow for explanations that do
not rely on natural causes.

The proposal will probably go to a vote before the full 10-member board
this summer. The science guidelines are used by local districts to set
curriculum, and are the basis for statewide assessment tests.

The proposal was pushed by John Calvert, a Lake Quivira resident and a
leading proponent of intelligent design, the belief that some aspects of
nature are so complicated that they can only be explained as being the
work of a creator. During the first three days of hearings, Calvert
called 23 witnesses who criticized evolution.

The witnesses led board member Kathy Martin, who had expressed doubts
about the theory before the hearings began, to conclude that evolution
is "an unproven, often disproven" theory.

On Thursday, it was the opposition's turn. Topeka lawyer Pedro
Irigonegaray defended the way evolution is taught, and argued that
intelligent design is a thinly veiled form of creationism. He called it
"a narrow sectarian theological view" that is opposed by most people,
including mainstream Christians.

Irigonegaray also accused the board of abusing the political process by
holding the hearings, which he called "a gigantic waste of time" and tax
dollars. The state paid about $10,000 for the hearings - for the travel
expenses of witnesses and for the services of a court reporter.

"Each penny taken by you, Mr. Calvert, for your witnesses, is a penny
taken from Kansas children," Irigonegaray said. He went on to tell the
board, "You have a responsibility to the children and to the future of
this state - a responsibility that you have sadly, sadly failed."

The proposed curriculum change was not supported by most of the
26-member panel of educators and scientists who reviewed the state
science curriculum. Steve Case, a University of Kansas professor who
leads the panel, said that if the proposal was adopted, he would support
school districts that choose to ignore the guidelines or refuse to give
the assessment tests.

"I would encourage schools and districts to practice civil
disobedience," he said.

Scientists and educators who accept the theory of evolution chose to
boycott the hearings, which the president of the Kansas Citizens for
Science, Harry McDonald, called a sham and publicity stunt. But those
scientists supported Irigonegaray, who stepped forward to defend the
teaching of evolution.

Board members critical of evolution said the scientists' boycott had

"I can only conclude that they don't have evidence (for evolution),"
board member Connie Morris said.

Irigonegaray refused to answer questions from board members and from
Calvert. That prompted Chairman Steve Abrams to say the rules of the
hearings had been broken, and he gave extra time to Calvert. He defended
the changes he wants to see in the science curriculum and blasted his

Then the board members, who all admit to having strong doubts about
evolution, proceeded to criticize Irigonegaray, the media and scientists
who boycotted the event.

Morris told Irigonegaray his tactics amounted to "abuse," and blasted
the media as a "propaganda machine" for reporting that some board
members had not read the standards they criticize. Martin, who admitted
that she had not read the entire standards, said the board had been
unfairly criticized.

"The board has been accused of being close-minded, and the jury rigged,"
she said. "I guess we'll leave it up to the public to decide."

Calvert attacked the methods used by Irigonegaray and mainstream science
groups, accusing them of "character assassination." Throughout the
hearings, Irigonegaray questioned the anti-evolution witnesses about
their beliefs. Two told him they believe Earth is as young as 5,000
years, and most said they doubt that humans evolved from lower life

Calvert said Irigonegaray's only weapon was "an attorney's rhetoric,"
designed to make evolution opponents look like "ignoramuses." In the
end, he said, he couldn't even shake his opponent's hand.

"I don't think this strategy deserves a handshake," Calvert said.

To reach David Klepper, call (785) 354-1388 or send e-mail to
dklepper at kcstar.com. 

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