Evolution attackers lose grip on power

The reign of fundamentalist Christian opponents of evolution over Kansas schools is over - for now, at least.

Two of the conservative Republicans who last year crafted new state standards for science teaching that were widely seen as the most sweeping assault yet on evolution in schools, were swept from office in elections last week.

The results handed the balance of power on Kansas's State Board of Education to political moderates who consider a grounding in evolution essential to pupils' scientific literacy. They have vowed to revoke the standards imposed by the religious right.

Those ousted included Connie Morris, who in a public newsletter last year referred to the "age-old fairytale of evolution", calling it "biologically, genetically, mathematically, chemically, metaphysically... utterly impossible".

Democrat board member Bill Wagnon said rescinding the standards, which caused uproar among scientists and teachers, was a high priority. The standards direct teachers to identify supposed flaws in evolution and redefine science in a way experts have said opens the door to "supernatural" explanations.

The evolution controversy made last week's election uncharacteristically lively, as it took place in a glare of publicity with candidates sporting campaign war chests, Mr Wagnon said. But he warned that the pendulum could easily swing back to creationists in future elections.

Last week's poll is just the latest instalment in a saga dating back to 1998, in which creationists have alternated with mainstream party representatives for control of the board.

"It's only when extreme behaviour is exhibited that the public wakes up and pays attention," added Mr Wagnon.

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