Scientists Boycott Kansas Evolution Hearings

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Scientists have refused to participate in state Board of Education hearings this past week on how the theory of evolution (search) should be treated in public schools, but they haven't exactly been silent.

About a dozen scientists, most from Kansas universities, spoke each day at news conferences after evolution critics testified before a board subcommittee. They expect to continue speaking out as the hearings wrap up on Thursday.

"They're in, they do their shtick, and they're out," said Keith Miller, a Kansas State University (search) geologist. "I'm going to be here, and I'm not going to be quiet. We'll have the rest of our lives to make our points."

The scientists' boycott was led by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (search) and Kansas Citizens for Science (search), which believe the hearings are rigged against the teaching of evolution.

Scientists said they don't see the need to cram their arguments into a few days of testimony, like out-of-state witnesses who were called by advocates of the "intelligent design" (search) theory.

But the boycott has frustrated board members who viewed their hearings as an educational forum.

"I am profoundly disappointed that they've chosen to present their case in the shadows," board member Connie Morris said. "I would have enjoyed hearing what they have to say in a professional, ethical manner."

The theory of evolution says that changes in species can lead to new species, and that different species, including man and apes, have common ancestors. Intelligent design advocates contend the universe is so complex it must have been created by a higher power.

In 1999, the board deleted most references to evolution in the science standards. But standards were adopted later to include evolution as a key education concept.

The state board's standards determine what is on statewide tests, but local school boards decide what is actually taught and which textbooks are used. The state board plans to consider changes to its standards this summer.

Leaders of the science groups said the three subcommittee members already have decided to support language backed by intelligent design advocates. All three are part of a conservative board majority receptive to criticism of evolution.