TOPEKA, Kan. -- The Kansas school board's hearings on evolution were not limited to how the theory should be taught in public schools. The board is considering redefining science itself.
Advocates of ''intelligent design" are pushing the board to reject a definition limiting science to natural explanations for what is observed in the world.
Instead, they want to define it as ''a systematic method of continuing investigation," without specifying what kind of answer is being sought. The definition would appear in the introduction to the state's science standards.
The proposed definition has outraged many scientists, who are frustrated that students could be discussing supernatural explanations for natural phenomena in their science classes.
''It's a completely unscientific way of looking at the world," said Keith Miller, a Kansas State University geologist.
The state Board of Education plans to consider the proposed changes by August. It is expected to approve at least part of a proposal from advocates of intelligent design, which holds that the natural world is so complex and well-ordered that an intelligent cause is the best way to explain it.
State and national science groups boycotted last week's public hearings, contending they were rigged against evolution.
Stephen Meyer, a senior fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which supports intelligent design, said changing the schools' definition of science would avoid freezing out questions about how life arose and developed on Earth.
The current definition is ''not innocuous," Meyer said. ''It's not neutral. It's actually taking sides."
Last year, the board asked a committee of educators to draft recommendations for updating the standards, then accepted two rival proposals.