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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

Deposition of Dorothy Nelkin - Page 2

Nelkin 51

comprise all of your writings on Creation Science?

A That is everything I have written on Creation
Science, yes.

MR. CRAWFORD: I might just ask Professor
Nelkin to examine the documents to make sure
you have received everything.

THE WITNESS: Yes. One of these was re-
printed in a book called Controversy, but it
is not a different document.

Q Do you recall --

MR. CRAWFORD: Could we identify those
for the record, Mr. Williams?

MR. WILLIAMS: Sure. The Science Textbook
Controversy from the April 1976 Scientific
American, an article entitled Science and/or
Scriptures, the Politics of Equal Time. From
Volume 96, the Boston Studies in the Philosophy
of Science, Creation versus Evolution, the
Politics of Science Education.

Q Were was this published?

A That's in a book edited by Mendelson, Neingard
& Whitely called The Social Production of Scientific
Knowledge, published in 1977 by Reidel.

Q A paper entitled Science Rationality and

Nelkin 52

the Creation Evolution Dispute?

A That's a lecture.

Q December 1981, Program on Science --

A That's my address.

Q Oh, I see. I am sorry.

A That was presented in a lecture, Kennedy Library,
Northeastern University.

Q And then Politics, Science and Cancer,
the Laetrile Phenomenon?

A No, that's the cover page.

Q OK. Discussion: Science and Technology in
the Pits?

A That's a comparison between the laetrile contro-
versy and the creationists. There are references to
the creationists in comparison to the laetrile people
in there, and so, since there are creationists refer-
enced, I included that.

MR. CRAWFORD: And there is a letter to
the editor.

A (Continuing) There was a series -- in response
to the Scientific American article, there are a series
of letters, and I responded to these letters summarized
in correspondence.

Q This is a letter to the editor from what

Nelkin 53


A Scientific American.

MR. WILLIAMS: There is also a letter
from N. L. Balazs.

MR. CRAWFORD: I believe that's a Xerox
from that page.

THE WITNESS: It's a Xerox of a page. That
has nothing to do with it.

Q When did that article appear,do you recall?

MR. CRAWFORD: Scientific American, July
1976, Volume 235.

A It was a follow-up of the article that you have
in Scientific American.

Q In 1978 you had an editorial in Inter-
disciplinarian Science Review entitled Limit to
Scientific Inquiry.

What was the general thrust of that?

A The subject of the compentent DNA controversy
and questions should be asked as to whether there should
be limits to scientific inquiry in areas which could
be publicly harmful or abused in some way by the pub-
lic. That's been raised in a lot of disputes.

Q What was your opinion on that DNA contro-
versy as it was expressed in this editorial?

Nelkin 54

And by the way, I would like a copy of
that editorial.

MR. CRAWFORD: Which document?

THE WITNESS: Interdisciplinarian Science

Q Do you recall what opinion you expressed
in there on that?

A That science can be abused, but -- I have writ-
ten so much -- but that it's not very practical to
expect limits on science, but the notion of freedom
of science inquiry is not a constitutional right such
as freedom of speech.

Q I want to make sure I understand your posi-
tion on the DNA controversy.

Did you say in this editorial that this
scientific study in DNA be somewhat limited?

A No. I did not say that it should be limited. I
was trying to address the general issue of the limits
to scientific inquiry and to try to respond to scien-
tists who are saying that there can be no limits because
it's a constitutional right, and I did not believe that
freedom of a scientific inquiry was a constitutional
right such as freedom of speech; and even freedom of
speech is limited in certain respects.

Nelkin 55

Q How is freedom of scientific inquiry
limited in your mind, or how should it be limited?

A I am trying to think exactly what I said.

Q Hopefully I will get a copy of that. I am
not going to try and ask you if you don't remember.
What is your present opinion.

Q My present opinion is that is that there
are in fact certain limits to scientific inquiry. There
are limits that are derived from funding constraints,
but scientific inquiry cannot really be limited, and
the people are going to really do what they want and
exposing external limits is not going to be a very
meaningful exercise.

In part, there is a question of individual
conscience involved in doing some research and not doing
others, but there has to be full recognition that
science does have certain social consequences and
can be used and misused.

Q Do you think that the DNA research is an
abuse or a misuse?

A I think the DNA research is not being abused. I
think it has -- because of its economic consequences.
it has potentially interesting and problematic con-
sequences for university research because of the rapid

Nelkin 56

commercialization of the technique.

Q As an individual, do you think it should be

A No. I have trouble with questions placing per-
sonal moral judgments on these things. I think moral
judgments are pretty much irrelevant.

Q On DNA, for example, some people have felt
fairly strongly personally and morally, if you want to
use that term, about that issue.

A I think that research like this where there are
unknown or uncertain impacts, I feel strongly that they
should be undertaken with certain restraint and certain
care. That one simply doesn't go ahead and do re-
search which could have potentially serious health
impacts, for example, without exercising extreme cau-
tion and without exposing your work to ourside scrutiny
so that other people besides those who are interested,
who have vested interests, can also examine the po-
tential consequences.

Q If a particular area of research could be
or is shown to have a potential serious, adverse effect
on health, for example, do you think that would be a
valid basis for either limiting or prohibiting research
in that area?

Nelkin 57

A Yes, certainly. But I would not classify DNA
in that category. If, for example, you are planning
to put a nerve gas laboratory in the middle of Man-
hattan where there were a strong likelihood of acci-
dents or problems for people in the community, yes, I
would take a moral position on that.

The difficulties arise when you have a
great deal of uncertainty, then it's another story.

Q Uncertainty? What do you mean?

A Well, when you do not know whether it is adverse.
You suspect, maybe, but you don't know whether there
are adverse effects.

Q Do you think putting a nerve gas research
center 15 miles from a town of 35,000 people would be
a moral question?

A I'd have to know more about the dangers involved
and the container capability.

MR. WILLIAMS: Off the record.

(Discussion off the record.)

Q Professor Nelkin, do you recall the content
of an article you wrote on changing dimensions of the
scientific movement, Scientists in an Adversary Culture
in June of 1978?

A Scientific movement?

Nelkin 58

Q Yes.

A Yes, I am looking at how science's changing
increases external commitment.

Q What external commitment?

A In response of their -- science is more of a pub-
lic issue. Science is more active in public affairs,
more and more people are using science as a sort of
legitimacy. This has implications for the scientific

The public role of science, the level
of external funding has increased. It's a different
enterprise than it was before World War II.

Q Science is a source of political conflict,
which you wrote in 1979.

A That's the one he is sending you.

Q Do you recall what that --

A I looked at a variety of conflicts over fetal re-
search, over recombinant DNA research, over -- the in-
creasing number of technical disputes among scientists
in the nuclear debates, science tends to be used -- the
major point, in these and other writings, how science
tends to be used as a political tool in resources so
the people concerned with science and technology es-
sentially used as part of a tactic, science as a means

Nelkin 59

to enhance their own position and enhance their public
legitimacies and credibility at the same time.

Q How do you view that personally as a sociol-
ogist? Is that commentary to be condemned?

A Scientists tend not to draw these moral -- your
questions keep putting me in a role of a judge: Is it
wrong? Right? Good? Bad? That's not the kind of ques-
tion one asks. I try to understand the dynamics of
what is going on in the waistlines used in the political
resource. I don't make any moral judgment on whether
it's good or bad. It's a fact of life.

It's sometimes appropriate and sometimes in-
appropriate. I say sometimes -- very often it is in-
appropriate. I have written an article looking at how
the court uses science inappropriately. It is not out

Q What is your opinion on that?

A They translate valuable issues into scientific
debates, such as in the Delzio case on artificial insem-

You have lawyers arguing about the size
of a Petri dish when the real issue is a regulatory
issue in the desire of a woman to have a baby. And
the whole argument gets reduced to a kind of technical

Nelkin 60

debate so that I see a lot of lawsuits falling into
the trap of overusing science or bringing science into
the area where it isn't terribly relevant.

Q How do you view the courts generally in
trying to handle science?

A I think that I -- I find myself very often in
agreement with Bazalon in his judgment.

Q And could you summarize for me, that the
courts tend -- have too much placed on their hands;
that a lot of decisions that should be resolved at the
legislative level and up in the courts or at the agency
level, particularly with respect to technical cases,
that more should be going to the courts than should
be, that it's part of the weakness of legislature and
agency decisions in their desire to push aside responsi-

Do you think that's true in this case?

A I don't know enough about this case yet. I will
tell you after the trial.

Q Do you think that educational curriculum
is an appropriate subject for state control?

A That --

MR. CRAWFORD: State control? What do you

Nelkin 61

MR. WILLIAMS: By a state?

A Are you asking -- let me try to clarify the ques-
tion. Are you asking the question: Should it be fed-
eral, state or local government?

Q I am asking you do you think that it is
appropriate to have the curriculum controlled by a
state -- by the state government?

MR. CRAWFORD: The state legislature?

MR. WILLIAMS: State government.

A That's a hard question to answer yes or no. I
think the notion of local control for a school system
is fundamentally a good thing, but it depends on what
educational -- it depends on what aspects of educa-
tion you are talking about.

It's a big question, a big set of issues
put into one question, which is why I am struggling with

Q Why is local control of education funda-
mentally good?

A Because I think local involvement is something
which is as important as education is a way to bring
communities together in some way.

On the other hand I think there are certain
widely accepted ideas that should be -- I am not sure

Nelkin 62

that every local community should complete decide
the curriculum of a school. I think it is very im-

However, I have no objection to school
vouchers in private education for people who feel
very strongly that their children should be taught
specific things. I think that is one very possible
resolution of this endless dispute, a private school
system of vouchers.

Q What dispute?

A The creationists dispute we are talking about.

Q OK. Have you read Act 590 1981?

A The Balance Treatment Act?

Q Yes.

A I have read a summary of that, part of it.

Q What part have you read?

A I think I read a summary my attorney sent me.

Q Do you have a copy?

A I don't have a copy.

MR. WILLIAMS: Do you have a copy of that
one here?

MR. CRAWFORD: I don't think I have.

Q Tell me what you recall about the Balance
Treatment Act.

Nelkin 63

A All right. That creation theory, scientific
creation, should be given balanced treatment in science
classes in the public school system whenever evolu-
tion theory is taught. That's my understanding of it.

Q Anything else?

A And that it should be taught as a scientific

Q That Creation Science should be --

A As a scientific alternative.

Q Anything else that you recall about it now?

A That is the major point that I recall.

Q Do you recall what it said abour religious

A No.

Q Are you aware that the Act specific pro-
hibits any references to religious writings or religious
doctrines, as I recall, and I don't want to misquote
it? I think it does specifically prohibit references
to religious writings and doctrines.

A Yes, but I have problems with that because it
seems to me that any science that is predicated on the
inerrancy of the Bible is intrinsically fundamentally

Q Can you tell me how, from reading Act 590

Nelkin 64

of the summary that you read, you have determined that
Creation Science as defined in the Act is predicated
on an inerrancy of the Bible?

A Well, what textbooks would they be using? If they
would be using creationists textbooks, then those books
and so-called scientific creationists writings that would
be taught are predicated on an inerrancy of the Bible.

It's a kind of vicious circle that is in-
volved. The Creation Science by definition is predi-
cated on the concept of our design by a supernatural
being and is based on the inerrancy of the Bible, and
to me that personally defines it as religion.

So, whatever the Act says is not based on

Q That's your personal opinion?

A That's my personal judgment based on having read
creationists texts.

Q Does Act 590 say anything about the Bible?

A I don't know. I really should have sat and per-
used it before, but I just didn't have the time.

Q What does the term "balanced treatment" mean
to you?

A Equal time.

Q Is that the only possible meaning for

Nelkin 65

balancing that you are aware of?

A I suppose it could mean fair. but it doesn't
make much sense to me, frankly, because the notions
of balance and notion of fairness are really not con-
cepts that one thinks of in terms of science. Those
concepts to me don't mean much in the context of

Q What about proportionately balanced?

A Proportionate to what?

Q Perhaps to the weight of scientific evidence
on either side of an issue.

A Could you repeat the question?

MR. WILLIAMS: Would the reporter read it

(Pending question read by the reporter.)

Q Could that be a reasonable meaning, in
your mind, the balance of treatment?

A Yes. If there is really any weight to scientific
evidence on various sides of the issue, yes.

Q In sociology, do you sometimes discuss
conflicting ideas?

A Yes.

Q And in trying to discuss ideas with your
students in a class, does it sometimes take longer for

Nelkin 66

students to understand one concept than another,
just as a practical matter?

A Sure.

Q So, could balanced treatment in your mind
mean taking the time necessary for students to under-
stand each concept, whether they took equal time or
unequal time?

MR. CRAWFORD: Mr. Williams, I am going
to post an objection at this point. I don't
understand whether you are asking the witness
to provide you a definition of balance in the
abstract, whether you are asking her as a
semanticist or linguist, or whether you are
asking her to go in a trance to figure out
what the legislative intent was to figure out
what the vague meaning of the word is.

Can you be precise?

Q Professor Nelkin, the book that you wrote
on the subject of Scientific Controversy, Science Poli-
tics of Equal Time.

A Yes.

Q I take it that one of the -- where do you
get the concept of equal time from?

A That is a term that was picked up from the demands

Nelkin 67

of the creationists in the California dispute.

Q Are you aware whether the term is utilized
in Act 590?

A I have equated the balance treatment since they
have been consistent with the Politics of Equal Time
with that concept.

Q What does the phrase "prohibition against
religious instruction" mean to you?

A It means that religious instruction is forbidden.

Q When you read Act 590, did you see anything
in there which would prohibit a teacher from giving his
or her professional judgment as to the validity of
either Evolution Science or Creation Science?

A As I mentioned, I haven't read 590 in detail and
can't reproduce it.

Q And the reading that you did give it, do
you recall anything on that point?

A The creation theory should be taught in the school
system as an alternative science of the hypothesis, but
again that drives us into a set of contradictions be-
cause scientific creationism, in the writings that I
have read, are derived from religious beliefs and is
based on apriority religious assumptions.

Therefore, there seems to be contradictions

Nelkin 68

in porhibiting religious instruction and yet teaching
something which is based on religious instruction.

Q Is that its sole derivation in your mind?

A Creation theory?

Q Yes.

A Yes.

Q If there were one or more scientists who
did not derive what they considered to be a scientific
theory of creation from apriority reason based on the
Bible, but rather from a scientific inquiry, would
that change your opinion?

A If that scientific inquiry were based on -- yes,
of course. If that scientific inquiry was apriority
and could pass peer review, was properly done and was
done with the apriority level of skepticism; that is,
not to prove something but to find out something.

Q What is academic freedom?

A The freedom to pursue what research one wants
to pursue.

Q In the context of a secondary classroom,
would it have a different meaning or would it be the

A I think it would have the same meaning.

Q The reason I ask the question, there is

Nelkin 69

probably not a lot, or at least original, research
which comes from the secondary level.

A Yes. That's why I was having difficulty with the
answer. I do not think that it includes necessarily
the freedom to teach anything an individual wants
to teach at any particular time. I quite vividly use
the word "research."

Q What limits can be placed on what a teacher
would like to teach and what limit should be placed?

A Those are touch questions to answer succinctly.
I think the subject of classroom teaching reflects the
best knowledge that is available, the apriority, the
best knowledge that is available at a given time.

That is not to say that the knowledge would
not change at a given point. It's the most well-
accepted and the best of all possible available litera-

Q In your opinion, should a teacher be free
to evaluate the validity of various theories or subjects
discussed in the classroom.

A Well, no one individual teaching anything can
rely thoroughly on their own judgment in every field.

Q But should they be free to evaluate?

A Yes.

Nelkin 70

Q Do you think that a teacher --

A But a good teacher does use the advice of others,

Q Do you think that a teacher has to agree
with a theory before they can effectively teach it?

A No. I teach things that I don't agree with,
but usually express my opinion.

Q What are some of the things that you teach
that you don't agree with, for example?

A For example, if I'll teach something about the
nuclear dispute or the power dispute, I try to look
at scientific disputes.

Q And you will try to give a fair representa-
tion of perhaps both sides of the issue on some of the
nuclear disputes?

A Yes, but I don't present them as alternative
hypotheses in the same ways that the creationists are
trying to teach children.

Q Well, let's maybe refer to another disci-
pline of economics. There are conflicting theories of

A Sure.

Q An economics professor doesn't have to
necessarily agree with Keynesian on economics in order

Nelkin 71

to effectively present that, do they?

A No.

Q Do you think that the evolutional model of
origin should be subject to criticism?

A Of course.

Q Do you think there would be an educational
rationality in your own mind to, for example, in teach-
ing about the American Revolution, to teach not only
the American view of that, but also the British view
of the American Revolution?

A I think it is a very interesting, intellectual
exercise, yes. By the way, I see nothing wrong in a
class in social science or religion, or whatever, in
teaching about the scientific creations.

I talk about the scientific creations and
their theories in my classes all the time, but I don't
present it as a science. I present it as a dispute.

Q Have you made any review or survey of the
scientific literature to determine if there is any
scientific evidence which supports Creation Science?

A I again want to avoid making scientific judg-
ments because I don't think I can make scientific
judgments on the substantive context well at all, and
certainly nowhere near as well as some of the other

Nelkin 72


Q But you have made a decision, have you, in
your writings that Creation Science is not science?

A My writings are based on an analysis of the
religious statements that appear in Creationists called
Scientific Writings. And I have tried to get at their
motivation, what's bothering them, what's of concern
not only in terms of religion, but moral issues as
well. I try to understand what the social and reli-
gious context of these writings -- what generates these
writings in terms of social and religious commitment.

Q Do you know whether it would be possible
for a theory to have a theological or religious con-
text and also have a nonreligious and scientific con-

A No. I think that if the scientific writings
are specifically based on theological assumptions, that
precludes them from being science because of the super-
natural element.

Q Do you know whether there are theories
which may be consistent with some religions on the
one hand that may also be a valid scientific theory on
the other?

A Could you say that again?

Nelkin 73

Q Sure. My question is this: Do you know
if there are theories which on the one hand may be
consistent with the belief of some religions and on
the other hand also be scientific theories?

A I am sorry. The question just doesn't make
sense to me.

You mean are there scientific theories
that are also religious theories?

Q That are consistent with the beliefs of
some religions.

A I guess I am having trouble because most people,
including religious people, tend to separate the two
parts of their lives.

Q Well, do you know of any theories? That
is my question.

If you don't, you can just say so.

A Offhand, no.

MR. CRAWFORD: Mr. Williams, you mean
are there scientific theories which some re-
ligious group would find not to be incompatible
with their religious views?

MR. WILLIAMS: No. My question is are
there theories which are considered scientific
theories and which may be consistent with the

Nelkin 74

belief of some religious.

MR. CRAWFORD: I guess the problem is know
ing what you mean by consistent.

MR. WILLIAMS: I think consistent has a
common, ordinary accepted meaning. I don't find
it to be a particularly ambiguous term.

A Most religions, it seems to me, are predicated
on the existence of a supreme being. That is incon-
sistent with scientific theories.

For most people, that doesn't pose a con-

Q What is religion? Have you studied what
constitutes a religion?

A I would define religion, and this is awfully sim-
plistic, as belief in a supernatural entity.

Q Are you aware of whether there are any
religions which do not include a belief in a supernatural
or in a god, or in a diety?

A No.

Q As I understand it, the work and research
you have done in this area is for a substantial part
predicated on the notion that a scientific cannot be
consistent with religious belief and vice versa?

A Yes. I wasn't asking myself that question,

Nelkin 75


Q Yes, but isn't that implicit in your wo

A That there is a certain inconsistency between
science and religion explanation -- well, both purpo
to be explanations of reality, but they come from di
ferent directions.

Q So, if there is a scientist who articul
a theory which to him is a scientific theory --

A Yes.

Q -- but which to others is a religious c
cept --

A Yes.

Q -- how would you view that scientist?
those as inconsistent to you?

A Let me try to repeat the question. You are sa
if a scientist defines his work as scientific, but so
body else views it as religious --

Q Yes.

A And what is the question?

Q Then is his work scientific?

A Whose work?

Q The scientist, his theory.

A That's not the judgment that one would use to
evaluate whether it's scientific or not. I mean

Nelkin 76

I can very well conceive of a first-rate scientist
doing superb science and somebody else comes along
and says no, I really think that is a religion, that
would not be sufficient to deny its validity as a
science. You would have to use other criteria.

Does that answer it?

Q In part.

A You would really have to make a judgment on other
criteria besides somebody's opinion.

Q Let me see if I can restate the question.

If a scientist puts forth a theory which
he considers to be a scientific theory, that theory,
however, happens to be consistent with the belief
of some religions and even a scientist admits that
it probably has traditionally some religious connota-
tion --

A Yes.

Q -- would you, from your perspective, classify
that as religion?

A Well, if it is predicated on apriorius assumptions
that God made the world at a certain time or that a
scientist rested on supernatural intervention, then I
would say that he is masking religion in the guise of

Nelkin 77

But most scientists, when they do science,
don't see any contradictions with their religious be-
liefs. They separate the two realms.

I hope we are not talking past each other.
I am trying hard to answer your questions, but they
are general enough and it's hard.

Q I understand that they are general. We
have to try to look at some of the larger patterns in
this lawsuit.

A Yes, I see.

Q Are you familiar with a concept called

A Yes.

The notion of purpose or the purposeness
of design.

Q Is that as it relates to science -- is
that a religion?

A It's a belief system. It's not a scientific

Q Would you consider that to be religion or
in the nature of religion?

A Well, I wouldn't call teleology religion, but
explanations based on teleological principles are --
tent to originate in religious motivation.

Nelkin 78

Q Rather than scientific inquiry?

A Rather than scientific inquiry, yes.

Q Do you have a definition for the theory
of evolution? Have you formulated one or taken one
that you would adopt?

A Again, I would rather not be brought into scien-
tific explanations because I would just make a fool of

Q Don't you have in your work in the Creation
Science area, looking at this controversy, isn't it a
certain fundamental understanding of evolution and of
what constitutes science a prerequisite?

A It depends -- I get into this discussion about
everything I write, and one has to be very careful not
to ask oneself the kind of question that requires on
to have a detailed understanding of the science

I have never in that book, If you will
notice, made a scientific judgment about the validity
of creationism or evolution theory. That is not a ques-
tion that I am interested in.

Q Then you would not consider yourself to
be an expert in defining what is science or what is
a scientific theory?

Nelkin 79

A That's not what I said. That's what you said.

Q Well, I am asking you the question. Would
you consider yourself an expert?

A I have some idea as to what is an appropriate
method in science, but I am not evaluating whether or
not Creation Science is accurate, whether their data
is accurate.

In that sense, I do have to quite frankly
trust the judgment of colleagues who I think are good
scientists; but I can make some judgments about methods
people use to do research.

I have interviewed creationists and I have
gotten some notion of their motivation, of what drives
them, and I think that that cannot be distinguished
from their approach to science.

But I am very careful in all the work that
I do not to make an evaluation whether radiation is
dangerous to people or not, whether what chemicals are
more hazardous than others. That's where I stand on

Q So, I think, in answer to my question,
that you do not hold yourself out to be an expert in
defining what is science or what is a scientific theory,
but you have relied on other individuals to make that

Nelkin 80

decision; is that correct?

A No. I have made a judgment on whether I think
a theory is scientific or not, but whether it is valid
science, I have not, and that is the distinction.

Q What is the distinction of whether it is
a scientific theory or whether it is scientifically

A In this case, it is whether the scientific theory
is predicated on the existence of a supernatural being
or the inerrancy of the Bible, or whether it is based
on the usefulness, the explanatory usefulness of the
theory of in its origin and research.

That's the differentiation.

MR. CRAWFORD: As opposed to judgments
about a creationists might think are accurate
in allegations of fact.


MR. CRAWFORD: Or interpretations of

THE WITNESS: I mean the arguments that
creationists develop about the uniformity of
time, or their judgment as to whether some-
thing represents or does not represent the
transitional form, I would not presume to

Nelkin 81

make a scientific judgment on that.

However, I would go through there writings
and suggest that an awful lot of their writings
do say that we believe in the inerrancy of the
Bible in their recourse to God and design.

Q To your knowledge, did any of the Creation
Scientists that you interviewed or considered in this
book have any input to Act 590?

A No, I did not look at the legislative record,
so I don't know. I know that they are -- were a lot
of the major spokesman of the creationists, they still
are, and the same generals exist and the same people
are still writing.

But I don't know about the specific role
that is the creation of the Arkansas statute.

Q Do you know what criteria are necessary
in deciding whether a theory is a scientific theory --

A Or not.

There is a number of criteria. First of
all, it should not be based on apriority assumptions.
It should have useful, very useful explanatory value.
It should be amenable to refutation and it should be
tested continuously, and it should have some basis on
existing knowledge and factual material.

Nelkin 82

Q Do you know whether the theory of evolu-
tion under that definition qualifies as a scientific

A From the experts that I speak to, yes.

Q Who are the experts upon whom you have re-

A Evolutionists, people working in evolution theory
such as Gould.

Q Anyone else that you have relied upon princi-

A No. I have read a number of the reports from
various academic groups, national academic groups.

Q Have you ever asked someone who is not an
evolutionist or relied upon someone who is not an evolu-
tionist as to whether evolution or Creation Science are
valid scientific theories?

A I have talked to a lot of historians.

Q Historians of science?

A Yes, historians of science who have read a good
deal of history on science, talked to a lot of histor-
ians and tried to understand its controversy in his-
torical context.

Q Were these historians evolutionists?

A Yes. You mean evolutionists in what sense? They

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are not doing evolution -- most of the historians I
know, yes, are essentially.

Q They would personally ascribe to evolution

A Yes. I mean they really feel the history of
research in this field has been very, very consistently
supportive. That is not to say that there aren't dif-
ferences among evolutionists because there are, and
that is a sign of a healthy science because people

The historians of science that I know,
yes, are completely convinced.

Q Is apriority reasoning in your work as a
sociologist, is that accepted? Should you come to --

A I think every human being has certain apriority
assumptions. I think to argue that we are all a clean
slate and we approach our work with no assumptions, I
think, is sheer nonsense.

We all come with a set of assumptions, a
set of beliefs. It would be a gross exaggeration to
say otherwise. We try our best to be open-minded and
to look at what the evidence tells us and to play an
honest game.

Q Before you began writing in the area of

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the controversy on Creation Science, did you have some
discussions with some scientists about the subject?

A No. In fact, when I started doing it, inter-
estingly enough, everybody thought I was out of my mind.
This was fairly early before there was much visibility
to the controversy.

I have been doing a series on rather turgid
studies on airport sitings, on really highly technical
controversies, and I needed that kind of a different
arena. It looks like it was an interesting controversy
to me, which would, first of all, reveal something
about our culture and how it deals and how it under-
stands science and the kinds of things about planes
that are disturbing to it.

In fact, I started off very sympathetic
to the creationists as people who are concerned about
the future of their children, about the implications
of science in secularization for their values and for
the concerns about the impact of science in technology.

I started off rather sympathetic to their
social concerns. Also, I was very interested in the
way people use science as a means of credibility.

I mean, just read the advertisements,
look at transcendental meditationists, the occultists,

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any of these groups.

Q Isn't it true, even when you started look-
ing at this, that you thought the creationist scien-
tists were a bunch of nuts, in simple terms?

A No. Actually, I started off without really know-
ing much about them. And it seems strange -- not reli-
gious nuts.

Q I'm using pejorative term --

A It did seem to me rather strange that a group
which would base its science or would argue that they
are basing their science on religious assumptions
should -- I have no feelings about the creationists
as people, but it did strike me as strange that this
would develop at a period where science has a lot of
saliency in our society, and that struck me as a
rather strange kind of phenomenon.

I was interested in why this should all of
a sudden become important. That's quite different than
the question you asked me as to whether I thought the
creationists were nuts.

Q You said it struck you as odd that this
would occur at a time when science had a lot of saliency?

A Yes.

Q That statement in and of itself reveals,

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does it not, the fact that you exclude Creation Science
from being science from the very beginning?

A Yes, all right. Yes.

Q As a matter of fact, is the presence of
your book Science Textbook Controversy in the Politics
of Equal Time at page Roman numeral x you state: "The
creationists' demands which seemed so bizarre was an
expression of basic and rather widespread criticism
of science in its pervasive influences on social values."

The use of the word "bizarre" there, that
was kind of your personal view, wasn't it?

A My personal view was that science has fairly
well established that certain kinds of signs are es-
tablished in our science, and along comes a group
with religious assumptions that is calling it a science,
and that that was bizarre.

I was interested in why. And I discovered
along the way that a lot of their concerns about the
impact of technology, a whole bunch of moral concerns
were widespread concerns about this society which most
people did not express, developing alternative scien-
tific hypotheses.

Q But the fact of the matter is that you
came to your work in this with your own apriority

Nelkin 87

reason, i.e., that Creation Science is not science as
simply related, correct?

A It's based on religion, yes. Assumptions, by the
way, which were based on the creationists' own writ-

Q Did creationists' writings also discuss the
fact that under a strict classical definition of what
is scientific definition that evolution is not a
scientific theory, have you ever seen that?

A Yes. The creationists expressed a theme that
evolution theory is also religion.

Q I think that is a different thing. My ques
tion was as to whether evolution was a valid scientific
theory under a strict classical definition of what is
a scientific theory.

A Yes, I think it is. Not all scientists are based
necessarily on the ability to do experiments.

If you are going to make that judgment, the
astronomy would not be a science, for example.

MR. CRAWFORD: Could we pause now and
change court reporters?


(Whereupon, at 1:20 P.M. Joseph Quiroga
was relieved by Dorothy Grumberg.)

Nelkin 88

Q I think before the change of reporters
we were discussing what is science, and you said that
evolution, as I understand it, to paraphrase, because
it may not be completely testable, does not make it
not science.

MR. CRAWFORD: That is not her testimony.
She used the word "experimental."

Q What is the word you used?

We were talking about scientific theories.
You made reference to the fact that, for example,
astronomy --

A -- is not an experimental science.

The definition of science does not rest on a
fact that you can conduct experiments, for example.

Q From where do you draw your definition
of what is science?

A From a long history of studies of science,
sociology of science, definition of science.

Q Is there any one particular source that
you look to, or one definition?

A Probably the most widely quoted sociologist of
science, I think I mentioned before, is Robert Merton,

There is widely accepted understanding about

Nelkin 89

what is science and what is not science.

Q Do scientists differ?

A There is a great deal of agreement within the
scientific community in terms of defining what is
science and what is not.

Q I will make sure we are not mixing apples
and oranges.

Are science and scientific theories the

A Scientific theories are within science. It is
not like different parts of speech.

Q What is science, then?

A Science can be viewed as a profession, as a
modology. It depends on how you are using the word.

Q The subject of science, the study of

A The subject of science is nature. The subject,
not study.

Q Is it correct to say what constitutes
science is a philosophical question?

A Well, it depends on whose study -- it can be a
philosophical or sociological question, or a histori-
cal question.

Q Are science and metaphysics mutually

Nelkin 90


A I really don't know how to answer that.

Q What does "metaphysical" mean?

A How are you defining metaphysical?

Q I am asking you, what definition in your
own mind do you have of the notion of metaphysical?

A Metaphysics is a kind -- no, I don't know. I
am not sure how to use the word "metaphysical." It is
not a word I would draw on often. It is a word used
so broadly in so many different ways that it's lost a
lot of precision.

Q Do you know whether the theory of evolu-
tion is observable?

A There are certain -- as I understand it -- again
I don't want to be drawn into a scientific discussion
-- there are certain artifacts which can be observed
to support the theory of evolution.

Q For example?

A Fossil evidence. Geological formation. The
theory itself is not observable but there are arti-
facts that support or do not support the theory,
depending on the -- according to my information,
there are lots and lots of artifacts which sustain
and support and are explained by the theory of evolu-

Nelkin 91


Q Do you know whether there are artifact
fossils supporting the theory?

A They mostly argue negative cases. They argue
against supportive evidence for evolution theory,
rather than offering positive proof that their theories
are correct. Mostly negative arguments.

Q Do you know whether there is any fossil
evidence that supports the Creation Science model?

A Yes.

Q Is the theory of evolution testable?

A Certain parts of it are. Other parts are not
Q What portions are not testable?

A Theories of origins are not testable in the
sense that one can experiment. However, one can
deduce a great deal.

Again, you are drawing me into scientific argu-
ments, which I cannot answer competently.

Q For example, is it possible to test the
evolution from one species to another?

A One observes the existence -- one observes
transitional forms. One observes fossil evidence.
The precise nature and arguments with respect to

Nelkin 92

validity of that evidence is something you will have
to ask a scientist about.

Q Is the theory of evolution falsifiable?

A Again you'd have to ask a scientist that.

Q Is the theory of evolution repeatable?

A Well, theories are not exactly repeatable.

You mean evidence that can be duplicated? Again
that is not the nature of a lot of scientists.

Astronomy, to give another example, you cannot
replicate observations, although you learn a great
deal from them.

It is a misunderstanding, I believe, of the way
scientists operate to demand that everything be rep-
licable. It would exclude an awful lot of what we
understand to be science.

Q For example?

A Astronomy.

Q What do you know about the Creation model,
Creation Science model?

A The Creation Science model is predicated on
the inerrancy of the Bible. They -- a lot of creation-
ist literature I read is refutation -- efforts to

Nelkin 93

refute the evolution theory.

In my book, if you notice, there is a little
table on which I lay out some of the different assump-
tions of the two theories.

Q Do you know whether the Creation Science
theory of origin is observable?

A Well, I know they have had expeditions to find
Noah's Ark and have failed to find it. It used to
cost, in 1873 $1,375 to be on one of these expeditions.
As far as I know, they never discovered anything.

Q Other than that --

A Pardon?

Q Other than that tidbit, do you know whether
the Creation Science model origin is observable?

A Mostly when they seem to be looking for is the
lack of transitional forms.

From the nature of their writings, I don't
believe so, but again, somebody who has looked at
the scientific dimensions of this rather than the
sociological dimensions should be asked that question,
and not me.

Q I take it then that you do not know whether
the Creation Science model of origins is testable?

MR. CRAWFORD: I don't understand the

Nelkin 94

question. One doesn't test models in science.
One tests hypotheses or theories.

MR. WILLIAMS: My understanding in science
is that the terms of model and theories are
interchangeable, essentially.

I can use the term "theory" just as well,
if that would assist.

MR. CRAWFORD: That pleases me.

Q Just answer the question. The theory
would be --

A From the nature of that theory, I would argue
that it is not testable.

Q Is it falsifiable?

A I don't think so, because it is based on a priori
assumptions about -- designed by a supernatural being,
and that is neither testable nor falsifiable.

Q Is not evolution based on a presupposition
of no creator?

A This is a negative -- restate it. There is a
double negative somewhere.

Q I will strike one of the negatives.

Is evolution based on the presupposition
of no creator?

A Yes. Evolution theory is based on the supposition

Nelkin 95

that there is no creator who at a given period of
time has created the world.

Q Is that presupposition subject to being
tested, to your knowledge?

A No. That is based on a priori assumptions also.

Q What materials have you read concerning
the Creation Science theory of origins?

A What?

Q What materials have you read concerning
the Creation Science theory of origins?

A I mentioned before earlier today that I can't
remember the names of all the stuff.

Q You mentioned that you received some books
written by --

A Yes. By Gish Morris, writings by Lester,
L-e-s-t-e-r. I can't remember the names of all the
things that I have read.

Q If there was some scientific evidence in
support of the Creation Science theory of origins,
would you favor its discussion in the classroom?

A If there were really valid material, again that
is not an effort to prove the existence of God, of

Q In your opinion, should both the Creation

Nelkin 96

Science theory of origins and the evolution theory
of origins be discussed in a public school science

A Say that again. I'm sorry. I'm tired, so I'm
kind of --

Q In your opinion, should both the Creation
Science theory of origins and the evolution theory of
origins be discussed in a public --

A Science --

Q -- science classroom?

A No. They should not be. Both should not be.
I mean, I think one --

Q You think evolution should?

A Evolution should. And creation should not.

Q There is an ambiguity?

A Yes.

Q In your opinion, is the evolution theory
of origins an unquestionable fact of science?

A I think all theories are questionable, but the
best -- to the best evidence today, the ideas that
are most well accepted among competent scientists and
found to be useful are evolution theory. Therefore,
I think that is what should be taught.

Q Do you think it is an unquestionable fact

Nelkin 97

of science, evolution?

A I think no facts of science -- evolution is not
fact. It is a theory. I agree with the creationists
that evolution is a theory, not a fact. It is a theory
that is a useful explanation of facts, but it is not
unquestionable. Everything is questionable.

Q In your opinion, is the evolution theory
of origins contrary to the religious convictions or
moral values or philosophical beliefs of some people?

A I think some people feel that it is. I don't
think -- I think that they are misguided in their
notion of science and what it is supposed to do and

There are people very disturbed about the moral
implications of science. There is a wonderful clipping
that I read one day in the newspaper where some women
blamed streaking on the teaching of evolution theory.

Q Are you aware also that at one time, under
the theory of evolution, one who purported to be a
scientist said that the average black individual had
the mental capacity of an eleven-year-old?

A Of course, science has been abused by non-
scientists as sell.

Andrew Carnegie drew an evolution theory to

Nelkin 98

support the capitalist system, but this is a problem.

Q As you said, any science or any theory
can be abused.

A Yes.

Q In your opinion, can the evolution theory
of origin be presented in a classroom without reference
to any religious doctrine?

A Any -- what?

Q Can evolution, the theory of evolution,
be presented in the classroom without reference to
any religious doctrine?

A Sure. The theory of evolution can be presented
without reference to any religious doctrine, yes.

Q How do you explain to a student the first

A You mean the origins of life? Or the first
cause, the cause of life? How are you using that?

Q We can take it to be the origin of first

A Well, again I don't want to go into the evolu-
tionary -- the science of evolution and defects of
it, because I can't present it in a very intelligent

Q Do you favor a neutral position by public

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education taught in secondary schools in the class-
room discussion of religious, moral and philosophical

A It depends on what kind of classroom they are
being discussed in.

I have no objection to teaching the history of
religions in public schools. I think it is very
interesting and excellent.

Q In answer to that question, would you
favor a neutral position by public education taught
in secondary schools on matters of religious, moral
and philosophical matters?

A Yes. I don't think a schoolteacher should be
teaching one religion or another unless it is in a
private parocial school.

I presume we are talking about public schools.

Q My question referred to public educators.

What is faith?

A Belief.

Q Is there anything else that faith means to

A Faith does not have to be based on evidence.
What most people believe and have faith in is not
necessarily based on evidence.

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Q In your book, "The Science Textbook
Controversies and the Politics of Equal Time," which
we will refer to as your book because I think it is
the only one on this subject that you wrote --

A Yes.

Q In Appendix 1, you have a list of some
National Science Foundation precollege science curricu-
lum college grants.

Do you know whether the National Science
Foundation gave any grants to look at or study Creation

A I don't know. You mean, to teach --

Q On curriculum.

A On curriculum? My research -- within my research
it had some funding within a larger study of contro-
versies, and I had some money, travel money, from them
to do research.

Q How much did you receive from them for
this book?

A It's very hard for me to estimate. It was part
of a larger science policy grant to Cornell, and I
drew my travel funds off of that.

I had a couple of trips to California, some
phone calls, probably some typing came from NSF funds,

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