It has been only six years since Kansas covered itself in ridicule by giving schoolteachers the green light to teach the Genesis creation story as a serious scientific alternative to Darwin. That decision was hastily reversed, and the Christian fundamentalist majority on the Board of Education overturned, following a hue and cry from scientists and educators from around the world.
Now, though, the Christian conservatives are back in the ascendant – as indeed they are in every area of Kansas politics, and in much of the United States. The seemingly pleasant, down-to-earth sensibility of the American Midwest has been upended by a new radicalism, one which has fundamentalist protesters wielding “God Hates Fags” placards in the streets of Topeka and Christian choirs singing in the rotunda of the state capitol. As one of the vanguards of this new radicalism, the board of education has every intention of defying the conclusions of its own standards committee by endorsing Intelligent Design and changing the state standards accordingly.
This week’s hearings were the one concession that Dr Abrams, a country veterinarian turned right-wing Christian pointman, was prepared to give to mainstream opinion. “We’ll put our experts on the stand”, he suggested a few weeks ago, “and the pro-evolution scientists can have an equal amount of time to make their argument”.
As it turned out, however, no mainstream scientist wanted anything to do with a public spectacle many of them variously denounced as a kangaroo court, a show trial, a dog-and-pony show and a farce reminiscent of the infamous Scopes monkey trial in Tennessee in 1925. “We concluded it’s not worth debating creationists because you can’t win,” said Liz Craig of the Kansas Citizens for Science. “so we organised a boycott instead.”