Discovery Institute December 28, 2001

Congress Urges Teaching of Diverse Views on Evolution, but Darwinists Try to Deny It

After the U.S. Congress adopted a statement in December calling for students to be exposed to a diversity of views when topics "such as biological evolution" are taught, a pro-Darwin group is absurdly trying to claim victory through a creative reinterpretation of the legislative record.

Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education asserts that the recent statement by Congress is "good news" for Darwinists and even suggests that Congress intended to discourage the teaching of alternatives to Darwin's theory such as intelligent design.

"Scott's comments remind me of the Greek General Pyrrhus," says Bruce Chapman, President of Discovery Institute. "Upon being told that a rout of his troops constituted a victory, he quipped that any more 'victories' like this one and they would be ruined!"

"Scott certainly deserves an award for spin control," adds Dr. John West, a Discovery Institute Senior Fellow. "Unfortunately for her, the legislative record is so clear that her creative attempt to reinterpret it can only be described as laughable."

West points out that Congress's recent statement on the teaching of evolution draws most of its wording from an earlier resolution crafted by Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) that was adopted by an overwhelming 91-8 vote of the Senate last June. The original Santorum resolution stated that "(1) good science education should prepare students to distinguish the data or testable theories of science from philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of science; and (2) where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why this subject generates so much continuing controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subject." Those who spoke in favor of the resolution on the Senate floor included not only Senator Santorum but Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Robert Byrd (D-WV).

Shortly after the Senate vote, Darwinists began lobbying efforts to try to prevent Congress as a whole from adopting the Santorum resolution. At this point, Darwinists openly acknowledged that the resolution encouraged the teaching of both sides of the evolution controversy in the classroom. Eugenie Scott declared in a press release that "although the resolution appears innocuous, it is telling that only evolution is singled out from all possible controversial issues" and complained that the resolution's language originated with scholars opposed to Darwinism who embrace the theory of intelligent design. On August 22, Scott and more than 80 other Darwinists sent a letter to the Conference Committee for the landmark education reform bill claiming that "the apparently innocuous statements in this resolution mask an anti-evolution agenda" and unfairly single out "biological evolution as a controversial subject." According to Scott and fellow signers of the letter, the Santorum resolution was a terrible idea because "from the standpoint of science, there is no controversy" over evolution.

However, once Congress as a whole adopted language from the Santorum resolution, Scott began to offer a pro-Darwin spin, citing a part of Congress's statement that says "a quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science." According to Scott, this sentence means that Congress is discouraging teachers from covering scientific alternatives to Darwinism such as intelligent design theory because Scott claims such criticisms of evolution are based on religion rather than science.

"Scott's claim is patently absurd," says West. "The original Santorum resolution contained a virtually identical statement, but when that resolution was approved by the Senate Scott declared it was anti-evolution and originated with scholars promoting intelligent design. Now that Congress as a whole has embraced the same language, Scott conveniently makes up a new interpretation to fit her ideological agenda."

"The reality is that Congress has clearly voiced its support for teaching 'the full range of scientific views that exist' about evolution. That includes both scientific criticisms of natural selection and random mutation as the mechanism for evolution as well as scientific alternatives to Darwinism such as intelligent design theory."

"Eugenie Scott would like us to believe that there is currently no scientific dispute over Darwinian evolution, but that's simply untrue," adds West. "In fact, growing numbers of scientists question Darwinism, including biochemist Michael Behe of Lehigh University (author of the book Darwin's Black Box) and biologist Jonathan Wells (author of the book Icons of Evolution). Just in October more than 100 scientists declared their skepticism of the core claims of Darwinian theory in advertisements in The New York Review of Books, The New Republic, and elsewhere. Contrary to claims by Scott, Congress clearly believed that students are best served when they are able to hear such dissenting views in science."

West points out that this interpretation is clearly borne about by recent statements made by Senator Santorum, author of the original resolution.

On December 18, Senator Santorum praised the language ultimately adopted by Congress as supporting academic freedom to study and to teach scientific views that may be critical of evolution. According to Santorum, "a number of scholars are now raising scientific challenges to the usual Darwinian account of the origins of life" and this includes scholars who "have proposed such alternative theories as intelligent design." Santorum also quoted from a Utah Law Law Review article by David DeWolf, Stephen Meyer, and Mark DeForrest arguing for the inclusion in curriculum of scientific criticisms of Darwin's theory of unguided evolution and of scientific alternatives to Darwinism like intelligent design theory.

According to Santorum, the position adopted by Congress is supported by an overwhelming majority of the American public: "The public supports the position we are taking today. For instance, national opinion surveys show... that Americans overwhelmingly desire to have students learn the scientific arguments against, as well as for, Darwin's theory. A recent Zogby International poll shows the preference on this as 71 percent to 15 percent, with 14 percent undecided. The goal is academic excellence, not dogmatism. It is most timely, and gratifying, that Congress is acknowledging and supporting this objective."

"Senator Santorum's comments clearly refute these after-the-fact attempts to rewrite history by Darwinists like Eugenie Scott," concludes West.

The original dialogue from the Senate Floor (June 13, 2001) with supporting comments by Sen.Kennedy, Sen. Byrd, Sen. Brownback, and Sen. Santorum is supplied below.

The full text of the statement adopted by Congress as part of the Conference Committee report on the landmark education reform bill is as follows:

"The Conferees recognize that a quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society."

The original Santorum Amendment which passed the Senate 91-8 on June 13th, 2001 read:

`It is the sense of the Senate that--

``(1) good science education should prepare students to distinguish the

data or testable theories of science from philosophical or religious claims

that are made in the name of science; and

``(2) where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help

students to understand why this subject generates so much continuing

controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in

public discussions regarding the subject."


Original Senate Floor Dialogue from June 13, 2001

The bill is S.1. The amendment is #799:

Mr. SANTORUM. Mr. President, I rise to talk about my amendment which will


voted on in roughly 40 minutes. This is an amendment that is a sense of the

Senate. It is a sense of the Senate that deals with the subject of

intellectual freedom with respect to the teaching of science in the

classroom, in primary and secondary education. It is a sense of the Senate

that does not try to dictate curriculum to anybody; quite the contrary, it

says there should be freedom to discuss and air good scientific debate

within the classroom. In fact, students will do better and will learn more

if there is this intellectual freedom to discuss.

I will read this sense of the Senate. It is simply two

sentences--frankly, two rather innocuous sentences--that hopefully this

Senate will embrace:

``It is the sense of the Senate that--

``(1) good science education should prepare students to distinguish the

data or testable

theories of science from philosophical or religious claims that are made in

the name of science; and

``(2) where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help

students to understand why this subject generates so much continuing

controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in

public discussions regarding the subject."

It simply says there are disagreements in scientific theories out there

that are continually tested. Our knowledge of science is not absolute,

obviously. We continue to test theories. Over the centuries, there were

theories that were once assumed to be true and have been proven, through

further revelation of scientific investigation and testing, to be not true.

One of the things I thought was important in putting this forward was to

make sure the Senate of this country, obviously one of the greatest, if not

the greatest, deliberative bodies on the face of the Earth, was on record

saying we are for this kind of intellectual freedom; we are for this kind

of discussion going on; it will enhance the quality of science education for

our students.

I will read three points made by one of the advocates of this thought, a

man named David DeWolf, as to the advantages of teaching this controversy

that exists. He says:

Several benefits will accrue from a more open discussion of biological

origins in the science classroom. First, this approach will do a better job

of teaching the issue itself, both because it presents more accurate

information about the state of scientific thinking and evidence, and

because it presents the subject in a more lively and less dogmatic way. Second,

this approach gives students greater appreciation for how science is actually

practiced. Science necessarily involves the interpretation of data; yet

scientists often disagree about how to interpret their data. By presenting

this scientific controversy realistically, students will learn how to

evaluate competing interpretations in light of evidence--a skill they will

need as citizens, whether they choose careers in science or other fields.

Third, this approach will model for students how to address differences of

opinion through reasoned discussion within the context of a pluralistic


I think there are many benefits to this discussion that we hope to

encourage in science classrooms across this country. I frankly don't see

any down side to this discussion--that we are standing here as the Senate in

favor of intellectual freedom and open and fair discussion of using

science--not philosophy and religion within the context, within the context

of science but science--as the basis for this determination.

I will reserve the remainder of my time. I have a couple of other

speakers I anticipate will come down and talk about this amendment, and I

want to leave adequate time. I yield the floor.


The PRESIDENT pro tempore. Who yields time?

The Senator from Massachusetts.

Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I yield such time as I might use.

The PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator is recognized.

Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, first of all, on the Santorum amendment, I

hope all of our colleagues will vote in support of it. It talks about using

good science to consider the teaching of biological evolution. I think the

way the Senator described it, as well as the language itself, is completely

consistent with what represents the central values of this body. We want

children to be able to speak and examine various scientific theories on the

basis of all of the information that is available to them so they can talk

about different concepts and do it intelligently with the best information

that is before them.

I think the Senator has expressed his views in support of the amendment

and the reasons for it. I think they make eminently good sense. I intend to

support that proposal.


Mr. BYRD. Mr. President, I have been interested in the debate

surrounding the teaching of evolution in our schools. I think that Senator SANTORUM's

amendment will lead to a more thoughtful treatment of this topic in the

classroom. It is important that students be exposed not only to the theory

of evolution, but also to the context in which it is viewed by many in our

society. I think, too often, we limit the best of our educators by directing them

to avoid controversy and to try to remain politically correct. If students

cannot learn to debate different viewpoints and to explore a range of

theories in the classroom, what hope have we for civil discourse beyond the

schoolhouse doors?

Scientists today have numerous theories about our world and its

beginnings. I, personally, have been greatly impressed by the many

scientists who have probed and dissected scientific theory and concluded

that some Divine force had to have played a role in the birth of our

magnificent universe. These ideas align with my way of thinking. But I

understand that they might not align with someone else's. That is the very

point of this amendment--to support an airing of varying opinions, ideas,

concepts, and theories. if education is truly a vehicle to broaden horizons

and enhance thinking, varying viewpoints should be welcome as part of the

school experience.

Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, as my friend from Pennsylvania, and

perhaps every one in the free world, knows the issue he brings up with regard to

how to teach scientific theory and philosophy was recently an issue in my home

State of Kansas. For this reason, many of my constituents are particularly

sensitive to this issue. I would like to take the opportunity of this amendment to clear the

record about the controversy in Kansas.

In August of 1999 the Kansas State School Board fired a shot heard

'round the world. Press reports began to surface that evolution would not longer

be taught. The specter of a theocratic school board entering the class to

ensure that no student would be taught the prevailing wisdom of biology was

envisioned. Political cartoons and editorials were drafted by the hundreds.

To hear the furor, one might think that the teachers would be charged with

sorting through their student's texts with an Exacto knife carving out

pictures of Darwin.

However, the prevailing impression, as is often the case was not quite

accurate. Here are the facts about what happened in Kansas. The school

board did not ban the teaching of evolution. They did not forbid the mention of

Darwin in the classroom. They didn't even remove all mention of evolution

from the State assessment test. Rather, the school board voted against

including questions on macro-evolution--the theory that new species can

evolve from existing species over time--from the State assessment. The

assessment did include questions on micro-evolution--the observed change

over time within an existing species.

Why did they do this? Why go so far as to decipher between micro and

macro-evolution on the State exam? How would that serve the theocratic

school board's purpose that we read so much about? Well, the truth is . . .

their was no theocratic end to the actions of the school board. In fact,

their vote was cast based on the most basic scientific principal that

science is about what we observe, not what we assume. The great and bold

statement that the Kansas School Board made was that simply that we observe

micro-evolution and therefore it is scientific fact; and that it is

impossible to observe macro-evolution, it is scientific assumption.

The response to this relatively minor and eminently scientific move by

the Kansas school board was shocking. The actions and intentions of the

school board were routinely misrepresented in the global press. Many in the

global scientific community, who presumably knew the facts, spread

misinformation as to what happened in Kansas. College admissions boards,

who most certainly knew the facts, threatened Kansas students. The State

Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the State universities were threatened based

on the actions of school board. All of these effects caused by a school

board trying to decipher between scientific fact and scientific assumption.

The response to the actions of the board, appeared to many as a response to

the commission of heresy.

For this reason, I am very pleased that my friend from Pennsylvania

offered this amendment. He clarifies the opinion of the Senate that the

debate of scientific fact versus scientific assumption is an important

debate to embrace. I plan to support the amendment and urge my colleagues

to join me.


The PRESIDING OFFICER. The question is on agreeing to amendment No.


The yeas and nays have been ordered. The clerk will call the roll.

The senior assistant bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.

Mr. REID. I announce that the Senator from Connecticut (Mr. DODD) is

necessarily absent.

The PRESIDING OFFICER (Ms. CANTWELL). Are there any other Senators in

the Chamber desiring to vote?

The result was announced--yeas 91, nays 8, as follows: [all others were

YEAS] NAYS--8 Chafee, Cochran , Collins , DeWine, Enzi, Hagel, Stevens,


[To find this in the original form, follow these directions:

The debate on amendment 799 to S.1 is found in the Congressional Record for

June 13, 2001. Go to

and click on "Senate" for June 13

The table of contents for the Senate for that day appears. Item number 4

should be clicked on. Then click on the link to page S147. Scroll down

about 20% of the page to the first listing for Mr. SANTORUM.

After reading Mr. Santorum's statement you will have to scroll all the way

to the bottom of the page, past discussion of a different amendment, and

click on "Forward" in the second column of links. Scroll down about a third

of the way to the first statement of Mr. KENNEDY on this page.

Then scroll all the way down and again click on "Forward". On the new page,

scroll down about a quarter of the way to the first mention of Mr. BYRD.

His statement and that of Mr. BROWNBACK and the vote follow one after another

from this point.

The site allows you to click on "GPO's PDF" to see the typeset, as opposed

to HTML version.

File Date: 01.11.02