Deposition of Father Francis Bruce Vawter - Page 2
whatever record you have both as to the substance
of his testimony--which is the purpose of this
deposition--and his conversations with me certainly
has not been impeded in any way. That's not the
MR. CAMPBELL: Q Father Vawter, have you
prepared any exhibits, or have you prepared any
exhibits for use at trial?
MR. SIANO: Two questions; that's a compound
MR. CAMPBELL: Q Have you prepared any exhibits
THE WITNESS: A No.
Q Will you prepare any exhibits between now
and the day of the trial?
MR. SIANO: Objection; that's speculative.
MR. CAMPBELL: You may answer the question.
MR. SIANO: No, not a speculative question, he
It's impossible for him to answer a
question about what he will do.
MR. CAMPBELL: Q Are you planning to prepare
any exhibits at this time for trial?
THE WITNESS: A No.
Q Father Vawter, are you familiar with the
Q Do you have an opinion what it's definition
MR. SIANO: I am going to object now, and I
suggest to you, Mr. Campbell, that you will probably
make this witness your own if you take him into areas
about which he is not going to testify at trial as
he has described those areas of testimony, and as
our notice of this witness's proposed area of testimony
MR. CAMPBELL: I understand.
Q How would you define fundamentalism?
A It got its name from the American religious
experience, specifically, Baptist religions experience,
I think, when they laid down certain landmarks that
they call the fundaments, the foundations that could
not be denied--that's what it really amounts to nowadays -
one of which was the total inerrancy of the Bible, and
that is what it's generally equated with nowadays;
that's the so-called Bible religion, that's
fundamentalism. Whatever is in the Good Book is true,
no matter what it happens to be concerned with as
a science or history, or whatever, and that's the
landmark that cannot be ignored.
Q Are there any other landmarks that you
would think would be found?
A Oh, the--well, nowadays, I think that is
the hallmark because certain things would be derived
from that; the Fundamentalists' interpretation
of the Scriptures would lead to certain conclusions
that would have to be defended, but--
Q What would be some of those conclusions
you can think of offhand?
A You're asking me for not my own beliefs
Q I understand that.
A Well, one of them would be, I suppose, the
subject we are dealing with here; Creation is
described in the first Book of Genesis, and therefore,
creation must have happened that way, and it must have
been six days of creation, and if you're not going to
be able to get away with six days, then, six days
has to become something else, but still you're going
to have to make the text there correspond with some
kind of reality that you're otherwise forced to by
evidence. That would be, as far as this matter is
concerned, the main one, I suppose.
Q Would there be any others even outside
of this matter?
A Oh, yes, sure.
The fact that man is a fallen creature
and in need of redemption, depending on your Funda-
mentalist. It can also be Jewish Fundamentalists,
too, who stop at the Old Testament, and with the
Christian Fundamentalists, keep up with the chronicle
and, therefore, there are other aspects of the
details of the Life of Jesus, and the fact of His
fulfilment of the Old Testament prophesies, et cetera,
et cetera, et cetera.
It would take you all morning to
complete the catalog here.
Q Have you had an opportunity to read Act 590?
A I did read it, yes.
Q When did you first read it?
A After it was sent to me by Mr. Siano and
MR. SIANO: Just for the record, "and Company,"
would probably like to see it, "Company and Siano."
THE WITNESS: Those lists of lawyers names
always grab me: Fink, Fink, Fink, and Mumblestein.
MR. CAMPBELL: Q When was the last time you had
an opportunity to examine that Act 590?
MR. SIANO: You mean before today?
MR. CAMPBELL: Q Did you read it this morning?
THE WITNESS: A No, I haven't looked at it
Q Are you familiar with it enough for me to
ask you a couple questions about it?
A I would hope so.
Q Do you want to take a few minutes to look
at it again?
A I have a copy of it here somewhere.
Yes, I have it here; okay.
Q What does balance treatment mean to you?
A You mean in terms of what the Act says?
Q Yes, sir?
A That you would--
MR. SIANO: I object to this line of question.
I don't see the relevancy of it, and I think it's
an improper line. What his understanding of balance
treatment is is totally irrelevant to this case.
MR. CAMPBELL: Q You may go ahead and answer
the question, Father Vawter?
THE WITNESS: A In terms of this Act, I assume
what they're saying is if you're going to teach
evolution that you should give equal time --using
that phrase--to teaching the Creation Science, as they
call it, which I think is a begging of terminology,
but anyway, that's what I think that term in the Act
Q You'll see in Section 2 that the first
sentence is, "Prohibition against religious
instruction," what does that mean to you?
A Well, what it says is that this should not
be taught as a religious belief. I think that's
contradictory, and very self-contradictory, in so far
as creation is a religious belief or it comes out
Q Turning now to Section 4, which is the
Definition of Section Act 590; looking at Section 4A
which is the definition of Creation Science--
Q --the section reads, "A Creation Science
means a scientific evidence is for creation and
inferences from those scientific evidences; Creation
Science includes scientific evidences and related
inferences that indicate--" and it lists six things.
What I would like to do is read each
of these six things to you, and then, ask you how
each may or may not be consistent with the Genesis
account of origins.
First, "The sudden creation of the
universe, energy, and life from nothing?"
A Yes, well, to say that Genesis actually
teaches creation from nothing is--I don't think
that can be proved one way or the other. Personally,
I don't believe Genesis says any such thing, but
traditionally, Genesis has been understood to say
such a thing, "In the beginning, God created
the heavens and the earth." Nothing there is not
in the text, obviously, and that's just an
inference, but how you could teach that scientifically
is a complete puzzle and bewilderment to me since
science can only deal with what is palpable to the
senses, and the idea of creation from nothing
scientifically speaking is an absurdity.
Q All right; "the insufficiency of mutation
and natural selection in bringing about development
of all living kinds from a single organism."
A I don't think Genesis has anything to say
one way or the other of such a thing. It's a matter
of observed evidence which Genesis simply didn't have.
Q "Changes only within fixed limits or
originally created kinds of plants and animals."
A Again, the same thing. It's not a matter
Genesis is concerned with.
Q "Separate ancestry for man and apes."
A Similar. The author of Genesis took
it for granted that man began with a separate
creation, but that's not part of the message. I
suppose most people prior to Darwin taught in those
terms, but it's not part of the message of the Book.
Q 5th, "Explanation of the earth's geology
by catastrophism, including the occurrence of a
A Genesis' Chapters 8 and 9 is dealing
with a worldwide flood, of course, and that's where
the--as far as I can see--creationists are getting
that idea. It's a kind of Near Eastern bit of folk-
lore, and whether the evidence of geology confirms
a thing of nature, of course, is not in Genesis,
It is simply part of the primeval
Q Finally, six, "A relatively recent conception
of the earth and living kinds."
A I am sure the authors of Genesis had no
idea what the vast antiquity of the world is, and
took it for granted it was fairly recent, and I
suppose, people did again until fairly recent times
when the fossil evidence began to show up, and so
on, but teaching that as a point of doctrine, no.
That's just a general assumption.
Q As a teacher and after having read this
Act, do you see anything in Act 590 which would
prohibit a teacher from expressing his or her pro-
fessional opinion concerning the relative strengths
of either Evolution Science or Creation Science?
MR. SIANO: I am going to object to that
line of questioning. It is not relevant and it is
beyond the scope of his expertise.
MR. CAMPBELL: Q You may answer the question,
THE WITNESS: A I don't see anything in the Act
that says one way or the other. It says that--if you
require, however, a person to teach a Creation Science
as so-called in balance with Evolution Science
so-called, you could be requiring a person to do
something contrary to his intellectual integrity, and
if he had to propose something that he thought was
completely irrelevant to a scientific discussion
of the matter as though it were to be given equal
time, I think that would certainly--I find it very
difficult to imagine how a person could adjust
psychologically to such an enactment, and then,
have to live with his academic integrity.
Q How would you define academic freedom?
MR. SIANO: I object. You're going into a
line of inquiry, Mr. Campbell, that doesn't relate to
this witness's testimony. I don't know why you're
wasting his time.
MR. CAMPBELL: Q You may answer, Father Vawter.
THE WITNESS: A Academic freedom is the
assurance that the professor or teacher has that he
will not be inhibited from expressing whatever matters
are germane to his presentation according to his
best and responsible accountancy for those. He is
subject to all the other rules that other people
are subject to with regard to not shouting, "Fire,"
in a crowded theatre, and that sort of thing, but
that he's not going to be inhibited by prior censor-
ship which is not of his own conscientious making.
Q Do you think academic freedom guarantees
a teacher the right to teach without qualification
whatever he or she wanted to teach in the classroom?
MR. SIANO: Objection. You're asking for
a legal conclusion.
THE WITNESS: A Obviously not.
MR. CAMPBELL: Q Do you think that academic
freedom could ever be limited?
MR. SIANO: You're asking for a legal conclusion.
MR. CAMPBELL: I am asking for his personal
MR. SIANO: Then, his personal opinion is
MR. CAMPBELL: Q You may answer the question,
Father; I'm sorry for this.
THE WITNESS: A Oh, certainly, it can be,
by agreement. The AAUP, the American Association of
University Professors, has always acknowledged that
academic freedom could be limited providing that
the terms are spelled out by the hiring institution
beforehand and agreed to by the person at the time
of his engagement. Certainly, it can be, but it cannot--
I don't think it's in accordance with the dignity
of the profession that it be inhibited without a
Q In your opinion, should a classroom be open
to all academic discussion?
A All germane academic discussion, yes.
Q In your opinion, should a teacher be free
to evaluate the validity of subjects discussed in the
A Yes, certainly.
Q As an educator--I understand that you're
not going to be testifying as an educator--but as
an educator, do you think that the presentation of
divergent views in the classroom can lead to a better
appreciation by a student of the subject matter
A Theoretically, yes; if they're respectable
Q In your opinion, is Evolution Science
contrary to the religious or philosophical views
of some people?
MR. SIANO: Objection; first of all, I don't
know what the definition of Evolution Science is;
secondly, I want to know what religious views and
which people; otherwise, he's not going to answer
this question; and he may not answer it anyway
because it is not relevant to his area of testimony.
I want to know what all those terms mean since they
have very specialized meanings in the context of this
case. Some of them are unknown to any of us.
MR. CAMPBELL: Q Father Vawter, Evolution
Science is also defined in Act 590, the list of six
characteristics which it may include. I am wondering--
MR. SIANO: Wait a minute; Mr. Campbell, I would
like my objections spoken to, and if you're suggesting
to me for the first time on behalf of the State of
Arkansas that the statute doesn't include all of
those as the four corners of whatever Evolution
Science is, I would like you to take that position
on behalf of your client, the State of Arkansas.
MR. CAMPBELL: Q Father Vawter, do you see
the definition of Evolution Science in Section 4 of
MR. SIANO: Is that the way you define that
term in the context of your question, Mr. Campbell?
That's the only definition that the statute has; now, if
you have a different one that you want to talk about,
I want you to put that on the record, because I find
it interesting to the case, not so much in the context
of this question, but we have not defined Evolution
Science here today other than my referring to this
MR. CAMPBELL: That is the definition that I'm
MR. SIANO: So now we have that definition:
"Whose religious beliefs and what religious beliefs"
are we talking about?
MR. CAMPBELL: That's what I am seeking to
elicit from Father Vawter.
MR. SIANO: Your question was, "Is Evolution
Science, as defined in the statute, offensive to some
peoples' religious beliefs?"
Are you asking him, "Is there some
possible circumstance under which the definition of
Evolution Science might possibly offend somebody's
MR. CAMPBELL: Yes, sir.
MR. SIANO: That's speculative, and he's not
going to answer that. That's exactly what I thought
you were saying.
MR. CAMPBELL: Q Father Vawter, do you know--
off the record.
(WHEREUPON, discussion ensued off
MR. SIANO: If you want to define a religious
belief, Mr. Campbell, and ask this witness in his personal
opinion, "Does your definition of Evolution Science
offend that opinion?" I think that's still
speculative; it's very hypothetical.
MR. CAMPBELL: Q Father Vawter, in looking
at the definition of Evolution Science in Section 4
THE WITNESS: A I see the definition, yes.
I don't accept it. I mean, it doesn't mean anything
to me, because as defined here, this is a loaded
definition which, of course, is putting it in
opposition to the idea of creation. I don't accept
that premise; and using loaded terms like "naturalistic
processes," and the "Uniformitarianism," whatever
that means, that's not playing with a full deck, so
I don't accept that definition.
If you're asking me whether evolution--
the concept of evolution conflicts with a religious
belief in creation, I would say, "No, it does not."
Q Father Vawter, how would you define religion?
MR. SIANO: Again, I object to that line of
inquiry--off the record.
(WHEREUPON, discussion ensued
off the record)
MR. SIANO: Back on the record. I object to this
MR. CAMPBELL: Q You may answer, Father Vawter.
MR. SIANO: You want his personal definition
now; not an expert witness's opinion, or is Father
Vawter your witness for the purpose of eliciting his
MR. CAMPBELL: Q Father Vawter, how would you
define religion personally?
THE WITNESS: A Well, it's the accumulation
of your felt convictions and beliefs about the meaning
of life and your function in the world in relation
to the rest of the world and in relation to the
cause of it all which we call, God.
Q Is religion an expanding concept, in your
personal opinion; are there absolutes in religion?
MR. SIANO: I object to the question. I don't
understand the question. It's vague.
I would ask that the question be
MR. CAMPBELL: Q Does religion, as you defined
it, have any absolutes?
THE WITNESS: A Well, you find that one person's
absolute is another person's relative. I more and more
believe there aren't any absolutes including that last
statement I just make, but that is a matter
of such ill definition and such inevitably personal
coloration that is going to be attached to any
attempt of an answer of that kind, I really prefer
to let that one go by.
Q You used the word, "sectarian," earlier,
what does sectarian mean?
MR. SIANO: I object to that question as being
beyond the scope of the witness's testimony.
MR. CAMPBELL: Q You may answer, Father Vawter.
THE WITNESS: A What was the context in which
I used it?
Q I believe you were talking about--it could
have been your definition of fundamentalist that
you were talking about sectarian beliefs.
MR. SIANO: I think you used it more broadly
in the concept of Judaeo-Christian beliefs.
THE WITNESS: A Possibly it was in that context
of saying that in general it supports the Judaeo-
MR. CAMPBELL: Q That's right--
A (Continuing) And I said even sectarian,
which would be a particular definition of that or a
particular aspect of that Judaeo-Christian tradition,
because, obviously, Judaeo-Christian is a very broad
encompassing thing, but within that, there are people
who are fundamentalists, and people who are not,
and people who are in between, and all that sort of
I think that's the way I was using
Q So sectarian, as I understand it, would just
be a grouping or a group?
A Yes, one particular group.
MR. CAMPBELL: Off the record.
(WHEREUPON, discussion ensued
off the record)
MC. CAMPBELL: Back on the record.
Q Father Vawter, when you were defining
fundamentalism, you mentioned the one landmark, I
believe, was the inerrancy of the Bible; what does
inerrancy of the Bible mean to you?
THE WITNESS: A What it means to me is quite
different than what it would mean to--I don't even
use the term, as far as my own personal belief is
concerned anymore. The word, "Inerrancy," means
in the traditional sense, I suppose, that whatever
the Bible says in so many words has to be true.
It's based on the assumption that the
Bible is the word of God, and God cannot lie, and
therefore, it's true, no matter what it's dealing
with; whether it's religion or science or history,
or anything else, it still has to be true.
That's a position I do not subscribe to,
but that's what I suppose traditionally it's been
understood to be, and that's why people have tried
to make all sorts of harmonizations and arguments
from now to eternity to try to reconcile when the
Bible was obviously saying something that was not
so, and trying to reconcile that with what they knew
was so. It's a concept of Scriptural integrity,
I think, that should be given up.
Q And if you did not subscribe to Bible
inerrancy, is there a label or a term as to what you
would subscribe to?
A I would say the Scriptural authority. I
accept the definition that the Second Vatican Council
of the Roman Catholic Church--not definition, but
rather, description they gave in the treatment of the
subject which formulated that what God has put into
the Sacred Scriptures those things which are--I accept
truly those things which pertain to salvation, which
is a far cry from saying that matters of biology,
or history, or such like, have to be true because
they're in the Bible, but Biblical authority which
contains the truths necessary for salvation.
Q Do you believe in the Virgin Birth of Jesus?
MR. SIANO: Objection. Mr. Campbell, you
mean as a personal matter?
MR. CAMPBELL: As a personal matter.
MR. SIANO: That question is irrelevant, and
I think it's improper.
MR. CAMPBELL: Q You may answer, Father Vawter.
MR. SIANO: No, I really think that's an improper
line of inquiry. Now, I am willing to give you a
reasonable amount of latitude, but I think this is
an unreasonable amount of latitude.
Are you suggesting that this is somehow
an impeachment question or a credibility question?
MR. CAMPBELL: I am not suggesting anything.
MR. SIANO: Then, I will not let you inquire
as to his personal beliefs. His personal belief
structure, unless it bears on his ability to testify
as a witness, is not relevant to this case, and you
MR. CAMPBELL: Excuse me, Father Vawter.
MR. Siano, as I understand the very liberal
rules of discovery, we are entitled to seek the
opinions of individuals whether or not those opinions
would be relevant at trial as long as under any
conceivable set of circumstances, it might lead
to relevant information, and what I would suggest
to Father Vawter, it may or may not be leading to
relevant information in your opinion.
MR. SIANO: I would like you to explicate for
me and state it on the record--and the test is
relevant evidence or calculated to lead to the
discovery of relevant evidence -- please tell me how
this is calculated to lead to relevant evidence. If
you can make a showing of relevancy under that
standard, which I agree with you is a very liberal
standard, I will allow you to inquire. Just give me
a showing of relevance.
MR. CAMPBELL: Q Mr. Siano, I owe you no duty
whatsoever to give you a showing of relevance at this
You've made your objection to relevance,
Mr. Siano; now, I'd like to proceed so we can let the
MR. SIANO: No; I think that you are intruding
into personal matters --
MR. CAMPBELL: Are you instructing the witness
not to answer the question?
MR. SIANO: I suggest that it's an improper
MR. CAMPBELL: Are you instructing the witness
not to answer?
MR. SIANO: I am telling you it's not a proper
question. I think it's highly improper, and this
is beyond the pale, when you're talking about somebody's
personal belief system.
What you're telling me, Mr. Campbell,
is you can't give me a showing of relevance.
I would have thought you would have
thought through a question like that before you asked
Now, if you've got something and you
think it's calculated to lead to the discovery of
relevant evidence, then, I am willing to listen to
your explanation of whether it is calculated to
lead to discovery, but you just don't seem to be able
to say that; and I don't think anybody in good faith
MR. CAMPBELL: Are you instructing the witness
not to answer that question?
MR. SIANO: I'm not instructing anybody not to
do anything, Mr. Campbell.
MR. CAMPBELL: Q Father Vawter, do you believe
in the Virgin Birth of Jesus?
THE WITNESS: A I accept the Apostle's Creed
that he was born of a Virgin, Mary.
Q Father Vawter, you mentioned that at trial
your opinion would be that Creation Science, as it is
defined in Act 590, is a religious belief which is
seeking to be bolstered by scientific data?
MR. SIANO: I'm going to object to the character-
ization of what he said he was going to testify to.
You can ask him the question without phrasing.
MR. CAMPBELL: Q You also mentioned earlier
that the story of the flood was described in the Genesis
account of history?
MR. SIANO: Objection to the characterization
of the testimony.
MR. CAMPBELL: Q To your knowledge, are there
other religions outside of the Judaeo-Christian
religion which we've discussed that present a flood
THE WITNESS: A Oh, yes. There are many, but
in the specific form in which it is found in the
stories of Genesis. It is quite obviously related
to the very distinct literary background there of the
Mesopotamian flood story, which we have numerous
examples, some of which-- in fact, this is probably
the place where Genesis is closest --the story as
told by Genesis is closest to the cognate literatures
of Mesopotamia, sometimes down to rather minute
It's a common cultural story, in other
words, which has been however given a distinct form
in Genesis in relation to the rest of the stories
that are told in Genesis of creation and the relation
of man to creation, and subsequently, the idea of the
flood being a wiping out and starting over a new
creation, so to speak. All of that is distinct to
Q In your work concerning Genesis and the
different epochs, do you have an opinion as to why
the flood story is important to these cultures or
A Well, yes, but it's important to Genesis
for one reason. It's important to the other cultures
for other reasons.
For Genesis, it was a piece of folklore
that the author had for man's dignity which he wanted
to fit into what otherwise would be an impossible
thing, namely, to describe the primeval history of
mankind; so he took this, and he worked it in,
and made a theological -- used it for a theological
purpose by showing this as it were the--first of all,
creation comes about in the 1st Chapter of Genesis
which is the ordering of all things.
The flood is represented as the chaos
coming back again in the world, and then, God once
again starts off creation; so it serves a theological
purpose for the author of Genesis which it did not
have in the mythologies of the other religions. It
was just again a piece of remembered lore that they
made with what they would, simply, as poetry for that
matter, and a piece of literature.
Q Would the fact that it was a part of the lore
in several different cultures lend any credence, in
your opinion, as to its actually occurring?
A Well, there's no doubt that something
occurred, and that it occurred in the literal inter-
pretation of what occurred, now, that's impossible.
I have yet to understand how you could have
a--of course, this story came out of Mesopotanian
culture where survival was in this arid land that
was enclosed by the two rivers and transacted by
these various canals, and when the thing would over-
flood, you had a flood, of course; and you could
cover the whole of the known earth; but these people
knew nothing about the surface of the earth; they
knew nothing about the laws of cause and effect
with regard to the harmony of the balance of nature;
where all this water would come from and where all
it would go to after the flood was over--those
were such impossible things that they would never
have occurred to ancient people of which the Biblical
author is one.
So to say that something occurred is
obvious. You wouldn't have those stories if they
didn't come out with just nothing, but to say that
what occurred was a worldwide flood, no, that's an
Q You mentioned in the Genesis account that
the flood was an opportunity for a new creation or
another creation, I think you said--
Q --a new order, I suppose? What would the--
A That's theology.
Q How would you characterize the new order
or the new creation after the flood?
A Precisely. It's a recreation. That's a
theological notion that is based on the old idea
that there was a time when people lived in an idyllic
past, and that there was harmony in nature, and people
lived forever and forever, like in the 5th Chapter
of Genesis where you've got people living
the age of Methuslah of 900 and some odd years, and
so on. That was all wiped out, and then, it started
again with a more realistic notion of what life on
earth really is. That's theology though; that's not--
there is no historical records for that, or anything
of that nature. It's just simply taking an ancient
idea and theologizing on it, and then, weaving your
narrative out of those materials.
Q From a theological standpoint, why was a
A I don't think it's why the flood was
necessary; from a theological standpoint, it's to
explain why it happened. The given was that there
had been this great catastrophe. So, why did it take
place, and theology is to explain that.
Q In your opinion, why did it take place?
MR. SIANO: As a theologian now? His inter-
pretation of what the Biblical author is suggesting
or as separate and apart from his analysis of the
I would like a frame of reference to
MR. CAMPBELL: He has studied, obviously; and
he has written a great deal on the Book of Genesis;
certainly, I believe that he would qualify, as you
suggested, Mr. Siano, as an authority on Genesis.
I am just asking him as an authority on Genesis, why
was it necessary?
MR. SIANO: As a matter of Biblical interpret-
ation focusing on Genesis?
MR. CAMPBELL: Yes.
MR. SIANO: All right.
THE WITNESS: A What Genesis means is that God
made the world good; something happened which was not
God's doing; therefore, it must be the doing of man,
so-called the Fall of Man. The world became corrupt;
therefore, the flood was to erase this corrupt world
and start all over again with the sons of Noah in the
9th Chapter of Genesis.
That's the basic outline of what he's
following. As I say, he's taking over some ancient
ideas there and giving a peculiar theological twist
Q When you speak of the author of Genesis,
who are you referring to?
A I don't really know.
MR. SIANO: You're back in the area of Father
Vawter's expertise now, as a matter of Biblical
MR. CAMPBELL: Of Genesis, yes.
MR. SIANO: All right, I just wanted to make
sure we'll stay in that area for a while. Go ahead.
THE WITNESS: A I don't know. Nobody knows the
author of practically any of the Biblical works; and
that depends on what you mean by "author," because the
man who eventually put all the things together may have
been the one that had less to do with it than the ones
who were responsible for the transmission of the various
components; so that's just a convenient term that we
use when we say, "the author of," where you are not
committing yourself to any particular idea with regard
to who or when.
Q You're suggesting that parts of it could have
been written by many different people, and then, put
together--compiled, so to speak--at some other time.
Q Are there distinguishing characteristics
which can be attributed to the different people or
groups which put together the information which was
eventually compiled into the Genesis account?
A Yes, I think most people would agree on
that, but they would still disagree with regard
to some of the specifics; but they would agree, yes,
that there are strata in the Book which lend themselves
to such analysis on the basis of the various constants
of themes, or constants of vocabulary, or what not,
that shows those were individual source material
that had been coalesced by the final editor or
whatever he used to be called--the author.
Q Would those characteristics give you any
indication, even a very broad one, as to the time
which they could have been?
A They would to me, but it's a question
which is very much under dispute right now in Biblical
circles as to the oldest source--what has generally
been thought as the oldest of them--the so-called
Jasors (phonetic spelling)l it's very much under
debate right now as to what the relative antiquity
of that is as a literary production, but I suppose,
the consensus still is that that is the oldest of
the cource materials. It goes back probably to the
10th Century, during the days of David and Solomon;
Solomon, in particular.
Q Then, what would be a second source and
A Well, the principle other source would be
the so-called Pesors (phonetic spelling), which would
be in the 6th Century. Then, there is a debate as
to whether there is an intermediate source there
which some call "Esors" (phonetic spelling) which may
or may not have been independent, or simply may be
an amplification of the other. It's a very hotly
debated question nowadays as to what the exact process
or composition of the Genesis as part of the
"Pentatoch,"(phonetic spelling) but, basically, at
least, those two sources would be acknowledged as the
Q Why was Genesis compiled, in your opinion?
A Well, it's the introduction to what could
be called a great national epoch. The story goes on
to include the story of Israel's formation, and Egypt,
and the Exodus, and the conquest of Palestine; and
Genesis is the introduction to all of this; but
Genesis was written as a--first of all, to give the
history of the ancestors which you have in Chapter 12
And then, as preface to that was the
primeval history. Before Israel ever was and before the
ancestry ever was, there was a history of man
itself--origin of man--and so it's an introduction
to an introduction, actually.
Q In your perspective that Genesis would be
an introduction to an introduction, would it be more
proper to say that the Book is simply man's attempt
to introduce the world as he knows it to himself
and to others?
A Yes, to interpret the world as he knows it,
as he believes it to be. Yes, surely.
Q Would it be necessary at all for the author
to have been devinely inspired?
A Well, you're in another area here now, what
one means by inspiration. No, I don't think it would
have been necessary, if you're understanding me
correctly and I'm understanding you correctly that
it's a--to write such a thing would not require
inspiration in that sense. To write, however, what
he wrote requires whit I would call not inspiration,
but rather, revelation. That is, he is depending--
what he's introducing is a story which can only
come about--about which could be known only by
devine revelation, namely, that Israel was the
chosen of God. Who can tell you that except God,
and that is the basis or the fundament on which
this whole structure is being raised, so the
presuppositions are certainly those of religious
Once the presuppositions are granted,
then, you can--what you call inspiration is Biblical
inspiration but not be--depending on your definition
again would not be necessary, no.
Just as I can write a commentary on
the Apostle's Creed, I don't need inspiration to do
that. I simply write, and what I am commenting on is
something that comes from faith.
Q In your study of Genesis, do you have an
opinion as to whether or not the Book or the author--
I don't mean to separate the two, I mean together--
were devinely inspired or devinely revealed?
A Not revealed. Inspired, yes. Revealed is
I think there is something to the
traditional document of Biblical inspiration. I don't
know exactly what it is. Although I've written a book
on it, I still don't know exactly what we're talking
about, but I think there is something that distinguishes
that literature from other literature, and traditionally,
we call that inspiration. That's a good enough term
for it, but precisely what it is, I don't know.
But that does not mean that these words
are whispered into the ear of the writer by Almighty
God. That is something else entirely.
Q Have you ever pondered how the author might
have been inspired?
A Frequently, but no result.
Q We talked about Genesis being man's attempt
to explain the world as he saw it to himself as one
possible explanation of it.
With regard to religion, why is a creation
A That's a very good question, because many
religions get along without a notion of creation, and
apparently, the Biblical idea of creation came relatively
late in development.
The thing that gave rise to Biblical
religion was the experience of salvation, liberation
from slavery. It was only later that the creation
theology sort of came in; so to answer your question
whether it's necessary, I dare say religion could
get along without a--as a matter of fact, however,
we did pick up one, and a fairly developed one
which we have been handed--which has been handed
down in tradition, but it was--but to say it was
absolutely necessary--it's a common phenomenon
with religions throughout the world that there is some
kind of creation idea; but on the other hand, some
religions get along without it, as I said, and it
could have been that way with Biblical religion
except it didn't happen that way.
Q Does the Catholic Church have a position
A Oh, yes; it's part of the essence of the
creedal statements; yes.
Q What is that position?
A Simply that. That God is the Creator of
all things, visible and invisible.
Q Does it stop there or does it go into the
A No, process is for speculation.
Q What is a myth?
A Well, it depends on who answers the
question. There are more definitions of myth,
I suppose, than practically anything else.
If you ask an anthropologist what myth
is--of course, the average person on the street, I
suppose, if you ask him what a myth is, he'd tell
you it's a made-up thing which doesn't correspond
to reality, but if you ask an anthropologist what
myth is he will tell you it is an attempt to express
one's felt beliefs and what makes that person tick
in concert with the universe, and so on.
It's an attempt to express what other-
wise--in a sort of poetical or abstract language,
what otherwise would simply be inexpressible. In
one sense of the word, any talk about anything that
is outside of our sense perception is myth, because
you really cannot control the categories in which you
label things unless they come under the control of
your senses; and when you extrapolate from that into
something outside of that, as in a metaphysical sense
or in a sense of a Creator God, or what have you, then,
you're dealing in myth in that sense of the word; and
you use whatever language you have available to
you to do that: poetic language, frequently, or
approximations, or simply symbolic language, and
Q Are there myths found in Genesis?
A In that sense of the word, yes.
Q Can you name a few of them?
A The creation story itself is a myth in that
sense. Nobody witnessed creation, and if that has
not fallen under the sense control of somebody, there
is no possibility of talking about it except in
mythological language; so you tell a story which
professes what you believe to have taken place even
though you know the story you're telling is not a blow-
by-blow description of what took place, but it is
simply a poetic way of saying what did take place.
Q How would you distinguish a myth from an
A Well, epochs can be myths or contain myths.
The great Babylonian epoch of the flood is also a myth.
Epoch is generally--I think we use the term generally
when we're making it more specific, as a sustained
generally poetic chronicle of various great happenings,
but those great happenings can, obviously, be in
Q Are there epochs as opposed to myths in
A I don't see the opposition there. I think
there's both. You have both epoch and myth, and they
overlap, I think.
Q You mentioned the Mesopotania flood story;
are there creation stories in other religions?
A Oh, yes, there are all sorts of creation
stories; nothing quite like you have in Genesis--at
least, to my knowledge, there isn't, but there are
all sorts of --as I said earlier, the creation seems
to be a preoccupation with religious-minded people
in trying to account for the existence for the world
in which they live, so creation sort of naturally
follows from their speculation even though, as I
stated again, some religions get along without such
speculation; but, yes, the creation story as such
is very common to primitive peoples including the
American Indians who have their own creation story.
There's an infinite variety of them.
Q What are some religions that do not have
a creation story?
A I think Buddhism, for example, gets along
Some primitive religions--I'm not all that
familiar with the religions of mankind, but I have
a notion that some of the--like the primitives,
the Aborigines of Australia, do not include creation
in their religious beliefs.
Q Does the Genesis story give us any indication
as to where God came from?
A No, God is just presupposed.
Q I suppose that would be true for matter
A That can be debated.
MR. SIANO: Is that a question?
MR. CAMPBELL: Q Does the Genesis story give
us any indication as to the origin of matter?
THE WITNESS: A My personal view of what the
Genesis idea of creation is does not -- he is not
giving us the origin of matter. It is also presupposed
traditionally or generally; Genesis has been interpreted
as teaching creation in that philosophical sense of
the word--the origin of matter--but I personally don't
believe it has anything to do with it, but you can find
people who are quite respectable in Biblical scholarship
who do believe that it does, that Genesis does say that
or does teach that.
Q In the witness list which was provided to
us by the Plaintiffs, there was a description as to
what your testimony would be; there is a statement
that Father Vawter will testify as to the differentiation
among Christian and Judaic sects in their approach in
the treatment of Genesis?
Q What would be the differentiation among the
Christian and Judaic sects in their approach and treat-
ment of Genesis?
A Well, actually, it wouldn't be so much from
the sect--I mean a definable sect, as such--but from
a definable mind set, I would say, that you have the
literalistic interpretation which is going to be given
by literalistic people no matter what their particular
denomination might be; and they have what I would call
more critical interpretation which would be given by
more critical people, but what this so-called Creation
Science rests upon, I believe, is a literalistic
interpretation of the Genesis story; namely, that
whatever is described there must have happened just
exactly the way it is described, or without allowing
for poetic license or allowing for symbolism, et cetera,
or if you can't get away with quite that, you have to
settle that it couldn't have been just exactly that
way; then, you have to explain it away by invoking
something else like, say, six days of creation don't
mean really six days but that they were six ions
or something of that nature, and that's literalistic
reading of the text; and I think that's what lies
on the basis of this Creation Science so-called.
They're trying to bolster support of that literalistic
view of the reading of the Genesis story. That's
where the flood comes in and all that stuff.
Q Will you be relying upon any particular
authorities to give you a perspective as to what a
literalist would believe about Genesis I and II?
A Well, I read the current literature. I edit
a journal which surveys many, many journals in the
Biblical studies, particularly, Old Testament studies;
and I come across, therefore, the literalistic points
of view which are frequently expressed. I think
I mentioned earlier a couple journals are of that
Q I am just wondering if there would be a
classic definition of what a literalist would believe?
A I would doubt it. You would have to ask a
Q Briefly, I'll take a look at these documents
you brought this morning.
Are these in any particular order,
MR. SIANO: No.
MR. CAMPBELL: Q Looking at the copy of what
appears to be Number 95 of Impact, which I assume
is a magazine or publication of some type, dated
THE WITNESS: A They sent that to me.
Q And who's, "they?"
A Mr. Siano and Company, or the Company
and Mr. Siano.
MR. SIANO: Thank you.
MR. CAMPBELL: Q When did they send this to
THE WITNESS: A At the same time they sent
me the rest of that material there.
Q Is that the rest of the material, or all
the material in the file?
Q And what date was that?
A What did we agree on was the date?
MR. SIANO: This material antedates that.
You were sent the material sometime ago, just so I
can represent for the record.
THE WITNESS: (Continuing) A Yes, 8/16/81,
date of delivery, 4:20 p.m., initialed by, "S."
It's amazing how this came through the way it did.
I've had very bad experience with the postal service.
MR. CAMPBELL: Would you mark this as Vawter
Exhibit Number 1, for the record.
(WHEREUPON, said document was marked
Vawter's Exhibit Number 1, for
Q Would this be some of the material which
you read to determine what a literalist might believe
THE WITNESS: A Yes.
Q Looking at now this document which is Number 96
of Impact Magazine, entitled, "Summary of the Scientific
Evidence for Creation," and I would like to have this
marked as Vawter Exhibit 2.
(WHEREUPON, said document was marked
Vawter's Exhibit Number 2, for
THE WITNESS: A Yes, it's a continuation of that,
Q Have you read that?
Q Would it be fair to say Vawter's Exhibit
Number 2 is other material which you've read to
determine what a literalist might believe about
A Yes, what a so-called Creation Scientist
would believe about the evidence.
Q I have an article here, "The Threat of
Creationism," by Isaac Asimov. I would like to have
this marked as Vauter's Exhibit Number 3, for
(WHEREUPON, said document was marked
Vauter's Exhibit Number 3, for
Have you had an opportunity to read this
Q Do you have an opinion as to Mr. Asimov's
writing this particular article, Vawter's Exhibit
A An opinion as to?
Q The contents of this writing?
A Ok, I think he's a very good debunker, and
that's what he's doing. He's a better writer of
scientific fiction than he is of science, I think,
but he is well-qualified, I am sure, in scientific
Q What is the gist of the "Threat of
A Precisely what I said. It's a debunking
of the attempt to harmonize the unharmonizable
which is a nonscientific perspective of the
universe with scientific data that has been provided
by the sciences within the last couple centuries,
and the tragedy that results therefrom: disservice
both to religion and to science.
MR. CAMPBELL: I have here a document which I
would like to have marked as Vawter's Exhibit Number 5,
which is entitled, "The Doctrine of Special Creation,"
by Richard P. Aulie; it appears to have been published
in the American Biology Teacher, April 1972.
THE WITNESS: A Yes, I read it. I don't recall
the contents of it right now. I would have to re-read
it again, in other words?
(WHEREUPON, said document was marked
Vawter Exhibit Number 5, for
MR. CAMPBELL: Finally, I have a document
which I would like to be marked as Vawter's Exhibit
Number 6, which is an article entitled, "Creationism
isn't Science," by Niles Eldredge.
A Yes, again, I remember reading it when
it was sent to me. I would not recall the contents
(WHEREUPON, said document was
marked Vawter's Exhibit Number 6
Q Could you characterize the article?
A Well, the title gives it away, but other
than that, I would not want to draw on. My recollec-
tions are too faint.
MR. CAMPBELL: Father Vawter, that's all I have.
MR. SIANO: I have a couple questions.
BY: MR. SIANO
Q Father Vawter, you testified on direct as
to your view of Act 590, Section 4A, do you recall
answering Mr. Campbell's questions?
A Yes, I think so.
Q I'd like to ask you some questions in the
same respect. Is it your professional opinion, sir,
that the Genesis Creation account is congruent in
a literalist sense with Act 590's definition of
Q Yes; they're the same literalistic reading
of Genesis in Act 590?
A A literalistic reading of Genesis, I think,
is the underpinning of what is a presupposition of
Q Are you aware of any other creation account
or text which tracks the elements of creation as
recited by Act 590 other than the Genesis account?
A Not precisely as it is there, no.
Q When you indicated to Mr. Campbell that
it was your opinion that Genesis didn't talk about
the things that Act 590 recites in Section 4A, you
were giving your professional opinion as you read
Genesis, is that correct?
A That's correct.
Q A literalistic reading of Act 590, Section 4A--
strike that-- A literalistic reading of the Genesis
account in comparison to Act 590, Section 4A, however,
would be different, then, would it not?
Q And the elements of the Genesis account
reflected by a literalistic reading of Genesis,
would they be reflected in Section 4A?
MR. CAMPBELL: I object to this line of
questioning; you are leading your own witness.
MR. SIANO: This is cross-examination. This
is one of those quaint questions. It comes up when
you're asking the direct. I am only trying to clarity
the testimony so I won't misinterpret what's there,
and I do at the earliest possible opportunity.
Q Do you understand my question?
THE WITNESS: A Yes, I do.
Q Could you answer it?
A I think a literalistic reading of Genesis
is the only thing that the Act could have as its
presupposition; there is, to my knowledge, no other
creation belief that has been formulated in that way,
and my own personal view is I don't believe that
Genesis actually means some of those things that
is in that literalistic view, but nevertheless, that
literalistic view prevailed an awful long time, and
it still prevails in the minds of many people.
Q And that's what you were discussing when
Mr. Campbell asked you if your view of Section 4A
was your professional view?
Q Is the creation story a part of the Judaeo-
A Very much so.
Q Is it some view of the Genesis account
of creation which is the creation story?
A Creation is mentioned elsewhere in the
Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Scriptures, but
what is generally presupposed is the creation story
MR. SIANO: I have no further questions.
MR. CAMPBELL: That's all, Father Vawter.
Thank you very much.
THE WITNESS: Thank you.
STATE OF ILLINOIS )
COUNTY OF C O O K)
I, VICTOR J. LA COURSIERE, a notary public
within and for the County of Cook and State of
Illinois, do hereby certify that heretofore, to-wit,
on the 21st day of November, A.D., 1981, personally
appeared before me at Suite 607, 343 South Dearborn
Street, in the City of Chicago, County of Cook and
State of Illinois, FRANCIS BRUCE VAWTER, a witness
produced by the Plaintiffs, in a certain cause now
pending and undetermined in the United States
District Court, Eastern District of Arkansas,
Western District, wherein REVEREND BILL MC LEAN, et
al, are the Plaintiffs, and BOARD OF EDUCATION,
et al, are the Defendants, Case Number LR-C-81-322.
I further certify that the said FRANCIS BRUCE
VAWTER, was by me first duly sworn to testify the
truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth in
the cause aforesaid, that the testimony then given
by said witness was reported stenographically by me,
in the presence of the said witness, and afterwards
transcribed into typewriting, and the foregoing is
a true and correct transcript of the testimony given
by said witness as aforesaid.
I further certify the signature of the witness
to the foregoing deposition was reserved.
I further certify that the taking of this
deposition was in pursuance of notice, and that there
were present at the taking of this deposition,
MESSRS. ANTHONY J. SIANO and RALPH J. MARRA, JR.,
on behalf of the Plaintiffs, and MR. RICK CAMPBELL,
Assistant Attorney General, on behalf of the
I further certify that I am not Counsel for nor
in any way related to any of the parties to this
suit, nor am I in any way interested in the outcome
In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my
hand and affixed my notarial seal this 22nd day of
November, A.D., 1981
County of Cook - State of Illinois
MY COMMISSION EXPIRES:
May 22nd, 1984
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
REVEREND BILL MC LEAN, et al )
) Civil Action No:
BOARD OF EDUCATION, et al, ) LR-C-81-32
This is to certify that I have read the
transcript of my deposition taken in the above-entitled
cause, and that the foregoing transcript accurately
states the questions asked and the answers given by me.
Signature of Deponent
SUBSCRIBED AND SWORN TO
BEFORE ME THIS________
DAY OF __________A.D., 1981.