Science

Some Groups to Boycott Kan. Hearings on Evolution

By Sean Cavanagh — April 26, 2005 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

As yet another drama unfolds over the teaching of evolution in Kansas, highlighted this time by a series of upcoming public hearings on the topic, several groups from the mainstream scientific community say they will not participate.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, along with a number of Kansas advocacy organizations, will skip the hearings out of what they say is concern that the sessions will distort the nature of Charles Darwin’s theory—and the study of science itself.

In an April 11 letter, Alan I. Leshner, the chief executive officer of the AAAS, an international organization with headquarters in Washington, declined an invitation from the Kansas education department to take part or provide speakers. The hearings, scheduled for May 5-7, in Topeka, and possibly May 12-14, could mislead the public into thinking that “scientific conclusions are based on expert opinion, rather than on data,” he wrote.

The hearings, he argued, would also falsely promote the idea that religiously based views of life’s origins and development should be discussed in the same forum as evolution, a well-established scientific explanation of how human and other forms of life developed.

“Facts and faith both have the power to improve people’s lives, and they can and do coexist,” Mr. Leshner wrote. “But they should not be pitted against one another in science classrooms.”

Officials of the congressionally chartered National Academy of Sciences had not been contacted by Kansas officials about the meeting as of late last week, said Jay Labov, the senior adviser for education and communication for the National Research Council, the principal operating arm of the NAS. But Mr. Labov echoed Mr. Leshner’s concern that the hearings would put religious beliefs and science in the same forum.

Absence Noted?

Last month, NAS President Bruce Alberts wrote a letter to members of the academy asking for their help in combating attempts to weaken the teaching of evolution. (“Scientists Offer Ground-Level Support for Evolution,” April 6, 2005.)

Al Teich, the director of the AAAS’ science and policy programs, said his organization supported Mr. Alberts’ mission, too, but he doubted it could be served at the Kansas hearings, which are being arranged with “a particular outcome in mind,” he said.

Several Kansas groups that support the teaching of evolution, such as Kansas Citizens for Science, agree. They say the events are being orchestrated by conservative members of the state board. As of last week, 23 individuals believed to favor the inclusion of alternatives to Darwin’s theory in science classes had signed up to speak.

In 1999, Kansas drew worldwide attention when the state school board deleted most references to evolution from the state science standards. That decision was reversed by a new board two years later. But elections last year provided what is believed to be a new, 6-4 majority on the board in favor of offering more critical views of evolution.

The latest controversy emerged when a 26-member committee began a scheduled review of the science standards. The committee produced a draft document that gives full treatment to evolution, but an eight-member minority completed its own, dissenting document. State board members asked for the hearings to examine points of dispute between the two reports.

Robert A. DiSilvestro, a professor of nutrition at Ohio State University, in Columbus, who supports introducing students to alternatives to evolution and plans to speak at the Kansas hearings, said scientists who boycott the events unwittingly help their opposition.

“It’s a bad idea,” he said. The public, he predicted, will say, “ ‘If your ideas are so good, why aren’t you here to defend them?’ ”

Related Tags:

Events

English-Language Learners Webinar The Science of Reading and Multilingual Learners: What Educators Need to Know
Join experts in reading science and multilingual literacy to discuss what the latest research means for multilingual learners in classrooms adopting a science of reading-based approach.
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Get a Strong Start to the New School Year
Get insights and actions from Education Week journalists and expert guests on how to start the new school year on strong footing.
Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Science Opinion How to Meet the Challenges of Teaching Science
Let students write. Let students play. Let students fail. Those are some of the strategies that can bring science to life in classrooms.
5 min read
Illustration of woman using telescope.
iStock/Getty
Science How the Webb Telescope Can Take Students Back a Long Time Ago, to Galaxies Far, Far Away
Educators can use the show-stopping images to teach about astronomy, the scientific method, and how a big project comes together.
5 min read
This image released by NASA on Tuesday, July 12, 2022, shows the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) on the James Webb Space Telescope, this image reveals previously obscured areas of star birth, according to NASA.
This image from the James Webb Space Telescope shows the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region in the Carina Nebula and reveals previously obscured areas of star birth, according to NASA.
NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI via AP
Science What the Research Says Teaching Students to Understand the Uncertainties of Science Could Help Build Public Trust
Scientists want schools to do more to help students appreciate how uncertainty and variation builds scientific knowledge.
5 min read
Photo of teacher answering question from student.
Getty
Science How to Close the STEM Achievement Gap for Indigenous Students: Feature Local Culture
Study examines factors that will positively impact Indigenous students' STEM proficiency.
2 min read
Image shows a young student working on a laptop with a teacher.
E+/Getty