McLean v. Arkansas Documentation Project
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.
Chapter Four Record of Plaintiffs’ Religion and Philosophy Testimony
Chapter Five Record of Plaintiffs’ Science and Education Testimony
Chapter Six Record of Defense’s Religion, Philosophy, and Education Testimonies
Chapter Seven Record of Defense’s Science Testimonies
of Plaintiffs’ Religion and Philosophy Testimony
Summary of Plaintiffs’
Monday, 7 December 1981
Plaintiffs’ Witnesses Hicks,
Marsden, Nelkin, Gilkey
The trial opened at 9:30 a.m. in the crowded fourth floor courtroom of the
Little Rock Federal Building with the words of the U.S. Marshall: ”. . . God
save the United States and this honorable court.” Lawyers for both the
plaintiffs and the defense presented opening arguments summarizing their briefs,
then the first witness for the plaintiffs was called.
Kenneth Hicks, of the Arkansas conferences of the United Methodist Church, was
the first witness to take the stand. Hicks, himself one of the plaintiffs,
testified that the Act was clearly a “transgression of the First Amendment.”
Hicks outlined three specific objections he had to the Act. First, he said, he
objected to the bill’s definition of creation-science, as it limited
scientific inquiry to the six areas specified in the bill and reflected a
literalistic interpretation of the Genesis account in the Bible. His second
objection was to that part of the Act which stated as part of its purpose
“preventing establishment of Theologically Liberal, Humanist, Nontheist, or
Atheist religions.” (Section 6) Hicks claimed that such language, with its
“undefined labels,” contains an element of alarm and imposes constraints on
these views. Hicks also objected that the Act was a mixture of philosophical and
theological beliefs designed to limit scientific inquiry.
Hicks concluded by saying “The Bible is important to my life. I hold very
dearly and intently to the opening words of Genesis: ‘In the beginning God
created . . . . ‘To go beyond that, and to try to circumscribe the way in
which he did it, belittles both God and the theological process.”
cross examination, Hicks admitted that the Act specifically prohibited religious
instruction in defense of creation-science (Section 2: “must not include any
religious instruction or references to religious writings.”) Hicks also
admitted that any “limits” to free inquiry were based on his assumption that
the definitions of creation-science and evolution-science were meant to be
comprehensive. Hicks agreed that his perception of “creation” was
necessarily religious because of his training, and that he would have difficulty
considering “creation” in a scientific sense.
Francis Bruce Vawter
second ACLU witness was Father Francis Bruce Vawter, a Roman Catholic priest and
professor of theology at DePaul University, Chicago. He testified to the
religious nature of the Act. He characterized the book of Genesis as an
explanation of religious convictions concerning human origins and the origin of
the world. He argued that as there were no witnesses to creation, Genesis should
not be taken as a factual account (which could only be derived from a direct
witness). Vawter contrasted the Biblical literalists’ view (which would take
the account at face value), with the historical-critical view (which accorded
more closely to his own approach). Vawter testified that Act 590 was consistent
with a literalistic interpretation of Genesis.
Act,” he said, “in its description of what it calls creation-science, has as
its unmentioned reference book the first eleven chapters of Genesis.” He gave
several specific references. Vawter pointed out that the term “kinds” in the
Act (Sections 4(a)(3) and 4(b)(3)) had as its source the King James translation
of the Bible. Vawter also noted that “catastrophism” and a “worldwide
flood” (Section 4(a)(5)) must refer to the Noahic deluge recorded in Genesis,
though he later admitted that this was also paralleled by a similar Babylonian
myth. Vawter concluded, “I do not know of any other creation story (except in
Genesis) that embodies those parts.”
cross examination Vawter was pressed on this point, and he admitted that many
points of creation-science could not be found in Genesis according to his view
of the book. Specifically, he agreed that Genesis neither affirmed nor denied
the “insufficiency of evolutionary mechanisms.” (Section 4(a)(2)) Similarly,
he said that “changes only within fixed limits” (Section 4(a)(3)) are not
required by the Genesis account, nor must separate ancestry for man and apes
(Section 4(a)(4)) be understood from the text. Vawter testified that the only
evidence for “catastrophism” (Section 4(a)(5)) to be found in the Genesis
account was the occurrence of the Noahic flood, and that even the “sudden
creation of the universe” (Section 4(a)(1)) was not required by the Biblical
account of origins.
agreed that he was not a competent judge of the scientific evidence, and that he
had always studied “creation” in a religious context. Vawter said that the
idea of evolution was not at all inconsistent with Genesis, and that he saw no
conflict between the concepts of creation and evolution.
redirect examination, Vawter reemphasized some points in his original testimony,
and restated his conclusion that the source of Act 590’s description of
creation-science was the book of Genesis.
third witness called by the plaintiffs was Dr. George Marsden, professor of
History at Calvin College, an evangelical Christian college in Grand Rapids,
Michigan. Marsden’s area of testimony concerned Fundamentalism. Marsden
typified Fundamentalists as “militantly anti-modernist” and chiefly
concerned with “spreading the faith.” He testified that while anti-Darwinism
was not as important a facet of Fundamentalist belief as usually thought,
Darwinism was (especially in the South) a symbol of secularism. The
Fundamentalists of the 1920’s held to a model of origins based on the Bible
and had a “dualistic outlook” in viewing creation and evolution. Marsden
said the creation-science movement is “strikingly similar” to the
Fundamentalist movement in its approach to origins. He based this view on
several observations. Creation scientists, he said, hold a literalistic view of
Genesis, oppose all forms of evolution (including theistic evolution) and use
the Bible as the primary source for their beliefs. Marsden quoted from Henry
Morris’ The Troubled Waters of Evolution and Duane Gish’s Evolution:
The Fossils Say No! in order to show the religious intent and source of
this point Defense attorney David L. Williams objected on the grounds of
relevance, saying, “Merely because someone calls it creation-science somewhere
out in the world doesn’t mean it complies with Act 590.” The plaintiffs
argued that Marsden’s testimony was relevant to their contention that all
creationist literature advanced religious goals. Overton overruled the
objection, saying, “If the people who are writing about creation-science are
borrowing their ideas from religious movements I would think that is relevant.
These writers can’t wear two hats; they can’t call it religion for one
purpose and science for another.”
continued, concluding that Act 590 represented a Fundamentalist view of origins.
Before cross-examining Marsden, defense attorney David Williams pointed out that
the books Marsden had quoted from were printed in two editions, one intended for
public school use and one (containing an explanatory notice inside the front
cover) intended for Christian schools.
cross-examination, Marsden admitted that Act 590 was not exclusively a product
of Fundamentalism. In particular, he noted that many Fundamentalists believe
that the creation happened in six literal twenty-four-hour days-a view not found
in the Act. Additionally, while Fundamentalists typically oppose evolution,
Marsden agreed that Act 590 does not, and that not all Fundamentalists would be
able to accept the Act. Marsden conceded that he was not a scientist, and since
his training was religious, he could not distinguish between “religious” and
“scientific” creationism. Marsden concluded by agreeing that it was typical
to talk of Fundamentalists as champions of scientific inquiry.
next witness was Ms. Dorothy Nelkin, a professor of Sociology at Cornell
University. The substance of her testimony concerned the relationship of Act 590
to the creation-science movement. She testified that Fundamentalists were
opposed to evolution, and that they make use of science to “legitimatize”
their religious beliefs. She claimed that the aim of creation-science was to
convince others of their beliefs, and that they “believe it’s necessary to
give their ideas a sense of scientific credibility.” Nelkin stated that
creationists only give negative evidence against evolution, rather than evidence
for creation. She noted that many of the creationists’ books came in public
school and Christian school editions.
cross-examination Ms. Nelkin agreed that speculation or intuition could
legitimately lead to a scientific theory that could then be tested. She said
that evolution was not based on any a priori assumptions. She admitted that
Julian Huxley had formed a naturalistic religion based on evolution, but said
that in so doing he abused evolution.
testified that while the scientific community is theoretically a meritocracy,
historically it has not been neutral, and in fact scientific opinion has been
influenced by society.
confessed that she had entered her study of the creation-science movement with
the presupposition that creation-science was not truly scientific. She also
agreed that as she was not a scientist, she was not competent to judge the
validity of the scientific evidence for creationism.
attorney Williams asked Nelkin whether theories of origins were testable. She
agreed that such theories were not directly testable by observation. When asked
whether evolutionary theory presupposed the nonexistence of a creator, she said
“No” (thus contradicting her deposition; she explained this inconsistency by
saying “I was confused.”).
asked whether creation-science should be taught in schools to the extent that
there was scientific evidence, she called the question a “contradiction in
terms” (though she had answered the same question in her deposition “Of
course.”). Nelkin was asked whether a religion could be based on science, and
answered in the negative, though she later admitted that this, too, was
inconsistent with her deposition. Finally, she said “People can take science
and use it any way they choose.”
last questions directed at Nelkin concerned the availability of textbooks
presenting the balanced view advocated by Act 590. Nelkin agreed that textbook
publishers would probably produce such texts, if the law were upheld. “Sure,
there’s money in it,” she said.
final witness to take the stand Monday was Dr. Langdon Gilkey, professor of
theology at the University of Chicago School of Divinity. Gilkey’s testimony
concerned the definition of “religion” and the relationship of religious and
scientific knowledge. Gilkey defined religion as having three essential parts.
He said (1) a religion involves a view of ultimate reality: it deals with the
basic problem of human existence and provides an answer to the problem through
myths, stories, truths, and teachings, (2) a religion is a way of life finding
its source in the ultimate reality, and (3) a religion involves a community
structure expressed for example in worship. He stated that in Western religions
“God” is the source of ultimate reality. Gilkey said that all that is
religious is related to God, and that all that is related to God is religious.
Gilkey claimed that creation “ex nihilo” (from nothing) was the most
religious of all statements since God was the only actor. He added “A creator
is certainly a God if he brings the universe into existence from nothing.” He
said that since creation necessitates a Creator, Act 590 “is unquestionably a
statement of religion.” He said, though, that a creative force is not
necessarily religious, though a creative being must be.
testified that the attempt to distinguish the “Creator” from a God to be
worshipped was similar to the Marcionic and Gnostic heresies which plagued the
Church in the first century, and which led in part to the adoption of the
Apostles’ Creed as a statement of orthodox faith.
testimony next turned to the relationship of religious and scientific models. He
characterized Act 590 as a religious model of origins rather than a scientific
model, and gave several differences between the two. Gilkey said that religious
and scientific models differed in the experiences and facts appealed to and in
the types of questions asked. Scientific models, he said, deal with facts that
are observable, repeatable, and objective. A religious model, though, refers to
the facts “as a whole,” to “inner facts,” and to facts which are not
objective. Science asks what? and how? questions, said Gilkey, but religion asks
why? He said that science appeals to a sense of coherence and elegance which is
confirmed by the scientific community, but that religious authority resides in
“revelation” and the “interpreters of revelation.”
claimed that scientific laws are universal and necessary, and that no
non-naturalistic process may be appealed to within the bounds of science. He
said that religious theories use symbolic, not objective, language, and concern
personal causes and intentions.
testimony then moved to the area of apologetics. He testified that
creation-science was in fact apologetics, not science, that it was an effort to
“spread the faith.” Continued Gilkey, “There’s nothing wrong with
apologetics, I’ve written some, the only problem is when one has two hats on
and hides one.” Gilkey claimed that Act 590 represented a “dualistic”
approach to origins because it assumed that there were only two views on origins
and that these were mutually exclusive, He challenged this assumption, saying
that there were other views (e.g., theistic evolution) and that some people
believed in God and evolution.
cross-examination by Defense counsel Rick Campbell, Gilkey was asked to comment
on primary and secondary causality in scientific and religious knowledge. (In
philosophical language the primary, or ultimate cause of an event is
distinguished from the secondary or direct cause of an event.) Gilkey said that
while not all questions of ultimate origins are religious, for scientists to
talk about primary causality is for them to stray afield. Gilkey agreed that the
Bible does not refer to primary and secondary causality, but said that these
might be inferred from the text.
stated that the Bible was the guide in his own life and in his understanding of
the world. He said that it influences the fields of philosophy and science as
well as his own views. Gilkey said that scientists were not the only ones to
define science, and that for example historians have reminded scientists of
cultural influences on science.
then asked Gilkey whether a scientist should be permitted to talk in a classroom
about creation-science if he felt that there was evidence. Gilkey modified the
response that he gave in his deposition (“Of course, of course”), saying
that this would be appropriate only if the teacher could argue that
creation-science was a theory (since according to Gilkey, science resides in
theories, not in facts). He said that while a professional should be able to
decide, the ultimate authority would reside with the biological community.
Gilkey added that he was against requiring that creation-science be
taught, not against teaching it.
conceded that apologetics was not always religious, that there were atheist
apologists giving a defense for atheism. He cited Bertrand Russell as an
asked Gilkey where the “why?” questions were in Act 590. Gilkey said that
there were none, that there were no questions at all, only answers. Campbell
asked whether science could answer “why?” questions. Gilkey said that
science could not deal with questions of ultimate origins, and conceded that if
evolution were to do this it would not be science, but theology.
agreed that there are religions which hold evolution as part of their creed,
such as the religious beliefs espoused by Spencer and Huxley. When asked whether
evolution was “atheistic,” Gilkey replied that science does not talk about
God. When asked whether this exclusion of God from science was a presupposition,
he said that properly speaking there were two types of presuppositions. In the
first category were “characteristic presuppositions” of Western culture or
of the scientific community, such as the reality of the material world, In the
second category were “canons,” or “rules of the road,” which might be
based on presuppositions, but were not themselves presuppositions in the same
sense. The principle of falsification, for instance, is a canon, as is the
exclusion of God.
when asked, admitted that creative leaps of imagination were part of the history
of science, though those who took such leaps were not part of the scientific
mainstream. He said that, for example, Copernicus, in making his break with
established thought, was not entirely within the mainstream of science.
redirect examination, Gilkey said that a secular statement was not necessarily
atheistic. He also repeated his opinion that science cannot appeal to a
8 December 1981
Witnesses Ruse, Ayala,
The court reconvened at
9:00, and the judge revealed his ruling on a Defense motion seeking “an order
in limine excluding all evidence addressing either the validity or invalidity of
evolution-science and/or creation-science as a ‘scientific theory’ on the
ground that such evidence is irrelevant to the determination of the
constitutionality of Act 590 on its face.” Overton denied the motion. Defense
attorneys then requested that Ms. Nelkin’s deposition be received into the
record as evidence. The deposition was accepted, and the first witness of the
day took the stand.
Michael Ruse, professor of Philosophy at the University of Guelph, in Ontario,
Canada, testified concerning the nature of science, particularly biology. Ruse
defined science as consisting of four essentials. First, science must explain
events by means of natural law, or “unguided natural regularities.” Also,
science must be “explanatory,” “testable,” and “tentative.” Ruse
said “explanatory” means that science must predict and confirm events, so
that science is self-generating, it is constantly moving into new areas. To say
that science must be “testable,” or “falsifiable,” means there must be
at least potential for evidence against a scientific belief. As an example, Ruse
cited the theory of evolution. Evolution is thought to be unidirectional, that
is evolution is thought to continually lead to more and more complex forms of
life. If scientists were to find evidence that evolution sometimes proceeded in
the direction of less complexity, this aspect of the theory would be falsified.
The fourth essential of science is that it be “tentative.” This means that a
scientist must always be willing to modify his understanding of the data. Ruse
said that a scientist’s work should be objective, without personal bias,
public, repeatable, and honest.
said that the way in which contradictory evidence is dealt with depends both on
the nature of the evidence and the theory attacked by the evidence. Unless the
evidence were to be quite strong, it could not overturn a well-supported theory.
Ruse said that “observability” is not an essential in science, although
creation-science literature often listed it as such. He said that sometimes
direct empirical evidence simply is not necessary.
who wrote Darwinism Defended, an examination of the attack of the
creationists on evolution, testified that evolution is not under attack by
credible scientists. He claimed that there is a double use of the word
“evolution,” to indicate either the “happening” of evolution or the
“mechanism” of evolution. He said that usually the “theory” of evolution
is used as a synonym for “mechanism” of evolution, while the “fact” of
evolution refers to the “happening” of evolution. Ruse said that, other than
creation-scientists, no scientists challenge the happening of evolution, though
of course evolutionists do disagree about how it happened.
testified that Act 590 is a statement of scientific creationism, and is “very
closely” related to the creationist literature, “so closely, I’d say they
were identical.” The Act, he said, has a dual model approach to the question
of origins, contains the six points usually covered in books on scientific
creationism, and used the term “evolution-science.” (Section 4(b)(1), etc.).
He said that the wording of the bill implies the existence of a creator in the
word “creation.” (Section 4(a)(1)) Ruse said that the word “kinds” used
in the Act (Sections 4(a)(3), 4(a)(3)) is not a scientific word, that it is not
a taxonomic category, but rather is derived from the book of Genesis. He
criticized the Act’s description of evolution-science as inadequate, saying
that it implies that all six points are to be taken as a package deal, though
not all evolutionists would agree with the definition.
said that evolution doesn’t say anything pro or con about the existence of
God, nor does it inquire into the origin of life. Ruse gave as an example of
evolution the change in predominant coloration of the population of certain
species of moth in industrial England. He said that creationists respond to such
examples, “We admit the evolution the evolutionists have found-that’s just
not enough.” When asked whether creationists explain why evolutionary change
should be limited, Ruse said, “Not really, no.” He said the assertion was
“an ad hoc device that creation scientists have had to think up to get away
from some of the things evolutionists have come up with.”
further objected to the points under the definition of creation-science that
dealt with the flood (Section 4(a)(5)) and with a young earth (Section 4(a)(6))
as not really important to the question of origins. He also objected to the
contrast between “catastrophism” (Section 4(a)(5)) and “uniformitarianism.”
(Section 4(a)(5)) He said that the Act polarizes the two views, and implies that
disproof of evolution is equivalent to proof of creation,
said that “creation-science is not science, it’s religion,” and that it
“invokes miracles.” He added, “Nobody’s saying religion is false, they
are saying it’s not science.” He said that creation-science does not rely on
“natural law” and is not “explanatory.” He said that there is too much
dependence in creation science on “ad hoc explanations,” and that though it
has explanations, they are not “scientific explanations.” He added that
“something that can explain everything is no explanation at all.” Ruse said
creation-science also fails to be “testable” and “tentative,” and that
it employs an improper methodology.
said that creationists often quote evolutionists out of context, that they imply
that there is disagreement about whether evolution happened, not just how it
happened. He referred to this practice as “dishonest” and “sleazy.”
cross examination, Dr. Ruse admitted that he had no training in biology, nor had
he done any significant independent study.
agreed that many scientists believe that life was generated from nonlife. He
said that the ultimate origin of the universe might be an area for scientific
concern and that the “Big Bang” model certainly is within the realm of
science. Ruse said that the theory of evolution does not extend to the source of
life, that it takes life as a given. He added, however, that the origin of life
is also a matter for scientific inquiry.
attorney Williams asked how a theory of origins might be tested, since there
were no direct observations. Ruse said that such a theory might be tested by
observation in an analogous situation, by controlled experimentation in the
laboratory, or by computer modeling. He added that this would not make the work
unscientific. He agreed with Williams that these methods would be dependent on
the conditions assumed to be on the earth at the time of the origin of life,
though these conditions could not be known with certainty.
admitted that at least one philosopher of science, Karl R. Popper, considers
both evolution and creation to be equally unscientific, because of the
impossibility of falsifying either.
asked Ruse to distinguish between a “fact” and a “theory.” A “model”
could be thought of as an “explanation,” and would be “narrower” than a
asked Ruse further about the example of evolution he had given in his direct
testimony. Ruse agreed that, although it is often cited as an example of
observed evolution, no new species were formed. He said that there were two
forms of moth both before and after.
pressed Ruse on the question of the “polarization” of the two models, asking
whether it was true that either there was a creator or there was no creator.
Ruse avoided the question, but then admitted that if two models were mutually
exclusive, then evidence against one would be evidence for the other.
agreed that the books produced by the Institute for Creation Research would not
be permitted under the Act because of the religious content. When asked about
his personal teaching method in the classroom, Ruse said that he did give a
“balanced treatment,” but that this does not mean that he teaches all
theories ever held. Ruse said that teaching evidences for creation-science would
be meaningless “unless you are talking about a theory.”
characterized himself as “somewhere between a Deist and an Agnostic.” He
agreed with Williams that religious people can be competent scientists. He said
that while creation from nothing is not consistent with his belief, evolution is
inconsistent with the beliefs of some students.
asked whether some scientists believe that the theory of evolution is not
falsifiable. Ruse said that most believe that it is falsifiable, though some,
including Karl Popper (whom he called an “old man”), do not.
plaintiffs objected to the relevance of this line of questioning as evolution
was not on trial. The judge overruled the objection after a short recess.
was asked to define “teleology.” He said it was an attempt at understanding
in terms of purpose rather than causes. He agreed that teleology could be either
theological or non-theological.
said that there are no authorities in the area of philosophy of science. He
agreed that “What is science?” was a question for philosophers of science,
and that there is no agreement on its answer.
said he objected to Act 590 because it was a foot in the door of science
classrooms for religion, that it was “the thin edge of a very large wedge”
of an attempt to teach religion as science. He said that he was against Biblical
literalism, and was concerned for what might happen if the law were to stand. He
further said that he was “shocked” that a creationism display had recently
been put up in the British Museum.
said that it is possible for scientists to become emotionally attached to their
theories, both individually and as groups. He said his purpose at the trial was
to “fight a battle” against creationism.
agreed that ideas from outside science could be sources of scientific theories,
and said that to other scientists it is more important that the theories fit the
data than what the source was. He gave as an example the work of Dr. Stephen Jay
Gould, a Marxist paleontologist. He said that though Gould “pushes” Marxism
the source of his science isn’t important. Ruse said that he did not accept
Gould’s theory personally, but that is because of lack of evidence, not
because of the theory’s source. He said that Darwin had developed his theory
of evolution because of his personal religious Deism.
redirect examination, Ruse repeated his assertion that data without a theory are
not science. He said that it is not possible to separate evidence from a theory.
He said once again that evolution is science.
recross examination, Williams asked, “Is evolution a fact?” Ruse replied in
the affirmative. Williams asked, “How then is it tentative?”
plaintiffs’ testimony turned from philosophy and religion to the scientific
and educational portion of their case.
The plaintiffs’ religious and philosophical testimony was reported in the following manner.
of Plaintiffs’ Science and Education Testimony
of Plaintiffs’ Testimony
in the early afternoon, the thrust of the plaintiffs’ testimony turned to the
scientific case against creationism. The first scientist was called to the
Francisco J. Ayala
first science witness called by the ACLU was Dr. Francisco J. Ayala, professor
of Genetics at the University of California at Davis. He testified concerning
the scientific validity of creation-science.
Ayala testified that creation-science, as expressed in the Act was not science,
because it was neither naturalistic nor was it falsifiable. He gave as an
example the creationists’ assertions that there are limits to evolutionary
change. Creation-scientists make use of the term “kind,” said Ayala, to
delineate the limits of change, but this word is “religious,” not
then explained the significance of the phrase “natural selection,” the idea
that, because of the harshness of nature, animals with physical and genetic
weaknesses will die younger and have fewer offspring. This, according to
evolutionists, would have the effect of encouraging useful genetic change. Ayala
said that creationists do not dispute the action of natural selection, but do
give limits to the amount of change it may generate. Ayala said, however, that
there was nothing self-limiting about natural processes. Ayala’s testimony
became increasingly technical as he spoke of the role of genetics in
evolutionary science. He explained several ideas concerning the mechanisms of
evolution and said that the Act’s definition of evolution-science was
inadequate. He said that evolutionary theory does not include the concept of
life from nonlife, but that it presupposes the existence of life. Ayala said
that evolutionists do not accept “the sufficiency of mutation and natural
selection,” (Section 4(a)(2)) but recognize the existence of other mechanisms,
such as recombination, genetic drift, and the founder effect. Ayala then
discussed the importance of mutation in evolution. He said that while most
mutations are harmful to the organism, many are beneficial, and the harmful ones
are almost immediately eliminated by natural selection. He said that although
creation scientists often assert that mutations must present immediately
beneficial results in order to be successful, in so doing they ignore the fact
that latent genetic traits can be retained, and become useful later.
said that “the emergence of life from nonlife,” (Section 4(b)(1)) is not
actually part of evolutionary theory. He said that the theory of evolution deals
only with existing processes such as mutation.
also objected to the Act’s contention that there were only two models of
origins. He said that one can never claim that there are only two models.
Instead, he said that the creation-science model is not a scientific model at
all, and that there are several evolutionary models.
spoke of the scientific validity of evolution, and explained some of the
evidences for evolution. He said that the similarities between human and animal
proteins implied evolution. At one point, he handed Judge Overton a chart
showing these similarities. Ayala said, “It’s simpler than it looks.”
Replied Overton, “I sure hope so.”
contended that it was not necessary to observe evolution directly and said that
it is not possible to observe macroevolution. He noted, however, that
“speciation,” the splitting of one species into two, has been observed in
the laboratory. Ayala said that evolution does not presuppose the nonexistence
of a creator, but that “a creator, a God can create the world any way he
chooses.” He said that God might “establish the laws by which the world
evolves. God may have created the mountains. He may have created the processes
by which the mountains are formed. Science is neutral.” Ayala said that a
creator would be a personal God by necessity.
cross-examination by Defense attorney David Williams, Ayala agreed that he had
been president of the Society for the Study of Evolution, and had formed an
educational committee, with the purpose of countering movements which were
opposed to the teaching of evolution. He admitted that the creation-science
movement was one of these movements. He also admitted that he had been
instrumental in the attempts of two other organizations, the National Academy of
Science and the Committee of Correspondence, to limit anti-evolution movements.
asked Ayala whether it was true that there either was or was not a Creator. Said
Ayala, “The law of contradiction still holds.”
said that “testability,” not “observability,” was a necessity for a
scientific model, and said that some of the most interesting aspects of science
were not observable. He called science “a creation of the mind,” and said
models could be used to make predictions, which could then be tested. He agreed
that conclusions based on such a technique would be inferences.
asked to define the term “religion,” Ayala, who holds the equivalent of a
doctorate in theology, quoted from the writings of theologian Paul Tillich.
Ayala said that religion was a concern for the ultimate reality, which would
require religious convictions, but not belief in a creator. He agreed that
humanism could be a religion. He said that evolution might cause some students
to reject their religious beliefs.
said that he believed that life arose from nonlife through naturalistic
processes. He said that this was a testable theory, and that it should be taught
in the public schools. He agreed that to the extent that there were scientific
evidences for creationism, they should be taught in the classroom. Ayala said
that while academic freedom is “a right and a privilege,” a teacher need not
agree with an idea in order to teach it.
next witness for the ACLU was Senator Jim Holsted, an Arkansas state senator,
and sponsor of the bill which became Act 590. Holsted testified concerning the
source of the bill and his own motivations in introducing it.
testified that he received the bill from a business associate, Carl Hunt, and
later learned that the bill had been drafted by Paul Ellwanger. (Ellwanger
formed the South Carolina-based creationism organization, Citizens for Fairness
testified that the bill was passed in the Senate without being referred to a
committee, and said that the bill received “fifteen to thirty” minutes of
discussion on the Senate floor. Holsted said that no one spoke against the bill.
In the House, the bill was sent to the Education Committee, where it received a
short hearing before being returned to the floor.
testified that his motivation in introducing the bill partly involved his
personal religious convictions. Of the bill, he said, “Certainly, it would
have to be compatible with something I believed in. I’m not going to stand
before the Senate and introduce something I don’t believe in.”
admitted that the bill was strongly supported by religious fundamentalists, and
agreed that the Act favored Biblical literalists. Hoisted admitted that the term
“creation” presupposes a creator, but said that the Act did not violate the
First Amendment, because “it doesn’t mention any particular god.”
cross-examination of Holsted was very brief. Hoisted agreed that because of the
nature of the Arkansas legislature, which meets for only 60 days every two
years, it is not unusual for a bill to be passed with little or no debate.
G. Brent Dalrymple
next witness to be called, late Tuesday afternoon, was Dr. G. Brent Dalrymple, a
geochronology expert and geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. His
testimony concerned the age of the earth and the relevance of geochronology to
creation-science as expressed in Act 590.
testified that, though creationists usually claimed an age for the earth of
about 10,000 years, there was no evidence that the earth was young, but rather
that the evidence indicated that the earth was about 4.5 billion years old.
Dalrymple indicated that on this point, at least, creation-science could be
falsified, and that indeed it had been falsified. Dalrymple said that theories
which have been shown false should be discarded, and said that the theory of a
young earth was “in the same category as the flat earth hypothesis and the
hypothesis that the sun goes around the earth; all are absurd hypotheses.”
explained that in order to date the age of the earth, scientists must rely on
measuring the action of some process which is constant over time. He discredited
several arguments made by creationists, saying that they were based on processes
which are not constant. He gave as examples the measurement of the earth’s
cooling, the small amount of dust on the moon and the supposed decay of the
earth’s magnetic field, each of which, according to creationists, point toward
a young earth.
said that more widely accepted values for the age of the earth were based on a
technique known as radiometric dating. This technique relies on the decay rates
of certain radioactive elements, which, he said, are known to be constant to
within a few percent. He said that one creation-scientist, Harold Slusher, of
the Institute for Creation Research, had argued that the decay rate of iron-57
was not constant. Said Dalrymple, “The problem with this is that iron-57 is
court adjourned at the end of Dalrymple’s direct testimony.
9 December 1981
Witnesses Dalrymple, Morowitz,
The third day of the trial opened with the cross-examination of Dr. Dalrymple by
Defense attorney David Williams. Williams questioned Dalrymple about the
validity of radiometric dating. Dalrymple testified that “as far as we
know,” the radioactive decay rate of an element is constant, but in response
to a ‘question by Williams, said that it didn’t make any difference whether
the decay rate was constant before the formation of the solar system, about 4.5
billion years ago.
Dalrymple said that all
methods for calculating the age of the earth rely on the constancy of
radioactive decay rates, and said that “in a certain sense,” this was an
assumption of the methods.
He said that for the rate
of decay to change, there would need to be a change in the physical laws of the
universe. He testified that the rate of decay is found to be constant in the
laboratory, and from theoretical considerations. He also said that radioactive
testing gives consistent results.
Williams asked where in the
Act Dalrymple found a figure for the age of the earth of 10,000 years. Dalrymple
replied that this was not a part of the Act itself, but was a common figure
given by creationists. Williams then asked whether Dalrymple would consider
“several hundred million years” to be recent. Dalrymple agreed that on a
geological time scale this would be recent.
Judge Overton interrupted
at this point to ask Williams just how the state intended the phrase
“relatively recent” to be taken. Williams said that the state was not tied
to any particular figure. Overton disagreed with Williams’ opinion that the
question would not be raised in the biology classroom. “I’m puzzled as to
what the teacher is supposed to say,” said Overton.
When questioning of
Dalrymple resumed, he was asked about the use of radiometric dating in
conjunction with fossils. He agreed that this method was the best way of dating
fossils found in a particular geological formation, and agreed that much of the
case for evolution relied on this method. He agreed that because of its
importance in this area, evidence about the accuracy of radiometric dating
should be studied.
Williams then asked
Dalrymple whether he knew of any reputable scientist who had called into
question the validity of radiometric dating. Dalrymple said, “No,” but when
pressed, he admitted that one who had done so was Dr. Robert Gentry of
Oak Ridge National Laboratories. Dalrymple said that, according to Dr. Paul
Daymon, professor of Geosciences at the University of Arizona, if Gentry’s
conclusions were correct, they would cast doubt on all of geochronology.
Dalrymple said that Gentry
had made a proposal for the falsification of his theory, but that it was not
clear whether it was valid. Dalrymple said that Gentry had claimed that if a
“hand-sized piece of granite” could be synthesized, then he would consider
his theory falsified. Dalrymple said that this was a difficult technical
problem, but that he did not see its relevance to Gentry’s claims. He admitted
that Gentry was a competent scientist.
In response to a question
from Williams, Dalrymple said that he was a member of the American Geophysical
Union, and admitted that he had drafted an anti-creation proposal for that
organization. He said that an abbreviated resolution had been adopted by the
A.G.U. on 6 December 1981, the day before the trial had begun.
Dalrymple said that he had
read “about two dozen” books and pamphlets by the creationists, and that
“every piece of creationist literature I have looked into so far has had very,
very serious flaws-and I think I have looked at a representational sample.” He
admitted however, that while he was aware of Gentry’s work, he had not made an
attempt to examine it more closely before the trial. Dalrymple said that Gentry
had raised “a tiny mystery,” for which “I suspect we will eventually find
Williams asked Dalrymple
whether he believed in God. Dalrymple said the question was “highly
personal,” but said that he was “half way between an agnostic and an
atheist,” though he had “reached no final conclusions.” He said that there
was no evidence for God’s existence, but that a religious person could be a
On redirect examination,
Dalrymple was asked further about the recently adopted A.G.U. resolution and
read the resolution into the record. Dalrymple agreed that Gentry’s theory
depends on supernatural causes and that his proposed test for falsification was
Judge Overton interrupted
to ask for an explanation of Gentry’s theory. Dalrymple explained at some
length the content of Gentry’s research and the conclusions which Gentry had
On recross examination, the
subject of Gentry’s work again arose, and Dalrymple said that the source of a
theory might be important in assessing the validity of that theory.
the conclusion of the cross-examination of Dalrymple on Wednesday morning, the
plaintiffs called Dr. Harold Morowitz, professor of biophysics and molecular
chemistry at Yale University. Morowitz testified that because “sudden creation
assumes supernatural causes” it is “outside the realm of science.”
complained that the “two model” approach to origins outlined in Act 590
implied that under that law, only those two strictly defined models could be
taught, and no others. This, he said, would be limiting on science teachers who
might want to take positions not quite identical to either of the two models.
said most creationists argue that the complexity of living things indicates that
they could not have occurred by chance. Creationists, he said, “move from
complexity to improbability,” and added, “but the fact of the matter is that
we do not know the ways in which life came about,” and said science could one
day learn of completely mechanistic processes by which complex living organisms
first came into existence.
this point on the account follows that of the Times (Cal Beisner) of Pea Ridge,
Arkansas (Dec. 30, 1981), except supplements noted by brackets.
said creationists also rely on arguments based on the second law of
thermodynamics. This law, he said, states that natural processes in closed
systems tend toward maximum randomness, a breakdown in complexity. However, he
said, creationists ignored the fact that the earth is not a closed system, but
receives energy from the sun, making it an open system in which temporary, local
processes can occur in a direction opposite that described by the second
Law-that because of the energy the earth receives from the sun, growth in
complexity and therefore the naturalistic origin of life are possible.
he said, “rather than being contrary to the laws of thermodynamics, is an
unfolding of the laws of thermodynamics.” He said while science could know
that the ordering effect of the flow of energy through the system had caused the
origin of life, it was not clear how this happened.
cross-examination, Morowitz testified that he had calculated the chance
combination of elements to form life at about one to 101,000,000,000,
the number one followed by one billion zeroes. He said, however, that those odds
could not be applied to the surface of the earth, since the earth is not a
closed system and therefore not directly subject to the second law of
if anyone had yet created life by the flow of energy through various mixtures of
elements, Morowitz said that in the thousands of experiments done, no one had
yet succeeded in creating life.
how he would define the scientific community, Morowitz said it consists of those
who make their livings within the field of science. He said science was a
“social activity,” and that essentially science was, in the words of defense
attorney David Williams, “what is accepted in the scientific community.”
Stephen Jay Gould
plaintiffs then called Stephen Jay Gould, professor of geology at Harvard
University, and a proponent of a view called “punctuated equilibria,” which
holds that evolution took place through fairly sudden, rapid changes in life
forms, which is the reason that the fossil record contains so few plausible
examples of transitions from one form of life to another.
said that creation science tries to explain the geological record, which he said
shows the age of the earth in billions of years, on the basis of a single major
catastrophe, a worldwide flood. Such a view, he said, is not “scientific,
because it calls on a creator to suspend the laws of nature.” He said that the
Act creates an artificial dualism when it refers to uniformitarianism and
catastrophism. (Sections 4(b)(5) and 4(a)(5) ) Modern geology, he said, accepts
both uniformitarian and catastrophic occurrences as responsible for the
geological record. He said that there were two meanings for the word
uniformitarianism: (1) the constancy of natural law, or (2) the constancy of the
rate of sedimentation. Modern geology accepts only the first.]
said that on the basis of a flood model of geology, one would conclude that all
forms of life were alive simultaneously, at least before the flood. However, he
said, the fossil record preserved in the strata of sedimentary rocks in the
earth shows that the animals were not mixed together, but are “rather well
ordered in a sequence of strata, from the old to the new,” and this, he said,
showed the flood theory to be wrong. Gould said that creation scientists account
for the sequence of fossils by so-called “sorting mechanisms,” but that
these mechanisms are not consistent with the observed fossil record.]
if, relative to paleontology (the study of fossils), creation science were
“scientific,” Gould answered, “Certainly not, because it calls upon the
intervention of a creator. . . . “The fossil record, he said, shows gaps
between various types of life, but while creation science calls on a creator to
explain the gaps, and therefore is not scientific, evolution can explain the
gaps as resulting from the rapid, short-term changes that occurred from time to
time along the branches of the evolutionary tree, and from the incompleteness of
the fossil record.
said that creationists misrepresent his view of “punctuated equilibria,”
claiming that he says entire evolutionary sequences can be produced in single
steps. This, he said, is not what his theory says, but rather that minor changes
occur suddenly. The traditional view of evolution, he said, could be compared
with rolling a ball up an inclined plane-the fossil record for such a view
should appear fairly smooth. His view, however, would be comparable to bouncing
a ball up a set of stairs-because he postulated sudden changes, the fossil
record should reflect gaps from one step in evolution to another. [Gould
referred to the fossil record as “woefully incomplete.” He illustrated the
fossil record as an old book in which there were few pages remaining, on which
there were few lines remaining, in which there were few words remaining, of
which only a few letters remained. He said that, because of the difficulty of
fossilization, the “resolution” of the fossil record was probably not
sufficient to show speciation - which would occur quite rapidly according to
Gould. Gould then gave some examples of the transitional forms which do occur in
the fossil record. Two examples mentioned were Archaeopteryx, a birdlike
creature with some reptilian characteristics, (thought to be a transitional form
between reptiles and birds) and “Lucy” (a fossil hominid classified as Australopithicus
afarensis), apparently a human ancestor, thought to be about 3.5 million
years old. He gave other examples of hominid transitional forms, such as Homo
habilis and Homo erectus].
if evolutionary theory presupposed the absence of a creator, Gould replied,
“No, evolutionary theory functions either with or without a creator, so long
as the creator works by natural laws.”
cross examination, Gould said science was not his only motive for opposing
creation science, but that another was his political liberalism.
Asked if the term “creator” were inherently religious, Gould said,
“not inherently.” He said it had some “metaphorical senses in the
vernacular,” and was used that way by Darwin and Einstein. He also said that
while the “best judgment of the scientific community” was that “life arose
naturally,” that was “subject to question and being proved wrong, just like
anything else in science.” [When questioned by Williams, Gould agreed that
logically there were only two alternatives-either there was a creator, or there
Dennis R. Glasgow
plaintiffs then called Dr. Dennis R. Glasgow, supervisor of science education in
the Little Rock schools, who coordinates curriculum development for science
courses in those schools.
testified that creation science has never been treated in the science curriculum
for the Little Rock schools, while evolution is treated under 18 concepts. He
said all science courses, from kindergarten through twelfth grade, would be
affected by Act 590, and that no materials of scientific merit are available to
balance the two views in the state’s public schools. “There aren’t any
materials available at all that I know of,” Glasgow said.
said the principle of evolution is reinforced by analogy at all levels of
nature, and that therefore that principle provides a unifying theme of whole
books in the science courses. This, he said, would require massive restructuring
of the science education curriculum in his schools, and he didn’t know how
that could be done since he was unaware of any legitimately scientific materials
on creation science.
if he understood the term “balanced treatment” as used in the act, he said
he didn’t know what it meant, but that he had made an operational definition
in his own mind which was that it required “equal emphasis or equal
legitimacy” to be given to each view. For this reason, he said, teachers could
not give their professional viewpoints on the models, because that would be
unequal emphasis and would imply unequal legitimacy.
testified that one sample curriculum for teaching two models, prepared by Dr.
Richard Bliss of the Institute for Creation Research, would not be usable under
Act 590 because it made value judgments and implied that there were only two
views, while in fact there are many. The defense objected, saying that this was
irrelevant, since no one had required Bliss’s curriculum to be used in the
how he would implement Act 590 as a curriculum developer, Glasgow said, “I
don’t think I can implement the provisions of Act 590 to provide balanced
treatment,” and added that creation science could not be taught without
religion and that none of the materials about it he had seen were acceptable to
also said teaching two views without allowing teachers to give their
professional opinions would “damage the security of students” and “lower
the student’s opinion of the teacher,” and would lead the students to be
skeptical of information in class on other issues because they would think that
at least some was untrustworthy, since one of these views had to be wrong, and
therefore others might be untrustworthy as well.
said there was no educational purpose in teaching creation science in accord
with Act 590 and that such teaching would be “damaging as far as education is
concerned.” He also said it would hinder the hiring of good teachers in
Arkansas, because they would not want to teach where they were required to
present something unscientific.
cross examination Glasgow said a study of the effects of presenting two models
by Bliss indicated students increased In cognitive development and critical
ability when both models were presented. He acknowledged that the law would not
necessarily require “equal time” to be given to the two views, and that
nothing in the law specifically said teachers could not make a professional
judgment to their students as to the validity of either theory. He said students
should be free to question various ideas, but that they had not yet developed
the capability to judge between views well before they were old enough to leave
the public school systems.
also said that his belief that it would be impossible for teachers and
administrators to devise a curriculum for balanced treatment presupposed his
belief that creation science is not science but religion. He also said one
reason he objected to Act 590 was that he was offended that the legislature
might restrict his discretion as a curriculum advisor.
Ronald W. Coward
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
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
General Steve] Clark objected to consideration of the text because it had not
been shown that that book would be used by Arkansas schools.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
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.”
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
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.
William V. Mayer
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
of Defense’s Religion, Philosophy, and Education Testimonies
of Defense Testimony
11 December 1981
Dr. Norman L. Geisler
Dr. Norman L.
Geisler, professor of theology and philosophy at Dallas Theological Seminary was
the first witness called by the defense (to testify] about the philosophical
presuppositions of science and religion and their interface with each other. He
said he had done his doctoral dissertation on this interface, and in so doing
had studied a great deal of the history of science and had found much of modern
science to be built on Christian understandings of the principles of the
universe as established by a creator.
said one of the key issues in the trial and in understanding Act 590 was one’s
definition of religion. He said contrary to much popular belief, the main common
denominator in religious belief is the idea of “transcending” oneself,
making ultimate commitments of oneself to some object of ultimate concern.
[Referring to the definitions of Religion by theologian Paul Tillich and John
Dewey], Geisler said [Religion] does not always involve the idea of a personal
god or God in the traditional sense, nor does belief that a god or God exists
necessarily involve religion, for one can make things other than a “god”
one’s object of ultimate concern, or one can believe that a god exists without
making that god the object of one’s ultimate concern.
explained the idea of transcendence by giving the example of
when empirical objects suddenly take on “disclosure power” for some
scientists. Those scientists have said that empirical objects have suddenly lent
them a “flash of creative insight” and led to an effort on the part of those
scientists to “go beyond empirical data to a comprehensive, unifying principle
of life.” In so doing the scientist “transcends” the merely empirical.
the transcendent unifying principle the scientist “discovers” or makes up
from the flash of insight becomes an object of ultimate concern for the
scientist and he commits himself to it personally, he takes up a religious
relationship with it and from that moment until he no longer is committed to it
as an object of ultimate concern, his endeavors in relation to it are both
scientific and religious.
testified that a “humanistic” religion centers its ultimate commitment on
mankind. He gave as an example of such religious commitment the beliefs of
Thomas and Julian Huxley, both great evolutionists, and other members of the
American Humanist Society. Geisler quoted statements in the Humanist
Manifesto I and II which declare evolutionism a central doctrine in
humanism’s belief, and which speak openly of humanism as a religion.
said the first line of the preface to a combined publication of Humanist
Manifesto I and II describes humanism as a “philosophical, moral,
and religious view,” and’ he said that the word “religion” is used 28
times in the documents, mostly as a description of humanism itself. The
publication also refers to humanism as a “quest for transcendent value, and a
commitment to abiding values,” and later in the documents it says it is
“necessary to establish” such a religion. Geisler also showed the court an
article by Julian Huxley titled The Coming New Religion of Humanism, in
which Huxley says the framework of humanism is evolutionary and its “gods are
made by men.” Geisler said one of the central tenets of humanism is either no
God or a god who is not involved in the world, that it is based on the
“revelation” of science, and that it is religiously “naturalistic”
rather than “supernaturalistic.”
explained that there is a difference between speaking of “nature” and
believing in “naturalism.” “Naturalism” is a philosophical/religious
system, Geisler said, which claims that there is nothing outside of nature,
nothing other than what is physical, nothing but matter and energy. Such a
position, Geisler said, is clearly atheistic, not merely neutral on the question
of existence of a god. Evolutionism as commonly held by scientists, and
especially as believed in by the humanistic religion, is expressly naturalistic
and therefore non-neutral toward the existence of a god or God.
by defense attorney Rick Campbell for examples of evolutionary religions,
Geisler described the philosophy of Herbert Spencer, who made “evolutionary
process itself become the transcendent.” On that basis Geisler said, many
scientists of the late 19th and 20th centuries used evolution to attack theism.
Darwin, he said, applying the theory consistently, became increasingly skeptical
toward Christian belief and eventually referred to “my deity Natural
show the belief that acknowledging a supreme being or creator is not necessarily
religious, Geisler referred to the teaching of the Greek philosophers Aristotle
believed [that] there was a “first cause” or “unmoved mover,” but did
not worship or commit himself to the being, and did not posit any moral
attributes to it. Plato believed in a “demiurgos” which served as a creator
in his philosophical system, but again did not think of the being in a religious
way as something deserving of his commitment.
that there is a Creator,” Geisler said, “has no religious significance.
Belief in that Creator does.” He explained that belief “that” a Creator
exists is merely intellectual and requires no personal commitment, whereas
belief “In” implies a commitment of oneself to that Creator. In the same
way, Geisler said, belief that there is such a thing as biological evolution is
not religious, but belief in that concept is religious.
said that you cannot reject the Creator just because He is an object of
religious worship for some. He illustrated this in two ways: (1) Jesus is an
object of religious worship. It is historically verifiable that He lived. Do we
reject His historicity just because He is an object of religious worship? (2)
Some people have made rocks the object of their religious worship. Do we reject
the existence of rocks because they are an object of religious worship? Then he
said you cannot reject a creator just because some have made him the object of
also testified that the modern scientific ideas of
regularity of the world, which are the foundation of the scientific
method, sprang from the Christian belief that the world is ordered by an
intelligent Creator who has made it regular. He also said the Christian
commitment of many early scientists, such as John Newton, Lord Kelvin, and Sir
Francis Bacon, had led them to do their scientific studies as a way of learning
more about their Creator through His creation. Bacon for instance, wrote his Novum
Organum, that the command to “subdue the world” in Genesis was the
motivating force behind his scientific studies.
said the Christian motivation and sometimes even
source for early scientific ideas was never and is not now considered a
reason to doubt their legitimacy as a science, because scientists distinguish
between the source of a theory and its scientific justification. Kekule’,
discoverer of the model for the complex benzene molecule, got the idea while
dreaming about a snake biting its tall; Tesla, inventor of the alternating
current electric motor, got the idea from a vision he had reading the German
mystical poet Goethe; other scientific discoveries, he said, had equally
unscientific sources or motivations behind them, but they were not rejected from
science for that reason; rather, since they stood the tests of scientific
justification, they were accepted. [Geisler also referred to Spencer who, while
meditating on a beach, derived his theory of cosmic evolution by watching the
motion of the waves of the sea. Judge Overton at this point stopped Geisler from
giving more examples, saying, “I have your point.”]
the same way, Geisler said, one need not reject evolutionism as unscientific
just because some evolutionists have a religious motivation for believing that
it occurs, nor need one reject creationism as unscientific simply because some
creationists have religious motivation for believing it occurred. Rather,
Geisler said, each needs to be judged on its ability to stand the rigors of
said there are narrow and broad definitions of science, and that an ambiguity in
the controversy over creation science being taught in public schools often stems
from the ambiguity between the two definitions. In the narrow definition,
nothing is scientific unless it is observable, repeatable, and directly
testable. In the broad definition, however, something may not be directly
observable, testable, or repeatable, but one can make predictions based on a
logical construct designed to explain the world around us, and then test the
he said, does not fit the narrow definition of science, and neither does
creationism. For evolutionism, Geisler illustrated, “We can’t say to
fossils, ‘Would you repeat that death for me?’ or to the Big Bang, ‘Would
you repeat that for me?’” while for creationism, we cannot go back in time
and ask the creator to do it all over for us again and let us watch.
Geisler said, both views are built by scientists as “models” or logical
constructs designed to give unifying meaning to the data in the world around us.
Predictions are made based on these models, and the predictions are compared
with the real world.
how many views of origins there were, Geisler replied that in religion there are
many views, but that philosophically all can be put in one of two contrasting
categories: (1) a supernatural, intelligent creator designed and created the
world, or (2) the world is not the result of intelligent intervention, but came
about through random, mechanistic processes.
said although the authors of Act 590 probably got their “inspiration” for
the bill from Genesis, the source of the bill was irrelevant, and what is
important is the scientific and legal justification. Asked if it is legitimate
to derive a scientific model from a religious source, Geisler said it was
“perfectly legitimate, it’s done many times.”
cross examination, Geisler was asked by ACLU attorney Anthony Siano if he would
“consider it absurd to talk about creation science without a creator,” and
responded, “Yes, and I would consider Webster’s Dictionary coming from an
explosion in a print shop absurd, too.”
if he believed in the “inerrancy of Scripture,” Geisler replied that he
believes that “everything the Bible affirms is true is true.” Siano then
asked him about his beliefs about Satan, and Geisler responded that he believes
Satan is a personal, supernatural being who is a fallen angel, that other angels
fell with him in rebellion against God, that he is a deceiver, and that some
satanic phenomena are demon possession, exorcism, parapsychology, and UFOs. When
asked about the purpose of UFO encounters he said he believes they are
“Satanic manifestations in the world for the purpose of deception.”
14 December 1981
Witnesses Parker, Morrow, Townley
Larry R. Parker
the beginning of Monday’s hearings, the defense called Dr. Larry Ray Parker,
former teacher of the fifth, sixth, seventh, and ninth grades and currently
associate professor of curriculum and instruction at Georgia State University, a
specialist in curriculum principles, curriculum trends, and curriculum
development, and often a consultant to public school districts in curriculum
said he was not a scientist, but that he believed in teaching two models on
scientific views of origins of life because it is sound educational practice to
allow students to see two sides of such issues and examine the arguments for
described five major principles which lie at the basis of curriculum
development: the nature and character of the learner, the nature of the learning
process, the nature of society, the nature of knowledge and the sources of
knowledge, and the role of the schools in society. He said teaching two sides of
a controversy like this is consistent with all those principles, because the
students (the learners) are capable of handling controversy rationally and learn
better when they have the opportunity to examine contrasting points of view,
because learning functions best when opposing ideas compete for the respect of
learners, because for students to function well in a society in which many
members believe in either of the two contrasting points of view demands that the
students under stand both, because knowledge and the sources of knowledge are
interrelated with opportunities learners have to make evaluations and decisions
of their own, and because the schools, since they are “creatures of
society,” supported by taxpayers’ money, ought to be responsive to the needs
and demands of society. [He said the nature and character of the learner are
found in the general area of educational psychology and specifically in the
topic “human growth and development.” Parker stated that the best expression
of this is found in the French psychologist Piaget who proposed that “thinking
is innate to the learner.”]
said that an especially important element in the quality of a learning
experience [or learning process] is the “extent of inquiry” that is
involved. “if the learner can be an active part of the learning process ...
the learning is greatly strengthened,” he said. The extent of inquiry and the
activeness of the student are greatly increased if the educational process asks
the student divergent questions, questions which demand that the student
consider alternative possible answers. Education works best, he said, when it
challenges the students to “comparative analysis,” asking students to
“compare and analyze divergent questions leads to a great increase in
divergent answers and learning.” Asked what he thought would be the impact of
Act 590, Parker said, “I believe that implementation of Act 590 would allow
the classrooms to be stimulating, thought-provoking” places where “students
can be involved in analyzing.” Schools should be places where students are
taught how to think, not told what to think,” Parker said.
about the relationship of the schools to the society, Parker said the schools
“belong to the people, the students belong to the people, and the schools must
be responsive to society and its changing needs.” [Parker said, the role of
the school is that of “passing on the culture and heritage of our
civilization.” Because education takes place within a culture, whenever a law
is passed it is “the voice of the people” who represent that culture and
heritage.] He said the very fact that Act 590 was passed by the legislature
“demonstrates that the constituency of the curriculum in this state has not
been served or satisfied with that curriculum.” He said several polls showed a
strong favor in society as a whole for teaching both evolution science and
creation science in the public schools. He mentioned one in which 9% said
evolution only should be taught in the schools, 16% said creation only, 70% said
both, and 5% said neither should be taught in the public schools. Most others,
he said, gave similar results.
referred to a movement in education called “accountability-based education,”
which says curriculum should be tightened to meet the demands of the
constituency, and shows that society wants its schools to be more responsible
for producing students capable of certain skills. He said examples of new
programs in education which resulted in educational responsiveness to society
were law-related education in the state of Georgia, consumer education,
multi-cultural education in areas which have many cultural groups, bilingual
education, sex education, metric education, personal finance education (which
was made a requirement by the Georgia state legislature), career education, drug
education, and, most recently, computer literacy. [Parker also said that sources
of knowledge were the responsibility of the state, thus it is the state that
develops criteria for facilitating knowledge and developing textbooks based upon
the desires of its constituency.]
said he thinks one message the state is giving to the educational establishment
in Arkansas with the passage of Act 590 is that society wants its students to
graduate from high school with a certificate that shows they’re “capable of
thinking” critically about competing ideas.
what “balanced treatment” would mean, Parker said it is normally used in
curriculum development to refer to treating all materials from an unbiased
perspective. He said he creation/evolution problem is not unique as a balance
problem in education, but rather that discussion of balance in other areas is
common in curriculum texts and courses. He said in most teaching on curriculum
development, it is stressed that “balance needs to be constantly monitored.”
if he thought that required “equal time” for competing ideas, he said that
was not the case, because of the nature of the content of the competing ideas.
“Time is not necessarily of the essence,” he said.
whether he thought Act 590 violated academic freedom, Parker said, “In a
public school context, my understanding is that academic freedom relates more to
the student than to the teacher.” [He said the teacher conforms the state’s
views to the students regardless of what those views are.] The main point of
academic freedom, he said, is allowing the student to be exposed to a wide range
of materials and ideas.
said in actuality, a law like Act 590 was necessary to protect teachers who
might want to teach things normally outside the curriculum in many science
courses. He said many teachers had come to him asking him whether it were
“safe” to teach certain things, and added that because of the climate of the
scientific community and educational establishment, presenting creation science
as an option is a “professional risk.”
if Act 590 were consistent with sound curriculum principles, he said it was, not
only for the reasons given earlier, but also because one of the main functions
of curriculum is to “transmit the culture,” and “depriving students of
learning creationism is actually violating the culture and the tradition of
western civilization,” putting students out of touch with their cultural
cross examination, Parker was asked if he would advocate teaching two views on a
controversial subject even if there were “not a shred” of evidence for one
of them. Parker responded that was not quite his view, and gave as an example
the “flat earth” theory. Although the theory is clearly wrong, it could be
helpful for learning scientific principles of testing for students to examine
the arguments used for the “flat earth” theory and see how those arguments
are treated by sound scientific principles.
Kaplan of the ACLU asked Parker whether one principle for determining course
content were the question, “What can the subject contribute to the general
education of the law-abiding citizen?” and Parker responded that that was a
valid principle, and that it was also one reason he supported Act 590, since it
“helps students to think and analyze,” and added that any bias in the
controversy is on the part of the evolutionists, since they want to teach only
one view. Teaching only one view, he said, is “tantamount to
William Scot Morrow
defense then called Dr. William Scot Morrow, professor of biochemistry at
Wofford College, South Carolina. Asked about his religious beliefs, Morrow said
he is an “agnostic,” “ . . . a person who holds the middle ground and
hasn’t made his mind up on the existence of a divine being or god.” He also
said he is “an evolutionist.”
defined science as “learning the nature of nature,” [or an effort to
determine the nature of nature] and the scientific process as consisting of the
elements of curiosity, observations of data, hypothesis, and experimentations.
He said the principles of experimental repeatability, testability, and
falsifiability are essential to science. [Morrow explained that you must have a
correct operating model to affirm or falsify an experiment. He said that
creation and evolution have no such model available.]
said evolution is not falsifiable, and therefore does not fit a strict
definition of science. Neither, he said, does creation. He said he thinks the
main reason many scientists believe in evolution is that they have “wanted to
believe in it, they looked at evidence and saw it one way, and didn’t consider
said new ideas are not easily accepted in the scientific community unless they
are “linear extrapolations” from existing scientific theories. He described
two camps in the scientific community, the “conservative and defensive,” in
which people try to preserve the status quo, and the “revolutionary,” which
focuses on “anomalies,” the unexplained in science, and uses those as
step-off points to new discoveries. “These people ‘the revolutionaries)
frequently have a problem getting published because they can shake cherished
ideas” because their new theories don’t fit an established worldview or
philosophy. Often, he said, they’re either not given the slightest
consideration and are treated with “plain silence,” or the scientific
community refuses to publish their work, even though it’s good science. Then,
he said, as is the case with creation scientists, lack of publication in the
scientific community is used as a reason for saying it’s “not scientifically
put creationist scientists in the “revolutionary” camp in science, saying
they were “on the cutting edge of science.” He compared the closed-minded
rejection of their work with earlier closedmindedness toward the theory of
continental drift, the work of the earliest molecular biologists, and the
explanations of early biochemists of biological problems “conservative
biologists” had been unable to solve.
explained there is a difference between data and interpretation in science. Data
are the evidences collected, the accumulated “facts” scientists study, while
interpretations are in “intelligent analysis of data.” He said the data
creationists look at are the same as the data evolutionists look at, but that
creationists have a different interpretation for the data. He also said
creationists generally are willing to “look at more of the data,” and that
evolutionists often “refuse to look at it.”
what he thought the prohibition of religious teaching in Act 590 meant, Morrow
said he thought it meant a prohibition of trying to persuade students toward any
particular religious point of view. He said balanced treatment was something
that might often confront teachers, and that the fact a teacher might not like
one view was no excuse for not teaching about it. He compared the responsibility
of teachers to teach opposing views with that of a doctor to treat a patient
even though he doesn’t like the patient.
said both evolution and creation should be taught, and that both can be as
“scientific or nonscientific, as religious or nonreligious, as the teacher is
capable of making them.”
said multiple-model teaching, even in science, is quite common and works well.
He added that he was surprised that Dr. Mayer of the Biological Sciences
Curriculum Study would oppose a multi-model approach, since one of the textbooks
the BSCS developed actually encouraged multi-model approaches to scientific
controversies, and Morrow himself had used that textbook as the basis for a
multi-model approach to origins in a course he taught at Concord College. He
said the approach emphasized helping students think about evidence and fostered
open minds as a learning device. He said the point of a multi-model approach is
“to teach how to learn and how to think” more than simply teaching the facts
said in preparing that multi-model approach to origins, he had to do most of the
preparation of the evidences for creationism himself, but that by using the
principles for seeing various interpretations of data shown in the BSCS
textbook, he had found it easy to see how creationists could legitimately
understand the same data in different ways from evolutionists.
said he supported Act 590 because it “makes for good science” by giving
balance to two models, neither of which “lends itself easily to scientific
testing and both of which are held by good scientists” [Morrow said that it
forces the student to test other views]; because as an educator he believes the
inquiry and multiple view ideas are good educational principles [he said that
they “cause the student to have a deliberate introduction to contrasting
ideas’]; and because as a parent and citizen he thinks the schools should be
responsive to the citizenry. He said refusal to present two models on origins
was “intellectual arrogance.”
for evidences for the creationist model, Morrow said they were the same data as
were used by evolutionists, but interpreted differently. Creationists, he said,
use fossils, experiments on synthesis of life, geology, study of living
creatures, and all the other areas of science, just as the evolutionists do. He
added that the creation model was just as intriguing to him as a scientist as
the evolution model, and that it had a “lot more potential for explaining
why distinguished scientists who witnessed for the ACLU had said that evidences
used by creationists simply are not science, Morrow said, “They’re wrong.
They’re lousy in their interpretations on this case.” He added that the fact
that “heavyweights favor evolution is of no great matter.” He said he
thought the reason witnesses like Stephen Gould, Harold Morowitz, and Francisco
Ayala had ridiculed creationism was that they “don’t like it’s
conclusion,” they don’t want it to be considered, and they’re
said one of the best evidences for creation as the explanation for the origin of
life was the fact that the statistical probability of the random formation of
life from nonlife was “negligible-even for a piece of DNA, let alone a living
cell,” He said, for example, that the statistical probability of getting one
histone by chance was about 1/20^100, or about like trying to find a single
certain grain of sand in all the deserts of the earth-basically impossible.
“And that’s just one polypeptide, not life!” he said.
cross examination, Morrow was asked if he knew of evidences for some of the
specific points in creation science. Morrow said some examples were the
statistical “impossibility” of life coming from nonlife by chance, absence
of transitions in the fossil record, insufficiency of mutation to bring about
large changes in populations of organisms, and the work of Robert Gentry,
another of the defense witnesses, on radiochronology (radioactive decay
measurements for dating the earth). [Morrow repeated his previous statement that
those who held to diverse opinions on scientific issues were shunned by the
scientific community. When asked for specific examples Morrow said that he could
not immediately think of any. It was here that Judge Overton stopped the cross
examination and vehemently lashed out at Morrow. Overton said, “Something
bothers me about you, Dr. Morrow. Do you mean to tell me that you make that
statement and cannot give one reference?” Overton continued, “We have been
sitting here since 10:30 (time now: 12:10); you have made numerous various
opinions, but you have not given any reason for creation except the
improbability of the evolutionary position?” Can you site anything in support
of the creationist position?” In response Morrow said, “Yes, the fossil
record.” Overton again questioned Morrow: “Are you saying the scientific
community is engaged in some sort of conspiracy?” Morrow replied that he
“would not be surprised to find systematic censorship.”*
defense then called Jim Townley, a chemistry teacher in Fort Smith Southside
said he understood balanced treatment of two views on origins as requiring that
each be taught sufficiently for students to understand them, but that this would
not require equal time. He explained that as a chemistry and physics teacher, he
would like to be able to teach his students some of the statistical
improbabilities of evolution that point toward creationism, and some of the
invalidities of radiometric dating which call into question the extremely old
ages given by evolutionists for the earth.
Townley said, he had not taught these, and would feel liable for
“discipline” from his administrators if he taught them without the backing
of Act 590. He said he felt confident that under Act 590, he could research both
sides and teach each competently and with balance. He added that he is sure he
could teach creation science without its being religious. He said he thought it
would be good for his students because it would generate greater interest and
the students would therefore try harder to understand the ideas on both sides.
told reporters after his testimony: “Closed-mindedness is something which we
have no room for in the courtroom and I think the judge is closed-minded.” He
later said, while in an interview with United Press International, that
Overton’s interruption of his testimony was “inappropriate and represents
Under cross examination, Judge William R. Overton, the judge hearing the case, interrupted ACLU attorney Robert Cearley to ask Townley why he felt like he couldn’t teach about statistical improbabilities of evolution and problems in radiometric dating without teaching creationism. Townley said that it was because questioning one side of mutually opposed options would imply support for the opposite. [In this case, support for creationism. During this exchange between Townley and Overton, Overton warned him the classroom “is not Sunday School.* You’re trying to teach about science!” Townley added that in order to teach creation science the concept of a creator must be included. He said, based upon the untestable character of either model, a creator is “not a scientific concept,” yet when spoken of in the realm of origins is as certainly a viable option as evolution.]
of Defense’s Science Testimonies
of Defense Testimony
14 December 1981
Dr. Wayne Frair
then called Dr. Wayne Frair, professor of biology at The King’s College,
Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.
testified that through his work in biochemical taxonomy (classifying forms of
life by the chemicals they contain), he has become convinced that a “limited
change” model - essentially like the creation science model - is the best
explanation of living things. This model would be described as a “forest of
trees” in which individual kinds of life are the trees, with the branches
representing variations within limits of the individual kinds of life. The trees
themselves are not connected with each other.
he said, could be described as the view that all of life forms only one tree,
rather than a forest of trees; and the various kinds of life are the branches,
and variations of the kinds are the twigs and leaves on the branches. In this
model, every kind of life is related genetically to every other kind of life.
said that within the creation science model, one could hold to the “special
theory” of evolution, which says that variation has taken place within certain
limits among the types of life, but that one would oppose the “general
theory” of evolution, which says that all forms of life developed from a
single early form and that they are therefore all genetically related.
said he considered the “State of Arkansas to be on the very cutting edge of an
educational movement” which promised to improve education around the country
by focusing on teaching students how to think and analyze alternative views not
only in science, but in other areas as well.
quoted from several scientific writings that have been in circulation for as
many as fifty years which called into question the general theory of evolution
on purely scientific grounds, but which, he said, had been ignored by the
scientific community. He also referred to scientific writers who said it is
important to present “scientific heresies” to students so they’ll learn to
examine points of view and judge them intelligently.
interrupted the examination by state’s attorney Williams to ask whether Frair
could show positive evidence for creation science, not just negative evidence
against evolution science. Williams responded that since the two are mutually
exclusive, whatever is evidence against one is automatically evidence for the
Williams asked how creation science could be presented without religious
instruction, Frair replied that teachers could present evidences for the two
views that life is either all related on a single tree (the evolutionist view)
or that life is on many unconnected trees and therefore genetically unrelated.
“There wouldn’t even [need to be reference to] a creator,” he said.
“They’re just saying, ‘There they [the evidences) are.’ And maybe some
people would infer a creator (from that].” He said people could be
nonreligious and be creationists. [When asked about the meaning of balanced
treatment, Frair said that it meant the teacher should give enough information
to make the basic positions “clear and fair.” When asked by Williams how his
view of creation effects his teaching methodology he said, “it basically
said most evolutionists seem to misunderstand the creation model. He said they
don’t understand the value of having the option of viewing various kinds of
life as genetically unrelated, an option he said had made him able to do more
objective biochemical research in his own laboratories. Instead, he said,
evolutionists feel constrained to fit all life into a single tree, and that can
put heavy pressures on their research.
said the assertion that removal of evolutionary theory from biology would leave
scientists with nothing but confusing, unconnected facts, an assertion made by
witnesses for the ACLU, was “patently false,” and that his own studies [Frair
here made reference to his studies in proteins and DNA] showed how creationism
could be an equally good unifying principle in biology.
cross examination by ACLU attorney Bruce Ennis, Frair acknowledged that as a
professor at The King’s College he had to sign a doctrinal statement which
said the Bible is without error, and that he is on the board of director of the
Creation Research Society, which has a similar doctrinal statement.
asked Frair if he could give a clear definition of a “kind,” as referred to
in the act, and Frair said a “kind” would “constitute a group of organisms
genetically unrelated to other organisms.” He said there was considerable
discussion within the evolutionist community about groupings of types of life,
and that there was the same kind of discussion going on in creationist circles.
He added that “kind” is not necessarily equivalent to “species.”
asked Frair if he had Biblical reasons for rejecting evolution, and Frair asked
for reference to a particular part of Scripture. Ennis said he was referring to
a part of Frair’s own book, The Case for Creation, p. 81, where he said
that there were Biblical reasons for rejecting evolution. Frair responded that
that statement occurred in a footnote to the book and was a quotation from a
Biblical commentator, not his own words.
Defense Witnesses Helder, Chittick,
Dr. Margaret G. Helder
then called Dr. Margaret G. Helder, retired professor of biology at Brock
University, St. Catherial, Ontario, Canada, a specialist in the biological study
of algae and other areas of botany.
testified that her research showed that the green algaes could not be, as
evolutionists had long thought, ancestral to all the types of plant life, but
rather that the various types of plants had to have genetically unrelated
ancestors, a view which she said supports creation science.
also testified that there are two groups in the world of science, one of which
says that there are some things that can not be explained by purely mechanistic,
naturalistic processes, and another group which says there aren’t. She said an
assumed sine qua non of much scientific endeavor has been the belief in
an ability to explain all phenomena in mechanistic terms. “I want to challenge
that definition of science,” she said. She said, though, that her own
religious faith had nothing to do with her studies in plant biology which
indicated that creationism was a better explanation of origins than
said that she had often discussed evidences for separate ancestry for plants in
her botany classes, showing that while certain characteristics might indicate a
relationship between two kinds of plants, other characteristics contradicted the
idea of relationship. She had never had to introduce any religious literature to
discuss her creationist views. She said her studies indicated that many
biologists, especially among botanists, are “becoming more and more aware of
the differences in forms of life. They are tending more and more toward the
position of creationism of separate origins of life.”
defense then called Dr. Donald Chittick, former professor of chemistry at the
University of Puget Sound and George Fox College, and currently director of
research and development of Pyneuco, Inc., a business which converts biological
waste materials into usable fuel.
said he was an evolutionist while in graduate school, but that by reading
literature on origins from both sides when he was a graduate student he “was
convinced that the creation model was a better explanation of the data.”
pointed out that science works by beginning with certain assumptions, which it
uses to interpret data, and then arrives at conclusions which are consistent
with both the assumptions and the data. However, if one begins with different
assumptions, he can interpret the same data and come to different conclusions.
This, he said, is what happens in the controversy over evolution and
creation-evolutionists begin with certain assumptions about reality and natural
processes, interpret the data in accord with those assumptions, and arrive at
evolutionary conclusions. The important thing to realize, he said, is that both
groups look at the same data, and the different conclusions are necessitated by
the different assumptions.
said he believes, even though he is a creationist, that evolutionism should be
taught, but that it should be balanced with teaching creationism. He said he has
taught creationism often, and that he has done so without making it religious.
Balance, he said, need not mean equal time for the two, but simply mentioning
both and giving evidences for both. Each view, he said, should be taught by
starting with an examination of the assumptions behind each view, then seeing
how those assumptions bear on the interpretation of the data, then examining the
data themselves, and then viewing the conclusions.
said his own preference for the creation model had assisted him in making
discoveries about converting biological wastes into synthetic “fossil”
fuels. Evolutionists, he said, assume that the earth is extremely old and that
“biomass” was converted to oil and coal through millions of years by
he said, if one assumed that the earth were young, he could look for another way
of forming “fossils fuels” like oil and coal. When Chittick did this, he
found that geochemical processes could convert biomass into fuels much more
quickly than biochemical processes, quickly enough to do it within thousands of
years, thus consistent with a creation model assumption of a relatively young
he performed based on this assumption resulted in the development of a process
for converting biomass into fuels which he has already shown workable by using
that fuel to power a cross-country trip.
said actual studies showed that because of geochemical processes, wood used as
mine supports had in some cases been known to convert to the level of anthracite
coal in as little as ten years, implying that a geochemical explanation for the
formation of coal and oil was better than the traditional biochemical
explanation. The studies showed that coal and oil actually resulted from having
large amounts of biomass buried rapidly, heated and pressurized rapidly. This,
he said, sup ported a young age for the earth and also the creationist idea that
a universal flood was responsible for much of the geological structure of the
also testified that his research had shown traditional radioactive decay dating
systems to be unreliable for dating the age of rocks, and therefore of the
earth. [The rocks Chittick referred to were actually moon samples. He said that
when examining moon rocks by isotope methodology re searchers concluded with
three different ages for the same rock.] Instead, he said, those systems were an
indicator of the type of geologic forces which acted on the rocks when they were
formed, and were not indicative of age at all. This meant, he said, that the
most highly-relied-upon method for dating the earth to the about 4.5 billion
years assumed by evolutionists could not be used, and other methods, which
indicated a young age for the earth, should be used instead.
asked if it was fair to challenge the evolutionary theory Chittick said yes,
that refusal to teach creationism “dulls education-teaching only evolution is
bad science and bad education.”]
cross-examination, Chittick was asked whether he held certain religious beliefs.
Defense attorney Williams objected to that line of questioning, as the defense
had done several times before, on the basis that a person’s religious beliefs
had nothing to do with his reliability as a scientific witness and were
therefore irrelevant unless it could be proved that “in fact one’s religious
beliefs have caused one to compromise one’s profession as a scientist,” and
referred to a ruling in another court which said the religious beliefs or
opinions of a witness could not be used to discredit him. Judge Overton
overruled the objection. [When asked whether he agreed with the contents of a
Bible Science Association newsletter about putting “Christ and the Bible . . .
back into science is one of the most powerful methods of witnessing,” he said
defense then called Dr. Ariel Roth, director of the Geoscience Research
Institute at Loma Linda University, California. Roth is a former professor of
biology at the University of Michigan, Andrews University, and former chairman
of the biology department at Loma Linda University. [Roth testified that when
the creation and evolution models were compared, creation best fit the available
data. He said that since both use the same data, interpretation is the real
asked if both were theories, he said yes, based on the fact that each view was
an extrapolation from available information. The issue of origins cannot be
tested but can be theorized. When asked if both views should be taught, Roth
answered in the affirmative yet asserted that both should be carefully
testified that his research on coral reefs in the Pacific Ocean showed that the
reefs probably grow much faster than evolutionists had thought, and explained
that this supported the creation model. He said the reefs grow 1-4000 times as
fast as the speed at which the ocean floors are dropping, yet there are many
reefs which are “drowned,” which are now so deep in the ocean that they get
too little sunlight to continue growing. This means, he said, that the ocean
floors must have dropped very quickly at one time, a fact which is consistent
with the creationist belief that a worldwide geological-hydrological catastrophe
helped shape the earth’s geology.
to the evolutionist assumption of the speed at which the ocean floor drops, Roth
said, the reefs should never have gotten “drowned” because, according to his
studies, they would have been growing so fast they would have kept their tops
right at the surface.
about other evidences for creation science, Roth mentioned a number of
“serious problems” with the evolution model: high improbability of random
formation of life; difficulty of evolving complex integrated structures since
each part of the integrated structure alone would be useless to the organism in
which it first appeared and therefore would be weeded out by natural selection;
the near impossibility of the random formation of chromosomes, genes ordered to
fit together both by internal components of genes and the ordering of the genes
to fit each other. Roth explained that while these problems can’t be explained
by the evolution model, they fit perfectly into the predictions of the creation
model and therefore support creationism.
examples of the difficulty of evolving “complex integrated structures,” Roth
noted the relationship of “the ear, the brain, and the auricular nerve,” and
the respiratory system. Of the respiratory system, he said, “This system would
not be functional until all the parts were there .... How did these parts
survive during evolution as useless parts under natural selection?”
said evolutionists usually have not fairly evaluated creation science, but
simply reject it without proper scientific investigation because it is a
“paradigm” that conflicts with the “paradigm” of evolution. He said a
paradigm is an “interpretive grid” through which scientists examine data.
Roth said it is difficult for scientists to question their paradigms, but that
in the history of science, many paradigms have been adopted and used for awhile,
and then questioned and replaced by others. With their commitment to the
evolutionary paradigm, Roth said, it is not surprising that evolutionists should
“object so strongly” to a balanced presentation of creation science and
if creation science could be taught only on scientific grounds without religious
references, Roth said it could, since .1 origin by design” is a scientific
idea and since “knowledge is separate from commitment.” “I don’t have to
join a church to learn about it,” Roth said.
Harold G. Coffin
Harold G. Coffin, senior research scientist at the Geoscience Research
Institute, Loma Linda, Calif., testified next for the defense.
began by saying that both evolution science and creation science are assumptive
constructs through which data is interpreted. “We are dealing with something
that we have to accept by assuming, by assumption, in both cases.” He said
evolution has to assume spontaneous generation of life, because it has never
observed it, and creation science has to assume the existence of a creator,
because it cannot prove the creator’s existence. [Coffin said that in either
case “faith” is necessary for acceptance.]
said his own work in biology supported the creation science model and opposed
the evolution science model because he had found four important factors: (1) the
“uniqueness of life” [“We cannot define what life is; we can tell what it
does, but we can’t define it.”]; (2) sudden appearance of life in the
“Cambrian” rocks of the geologic column indicates sudden creation instead of
slow evolution, since on the evolutionary assumption, the complex life forms
found there should be preceded by millions of years of less complex life forms,
but are not; (3) the absence of “connecting links” between basic kinds of
animals and plants in the fossil record; (4) the inability of scientists to
cause or observe in modern life forms changes from one basic kind of life to
said he estimates that about 95% of the material he reads on evolution he would
have no quarrel with, because it deals with minor changes within basic kinds of
life, while the rest of evolutionary theory “is speculation.”
said many examples of fossils supported the creationist model which says fossils
are primarily the result of a worldwide flood. [He said that according to
present processes, an expired fish decays in one week. In order to get the
perfect shapes available in the fossil record, the fish would have to be covered
within a period of five hours. This rapid burial could only have been caused by
a catastrophic flood.] He showed a picture of a fossil fish which was completely
intact when it was buried and which had its mouth open at the time, showing it
suffocated. This, he said, was one of thousands of fossils around the world
which support the idea that a flood buried most life forms and resulted in the
present fossil record.
examples of fossils which he said would require rapid burial in a flood are
animal footprints in sand and fossilized animal dung, either of which would have
been obliterated if they had to wait for slow burial as predicated by the
evolution model. He said such fossils suggest “rapid geological activity”
similar to what would be expected in a worldwide flood.
said modern research on coal beds indicates that they are not the result of
slow, stationary burial of biomass but rather of enormous amounts of biomass
being transported in liquid and deposited quickly into depressions, and then
buried quickly by sediments. This, he said, was the earlier understanding of
coal beds, but when George Lyell and others postulated a slow buildup for
geology in accord with evolutionary assumptions, many coal geologists abandoned
this understanding, but now the geological community is returning to it. Such
formation of coal beds would indicate enormous flooding.
Under cross-examination by Ennis of the ACLU, Coffin said that the term “kinds” should probably be understood as broader than the term “species,” and in some instances could include all the organisms in a given order in standard taxonomy.
16 December 1981
Witnesses Wickramasinghe, Gentry
Dr. N. Chandra Wickramasinghe
then called Dr. N. Chandra Wickramasinghe, professor and head of the department
of applied mathematics and astronomy at University College, Cardiff, Wales, in
Great Britain. Wickramasinghe is a Buddhist.
testified that his research in partnership with Sir Frederick Hoyle at
University College in astronomy and astrophysics proved beyond doubt that
“interstellar dust,” the tiny dust particles which form immense clouds in
space and filter the light from some stars, are actually bits of biological
material similar to the bacterium E. coli, a bacterium which aids in digesting
food in animal colons, This discovery led Wickramasinghe and Hoyle to examine
modern theories of the origin of life.
found on examination of the traditional Darwinian idea of the random formation
of life through mechanistic processes that the statistical probability of
forming even a single enzyme, which is a building block of genes, which in turn
are building blocks of cells, is 1 in every
tries, or in other words, statistically impossible. That would require more
tries for the formation of one enzyme, he said, than there are atoms in all the
stars of all the galaxies in the entire known universe.
statistical improbabilities caused Hoyle and Wickramasinghe to decide that there
must be some intelligent creator, either within the universe or outside it.
Wickramasinghe testified that his Buddhist background drove him to the belief
that the creator was a part of the universe, but that it would be equally
possible to think the creator was supernatural.
and Wickramasinghe theorize that this creator designed and formed life in the
cosmos, and that life came to earth during its early periods through influxes of
this interstellar dust. They said they do not believe that spontaneous
generation of life is possible, but that they do believe life evolved on earth,
added a twist to evolutionary thinking, however, by saying that the new genetic
material needed for upward development of life forms is added to earth life
forms by the addition of new bacteria from space, carried sometimes on
meteorites. These new bacteria, Wickramasinghe said, would combine with the
genetic material in a given organism and would cause upward changes.
said, though, that the probabilities of upward change by chance combination of
the new bacteria with current life forms was so infinitely tiny that he and
Hoyle had to postulate the idea that the “intelligent designer” arranged the
times and places at which the interstellar bacteria would arrive on earth so
that it would cause upward change.
explained that he and Hoyle came to their conclusion about the nature of
interstellar dust through minute astrophysical examination, and that the
scientific community, while skeptical of their findings because they militate
against traditional ideas, has not been able to show any flaws in their
research. He said they measured the light spectrum given by interstellar dust
and compared it with the spectrums of known chemicals on earth. They first found
that the dust particles had to contain large amounts of carbon, hydrogen, and
oxygen; in other words, that they had to be organic. Then they realized that the
spectrum was that of a highly complex organic substance. Then one day while
searching through an atlas of light spectrums, Wickramasinghe stumbled on a
spectrum that was exactly like the one given by interstellar dust. The amazing
thing, he said, was that the spectrum was one for cellulose, a sugar which is
the basis for most fibrous plants. Further research led them to the conclusion
that the chemical makeup of the dust is most like that of the bacterium E. coli.
said he and Hoyle were both surprised at their findings, and described the
experience as “traumatic” because it called into question age-old
assumptions about life having been limited primarily to earth. They delayed
publishing their findings for nearly a year because they wanted to test the
findings thoroughly and rule out all other possible interpretations of the data.
“We tried, in the true spirit of science, to remain as conservative as
possible, until it finally became impossible to remain conservative.”
said the scientific community had responded primarily with silence, and that
this was common when research challenged basic scientific assumption. However,
he said, another scientist studying meteorites had found corroborating evidence
in the form of fossilized bacteria in the meteorites, bacteria which he said had
to have come from space before the meteorites came into the earth’s
atmosphere. He said he and Hoyle had encountered a bias from the scientific
community against anything which questioned traditional neo-Darwinian ideas, and
that was the reason for his support of Act 590. He said the best spirit of
science is an open mind. While he did not accept all of the ideas of the
creation model, he said that as a scientist he would not reject any of them
until he had examined the scientific arguments pro and con, and said examination
of competing views in science would be beneficial to students.
said that contrary to the popular notion that only creationism relies on the
supernatural, evolutionism must as well, since the probabilities of random
formation of life (spontaneous generation) are so tiny as to require a
“miracle” for spontaneous generation to have occurred, making belief in
spontaneous generation “tantamount to a theological argument.”
[Wickramasinghe said that to believe life came from spontaneous generation was
about as plausible as “a tornado blowing through a junkyard and assembling a
said his research drove him to believe that an intelligent creator exists
because of the impossibility of the chance formation and development of life
anywhere in the universe. He said this conclusion was despite his agnostic
Buddhist beliefs. It was a difficult position for him to take emotionally
because it differed from all his earlier thought.
research, however, left him two possible conclusions: “I think one is driven,
almost inescapably, to accept the fact, or rather the possibility, that there is
a creator, and this brings the creator’s existence into the realm of empirical
science.” He concluded that denial of some form of creation implies
“blindness to fact” and “absolute arrogance.”
think that these scientists have been incredibly perverse,” Wickramasinghe
said in an exclusive interview with the [Pea Ridge, Arkansas] TIMES after
the trial. “I believe that they have made all manner of ridiculous statements.
In fact, [they] sort of imply that some kind of scientific miracle occurred.
They are quite vehement in denying the possibility of miracles in the
theological or religious way, but they have involved miracles all along in this
chain of argument-processes that are so improbable that to postulate that it
happened really is tantamount to saying that a miracle happened.” either life
and the universe were the result of a deliberate act of a creator, or they are
eternal. For those who accept the modern cosmological ideas which hold the
universe to be about 15 billion years old, he said, the idea that it and life
are eternal is impossible.
said such denial of a creator and creation in the scientific community generally
comes from an “anti-religious bias” in the scientific community. He said
there was an implied rejection of theological views in the rise of Darwinism at
the beginning of the industrial revolution. He said the “strong instinctive
reaction of scientists” against creationism stems from their “belief in the
supremacy and centrality of man and earth,” and added
...... the human ego has been pushed right into an insignificant
corner,” and humanistic evolutionary ideas are a way of saving that ego. He
said evolutionists view man as a god.
said he and Hoyle had not published their research in standard scientific
journals because the editors of those journals generally are closed-minded to
anything which questions Darwinian ideas on the origin and development of life.
Instead, they chose to publish it in book form so their critics and they would
be free to have exchange of ideas on the matter. He said the general commitment
of the scientific community to the “conventional wisdom” about biology made
it nearly impossible for most people to objectively analyze ideas that called
the “conventional wisdom” into question, and added that his own lack of
training in biology since he graduated from college was an advantage to him
because he would have been “hamstrung” by the “conventional wisdom.” [He
stated that you cannot accommodate the conventional wisdom in a rational
framework. He said that creationism “so profoundly and so deeply” challenges
the main line thinking in biology. He asserted that children who are made to
accept the evolutionary model in the classroom are “brainwashed.” He added
“it is the biggest travesty of all that a society would close its mind to the
biggest question of all, the origins of life.”]
asked to compare evolution and creation as to their religious overtones,
Wickramasinghe said they were both “deeply religious,” and that if he had to
choose between the two, he thinks evolution is religiously “more insidious and
has more evil implications” than creationism.
cross-examination, the ACLU lawyer argued with Wickramasinghe that probability
arguments are really illegitimate, since highly improbable things happen all the
time. He gave as an example the chance attendance of any given 50,000 people at
a football game. He said the chances for that would be 50,00050,000,
a probability far less than that Wickramasinghe had estimated for the random
formation of an enzyme. But, he said, the attendance of a given 50,000 people at
a football game occurred regularly nearly every week through football season.
This, he said, showed that probability statistics are not relevant.
responded under redirect examination by the state that the ACLU’s argument on
probability misunderstood probability theory. First, he said, the 50,000 people
at tending a football game don’t get there by chance-they decide to go, buy
tickets, and travel there. Second, the arrangement in which 50,000 people sit at
a football game is unimportant, since any order is fine enough for a football
crowd. However, with enzymes, arrangement is of utmost importance, there being
at least 15 positions in a chain of amino acids in any given enzyme which must
be “present.” Since people go to football games by intelligent choice,
Wickramasinghe said, the ACLU attorney’s argument actually supported the
creation model, not the evolution model.
final witness called by the state was Robert Gentry, a research scientist at the
Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Gentry specialized in the study of
the breakdown of radioactive materials in rocks.
testified for nearly five hours regarding research he had done on “haloes”
formed by radioactive decay of polonium in granite rocks and in coalified wood
(wood that has turned to coal). The “haloes” are circles around the decaying
atoms of the radioactive material, circles which are etched into the rock by
escaping alpha or beta particles that result from the decay.
circles, Gentry explained, can be identified with certainty through examination
under an electron microscope, and are made by all decaying radioactive materials
in solidified rocks. The circles given by different radioactive materials are
different from each other.
said one isotope of polonium has a half life of only about three-and-a-half
minutes. This means that the rock has to be solidified before or within seconds
of the time the polonium isotope gets into it, or there will be no halo in the
some instances, this isotope of polonium can be given by the decay of uranium,
of which the polonium isotope is one by product. However, sometimes polonium
decay haloes are found in rocks without any possible uranium source for the
polonium. This, Gentry explained, means the polonium had to be present in the
rocks at the moment they solidified.
in turn, Gentry said, means the rocks had to solidify extremely rapidly, under
conditions unknown to science today. This indicates the likelihood of a creation
of the earth and its primordial rocks and elements by a supernatural creator,
and cannot be explained on the basis of evolutionary assumptions.
assumptions about geology insist that “basement granites,” the granites
which underlie the sedimentary layers of the earth, and the type in which Gentry
often finds polonium haloes without uranium sources for the polonium, were
formed by slow cooling and compaction over periods of two or three billion
years. Since Gentry’s research shows that they must have cooled almost
instantly, Gentry said his research calls into serious doubt the traditional
scientific idea that the earth must be 4.5 billion years old.
experiments on polonium haloes found in coalified wood led Gentry to postulate
that the wood had been buried during a huge deluge and had turned rapidly to
coal rather than very slowly, as evolutionary assumptions would predict. This,
he said, supported the idea of the creation model that the earth’s geology is
best explained on the basis of a flood.
also testified and showed letters substantiating his testimony regarding what he
called a bias in the scientific community once it realized the implications of
his research. Before the implications became clear, he was able to get his
studies published quickly in the leading scientific journals, because his work
was recognized around the world as the leading work on radioactive haloes in
rocks. However, when it became clear that his work was calling into question the
whole of traditional “geochronology,” the assumptions about dating the age
of the earth and its rocks, and would support a belief in a young earth, the
journals suddenly became closed to him, and it took repeated efforts, and
threats to tell the press about the bias, for Gentry to be allowed to publish
the papers in the journals again.
said the general reaction of the evolutionist community was to discount the
research, even though they could show no errors in it. He gave several examples
of geologists who responded to his research simply by saying it must be wrong
because if it were right it would require them to rethink all their theories
about the age of the earth and the formation of the earth’s geology-a hard
17 December 1981
Responding to one critic
who said Gentry’s research called into question the whole of modern theories
of geologic time and who said that should not be done since so much data had
been shown to fit into those theories, Gentry said, “While I can appreciate
York’s desire to emphasize internal consistency, it should be evident that
irrespective of how much data has been or yet can be fitted into the present
model, the question of its ultimate reliability hinges on whether there exist
any observations which falsify the theory.” He said his data on radiohaloes
were such data, and that therefore the theories of an old earth and slow
formation of earth’s basement rocks should be abandoned in favor of a theory
of a young earth and rapid formation of the basement rocks.
Gentry concluded with a
challenge to the scientific community to try to falsify his theory. He said if
they could simply synthesize one piece of granite the size of a fist under
ordinary physical processes, he would abandon his theory and become an
Under cross-examination by
Ennis, Gentry acknowledged that he does subscribe to the statement of belief of
the Creation Research Society, of which he is a member, but added that if the
scientific evidence leads him to believe that the Bible is in error, he will
certainly abandon his current belief that the Bible is without error in matters
Judge Overton’s Closing Statements
“I will not undertake to
decide the validity of the Biblical version of the creation of the earth and
life, or the theory of evolution,” Overton said, but rather he will decide
whether Act 590 itself is constitutional-in other words, whether it violates the
separation of church and state guaranteed under the First Amendment, whether it
violated academic freedom, and whether it is unconstitutionally vague.
He said he would try to make a decision before Christmas. [The decision was not announced by the judge until January 5, 1982
Extracts of The Creator In The Courtroom: Scopes II (1982) by Norman Geisler, courtesy of Baker Books.
Scans provided by Jim Moore.
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