At its November meeting, the APS Council approved a statement denouncing the recent decision by the Kansas Board of Education to remove references to evolution and the Big Bang from the state-wide science curriculum. The APS statement came on the heels of an October 1999 poll of Kansas residents conducted by two local newspapers, The Wichita Eagle and the Kansas City Star. Conducted by the Star's marketing research department, the poll surveyed 604 respondents, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Roughly half of the respondents disagreed with the board's decision, compared to 32% who supported the board, with the rest undecided or neutral. Fifty-seven percent said they thought students should be tested on evolution. About 80% of the respondents said they believe dinosaurs existed millions of years ago, and 65% said they believe sea creatures developed into land animals, based on the fossil record. It is human evolution that seems to be the sticking point. Forty-five percent said they believe God created human beings much as they are today within the past 10,000 years, while an almost equal number (43%) said they believe humans evolved like other animals, but the process was guided by God.
If nothing else, the controversy appears to have, at least temporarily, stimulated the population's interest in local school board elections. More than half the respondents (52%) said they would be more likely to vote in the next board election because of the evolution decision. Sixty-four percent of those who disagreed with the board's decision said they would be more likely to vote in the next election. The text of the statement follows.
"The American Physical Society views with grave concern the recent Kansas State Board of Education decision to remove references to evolution and the Big Bang from its State Education Standards and Assessments. The decision to modify its previous draft of these standards is a giant step backward and should sound the alarm for every parent, teacher and student in the United States. On the eve of the new millennium, at a time when our nation's welfare increasingly depends on science and technology, it has never been more important for all Americans to understand the basic ideas of modern science.
"Biological and physical evolution are central to the modern scientific conception of the Universe. There is overwhelming geological and physical evidence that the Earth and Universe are billions of years old and have developed substantially since their origins. Evolution is also a foundation upon which virtually all modern biology rests.
"This unfortunate decision will deprive many Kansas students of the opportunity to learn some of the central concepts of modern science."
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Editor: Barrett H. Ripin
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette