A Dec. 1 news story put Oklahoma in the debate about evolution and creationism ["Oklahoma's Divisive Disclaimer on Evolution"]. I'm not an expert on the origin of mankind, but I can set the record straight on how I feel about an evolution disclaimer crafted by the Oklahoma State Textbook Committee.

I believe that the theory of macro-evolution and religious belief of creationism can coexist in harmony and that a meaningful education means exploring a number of views surrounding how mankind began.

Some of my critics have alleged that I have disavowed evolution and endorsed the teaching of creationism in public schools. Not so. I believe mankind likely did evolve from a lesser species, but that God infused him with a soul once he walked erect. I also believe that the textbook committee produced a thoughtful and sensitively worded message.

Although macro-evolution is widely accepted in many scientific circles, it is a theory and not scientific law. And for many, macro-evolution is not simply a theory they believe is wrong; it actually repudiates their faith.

Perhaps it would be valuable for opponents of the textbook committee's action to reflect on what the disclaimer means. Its message is a far cry from what Louisiana lawmakers attempted in the 1980s when they tried to prohibit the teaching of evolution unless it was accompanied by instruction on "creation science." The Supreme Court struck down that statute, and rightfully so.

FRANK KEATING

Governor of Oklahoma

Oklahoma City

Evolution is widely acknowledged as a veritable scientific phenomenon. However, when humans are placed in the evolutionary continuum, evolution often becomes the subject of bristling controversy. This controversy, despite the presence of fossils that unambiguously indicate that our lineage evolved from primitive species, is disheartening.

In the United States, much of the contention emanates from the devoutly religious old liners of the Bible Belt. Unfortunately, in these dissenting areas, decisions regarding whether evolution should be taught as part of the public school curriculum seem to be guided more by striving to appeal to certain fundamentalist groups than by sound reasoning.

The imbroglio caused by the Kansas school board's absurd decision to exclude the teaching of evolution in public schools -- which undoubtedly fomented the Oklahoma State Textbook Committee's decision to require misleading disclaimers describing evolution as an "unproven belief" in standard biology textbooks -- demonstrates the need for federally imposed curriculum standards. Without such safeguards, sweeping curriculum changes -- and, consequently, the preparedness of American students -- will be susceptible to the caprices of minority factions.

America cannot retain its position at the vanguard of the worldwide scientific community if citizens have the authority to establish educational standards that foolishly impugn valid scientific theory.

FRANCOIS KIPER

Alexandria