Kansas returns to evolution class

11th August 2000 at 01:00

A YEAR after being internationally derided for banning the teaching of human evolution, three members of the elected school board in the midwestern state of Kansas have been thrown out of office by embarrassed voters.

The three anti-evolution members were defeated by more moderate challengers who have pledged to return evolution to the science curriculum. Evolution will now be reinstated when the new members take office in January.

Last year's widely publicised 6-4 decision effectively discouraged the teaching of evolution in schools as the sole explanation of the origin of the species. It also suppressed the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe in favour of the idea that all creation was the work of God.

The new vote is a reverse for creationists, who maintain that Darwin's theory that the earth is billions of years old and life forms developed over hundreds of millions of years cannot be proven. They believe that the Earth and most life forms came into existence suddenly about 6,000 years ago, as described in the Bible.

he 10-member Kansas school board oversees the state's 304 school districts. All members serve four-year terms, and half face voters every two years.

While many US states have school boards, few are elected. And while the evolution issue has fostered debate in other states, rural, religiously conservative Kansas became the epicentre.

Many Kansans were embarrassed by the controversy. The governor and other high-ranking politicians endorsed the moderate, pro-evolution candidates, and many voters switched parties to ensure that they would win.

One of those defeated blamed "this elite group in Washington", including the respected National Academy of Sciences.

But teachers widely embraced the changes, with one suggesting that the state was "back on the road to reality and sanity".

And in an editorial headlined "Kansas Voters Evolve, Again," the state's biggest newspaper, the Kansas City Star, said, "The evolution vote was the final straw for many voters". Kansans, it said, were "tired of being portrayed as backwater hicks".

Letters, 12

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