The Creator in the Courtroom:Scopes II - Chapter Five - Part 2
Excerpted Chapters from:
Norman L. Geisler's (1982) The Creator in the Courtroom: Scopes II, Mott Media Inc.
Used by permission of Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, copyright (c) 1982. All rights to this material are reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written permission from Baker Publishing Group. http://www.bakerbooks.com
Please note: This is not an official record of the trial and may, in part, reflect the views of the author who was a witness for the state of Arkansas in favor of Act 590.
See Participants page for links to more information on Dr. Geisler.
Thursday,10 December 1981
Ronald W. Coward
Thursday morning, the plaintiffs called Ronald W. Coward, a teacher of biology and psychology, from the Pulaski County School District. Coward said what determines what he teaches as science is his own ability to “decide what is good science and what is not,” and that he must consider the interests of his student. Creation science, he said, is something he does not consider to be “real science.”
Coward said that in reviewing for the Pulaski County School Board a creation science textbook called Biology: A Search for Order in Complexity, he was “surprised” at the religious references the book contained, and did not consider it scientific. He said the book attributed certain phenomena in the natural world to an intelligent creator/designer, and that therefore it was not scientific.
[Attorney General Steve] Clark objected to consideration of the text because it had not been shown that that book would be used by Arkansas schools.
Coward said he considered it impossible to implement Act 590 because scientific materials were not available to teach creation science. He said he would have to tell his students that there simply is no scientific data for creation science, and since he would not be able to teach creation science, then he would not be able to teach evolution science either, since the two would have to be balanced if either were taught.
Coward said there would be a “tremendous time-frame problem” because “evolution is interwoven virtually through every page of the textbooks,” and that the textbooks depend on evolution as “the glue that holds it all together.”
He said Act 590 would require some changes in how psychology is taught, too, because some experiments in psychology to learn about human behavior presuppose an evolutionary relationship between humans and various other animals. This, he said, would require balance by a creationist view, but if creationism were true, he said, then there would be “no interrelationships” between man and other animals, and therefore such psychological studies would be “irrelevant to us.”
He said trying to balance creationism with evolutionism would hurt his teaching because if he “tried to be impartial, as I believe 590 would require, then students would see that and my credibility would be destroyed.” He said that if he resorted to teaching neither evolution or creation, that would hurt teaching, too, since evolution is the “key to science and biology,” and without an understanding of evolution his students “would be unprepared for college.” His inability to balance the teaching of the two, however, would force him to stop teaching evolution, he said.
Under cross examination, Coward said he had made no independent effort to find other materials presenting creation science, and had not tried to obtain and read the writings of any of the defense witnesses since the publication of their names. He also said he never inquired into the validity of scientific concepts in the textbooks currently used in science courses in the state’s public schools. He acknowledged, in response to a question by Clark, that it might not be beyond the ability of students to examine and evaluate arguments on evolution and creation, if scientific arguments for creationism could be found.
He also said that academic freedom would be overstepped by any teacher who tried to teach creation science because that would be contrary to professional ethics, since creation science is not scientific but is religious doctrine.
He said academic freedom for students meant their right to pursue available information in a field, but that his responsibility as a teacher was to sort out and select what information was legitimate for the students to examine. Clark asked him if his sorting limited the students’ academic freedom, and he said it did, though he also said that the right of academic freedom for students was an “absolute” right.
Although Coward said he thought “balance” in Act 590 would require equal time to be given to the two views, he said that one could teach two ideas, both soundly, without giving them equal time.
Bill C. Wood
The plaintiffs then called Bill Wood, a science teacher in the Pulaski County Special School District, who testified that he had been a member of a committee in that school district to review creationist literature. He said the committee had concluded that there was no science to creation science, and that the materials they reviewed had no science in them.
Wood said he believed “balanced treatment” would require that the two views be given “equal dignity, equal treatment, equal time, and equal basis for inclusion into the body of scientific knowledge,” and complete objectivity. He said he did “not like [scientific creation] because I don’t think it’s science, I think it’s religion.” He said the reason he thought it was religious was that its ideas came from the book of Genesis in the Bible.
He said he believed the results for his students of a two-model approach would be injurious to their ability to see broad pictures in science.
On cross examination, assistant Attorney General Callis Childs asked Wood to read a portion of material prepared for balanced treatment in the Pulaski school district which questioned the relationship of man to Ramapithecus and Australopithecus, alleged ancestors to man. Childs asked him if that were “evidence implying separation of man and other primates” in ancestry, and Wood said it was.
The plaintiffs next called Ed Bullington, a teacher of American history, sociology, government, and other social science courses in Pulaski County. Bullington testified that Act 590 would affect the way he would have to deal with the origin and development of human society in his courses, and that because he is not competent to deal with scientific issues, he would not be competent to present a balance of evolution science and creation science in those courses.
He said that in some of his courses he already deals with religion sociologically, and that that is not against the First Amendment, but that if he were to advance a particular religious point of view, that would be unconstitutional, and said Act 590 would do that.
Bullington also testified that if Act 590 were upheld, students would “monitor” teachers to see if their presentation were “balanced,” and some “could become vigilantes,” leading to complaints against teachers which would affect the renewal or non-renewal of their contracts.
The next witness called by the plaintiffs was Marianne Wilson, science coordinator for the Pulaski County Special School District, who testified that she had been involved in an attempt to develop a “two-model” curriculum but that those attempts were futile because the committee charged with the task could find no scientific evidence for creationism.
She explained she had first heard of creation science when, in Dec., 1980, Larry Fisher, a science teacher in her school district, showed her a resolution he wanted to present to the Pulaski County School Board. The resolution called for balanced presentation of creation science and evolution. The school board passed the resolution and then asked her to form a committee to implement it. That, she said, was the first time she actually read the resolution. She said it “reminded me of Genesis,” causing her to “raise my eyebrows.”
She said the committee reported to the board that they did not think it possible to design a balanced curriculum because creationism wasn’t scientific. The board, she said, essentially told them that it hadn’t asked their opinion, it had just given them a job to do and the committee should get to it.
She asked Fisher for materials, and he gave her a number of creationist writings, which the committee reviewed. She then contacted experts in the fields of biology, geology, paleontology, and other science fields, for help in “finding legitimate sources,” made a general outline for the curriculum using Act 590, and tried to build a positive case for creationism, as opposed merely to a negative case against evolutionism.
When asked if she had ever found documentation from the scientific community for so much as one single point of the creationist arguments, she said she had found none. Still, she said, she had devised the curriculum unit because her school board had ordered her to do so, but said it was “by no means” in teachable form. She also said the curriculum did not “support creationism scientifically.”
When asked whether she had tried to make use of the two-model approach designed by Bliss, she said she had not because it referred to a creator, so she “threw it in the trash.”
Under cross examination by Clark, Wilson said she did not believe the state has a right, through legislation, to prescribe curriculum for its schools. She also said that a belief in a recent origin of man and the earth need not be religious. She acknowledged that although four texts now used in the public schools in her county mention creation science, she had not contacted the publishers of those texts to see if they could provide further information on it.
Clark asked her if she were familiar with work done by Robert Gentry on polonium haloes in granites, and she said she had seen something about it, but had thrown it out. He asked her if she had thrown it out because she couldn’t understand it, and she said, “No.” He then read from her pretrial deposition a statement in which she said she had thrown it out because she couldn’t understand it. She replied that that was only one of the reasons, that other science teachers she had talked with also knew nothing about it, and that if science teachers had a hard time understanding it, it would be unreasonable to expect students to deal with it.
Dr. William V. Mayer
Dr. William V. Mayer, professor of biology at the University of Colorado and director of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, Boulder, Colo., was called late Thursday as the plaintiffs’ last witness.
Mayer said since the inception of the BSCS in 1960, he was sure that their decision to make more open reference to evolution in the textbooks they produced would “wave a red flag before certain fundamentalists” and lead to conflict. However, they had decided that evolution was so central to understand all of science that for the sake of quality textbooks in the sciences they would have to discuss it in more depth than had been the case before 1960.
He said evolution is the only thing that ties biology all together, and added that students can’t understand one organism if that organism is not related to other organisms, because comparison is necessary for understanding.
Asked by ACLU attorney Robert Cearley whether biology could be presented without evolution, Mayer replied, “not with any cohesiveness.” He said that evolution does not properly include the actual study of the origin of life, but that normally that was touched upon in teaching biology, and the various ideas presented on that included chemical speculations, pan spermia (the idea that the universe if filled with the “seeds” of life), spontaneous generation (the idea that life came about suddenly by random chance combination of elements), and the “steady state” theory, which says that life and the universe have always existed.
These views, he said, all have in common the fact that they are based on evidences and observations, that they speak of entirely naturalistic mechanisms and that there is no appeal to a creator. The court recessed at this point in Mayer’s direct testimony.
Friday, 11 December 1981
When the court reconvened, Dr. Mayer continued his direct testimony. Mayer said creationism is sometimes mentioned in textbooks on biology, not as science, but rather as a religious way of explaining life. He added that all biology texts teach evolution.
He objected to the term “evolution science” in Act 590 on the basis that it implied that there was such a thing as a science which was non-evolutionary, which he said is not true. He also said the act’s description of evolution was not accurate, but that its description of creation science was precisely what he has found in some 27 years of reading creationist literature. He said dividing views on origins into just two basic positions, was an “artificial dichotomy” which forced students to decide between evolution and belief in God, while in fact many evolutionists also believe in God.
Mayer said the effect on students of teaching creationism would be confusion and division in the classes, causing more problems than it would solve by mixing theology and science in a way that “damages both and is helpful to neither.” In addition, he said, it would “throw an unnecessary roadblock in front of students by asking them to understand science and also to adjudicate between science and religion. He said it offered them too many alternatives, including choices between believing in a worldwide flood and not believing in it; believing that mutation is sufficient for evolutionary changes, and not believing it; and other such dichotomies.
When asked if it were “proper” to “let students decide” on controversial scientific issues such as this, Mayer said that these were not the only two alternatives in understanding origins, and that one teacher and his students in a class would not be capable of treating the issue in an intelligent way and coming to “a proper conclusion” in fifty minutes of class time. He added that teaching the two views would not foster the growth of cognitive abilities.
Mayer said the difference “between science and creation science” is that between two different epistemological systems, two different ways of approaching knowledge. He compared it with the differences between the ways of stating truth used by a poet and a historian, It would be illegitimate, he said, for one to say the other’s way of saying things was wrong and his own right, because they are two different ways of looking at the world.
He said the source of creation science was a belief in supernatural, divine “revelation,” and this was reflected in creationist literature, which often referred to the Bible as the Word of God. He said religion is the “unifying theme” in creationist writings, not science. He quoted numerous references to religious beliefs in creationist literature.
He said the effect of such references in the literature would be to “imprint the students with the idea of a creator,” and confuse them by making them think there are two alternatives which are not really alternatives at all, because one is science and the other is religion.
When asked if he thought it were impossible to teach creationism without religion, he said, “Yes, that’s what’s in the literature and demanded by [creation science]. He said BSCS had considered and rejected the idea of including creation science in its texts for that reason.
He referred to Biology: A Search for Order in Complexity, a major creationist textbook, and said it differed from other biology textbooks in that it had no “unifying principle,” and it “attempted to prevent students from seeing relationships” among animals, and that it was religious. He said he knew of no similar biology textbooks.
Asked if evolution favored any religious position, Mayer replied that it did not because it was non-theistic, not atheistic. In other words, evolution doesn’t address the question of the existence of a god or creator, while creation depends on the existence of a creator.
Mayer also testified that the idea of “balance” as talked of in Act 590 was “vague,” and so publishers of textbooks would not know whether they were fulfilling Act 590 or not. Furthermore, he said, even if they wanted to balance the two, they would violate the act if they put creation science in because the act prohibits teaching religion, and creation science is inherently religious. He estimated that the cost of preparing balanced textbooks and curriculum for the state’s public schools, even if it could be done, which he denied, would probably be about $1.6 million.
Mayer said it would also be unwise to teach scientific evidences against evolution and for creationism as isolated elements without reference to a religious belief because that would “pit a few minute, isolated data against a huge, complex, well-ordered scientific view of evolutionary theory.”
Mayer testified that Act 590 would come into play not only in biology, but also in geology, sociology, psychology, history, and even literature, most of them fields in which the teachers, because not competent in science, would be unable to deal with the scientific issues and so couldn’t provide for balance.
When asked what “balanced treatment” might mean, Mayer said he had “no idea,” but added, “This is not an act for balance, but for imbalance. It would make creationism the single most pervasive idea running through all of the state’s education system.”
Under cross examination by Clark, Mayer said he could not say that any of the present creationist literature would be used in implementing Act 590. He acknowledged that because science is in a sense the “state of the art” in each of its fields, it is subject to change daily.
When Clark asked whether the traditional concept of “scope and sequence” in curriculum development included the idea of balancing various issues in the curriculum, Mayer said it didn’t but rather included the principle of selection among various ideas that could be treated.
Clark referred to Mayer’s earlier statement that he could find no reputable science text which dealt with creationism in any way other than as an idea held in history or as religion, and then called his attention to The World of Biology, a commonly used biology text by Davis and Solomon, and directed Mayer to read a portion of page 415, which listed six of the arguments creationists use. Clark then asked Mayer which of those he would understand as religious instead of scientific arguments, and Mayer named none of them. Clark then asked which were historical references instead of scientific arguments, and again Mayer acknowledged that none of them were historical. He agreed with Clark that none of the arguments was presented in that textbook as any more historical or religious than a book which would present arguments for evolution.
When asked if the evolution of life from nonlife lent itself to statistical analysis, Mayer said that it did not. He also told Clark he believed science could not legitimately deal with the supernatural. He said though he believed life on earth had a beginning, he did not know how it began, and that no one had yet synthesized life in a laboratory.
Clark, referring to Mayer’s pretrial deposition, asked if Mayer had said it “may well be that creationism is correct about origins,” and Mayer said he had said that, but that he added that “even if it were correct, it’s not scientific.”
Clark then asked Mayer if he believed students had a right to examine controversies, to see several sides to controversial issues, and to take positions on controversial issues without fear of discrimination from their teachers, and Mayer answered all three questions, “Yes.”
With the conclusion of Clark’s cross examination of Mayer, the plaintiffs rested their case, and it came time for the defense to call its first witness.
Extracts of The Creator In The Courtroom: Scopes II (1982) by Norman Geisler, courtesy of Baker Books.
Scans provided by Jim Moore.