Kansas ed candidate defends anti-evolution changes

Kansas ed candidate defends anti-evolution changes
Hays Daily News - 10/22/2008 - original
TOPEKA (AP) -- A conservative Republican seeking re-election to the State Board of Education is defending now-repealed science standards that questioned the validity of evolution.

Kathy Martin, a retired teacher from Clay Center, faces Democrat Christopher Renner, of Manhattan, a consultant, property manager and talk show host who's also held education-related jobs with the state and two Kansas universities.

Martin represents the 6th District, which covers 15 counties and parts of two others in northeast and north-central Kansas.

Martin's first election victory in 2004 gave conservative Republicans a 6-4 board majority for two years. In 2005, the board adopted standards incorporating criticisms of evolution at odds with mainstream science.

Martin told the Salina Journal that her concern is that evolution is often taught as fact, when she says it is science's "best guess." She said teaching students about alternatives can help develop their critical thinking skills.

And, she asked the Topeka Capital-Journal, "Why would we want to censor anything in science?"

But Renner is critical of the influence of what he calls "the radical right" on the board.

"It's not an issue of academic freedom," he said. "It's an issue of what is valid science versus what is pseudo-science."

Board members serve four-year terms, staggered so that half of the 10 members are on the ballot every two years. Martin is the only one of five incumbents eligible to seek re-election this year to run again.

Shifts in power on the board over the past decade have resulted in five sets of science standards, which are used to develop standardized tests to measure students' knowledge.

In 2005, the board approved standards backed by advocates of "intelligent design," which says an unspecified intelligent cause is the best way to explain some complex and orderly features of the universe.

Many scientists view intelligent design as creationism cloaked in subtler language -- to avoid having its teaching declared an unconstitutional government sponsorship of specific religious views.

The board's action sparked an election backlash, putting the Democratic-moderate GOP coalition back in control and resulting in another change in the standards. The current ones treat evolution as a well-documented theory.