While many praised the document as the strongest statement ever produced by any state on the subject of evolution, the board's vote placated neither Christian fundamentalists nor civil libertarians in their longstanding dispute over the teaching of evolution in public schools.
Critics of the revision worried that the new language would send a signal to publishers that they could water down the quality of textbooks. Supporters of the amended language said the changes were needed to give teachers clearer direction.
Throughout the process, educators have maintained that standards must be rigorously upgraded by clearly defining what is and is not within the realm of science.
Religious-right fundamentalists, however, had argued that biblical creationist beliefs should be included in the science curriculum. They argue that evolution is merely one among competing origin theories.
Although educators steadfastly have dismissed the fundamentalists' contentions, the political realities of dealing with a conservative state Board of Education forced them to make partial revisions.
"I think they could have put the (landmark teaching-of-evolution) Scopes trial to rest here once and for all, but they left the door opened, unfortunately, so the battle continues," said Michael Hudson, western director for People for the American Way, an anti-censorship group.
Both sides acknowledged, however, that the new guidelines were expected to have a strong impact on the way evolution is taught in the United States
because of California's clout as one of the largest purchasers of textbooks. The guideline, which is adopted every seven years, is used by publishers to design textbooks.
After the meeting, Bill Honig, state superintendent of public instruction, undertook to explain and defend the board members' final decision, insisting that their critics were wrong to suggest that it had been pressure from the religious right that had led to the last-minute revisions.
The Rev. Louis Sheldon, the chief advocate for modifications in the guidelines, accused the board of being intimidated by Honig. "He totally used the bully pulpit in there to state what he wanted," Mr. Sheldon said, adding, that he believed the document was "hostile to religion."