The Kansas Board of Education rejected evolution as a scientific principle today, dealing a victory to religious conservatives who are increasingly challenging science education in U.S. schools.
The 10-member board, ignoring pleas by educators and established scientists, voted 6 to 4 to embrace new standards for science curricula that eliminate evolution as an underlying principle of biology and other sciences.
"Evolution has been removed," board member Janet Waugh, who opposed the new standard, said in a packed conference room near the state capitol. "Instead of Kansas's curriculum having more and more credibility, it will have less and less."
The board voted on a modified version of curricula guidelines for grades kindergarten through high school that eliminates evolution as a way to describe the emergence of new species--for instance the evolution of primates into homo sapiens--while leaving intact references to "microevolution," or changes that occur within a single species.
Prior to Wednesday's vote, the presidents and chancellors of Kansas's six public universities wrote a letter saying that the new standards "will set Kansas back a century and give hard-to-find science teachers no choice but to pursue other career fields or assignments outside of Kansas."
Banning the teaching of evolution from the classroom gave conservative forces a victory after previous attempts to eliminate evolution in public schools in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia and Nebraska.
Religious groups have argued that evolution cannot be proven, and some feel that evolution is not in accordance with Biblical teachings regarding the origins of life.
Teaching evolution misleads students, said Tom Willis, director of the Creation Science Association for Mid-America, which helped write Kansas's curriculum proposal.
"It's deception," Willis said prior to the vote. "You can't go into the laboratory or the field and make the first fish. When you tell students that science has determined [evolution to be true], you're deceiving them."
Kansas Gov. Bill Graves (R) warned board members not to adopt the anti-evolution curricula, and has said he would support an effort to abolish the Board of Education.
Prior attempts by religious groups to include "creation science," or creationism, in school curricula included a failed attempt in Arkansas to require that it be taught alongside evolution.
In 1982, an Arkansas federal judge overturned the law, ruling that it violated the constitutional clause barring the establishment of religion by the state. He said that creation science was not a valid science, had no secular educational purpose, but served only to promote religion. A similar law in Louisiana was struck down later the same year.