The Garden City Telegram
3/4/2014
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Fossil focus

While some had bone to pick, pitch has educational value.

Gov. Sam Brownback seemed pleased with the marine fossil that now adorns a wall in his ceremonial office.

Through social media, the governor said he was "excited" about the addition of a juvenile platecarpus fossil found in Gove County.

Still, it seemed ironic from someone who in a failed White House bid in 2007 raised his hand during a Republican presidential debate when the moderator asked which candidates didn't believe in evolution.

Folks who dismiss the theory of evolution tend to reject fossils as proof creatures have been evolving upward into higher life forms over hundreds of millions of years.

In Topeka, fossils recently took center stage as the Kansas House advanced a bill to honor the tylosaurus, a giant marine predator, and pteranodon, a giant flying reptile.

While the Kansas Senate should clear the way for the fossils to join the likes of the official state flower (sunflower) and official state tree (cottonwood), among other "official" symbols, legislators supporting the fossils received some ribbing from others who called the proposal a waste of time.

It wouldn't be earth-shattering legislation, for sure, but at least has educational value. As Rep. Don Hineman, R-Dighton, noted, fossils capture the imagination of schoolchildren, and could help inspire youngsters to visit the natural history museum at the University of Kansas.

Fossils represent a natural gateway to the study of science, and can help Kansas students and adults better understand the state's ancient past as a vast ocean. The Smoky Hill chalk beds in western Kansas are known worldwide due to fossils dating to the Cretaceous period, nearly 87 million years ago.

Kansas remains one of just a handful of states without an official fossil.

Critics at least should acknowledge the Statehouse needed a lighthearted break amid an embarrassing run of proposed legislation that sought to discriminate against gays, eliminate no-fault divorce and define how much parents could spank and hurt their children.

It's much easier to live with time spent on artifacts that educate us on the evolution of the region than the senseless and seemingly relentless meddling in Kansans' personal lives.