Sunday, February 13, 2005


Phill Kline, Kansas School Board: New Evidence for Evolution or Design?

Last Tuesday, Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline held secret, closed-door meetings with six conservative members of the Kansas Board of Education. Following the meetings, conservative school board members told the media that Kline had pledged to defend them if they put stickers critical of evolution on the biology textbooks of Kansas school children.
Moderate members of the board, the public, and the media were not informed in advance of the meetings or invited to attend.
Board moderates, the media, Kansas legislators, and members of the Kansas Science Standards committee say those meetings violate the Kansas Open Meeting Act (KOMA).
As criticism of the secret meetings intensified across the state last week, Kline and the board conservatives responded with a series of shifting – some would say evolving – rationales to explain their attempt to evade the law.
Kline first said he held separate meetings with three members each so as not to violate provisions of the open meetings law that prohibits closed by government agencies.
Then critics – reading KOMA on Kline’s own web site – pointed out that a 1988 opinion from the attorney general’s office also prohibits holding a series of meetings that collectively total a quorum of board members and where a common topic of discussion occurs.
Later, Board Chairman Steve Abrams said the meetings had lasted less than 10 minutes, and no one discussed whether they would violate the open meetings law. “It never crossed my mind,” he said.
However, Kline’s spokesman, Whitney Watson, told reporters that Kline consulted lawyers in his office before the meetings were held to ensure they would not violate the law. Was it premeditation or simple incompetence? I’ll let you decide.
As each successive explanation failed to account for the known facts, or contradicted earlier explanations, the pressure mounted, and Kline’s spokesman fell back, inevitably, on the last argument at his disposal: the accusations were motivated by politics.
The question we are left to answer is this: Are the changing explanations by Kline and the conservative board majority an example of evolution or intelligent design? Certainly, we are able to observe variation, but the short, unhappy life of the explanations offered so far speaks less to adaptation and survival than to extinction. Perhaps then, the answer to our question about Kline and the board’s dilemma can be found in design, but is it intelligent?


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