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When the journalist H.L. Mencken reported on the infamous Scopes trial of 1925, he remarked that the hysteria surrounding it had made a "universal joke" out of the occupants of Dayton, Tennessee, where the trial took place. Now, 74 years later, but only a few degrees of longitude removed, the Kansas Board of Education has in its turn made a monkey of itself. The board has removed the requirement for school students to have a knowledge of evolution to pass examinations. This might seem hilarious in today's technically wired society were it not for one sobering fact. Despite overwhelming acceptance of the material benefits that science has brought, Americans in general remain deeply ignorant of its basic principles. If such ignorance persists, it will prove devastating to the future of our democracy, whose citizens will increasingly be called upon to exercise judgement on the complex social issues that advances in science inevitably bring. Thomas Jefferson, perhaps the prime champion among the founding fathers of the principle of separation of church and state, envisioned an American republic governed by a wise and educated electorate. To place at risk for the children of Kansas the chance to obtain all the vital knowledge that will enable them to keep Jefferson's dream alive in the coming age of biological revolution is both deplorable and terrifying.
Paul M. Grant
EPRI, Palo Alto, California
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