Back in November 2005, a 6-4 majority of Republicans on the Kansas State Board of Education inserted pro-IDC language into the state’s science standards, going so far as to even write a definition of science to include supernatural explanations for phenomena. (For some background, I wrote earlier about this when I was asked to testify at hearings in Kansas in May 2005 that were being boycotted by the scientific community.)
The standards state that high school students must understand major evolutionary concepts. But they also declare that some concepts have been challenged in recent years by fossil evidence and molecular biology.
The challenged concepts cited include the basic Darwinian theory that all life had a common origin and the theory that natural chemical processes created the building blocks of life.
In addition, the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena.
But yesterday, that policy received a setback in primary elections when two seats of that six-person majority group went to Republicans who opposed what their party colleagues had done.
Moderate Republicans scored key primary victories in State Board of education races, wrestling control from conservatives in a battle shaped by the debate over the teaching of evolution.
Conservative Republicans began Tuesday with a 6-4 board majority. However, one of their incumbents lost, and a pro-evolution moderate won the GOP nomination for a seat held by a retiring conservative.
The results left only four board members who voted last year to adopt science standards that questioned the validity of evolutionary theory.
In one of the most watched races on the ballot, Sally Cauble, of Liberal, defeated anti-evolution incumbent Connie Morris, of St. Francis. With 99 percent of the precincts reporting early Wednesday, Cauble held a 54 percent to 46 percent lead in the 5th District, which covers 41 western counties.
Morris, a former teacher, has described evolution as “an age-old fairy tale” and “a nice bedtime story” unsupported by science. She also had drawn criticism for her outspokenness on teaching children of immigrants and sex education. [For more on the colorful Morris, see here.]
Pro-evolution candidate Jana Shaver, an Independence Republican, defeated conservative Brad Patzer of Neodesha, who supported the new standards. Patzer is the son-in-law of incumbent Iris Van Meter, of Thayer, who is not seeking re-election. Shaver won 58 percent of the vote, to 42 percent for Patzer.
Two other conservatives fared better, but face challenges in November, where victories by Democrats could leave the conservative bloc with just two members.
This is the latest domino that has fallen since the Dover, PA court decision, driving the IDC forces back even more. I wrote about these Dover dominoes back in May 2006.
I had thought that the Kansas issue would also end up in the courts. But it seems like the voters have decided to pull the plug first. If the new board in November reverses itself and removes the pro-IDC language, then the people of Kansas will have saved themselves a long and probably losing court battle. I am not sure what the IDC forces will do now. One of their chief architects, law Professor Phillip Johnson of Berkeley, in an interview given after the Dover decision, sounded discouraged:
“I think the fat lady has sung for any efforts to change the approach in the public schools. . .the courts are just not going to allow it. They never have. The efforts to change things in the public schools generate more powerful opposition than accomplish anything. . .I don’t think that means the end of the issue at all.” “In some respects,” he later goes on, “I’m almost relieved, and glad. I think the issue is properly settled. It’s clear to me now that the public schools are not going to change their line in my lifetime.”
It is clear that he thinks the battle had a better chance of being won in the court of public opinion, rather than in the courts of law. But the Kansas primary results are an ominous sign that the tide may be turning there too.
POST SCRIPT: The terrorists have won
The congressional cafeterias on Capitol Hill have quietly gone back to calling them “French fries” and “French toast.” Those congressional superpatriots who felt that they had struck a decisive blow against Islamojihadifascistiterrorism by renaming them “Freedom fries” and “freedom toast” were strangely unavailable to comment on why they had made such a major retreat.