Evolution and the Kansas State School System Primary Source eText

Primary Source

A Shawnee Mission West High School science teacher reviews an upcoming test with his Biology II honors students in October 1999. The Shawnee Mission school district opted out of the Kansas guidelines omitting the theory of evolution from state science sta A Shawnee Mission West High School science teacher reviews an upcoming test with his Biology II honors students in October 1999. The Shawnee Mission school district opted out of the Kansas guidelines omitting the theory of evolution from state science standards. AP/WIDE WORLD PHOTOS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION. Published by Gale Cengage AP/WIDE WORLD PHOTOS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION.

Kansas State Board of Education Meeting Minutes

Meeting minutes

By: Kansas Board of Education

Date: August 11, 1999

Source: Kansas State Department of Education. Kansas State Board of Education Meeting Minutes, August 11, 1999. Available online at (accessed April 29, 2003).

About the Organization: The Kansas State Board of Education oversaw public educational standards in the state of Kansas. The board met periodically to discuss issues in education and to approve changes to the curriculum. The board was charged with providing leadership for the state educational institutions while still acknowledging the importance of local control.

"Evolution Is Science"


By: Dr. Douglas Ruden; Dr. Paulyn Cartwright; and Dr. Bruce Lieberman

Date: July 1, 1999

Source: Ruden, Dr. Douglas, Dr. Paulyn Cartwright, and Dr. Bruce Lieberman. "Evolution Is Science." Topeka Capital Journal, July 1, 1999. Available online at http://www.cjonline.com/stories/070199/opi_letters30.shtml; website home page: http://www.cjonline.com (accessed May 5, 2003).

"Room for All Science"


By: Larry Bowden

Date: August 30, 1999

Source: Bowden, Larry. "Room for All Science." Topeka Capital Journal, August 30, 1999. Available online at http://www.cjonline.com/stories/083099/opi_letters30.shtml; website home page: http://www.cjonline.com (accessed May 5, 2003).


In 1998 the Kansas State Board of Education formed a committee to revise the Kansas Science Education Standards. This committee consisted of teachers, science educators, and scientists. Open forums were held and the draft curriculum update, which had gained approval from national science organizations, was forwarded to the board for examination. The plan that was presented to the board was not significantly different from the one in place at the time. The draft was based on the standards published by the National Research Council, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Science Teachers Association, according to Dr. Loren Lutes, the co-chair of the Kansas Board of Education's Science Standards.

At the board's August 11, 1999, meeting, the opposition was prepared with an alternative plan. Three members of the board—Celtie Johnson, Linda Hollaway, and Steve Abrams—composed the alternative plan, which included fifty changes to the draft plan. Among them was the removal of macroevolution from the state's science standards in favor of a literal interpretation of the biblical story of creation.

A nationwide debate resulted after the board voted 6 to 4 to remove references to evolution from the state standards. The board minutes reflect the discussion that took place in which some of the board members asked for further discussion but others wanted an immediate vote. The Topeka Capital Journal printed a number of letters from both sides of the argument, reflecting that the citizens of the state were divided on the issue.


The debate over teaching evolution versus teaching creationism was not new. The Scopes Monkey Trial in the 1920s was a political battle as well as one of religion and First Amendment rights. The Kansas decision sparked debate over the role of religion in the schools and fueled opponents of the teaching of evolution across the country to seek similar actions in their states. Despite national movements, such as Project 2061, to strengthen the science curriculum and assure that all students reached a level of scientific literacy to provide knowledge for the twenty-first century, Kansas seemed to be taking a step backwards and similar controversies arose in Oklahoma, Illinois, Ohio, Arizona, and New Mexico. Essays and letters to the editor appeared not only in Kansas newspapers but also in the major daily U.S. papers and in science and education journals.

Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, wrote that "even though the Supreme Court has ruled that teaching creationism and creation 'science' are unconstitutional, we still get calls from parents, teachers, or school board members asking whether some impending resolution in their district requiring 'equal time' for creationism is appropriate." She goes on to explain that many districts violate the Constitution by teaching creationism and that the sentiment of the public seems to approve of this move.

The conservative school board members in Kansas overruled the moderate members, and what followed for Kansas was more than a year of negative publicity nationally and even internationally. Two of the board members, including Linda Hollaway, the board chair, were defeated in primaries held in August 2000. The third member who supported the alternative plan resigned. With a new board in place, the Kansas State Board of Education restored evolution to the standards on February 14, 2001.

Primary Source: Kansas State Board of Education Meeting Minutes [excerpt]

SYNOPSIS: The decision about removing the teaching of evolution from the public school curriculum in Kansas ignited debate over values, teaching, and science. The Kansas State Board of Education faced national scrutiny following the decision to delete evolution from the curriculum.

Science Education Standards

Dr. John Staver, Co-Chair of the Science Standards writing committee, recognized committee members who were present and asked Dr. Loren Lutes, Co-Chair of the Committee, to report on the latest update of the Kansas science education standards. Dr. Lutes indicated the committee had met in May and June in open public session and the result was the Fifth Draft of the Kansas Science Standards which the committee recommended be adopted. He indicated the standards in their current form had the support of the Kansas Association of Teachers of Science, Kansas Association of School Superintendents, Unified School Administrators, KNEA, the Governor and the Regents presidents and had been reviewed and supported by outside evaluators and national science organizations. He indicated the high level of support was due to the fact the standards were based on national standards and the 1992 and 1995 Kansas standards. He indicated they had been scrutinized in every school building across the state and by citizens in a series of public hearings and that every oral or written comment had been considered. He further indicated that the standards had 100% support of the science standards writing committee and that no minority report had been proposed. He added that the committee was ready to provide leadership for inservice training, workshops and conferences for teachers and to assist in the development of testing strategies and writing assessment items. Dr. Lutes also stated the committee could not support the compromise standards being proposed which had made fifty significant changes to the committee's work, indicating that it was incomplete in its treatment of science

and unacceptable with the near deletion of standards relating to the theory of origins and the removal of many assessment items. Dr. Staver handed out a chart of the changes that the writing committee had made in light of comments from the public and Board members. He indicated that the writing committee's standards were strongly based on and text was used from standards published by the National Research Council, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Science Teachers Association, and those organizations would need to review the whole text of whatever document was approved before allowing text from their standards to be incorporated. He recommended that whichever set of standards were adopted be examined very carefully by the Attorney General and the Board attorney in light of any potential legal problem. He also stated that of the members of the committee who had responded to communication from him, a little more than 50%, all asked that their names be removed from the document if the compromise standards were adopted. He indicated the committee also wished to have the dedication replaced with one of the Board's own if the alternative standards were adopted. Dr. Staver closed his presentation by reading the Roman Catholic Church's official position statement on evolution, written by Pope John Paul II.

Mr. Hill offered a substitute motion, that the State Board approve Kansas Curricular Standards for Science as recommended by the State Board Subcommittee with the following changes:

Page 6, paragraph 1, sentence 2: change shall to should;

Page 6, paragraph 2, sentence 3: change shall to should;

Page 6, paragraph 2, sentence 3: change censured to censored;

Page 8 and 9: change items starting at Science as Inquiry through the History and Nature of Science to bulleted items under the heading Standards on page 8;

Page 36, Indicator 4: change to read "Suggest alternative scientific hypotheses or theories to current scientific hypotheses or theories;

Page 90: eliminate paragraphs 2, 3 and 4;

Page 91: eliminate paragraphs 1-4

Page 90 & 91-92: move the remaining language to Appendix 1 under Falsification on page 87; Remove all assessment flags throughout the document and refer to staff for recommendations on assessment items.

Dr. Abrams seconded the motion. Discussion followed.

Dr. Wagnon stated he could not support the substitute motion. He stated for individual board members to arrogate to themselves the responsibility of rewriting the proposal of the field committee appeared to do a great disservice to the relationship the Board should have with the field across the state. He noted that the Board depends heavily on volunteers from the field to spend countless hours on research at the Board's request to bring to the Board recommendations for a wide variety of issues. He stated his belief that when reports from the field do not conform to predetermined expectations it undermines the credibility of the Board's request to the field. He indicated that it was important in fulfilling its duty of general supervision for the Board to maintain a working relationship with the field and that to rewrite the standards based on a particular agenda reflecting the personal beliefs of a few members of the Board was doing a great disservice to that relationship. He further stated his concern about the changes the subcommittee had made to the standards and their effect on the quality of the holistic document. He indicated that to pick and choose certain items in life science and earth science to remove from the standards and to change the nature of science, left the students of the state with academic expectations that had been dumbed down. He stated that the result was a document that was fatally flawed and he could not support the substitute motion. Mrs. DeFever, reading from a prepared statement, stated that though she had been able to follow the changes made in the writing committee's Fifth Draft, she had been unable to clearly follow all the changes that had been made by the subcommittee. She indicated that if another committee had submitted a set of standards in a similar form, Board members would require a final cleaned-up draft before considering taking a final vote. Mrs. DeFever questioned the qualifications of the three-Board-member subcommittee to do an adequate job of rewriting the science standards and stated she was skeptical how the alterations done by them had affected the standards. She indicated she was not sure what the implications of the changes had in the realm of real science and she was unable to support the subcommittee's document.

Chairman Holloway stated her firm support of the subcommittee's proposal. She then called for a vote on the substitute motion, with six Board members voting in favor and the subcommittee's proposal was adopted. Those who did not vote in favor were Mrs. DeFever, Mr. Rundell, Dr. Wagnon and Mrs. Waugh.

Primary Source: "Evolution Is Science"

SYNOPSIS: Opinions in Kansas on the teaching of evolution in the schools were divided. In this letter to the editor of the Topeka Capital Journal, three scientists at the University of Kansas defend evolutionary theory.

We would like to respond to some of the lies that creationists such as Klint Kegel, in his June 11 letter to the editor, have been recycling in their attack on evolution. In his letter, Mr. Kegel claims that "Since Darwin presented his theory 160 years ago, scientists have been trying to find any shred of evidence to support the theory (of macroevolution) and in all this time they have not found even one example."

"Macroevolution" means that a species of animal is split into two populations of animals which cannot form fertile offspring. It has been known for over 50 years that species often come into existence when their chromosome number changes. In fact, scientists, including one of us (Douglas Ruden), have generated hundreds of new species of the fruit fly by such means. This is evidence that speciation, or "macroevolution" as Mr. Kegel refers to it, is continuing to this day.

The second lie that we will correct is Mr. Kegel's claim that "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" has no scientific basis. This was an idea developed by Ernst Haeckel in the 19th century that means "the development of an organism resembles the evolution of that organism." One of us (Paulyn Cartwright) is an evolutionary developmental biologist. While Haeckel's theory, that human development can be seen to pass through stages like those of adult stages of more primitive species, is not generally accepted by modern biologists, it is still discussed because of the important principles it implies.

Haeckel realized that clues about evolution can be found by studying the development of organisms. Even today, studies of development play an important role in evolutionary biology. For instance, in the past decade many genes that control development have been found in different organisms. Across animals as different as humans and flies, such genes function in the same way.

Finally, Mr. Kegel argued that although microevolution has been amply demonstrated, macro-evolution has no factual basis. One of us (Bruce Lieberman) is a paleontologist in the Department of Geology at the University of Kansas who studies macroevolution in the fossil record, and can explain that nothing is further from the truth. There are several scientific journals and books devoted to the study of macroevolution in the fossil record, and it is an active area of research. Over the past 140 years paleontologists studying the fossil record have uncovered numerous examples of evolution in action. Among the most famous of these examples was the 19th century discovery of the fossil Archaeopteryx from 180 million-year-old rocks in Germany. It represents a perfect transitional link between large land animals and birds.

However, there are numerous examples of more recent research that have shown how macroevolution occurs in the fossil record. One involves the Cambrian Explosion. This is an important episode in the history of life when the first animals appeared in the fossil record and started to diversify. Some creationists have suggested that the explosion occurred instantaneously.

It is being actively studied by several paleontologists at KU and elsewhere. These scientists have shown that the different major animal groups evolved over a 20 million year period beginning roughly 550 million years ago.

Regardless of what they can tell us about rates of macroevolution, studies of the Cambrian Explosion do not challenge the existence of God. Many of the scientists who study evolution have strong religious convictions, yet they accept the evidence, as we do, that macroevolution is a confirmed fact, as well documented as the fact that the Earth revolves around the sun.

Primary Source: "Room for All Science"

SYNOPSIS: In this letter to the editor of the Topeka Capital Journalfrom Minister Larry Bowden defends Creation science.

In a land whose people have fought and died for the freedom of speech and thought, the issue over creation science and evolution has brought out the worst in human beings. I am a Christian and a pastor (who is educated with a master's degree). I have also been a part-time substitute teacher in New York State. My wife and I fully support our public schools, administrators and teachers. We are directly involved in our children's education by being involved in positive, constructive ways.

But according to many of your readers who have written, because I believe in creationism, I am extreme and narrow-minded. I am a religious zealot. Creation science is not a religion or a superstition or a mindless extreme viewpoint. It is another explanation of how the universe and the Earth were formed. Creation science and evolution are both theories, because the beginning of the universe and the Earth cannot be duplicated in a laboratory. Science, therefore, is the search for evidence and then the drawing of conclusions.

The same evidence that evolution gives for its theories is strong evidence that our universe was formed out of the mind of a master designer. Both sides of this issue have to accept their beliefs on faith.

Christians look at the universe and marvel at all the complexity and harmony that exists. We encourage the study of science because we see the handiwork of a master designer. There is not a single Christian who wants to go back to the dark ages of medicine based on hocus pocus and scientific superstitions. We believe in an ongoing search for scientific truth.

Christians are not looking to overtake the world and force people to accept our beliefs. We believe that God has given us free will and the ability to think. That seems to be the goal of those who hold dearly to evolution. So what is the problem? Are science teachers and professors so intimidated by creation science that they cannot open their minds to another possibility? Yes, the religious world during Galileo's day condemn his theories. They were wrong. But how many times have scientists believed "facts" and realized they were wrong or condemned theories and they have had to recant?

Further Resources


Ackerman, Paul D., and Bob Williams. Kansas Tornado: The 1999 Science Curriculum Standards Battle. El Cajon, Calif.: Institute for Creation Research, 1999.

Eldredge, Niles. The Triumph of Evolution and the Failure of Creationism. New York: W. H. Freeman, 2000.

Webb, George Ernest. The Evolution Controversy in America. Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky, 1994.


"Evolution Returns to Kansas: Board Supports Science Standards." Skeptical Inquirer, May/June 2001, 6–7.

Fehrenbach, Carolyn R. "A Kansan Reflects on the 1999 Creationism/Evolution Controversy." The Educational Forum 66, Winter 2002, 166–169.

Scott, Eugenia C. "Not (Just) in Kansas Anymore." Science, May 5, 2000, 813, 815.

Stewart, Douglas E., Jr. "Going Back in Time: How the Kansas Board of Education's Removal of Evolution from the State Curriculum Violates the First Amendment's Establishment Clause." Review of Litigation 20, no. 2, Spring 2001, 549–588.


Exploring Constitutional Conflicts: The Evolution Controversy. Available online at http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/evo... ; website home page: http://www.umkc.edu (accessed April 30, 2003).

Rozen, Laura. "Trouble in the Holy City." Salon. Available online at http://www.salon.com/news/feature/1999/09/03/kansas/; website home page: http://www.salon.com (accessed April 30, 2003).