TOPEKA, Kan. Jan. 9 (AP) - A newly elected Kansas Board of Education took a step Tuesday toward restoring evolution to state science curricula, more than a year after causing an uproar over how biology and faith should be taught in the classroom.
After more than two hours of debate, the board decided it would give final approval to the new standards at its Feb. 13-14 meeting. No vote was taken, but enough members signaled their support for the revised standards to guarantee their adoption next month.
The new science standards would replace ones adopted in August 1999 that omitted references to many evolutionary concepts.
The discussion was dominated by board member Steve Abrams, one of the three remaining supporters of the current standards.
``It still comes across that this is dogma, that this is the only way it is,'' Abrams said of the latest version.
Others raised concerns about censoring opposing views on science.
``Why not teach everything that we know?'' asked board member John Bacon.
John Staver, chairman of the committee that wrote the current standards, said the scientific community can't test the supernatural or the existence of God.
``In my personal life, when I encounter that, I leave my science background and I go to church,'' Staver said.
Evolution, a theory developed by Charles Darwin and others, holds that the Earth is billions of years old and that all life, including humans, evolved from simple forms through a process of natural selection. Some religious fundamentalists and others object to the teaching of evolution, saying it contradicts the biblical account of creation.
A public comment session on the new standards also was held Tuesday.
``You will be legislating naturalism into the public school curriculum,'' said Jody Sjogren of the Intelligent Design Network, which says evidence shows that a higher power created the universe. ``We need to stop making evolution a religion.''
But Jack Krebs of Kansas Citizens for Science said the revisions would help improve the state's tarnished image with scientists by restoring mainstream standards on the history the universe.
The board in 1999 voted 6-4 in favor of science standards that critics said stripped evolution from its accepted place at the center of biological studies. Republican Gov. Bill Graves called the board's action ``terrible, tragic, embarrassing.'' Two members who voted in the majority lost in primary elections last year, and a third didn't run.
The standards deleted references to ``macroevolution'' - the process of change from one species to another - but included references to ``microevolution,'' or changes within species. They also mention natural selection, the idea that advantageous traits increase in a population over time, but omitted any reference to the Big Bang theory of the universe's origin.
Supporters of those standards said they leave the decision about what to teach in the classroom up to local boards of education.
Kansas is one of several states, including Arizona, Alabama, Illinois, New Mexico, Texas and Nebraska, where school boards have attempted to take evolution out of state science standards or de-emphasize evolutionary concepts.