Evolution Battle Rages In Kansas

The Kansas Board of Education voted 6-4 to include greater criticism of evolution in its school science standards, but it decided to send the standards to an outside academic for review before taking a final vote.

The Kansas school system was ridiculed around the country in 1999 when the board deleted most references to evolution. The system later reversed course, but the language favored by the board Tuesday comes from advocates of intelligent design or creationism.

The belief, which many say is deeply tied to religious belief, holds that some features of the natural world are best explained by an unspecified intelligent cause. Evolution is a fundamental scientific theory that species evolved over millions of years through natural selection.

However, the latest version of the science standards says the board isn't advocating intelligent design — which says some features of the natural world are best explained by an intelligent cause because they're well-ordered and complex — as an alternative to the theory of evolution. But the language favored by the board comes from intelligent design advocates who challenge the theory of evolution.

Tuesday's debate exemplified the divisiveness of the issue, with moderates saying religion has no place in the science classroom.

"When mainstream science accepts this, we can put them in science classes," said board member Janet Waugh, of Kansas City, who voted against the standards.

And, as CBS News Wichita affiliate KWCH reports, some of the state board members said they don't think the debate has a place in the school board, either.

"This whole debate is out of place. The debate of what should go in these standards shouldn't be taking place, here in a policy setting," said school board member Bill Wagnon.

Fellow member John Bacon disagreed.

"These are public schools funded by public dollars, and public children attend them, and so I think this debate does belong here," Bacon said.

President Bush seems to believe the debate is a worthwhile. During an Aug. 1 round-table interview with reporters from five Texas newspapers, Mr. Bush declined to go into detail on his personal views of the origin of life. But he said students should learn about both theories, Knight Ridder Newspapers reported.

"I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," Mr. Bush said. "You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes."

The standards are used in developing state tests for fourth, seventh and 10th-graders, though local schools have the final say on what is taught in their classrooms. Students will be tested on the new standards in the 2007-08 school year.

In May, scientists boycotted the school board debate. The boycott was led by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Kansas Citizens for Science, which believe the hearings are rigged against the teaching of evolution.

Scientists said they don't see the need to cram their arguments into a few days of testimony, like out-of-state witnesses who were called by advocates of the "intelligent design" theory.

This latest version of the science standards is being sent to a Denver-based education think tank for external review, which is routine whenever the board alters school standards, the Kansas City Star reports.

The review, which is expected to cost more than $20,000, should last about a month.

A final vote could come as early as next month, though board members say October or November is more likely.