Voters came down hard Tuesday on Dover, Pa., school board members who ordered a statement on intelligent design read in biology class, ousting eight Republicans and replacing them with Democrats who want the concept stripped from the science curriculum.
The election unfolded amid a landmark federal trial involving the Dover public schools and the question of whether intelligent design promotes the Bible's view of creation. Eight Dover families sued, saying it violates the constitutional separation of church and state.
Dover is about 20 miles south of Harrisburg, the state capital.
A similar controversy has erupted in Kansas, where the state Board of Education on Tuesday approved science standards for public schools that cast doubt on the theory of evolution. The 6-4 vote was a victory for intelligent design advocates who helped draft the standards.
The standards cast doubt on Darwinism and redefine the word "science" so that it's not limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena.
"We can have an opportunity to have critical analysis of evolution. Prior, it was taught as dogma," Kansas School Board chairman Dr. Steve Abrahms told CBS affiliate KWCH.
"I'm very saddened by the fact that Kansas is, frankly, being mocked, when in fact we have one of the most outstanding educational systems in the United States, but yet, by doing things like this, we are simply looked at, quite frankly, as yokels," board member Janet Waugh told CBS Radio News.
Dover's school board adopted a policy in October 2004 that requires ninth-graders to hear a prepared statement about intelligent design before learning about evolution in biology class.
Eight of the nine school board members were up for election Tuesday. They were challenged by a slate of Democrats who argued that science class was not the appropriate forum for teaching intelligent design.
"My kids believe in God. I believe in God. But I don't think it belongs in the science curriculum the way the school district is presenting it," said Jill Reiter, 41, a bank teller who joined a group of high school students waving signs supporting the challengers Tuesday.
A spokesman for the winning slate of candidates has said they wouldn't act hastily and would consider the outcome of the court case. The judge expects to rule by January; the new school board members will be sworn in Dec. 5.
School board member David Napierskie, who lost Tuesday, said the vote wasn't just about ideology.
"Some people felt intelligent design shouldn't be taught and others were concerned about having tax money spent on the lawsuit," he said.
Intelligent design holds that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by some kind of higher force. The statement read to students says Charles Darwin's theory is "not a fact" and has inexplicable "gaps."
Critics say intelligent design is merely creationism — a literal reading of the Bible's story of creation — camouflaged in scientific language, and it does not belong in a science curriculum. They worry that the Kansas vote will encourage attacks on evolution in other states.
"They are not conducive to good education in the state of Kansas, and it sets a very bad precedent for other states which will be revising their standards in the coming years," Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, Calif., told CBS Radio News. "We can predict this fight happening elsewhere."