Mark Twain once observed that God made idiots for practice, then he made school boards. Tell me about it. I am from Kansas.

The recent decision by the Kansas State School Board to take an eraser to the past 100 years of biology is more dangerous than silly, although it is both ["Creationism Evolves," front page, Aug. 8].

As I understand it, the case against evolution is that it is just a theory. It is a theory that is not yet proven, in the same way that the earth was not really round until somebody got up in the sky and saw that it was so.

But I remember learning in my Kansas high school science class that theories are what lead to proof. They were the road signs by which scientists steer their inquires. I learned all this (and how we knew the world was round) in the late '50s at Shawnee-Mission High School, a Kansas school that was at the time being praised to the heavens by none other than James B. Conant, the president of Harvard.

I remember being rather proud of my school and proud of my learning. And I remember being pleased to learn that the door against gaining knowledge was not completely shut by "proofs." There were many theories yet to study, and therein was the great pleasure for those among my classmates who wanted to be scientists.

It is not that Kansas has gone backward in its idiotic declaration, but that it has stopped students from learning, from considering possibilities. If evolution has not been "proven" by August of 1999 in Topeka, Kan., then let's put an end to the matter. Let them inquire into the subject in remote centers of learning such as Boston or Paris or Athens, but in Kansas, the book is closed. Don't even think about it. At least not in a public school. That is what is dangerous.

ROBERT DAY

Dordogne, France

The recent article on evolution sidestepped two basic questions that evolution must answer to be considered true science:

First, how did life come into existence?

The long-established law of biogenesis says that life arises only from life. Although evolutionists acknowledge that life is not eternal but rather had a beginning some billions of years ago on earth, their attempts to explain how it happened contradict the law of biogenesis.

Second, why does life exist in all of the various forms that we now have?

With the knowledge of DNA and the laws of genetics, we know that no mechanism exists for any species to give birth to a life form that is superior or more sophisticated than itself. Why then do the proponents of evolution suggest that the life now on earth evolved from lower life forms?

It is difficult for me to respect a theory that requires me to suspend belief in proven scientific laws. That just doesn't seem like good science. I see no shame in admitting that science alone cannot answer the profound questions of life and its origin.

DANIEL P. McKIM

Springfield

I am compelled to respond to the article, "Creationism Evolves."

Some years ago, I founded a high-tech company in this area. Will my company be required to hire someone who graduated from a school that taught creationism?

Evolution is a fact every bit as valid as transistors, passenger jets and antibiotics. Why can creationists believe that the scientific method applies everywhere except to the evolution of living things? If education is the key, perhaps more people should be learning and applying the astounding discoveries that are now taking place all across science.

Religion has been proven wrong at every turn since scientists began freeing themselves from religious dogma 400 years ago. Despite that, some people still insist upon imposing this dogma upon us.

Why do they insist upon obtaining technology from the Bible? Science enables human endeavor. We need enlightened morality and ethics from religion, not competition for technology.

THOMAS D. HURT

Chantilly

As an evolutionary biologist, I found the recent article on creationism fascinating. But it perpetuated a misconception. Evolution is the study of differences that arise between the ancestors and descendents of organisms -- primarily genetic changes that manifest themselves in the physical appearance, physiology or behavior. Thus defined, evolution is a fact, not a theory. Organisms do change.

The article perpetuated the widespread belief that studying evolution is equivalent to studying the origin of life, when in fact, only a minority of evolutionary research is devoted to that study. Many more people are concerned with understanding the processes that underlie evolution and that can be observed today -- for example, studying how and why diseases are evolving resistance to our antibiotics.

Reporter Hanna Rosin was wrong in saying that scientists acknowledge that evolution cannot be witnessed in the lab; evolution is often studied and documented in laboratory organisms. Lin Chao at the University of Maryland performed elegant experiments to distinguish between alternative evolutionary processes in bacterial strains -- and all of the evolution took place in his lab.

The evolution of pesticide resistance in insects is measured and documented by evolutionary biologists in agricultural and chemical firms. Natural selection has been measured in the field on traits ranging from mimicry in butterflies to immune genetics in mice. Evolution is not a hypothetical science.

To have a meaningful discussion of how and where to teach evolution and creationism, we need to start by discussing what evolution and scientific inquiry are and what they are not.

Evolutionary biologists have no more business talking about God in our classrooms than our pastors have preaching population genetics.

JOHN DUMBACHER

Washington