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Scientists Mull Kansas Boycott After Anti-Evolution Decision

by Samuel J. Scott

Proposals even include calling for universities not to accept Kansas students
(AR) -- Some members of the scientific community and academia have proposed an "intellectual boycott" of Kansas following the decision of the state's Board of Education to ban the teaching of evolution there.

The major proposals being circulated for the boycott are for scientists and teachers to refuse to work in the state, for scientific groups and societies not to hold conventions there and even for universities not to admit students from Kansas.

Ecologist Tiffany M. Doan suggested some of the ideas in a post to a respected Internet mailing list, Ecolog-L, for those in the life sciences and academia.

"I know that I will never plan on working in Kansas in the future and I suggest that we keep the scientific meetings in states that believe in scientific progress instead of returning to the Dark Ages," she said. "Science and religion are not related."

But some on the list disagreed with that proposal. "If biological educators choose not to take jobs in Kansas and scientific societies refuse to hold meetings there, creationists will simply pat themselves on the back and congratulate each other on a hard-won victory," Princeton University professor Leila Hadj-Chikh said. "I think what is called for is more education in Kansas, not less."

"Most Christian religions do not have a problem with evolution"
Diane Bachman, an insurance company cost-containment coordinator who does not believe in evolution, also thought the idea would not work.

"Everyone has to work. Everyone has to have an income. Teachers are not going to move out and take jobs elsewhere, it's unrealistic," she told The American Reporter.

Oregon State University professor Dr. Reed F. Noss said that a boycott could be effective.

"Like it or not, money is what people pay attention to," he said. "The people of Kansas will demand a change in the law if a sweeping boycott begins to affect them economically."

One professor chastised the group for their idea.

"A handful of people have made a decision you do not agree with, and for this you would isolate nearly three million other citizens of the state, whose talents and convictions you cannot know," J. M. Aguiar of Texas A&M University said. "We should relish honor the peacemakers, not those who relish the fight."

After listening to the arguments for and against the proposal, one educator thought it was time to focus on the politics of the issue.

"I'm no politician but I've sent emails to every politician I can think of decrying the need for reason on this issue," University of Alabama professor Steven K. Reynolds said. "We should all do likewise."

Mike Conroy of the University of Georgia felt that the Kansas Board of Education was allowing itself to be manipulated by an extreme faction of the Christian religion.

"It might help if some of the mainstream religious denominations reminded people that most Christian religions do not have a problem with evolution and quit letting the fringe-fundamentalist, Bible-literalists set the agenda," he said.

Reynolds tried to bring moderation into the debate, suggesting a way by which fundamentalist Christianity and evolution could both be accurate.

"The insistence on the literal interpretation of [Bible Book and chapter] Genesis 1 closes many minds," he said. "It seems odd that these people cannot accept an omnipotent being simultaneously creating the world and a process of evolution," he continued, adding that most numbers, time spans and other such details in religious books such as the Bible should be treated as allegories and not as facts.

About the Board decision
The Kansas Board voted 6-4 on Aug. 11 to remove the teaching of evolution from public schools. In months leading to the vote, scores of people testified on both sides of the issue, according to the Wichita Kansas Eagle.

Early in August, three Board members removed the recommendations of an expert panel that stated knowledge of evolution is part of a basic understanding of science. In its place, the Board members dropped most references to evolution and proposed that the decision of teaching evolution be left to the decision of the local school board. Science advocates argued that this was tantamount to endorsing creationism, since the local officials will probably be subject to intense pressure from Christian fundamentalists.

During the Board's discussion last Wednesday, moderates said that the proposal was being forced upon them without an opportunity for debate, according to the Wichita newspaper. When Board member Janet Waugh asked to seek the opinion of the science experts, the Board chairperson refused to give permission.

"Instead of Kansas' curriculum having more and more credibility, it will have less and less," Board member Waugh said at a press conference following the vote. The new curriculum removes evolution as the method by which to explain the appearance of new species of plants and animals but does not change references to "microevolution," changes which occur within a species.

Kansas Republican Gov. Bill Graves cautioned the Board against adopting the anti-evolution policy, and has said he would support any efforts to abolish the Board of Education. He issued a one-sentence statement: "This is a terrible, tragic, embarrassing solution to a problem that did not exist."

Conservative religious groups have attempted to modify the teaching of evolution in several states. In Arkansas, the state's Board of Education tried to require that "creation science," or Creationism, be taught along with evolution in the classroom. A federal judge in Arkansas overturned the law, saying it violated a clause in the First Amendment forbidding an establishment of religion by the government. In Louisiana, another judge struck down a similar law.

Religious groups have also unsuccessfully tried to ban evolution in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia and Nebraska.

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Albion Monitor August 18, 1999 (

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