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Has the Tide Turned in the Battle Over Evolution?

DANIEL SCHORR reporting:

Maybe the hot weather has something to do with it.

LIANE HANSEN, host:

NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.

DANIEL SCHORR reporting:

The turn-out was very low in the Kansas primary last Tuesday. But maybe the low turn-out indicated that the tide had turned in a battle over evolution that has attracted attention to Kansas from all over the country.

It's like this. A year ago the Kansas Board of Education adopted science standards that played down the theory of evolution and pulled up the idea of intelligent design, which is a pseudonym for creationism, which is the religious concept that the world didn't just develop over the ages, it had to be created. So there had to be a creator. Get it? The guidelines were scheduled to go into effect next year.

But then came the primary election, which promised to change the balance on the board and turn out the conservative majority that had enacted the anti-evolution guidelines. In the general election next November, the moderates are expected to emerge with a six to four majority. And you can also expect that the state science standards will be going back to the drawing board.

One of the winning moderates is Jane Shaver(ph), a teacher and a college trustee. She said we need to bring the discussion back to educational issues and not continue focusing on hot-button issues. Well, the evolutionists may have won one battle, but they haven't won the war.

In 1999 a Kansas education board dominated by conservatives expunged not only evolution but the Big Bang theory from the state's science curriculum. A recent book was titled: What's the Matter with Kansas? It may seem weird that with a large part of the world threatened with going up in flames, ideologues in Kansas are fighting to dictate standards for teaching where the world came from. But the tide may be shifting, and Darwin may yet make it back into the schools.

This is Daniel Schorr. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Schorr
Daniel Schorr passed away on Friday, July 23, 2010. See an obituary, photo gallery and an archive of Schorr's commentaries for NPR.