Rick Santorum, the Santorum Amendment, and Intelligent Design

For Immediate Release: Jan. 6, 2012
Discovery Institute
East Coast: Sam Wall, 704-989-9068
West Coast: Andrew McDiarmid, 206-292-0401 x155

Media Alert: Rick Santorum, the Santorum Amendment, and Intelligent Design

With his near-win in Iowa and his recent rise in the polls, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is facing new scrutiny about his views on intelligent design and evolution. Reporters and others have expressed particular interest in the so-called “Santorum Amendment” offered by Senator Santorum during debates on the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001. This media backgrounder was prepared by Discovery Institute to answer questions about the Santorum Amendment, intelligent design, and the debate over evolution. Discovery Institute spokespersons are available for interviews.

The Santorum Amendment

In 2001, Sen. Rick Santorum offered the following “Sense of the Senate” resolution as part of the debate over the No Child Left Behind Act:

“It is the sense of the Senate that— (1) good science education should prepare students to distinguish the data or testable theories of science from philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of science; and (2) where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why this subject generates so much continuing controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subject.” Congressional Record, June 13, 2001, p. S6148.

The resolution passed by an overwhelming margin of 91-8. The language was later revised and included in the Conference Report adopted by Congress when it enacted the No Child Left Behind Act. The final language states:

“The Conferees recognize that a quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society.” 2001-107th Congress-1st Session-House of Representatives Report-107 334 No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 Conference Report to accompany H.R. 1.

A letter by Senator Santorum, Senator Judd Gregg, and Rep. John Boehner explaining the meaning and impact of the Santorum Amendment is available for download here.

Key facts about the Santorum Amendment

The Santorum Amendment won overwhelming bipartisan support in the United States Senate. In fact, Sen. Ted Kennedy enthusiastically endorsed the Amendment on the Senate floor. Others voting in favor of the Amendment included Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Joe Biden, Sen. Barbara Boxer, Sen. Harry Reid, Senator John McCain, and Senator Sam Brownback. See Congressional Record, June 13, 2001, p. S6153.

The Santorum Amendment (in both its original and revised version) did not mandate teaching intelligent design, nor did it encourage teaching creationism or religion in the classroom. Instead, it encouraged open discussion and inquiry by teachers and students.

The approach advocated by the Santorum Amendment is favored by the vast majority of Americans, no matter what their race, gender, or political party. According to a nationwide Zogby poll in 2009, 80 percent of likely voters “agree that teachers and students should have the academic freedom to discuss both the strengths and weaknesses of evolution as a scientific theory,” while 78 percent of likely voters agree with the statement, “Biology teachers should teach Darwin’s theory of evolution, but also the scientific evidence against it.”

What is intelligent design?

Intelligent design is the theory that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process like natural selection.

Is intelligent design the same as creationism?

No. Intelligent design as a scientific theory limits itself to what can be learned from the empirical data of nature. It does not rely on sacred texts.

Is intelligent design necessarily incompatible with evolution?

No. Intelligent design is logically compatible with many kinds of evolution, but not with the specifically Darwinian claim that evolution is a blind and undirected process.

Do intelligent design proponents want to mandate the teaching of intelligent design?

No. Discovery Institute, the leading institutional proponent of intelligent design, opposes efforts to mandate intelligent design in public schools. In fact, it publicly opposed the policy targeted in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case even before it was challenged in court.

For answers to more questions about intelligent design, please visit

About Discovery Institute

Discovery Institute has been described as “the nation’s largest intelligent-design think-tank” by the science journal Nature. Its Center for Science and Culture (launched in 1996) has more than 40 affiliated scientists and scholars with Ph.D.s in astronomy, physics, biology, biochemistry, mathematics, philosophy of science, government, and related fields. Discovery Institute is a non-partisan, non-profit, educational and research organization, and it does not support or oppose candidates for public office. For more information visit the Center’s Evolution News & Views website at