Why they stayed away

The NY Times has an article about the scientists' boycott of the Kansas evolution hearings.

It is a good summary of the bullet points behind the boycott:

In general, they offered two reasons for the decision: that the outcome of the hearings was a foregone conclusion, and that participating in them would only strengthen the idea in some minds that there was a serious debate in science about the power of the theory of evolution.
"We on the science side of things strong-armed [I think she means "stiff-armed"] the Kansas hearings because we realized this was not a scientific exchange, it was a political show trial," said Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, which promotes the teaching of evolution. "We are never going to solve it by throwing science at it."
The American Association for the Advancement of Science, a large organization of researchers and teachers, and the publisher of the journal Science, also declined to participate.

Eugenie Scott explains very well the frustration of the situation:

Dr. Scott said that until recently she believed scientists should seize opportunities to debate the opponents of evolution. "I was one of the holdouts, saying yes, appear with these guys, yes, tell them what is wrong with their ideas, go to their conferences, treat them like scholars," she said.
Like other scientists, she said that if someone identified a flaw in evolutionary theory that could not be dealt with, science would have to modify the theory or even scrap it. But the criticisms raised have fallen in the face of scientific scrutiny, she and others say, yet opponents of evolution raise them again and again.
So a few years ago, she said, "even I threw in the towel."
"Our willingness to engage their ideas," she went on, "was not being reciprocated."

But the article also depicts well the needling responses of the Discovery Institute:

Dr. West, of the Discovery Institute, argues that scientists have shown the same unwillingness to engage when they talk about evolution. In Kansas, he said, "there was a sort of arrogance - claiming that 'since we are the majority scientific view we don't owe an explanation to anyone, especially these public officials we think are stupid.'

The thing is, I basically think this opinion is right. I've written on this before, including my reasons for disagreeing with the boycott. I recognize there is a sense of beating your head against the wall to argue the case for science education in a court stacked against you. But the stakes are much higher than one Board of Education hearing. How many people will we persuade to learn more about evolution, who otherwise wouldn't? These are the people who will demand better science education, not just today, but in the future.

It might be true that changing the outcome of the hearings is impossible. But they provided the opportunity to reach thousands of people who don't follow science closely. We live in a country where the majority of Americans are skeptical of evolution. Now is not the time to start acting like an arrogant elite.

The article points to some very nice links:

The National Academy of Science has a site with free online informational booklets about evolutionary theory, links to past volumes of PNAS with evolution themes, and the 1996 National Science Education standards.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has press releases, articles about evolution and education, and news links.