Kansas vs. Darwin is a feature-length documentary film about the 2005 Kansas evolution hearings. It was released by Unconditional Films on DVD in December, 2007, and again on an enhanced-edition DVD in November, 2008, through New Day Films. This was the first feature film for director Jeff Tamblyn. Shot at the hearings in Topeka, it also includes interviews with most of the principals in the event and many others, including then-president of the National Academy of Sciences, Bruce Alberts.
Shooting on the film began over a month before the hearings. In order to gain access to all major figures on both sides, Tamblyn, co-producer Jeff Peak, and the production crew withheld their personal views on evolution, promising all subjects they were making a piece that would be politically neutral and without prejudicial editing. The film had to be edited twice in order to achieve the final product - a purely political documentary featuring all relevant points of view. The film begins with interviews that introduce the main characters and their respective stances in the controversy, and progresses to multi-camera footage of the hearings, street interviews, and footage that creates a dialectic examination of the political, educational and religious ramifications of this long-standing conflict which appears to be at the center of the culture wars.
The significance of the Kansas evolution hearings, which Kansas vs. Darwin documents, is that it's the first venue in the most recent round of conflict over teaching evolution in which the modern strategy of the creationism/Intelligent Design backers was used - the argument that teaching the "weaknesses" of the theory of evolution contributes to a more "balanced view" of science, and that this curricular approach encourages critical thinking (a buzzword in modern teaching of science and social studies).
In a larger historical sense, Kansas vs. Darwin depicts an important aspect of the modern argument over the separation of church and state. The move by Christian conservatives to rewrite the state science teaching standards to accommodate their beliefs raises the question of whether political power has been abused under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That this question remains unanswered by the courts is perhaps the underlying reason for the continued use of the "Kansas strategy"by proponents of creationism and Intelligent Design in challenges to traditional science curricula across the U.S.
The film also documents the worldwide boycott of the hearings by mainstream science, which was engineered by a group of Kansas scientists and educators. Their rational for not appearing to answer the challenge to evolution as a bedrock theory of modern science was that the hearings themselves were not an appropriate forum for the discussion and that by agreeing to appear side-by-side with the witnesses who supported creationism and Intelligent Design, they would be endowing these ideas with further, undue legitimacy. Those who speak for this side in the film include members of Kansas Citizens for Science Harry McDonald, Jack Krebs, Rachel Robson and Burt Humburg. In one of his interviews, McDonald angrily castigates right-wing Christians, saying that the same reasoning that allows them to "lie" about evolution also makes it okay for them to shoot an abortion doctor. Jack Krebs asserts that the side-by-side comparison of evolution to Intelligent Design makes them appear to be equal when, from a scientific standpoint, they are not.
Other figures in the film include three Kansas board of education officials, Steve Abrams, Connie Morris and Kathy Martin. Morris, a former grade-school teacher from St. Francis, says in her interview that evolution is a "fantasy" and that Kansas - under the revised standards she voted for - is on the edge of a "new science." Martin confessed during the hearings to not having read the latest version of the standards. When interviewed in the film, she's asked if the new standards will redefine science, and replies that they will only redefine "what science does." Both women confess during the film to not fully understanding the meaning of the scientific testimony they heard at the hearings. Abrams, the chair of the board at the time and a veterinarian from Arkansas City, defends them by stating that a person would not have to understand every word of the testimony to know that there is a legitimate controversy about evolution in science that students should be exposed to.
List of Subjects Appearing in Kansas vs. Darwin
Steve Abrams - Kansas State School Board
Connie Morris - Kansas State School Board
Kathy Martin - Kansas State School Board
Harry McDonald - Kansas Citizens for Science
Jack Krebs - Kansas Citizens for Science
Burt Humburg - Kansas Citizens for Science
Rachel Robson - Kansas Citizens for Science
John Calvert - Intelligent Design Network
William Harris - Intelligent Design Network
Pedro Irigonegaray - Attorney charged with cross-examining witnesses
Jeff Tamblyn - Director, Co-Producer, Co-Writer
Jeff Peak - Co-Producer, Director of Photography
Mark von Schlemmer - Editor, Co-Writer