Creationism was dealt a blow in Kansas today, when moderate Republicans defeated three out of the four conservative incumbents up for reelection on the state's Board of Education. The vote is an apparent backlash against the board's decision last year to take evolution out of the state's science curriculum.
In August 1999, the Board of Education voted 6-4 to eliminate evolution--as well as anything hinting at the great age of Earth, and even some cosmological theories--from statewide standards for science teaching (Science, 20 August 1999, p. 1186). The decision was widely criticized by scientific and teachers' organizations, even though it didn't ban the teaching of evolution outright but rather offered schools the opportunity to leave it out of their curricula.
Today, the conservative chair of the board, Linda Holloway, was soundly defeated in the Republican primary by moderate Sue Gamble, who received 60% of the votes. Two other conservative board members lost by smaller margins. The only incumbent to be renominated for his seat was Steve Abrams, who had helped write the revised standards. The winning Republicans still face Democratic opponents in the November general election, but the Democrats have all declared support for overturning the board's controversial revisions.
"The voices of moderation and reason have spoken," says a jubilant John Staver, director of the Center for Science Education at Kansas State University in Manhattan. "It doesn't get much clearer than that." Staver, who was co-chair of the committee whose drafted standards were rewritten by conservative board members, expects the new board to quickly overturn last year's decision.