The Kansas Board of Education yesterday endorsed science standards that could allow for the teaching of alternatives to evolutionary theory. Scientists say the new draft standards are a thinly disguised attempt to slip intelligent design (ID) into the science curriculum.
The 6-to-4 vote marks the latest skirmish in a long-running battle that has attracted national attention. The new standards follow 6 days of hearings in May that were boycotted by scientific organizations on the grounds that the board was simply trying to confer scientific legitimacy to ID. The hearings were scheduled after an advisory panel set up by the board to revise the standards voted against including alternatives to evolution. The board will adopt the standards in the fall after they have undergone an external review.
The document accepted by the board calls for students "to learn about the best evidence for modern evolutionary theory, but also to learn about areas where scientists are raising scientific criticisms of the theory." Referring to the May hearings (ScienceNOW, 22 April), the draft notes that "the Board has heard credible scientific testimony that indeed there are significant debates about the evidence for key aspects of chemical and biological evolutionary theory." Although the standards do not mention ID--the idea that some features of living systems are best explained by an intelligent cause--the draft "is littered with language that is routinely used by intelligent design advocates," says Steven Case, committee chair and a biologist at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.
The standards also would revise the definition of science from an activity seeking "natural explanations" for observed phenomena to a method of using "observations, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena." The new definition opens the door to supernatural explanations, says Case.