Updated WEDNESDAY July 14, 1999
"Consultant" blames ills on Teaching evolution
Creationist who helped write science curriculum before state BOE says teaching theory caused deaths of millions.
By Scott Rothschild
Eagle Topeka bureau
TOPEKA -- A proposal before the State Board of Education to de-emphasize the teaching of evolution is partially the work of a Kansas City, Mo., man who says evolution is a false and dangerous theory that has led to the deaths of tens of millions of people.
"Every lunatic, political scheme in the 20th century was founded on the 'scientific apologetic' of evolution," including Nazism and Marxism, said Tom Willis, president of The Creation Science[sic] Association for Mid-America.
He estimated that 160 million people have been killed in regimes that embraced evolution as a foundation of society.
Willis has worked with State Board of Education member Steve Abrams of Arkansas City to write science standards that would leave the decision on whether to teach evolution up to local school boards.
A committee of science educators had previously recommended the Board of Education adopt standards that include teaching evolution as a basis for understanding other sciences, such as biology. The board is, among other things, responsible for setting curriculum standards in the state.
Abrams defended collaborating with Willis, saying there were atheists among those advocating the teaching of evolution.
Controversy over the different proposals has delayed action on the standards for several months. Education Board Chairwoman Linda Holloway of Shawnee said the board, which has been deadlocked on the issue, will probably take it up again next month.
During Tuesday's board meeting, Kansas University professor Doug Ruden said Willis' ideological fingerprints on the Abrams proposal were distasteful.
"It's not only bad science, it's bad religion," Ruden said.
Ruden said allowing Willis' input on science standards would be like allowing anti-homosexual preacher Fred Phelps of Topeka to write public school standards for sex education.
Contacted by telephone, Willis said he didn't appreciate Ruden's characterization of his work.
But Willis said he is vehemently against the teaching of evolution because it espouses that there isn't a creator.
"When you teach evolution to a child, and he's foolish enough to believe it, then you have robbed him of purpose, of a standard for moral decisions and of destiny. And then you sit around and wring your hands and weep and wonder why he goes around shooting people," Willis said.
Matt Grogger, an Overland Park resident and member of the Mainstream Coalition, said Willis' group should not be involved in the science standards. He says the coalition was founded to combat the religious right.
"We do not have a conflict between science and religion, only one between a small, well-organized, reactionary group of fundamentalists who claim access to ultimate truth through scripture," Grogger said.
Willis described the Creation Science[sic] Association as a group of like-minded people, many of whom are "scientists," who try to debunk the "national religion[sic]" of evolution. He said friends persuaded him to get involved in the Kansas debate over science standards.
On its Web site, the group states as one of its goals: "To show that Biblical Creation ... is the only account of origins that can possibly be useful to science."
Willis said belief in God and evolution are incompatible. But at the Board of Education's meeting, several people said they believed in both.
"I'm a believer in God and good science education," said Liz Craig of Roeland Park. "Evolution is science, and creationism is merely religion masquerading as bad science."
Paul Miller of Wichita, who worked for Beech for 40 years and is involved in his church, said the teaching of evolution is important to prepare students for college.
"We do need to have hard science if we are going to have good industry in Kansas," Miller said. "If we don't teach hard science, including evolution, we are going to be the laughingstock of the nation."
But Paul Ackerman, a philosophy professor at Wichita State University, said he had been persecuted throughout his career because he doesn't believe in evolution.
Willis also said people who believe in evolution are intolerant of other views.
"These guys claim science is skeptical," but anyone who disagrees with them runs the chance of losing his job and being ridiculed, he said.