Thursday, November 09, 2006

Forces of reason prevail in Kansas and Ohio

There’s more good news from the elections this week. Pro-science candidates were elected to state school boards winning a majority in Kansas and strengthening their position in Ohio. They defeated proponents of Intelligent Design.

Intelligent Design (a.k.a. ID) is the notion that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, and not an undirected process such as natural selection.” (See Wikipedia.) The “intelligence” of course is supernatural and not provable but by promoting it as a scientific theory and alternative to evolution and the theory of natural selection a segment of Christians is using ID to try and sneak their religion into the public schools. The ID movement is also referred to as “Neo-Creationism” and is distinguished from Creationism in that it generally does not rely on scripture as proof. Regardless, it is widely viewed as a pseudo-science promoted by Christian conservatives who have attempted to impose their idea of the supernatural on school children.

This from Science magazine:

Intelligent design (ID) received a drubbing yesterday, with pro-evolution candidates taking control of the Kansas State Board of Education and strengthening their representation on the Ohio State Board of Education. Many scientists also cheered the defeat of Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), one of the most politically influential supporters of the ID movement.

In Ohio, incumbent board member Deborah Owens Fink lost decisively to Tom Sawyer, a former teacher and U.S. representative. Owens Fink had repeatedly attempted to dilute evolution in Ohio's science standards. Sawyer, who contested the seat at the urging of Ohio scientists, will help swell the ranks of moderates on the 19-member board. The scientists' group, Help Ohio Public Education, is also celebrating the victory of three other "pro-science" candidates including incumbent G. R. "Sam" Schloemer, who had described his candidacy as a eferendum on ID. Schloemer won by a 2-to-1 margin over John Hritz, an ID supporter. The only pro-ID candidate elected Tuesday was Susan Haverkos.

In Kansas, supporters of evolution were already assured a majority on the 10-member state board after a primary election earlier this year. But that 6-4 edge was all they could manage yesterday, as two conservative incumbents retained their seats. "That shows the state is still very split on intelligent design. We have to continue educating the public about the issue," says Sally Cauble, a moderate Republican from southwest Kansas who will make her debut on the board next month.

Although the ID debate was not an issue in most congressional races, voters may have punished Santorum because the once-vocal ID supporter tried to distance himself from the movement after a federal judge struck down an attempt last year by the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board to insert ID into the curriculum. That "flip-flop" probably cost him both moderate as well as conservative votes, says Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller. Santorum's defeat will further reduce the influence of ID proponents on the national level, predicts Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California.

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