US Commission on Civil Rights Hearing

On Curriculum Controversies in Biology (unedited transcript)

Proceeding’s summation by then sitting board member Robert P. George:

“Authentic education plainly requires fair consideration of all reasonable points of view. It is disturbing that there are efforts to exclude from the curriculum responsible criticism of Darwinism. There is nothing to be lost, and everything to be gained, from free and open inquiry.”

Robert P. George
McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence
Professor of Politics
Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and
Princeton University


Unedited transcript

Panel Participants: Dr. Stephen Meyer, Dr. Eugenie Scott, Mr. Richard Sybrandy

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: The meeting will come to order. The next panel is Curriculum continued, Curriculum Controversies in Biology. Could Mr. Stephen Meyer, Ms. Eugenie Scott and Mr. Richard Sybrandy please come forward and take your seats. Thank you very much.

We very much appreciate your being here today and we apologize for starting a little bit late, and we would like to begin with you, Dr. Meyer. If you would please make an opening statement.

Dr. Meyer, Stephen Meyer, received his Ph.D. in history and philosophy of science from Cambridge in 1991. And he did a dissertation on Origin of Life, Biology and Methodology of Historical Sciences. He was a geologist before that, and he is now Director of the Center for Renewal of Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute and teaches philosophy at college and he’s contributed to several scholarly books and anthologies including The History of Science Religion in the Western Tradition. He is currently working on a book, Formulating a Scientific Theory of Biological Design, which looks specifically at the evidence for design in the encoded information in DNA.

Please proceed, Dr. Meyer.

MR. MEYER: Thank you. I would like to thank the Commissioners for the opportunity to share my perspective on this important issue. Let me start with the scientific question as old as humankind. How did the astonishing diversity and complexity of life come to be. In particular, did a directing intelligence or mind have anything to do with the origin of biological organisms.

Darwinian evolutionary biologists say no. They contend that life arose and later diversified by entirely naturalistic processes such as natural selection acting on random variation. They say the scientific evidence weighs against the theory that a designing intelligence played a role in the history of life.

But if there can be evidence against a theory, it must be possible at least for there to be evidence for a theory as well. As Charles Darwin himself argued both logic and intellectual honesty requires consideration of both possibilities. He wrote in the Origin of Species a fair result can be obtained only by stating fully and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.

But is there any scientific evidence supporting the idea that intelligence played a role in the origin and development of life. In fact, there is. During the last 40 years, evidence, much of which was unknown to Darwin, has come to light to support the design hypothesis: The breathtaking intricacy and complexity of even the simplest bacterial cell with its highly specified molecular machines and motors, the fossils of the Cambrian explosion which show all the basic forms of animal life appearing suddenly without clear precursors, and the encoded information in DNA which Bill Gates has recently likened to a software code. All these lines of evidence and many others suggest the prior action of a designing intelligence.

Is any of this evidence discussed in publicly-funded science classrooms. Almost never. As I have documented elsewhere, both high school and college biology textbooks make very selective presentations the scientific evidence relevant to this question. For example, only one of the standard high school biology texts even mentions the Cambrian explosion, arguably, the most dramatic event in the history life. And not a single text discusses the challenge that Cambrian fossils pose to Darwinian evolutionary theory despite extensive discussions of this very point in technical paleontology journals and popular publications such as Scientific American, Time Magazine and even, ironically, Peoples Daily in Communist China.

Why does this selective presentation of evidence persist in a nation known for its liberal intellectual traditions. Very simply, the opponents of full disclosure in science education insist, often backed by threat of lawsuit and other forms of social intimidation, that any deviation from a strictly neo-Darwinian presentation of origins constitutes an establishment or religion. They insist that the concept of design, intelligent design, that is, is inherently religious. Whereas Darwinism with its denial of intelligent design is a strictly scientific matter.

But how can this be. Darwinism and design do not address two different subjects. They are two competing answers to the very same question. How did life arise and develop on earth. Biology texts routinely recapitulate Darwinian arguments against intelligent design, yet if these arguments are philosophically neutral and strictly scientific, why are evidential arguments for intelligent design inherently unscientific and religiously charged. The acceptance of this false asymmetry has justified an egregious form of viewpoint discrimination in American public science instruction.

I enclose a diagram showing the relationship between evidence, scientific interpretation and the larger world view considerations that inevitably come into play when discussing biological origins. This diagram and to a much greater extent published work in the philosophy of science suggest an equivalence in status between Darwinism and design theory. Both these theories are interpretations of biological data. Both we must all admit have larger philosophical or world view implications. If design theory is religious, then so is Darwinism. If Darwinism is science, then so is design theory.

Despite this equivalence, the public school science curriculum generally allows students access to only one theoretical viewpoint and only to those evidences that support them. Students receive little exposure to scientific problems with neo-Darwinism and still less evidence that might support a contrary interpretation. Yet, and this is key, because origin’s theories have incorrigibly philosophical implications, and I represent that on the diagram, this imbalance in effect favors and promotes a naturalistic world view or philosophy over a theistic one.

Indeed many texts openly explain the naturalistic and anti-theistic implications of Darwinian theory. For example, in Douglas Futuyma’s text, Evolutionary Biology, he writes, by coupling the undirected purposeless variations to the blind uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of life superfluous. Purvis, Orians and Heller tell students that, quote, the living world is constantly evolving without any goals. Evolutionary change is not directed.

I have one short paragraph. Students skeptical about such overtly materialistic perspectives who wish to develop a view of the scientific evidence more consonant with atheistic world view are often silenced. Indeed the influential California Science Framework advises teachers to tell students to, quote, discuss the question further with their family or clergy.

For students and teachers wanting to consider or express a theistic viewpoint on this scientific subject as opposed to advocating religion, and this is a critical legal distinction, the present imbalance in public science instruction represents a clear form of viewpoint discrimination. In many cases, such discrimination has also entailed the abridgment of academic freedom for teachers and professors and the free speech rights of individual students.

I ask the Commissioners to consider such practical measures as they have at their disposal to rectify this situation.

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: Thank you very much, Dr. Meyer.

Let me ask if anyone needs interpretation services, needs the skills of the interpreter. Could you please ask that. All right. I think the answer is no. Thank you very much.

Dr. Scott has a degree in biological anthropology. She has taught has a scientist for many years as various universities and she has been the executive director of the National Center for Science Education since 1987. The National Center for Science Education is a membership organization composed primarily of scientists with other interested citizens concerned with the teaching of evolution and the teaching of science in public schools. It is a nationally recognized clearing house for information and advice to keep evolution in the science classroom and scientific creationism out. NCSE is the only national organization that specializes on this issue.

Welcome and please proceed.

MS. SCOTT: Thank you very much. I have left red packets with you. They include background material for this really very complicated problem, and I hope you will have the leisure to take a look at it in the future. My statement, I’m obviously not going to read because it’s too long. But I was asked by staffers to prepare some examples of what is going on in the creation/evolution controversy at the grass roots level around the country. And this is what I’ve done. I’ve tried to highlight some things so that we can go through there fairly quickly and we’ll have more time for questions.

In the early part of this afternoon’s session, I was pleased that the distinction was made between teaching about religion and advocating religion. So in my introductory paragraph what you will see, I agree with that point of view very strongly.

I will provide some case studies that demonstrate what’s going on nationally, but I need to underscore three false claims that crop up all the time in the creation/evolution controversy. The bottom of Page 1, they’re listed 1, 2 and 3. That evolution is a theory in crisis. That evolution is incompatible with religious belief. And that it is only fair in some fashion to present creationism or alternatives to evolution when evolution is taught. The book, Voices For Evolution consists of statements from scientific organizations religious organizations and education organizations that deal with all three of these issues. Evolution is not a theory in crisis. It is state of the art science.

Let us move on to Page 2 on the case studies. There are two manifestations of the creation/evolution controversy in American schools. One takes the form of equal time for creationism. I don’t know if it’s necessary to define creation science for you, but it’s the idea that there is scientific evidence for a largely Biblical literalist interpretation of scripture, six 24-hour days, special creation of all living things of the entire universe. And they claim to make this scientific creationism is that there is scientific data for this.

There were laws passed to require that creation science be taught when evolution is taught. These were overthrown by Edwards v. Aguillard in 1987. The court said that creationism is inherently a religious position and to advocate it as opposed to talk about it in a social studies class is unconstitutional. Creation science is a religious advocacy.

The other manifestation is alternatives to evolution, and my friend, Steve Meyer, and I disagree on intelligent design theory. I see it as a synonym for creation science. Abrupt appearance theory is another synonym for creation science. In fact, a recent US District Court case, Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish has recognized that curriculum proposal for intelligent design are equivalent to proposals for teaching creation science. Some examples of equal time in creationism in some form. We do get at the National Center for Science Education requests from districts, from teachers because they are being asked to teach old fashioned creation science even though it has been outlawed. if you turn to Page 3, there was current controversy in Post Falls, Idaho, a recent controversy in Merrimack, New Hampshire, Lake County Florida, Salisbury, North Carolina. I won’t iterate these. They’re bold-faced. You can recognize them.

In a number of communities, ministers have been invited to present creation science to students and school assemblies. This is clearly advocacy of religion. In some cases, students heard presentation on creationism from representatives of creationist ministries and this has occurred here in Washington as well as in Peoria and in Eads, Colorado. In the Eads situation, students were actually marched down the street to a church to hear a lecture on creation science.

There are many things that go on that are clearly religious advocacy in this context. There are teachers who decide to teach, to introduce creation science or an alternative on their own, even though courts have also addressed this issue.

Creation science may also be presented as intelligent design theory or more vaguely as alternatives to evolution or alternate theories to evolution or a balanced treatment. These euphemisms have come up as a result of the Supreme Court case that has stated creation science is clearly religious advocacy. So new forms have evolved to take its place.

The other form that the creation/evolution controversy takes is on the bottom of Page 3, anti-evolutionism itself. In addition to promoting creationism in its various forms, there is frank anti-evolutionary activity. Evolution is eliminated from the science curriculum in some places. Some districts and some teachers are encouraged, as it says on Page 4, to teach evidence against evolution. And I assure you, the materials in this packet will — or should be reasonably persuasive, I hope, that there is no such thing as evidence against evolution. This is a euphemism again for creation science.

The idea that evolution must be somehow disclaimed. It must be treated as theory, not fact. It must be treated as differently from all our scientific theories is another anti-evolution movement that has come up and is becoming more and more prevalent. Examples of the elimination of evolution, evidence against evolution disclaimers are presented in the following section on Pages 4 and 5.

Textbook controversies also have sprung up around evolution and creationism. In Marshall County, Kentucky a superintendent actually glued together the pages of a fourth grade book discussing the big bang because it didn’t give equal time to creation, to the Bible, to the Biblical view of special creation.

State standards have also been weakened in terms of presenting evolution. A recent book by Lawrence Lerner published by the Fordam Foundation discusses evolution and state standards and criticizes a number of them for being deficit in this regard.

In conclusion, I would like to present a rather different view from my friend, Steve. I feel that the attack upon evolution and the promotion of creationism in its various forms at the K-12 school districts is an establishment clause problem under the first amendment of the constitution.

As a science educator, I’m also concerned about this being a problem for science literacy because whereas 79 percent of adults in the United Kingdom agree evolution took place, in the United States, only 47 percent. We have a major problem with science literacy as well as a first amendment problem.

In the materials that I am leaving with you, I present some suggestions for how evolution may be taught without disrupting religious concerns of individuals. This will not be possible for all individuals. There are some individuals whose religious views are simply such that they will not be satisfied by any teaching of anything that goes against their religious views.

We cannot tailor the curriculum to suit all people, otherwise, we couldn’t teach the germ theory to Christian scientists. We have to make some decisions about what we teach, and I hope that I will be able to elaborate on this more.

Thank you.

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: There will be questions. Thank you very much.

Mr. Richard Sybrandy — Sybrandy?

MR. SYBRANDY: That’s correct.

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: — is an attorney with a general practice firm in Bellingham, Washington. He’s worked at The National Legal Foundation on public school issues. And while at the National Legal Foundation, he compiled a parent and teacher’s handbook on the rights of parents, teachers and students in the public schools from a religious freedom perspective. From a referral from the Rutherford Institute, Mr. Sybrandy represents Roger Dehart, a biology teacher from Burlington, Washington. Mr. Dehart has for the past ten years included materials on intelligent design along with materials on evolution when teaching about the origin of life. The ACLU has threatened to sue in this case.

Please proceed, Mr. Sybrandy.

MR. SYBRANDY: Thank you. Again, I’d like to say it’s an honor to speak here today and it’s an honor to be with the esteemed members of this panel. Because I’m not a scientist, I’ll be revising my remarks accordingly and leaving the science to the scientists. However, just as a means of introduction, judging from the remarks that we’ve heard so far, I think it would be a shame to deprive high school students in biology class from exposure to this type of debate. I would just say that as a means of introduction.

There’s generally three points that I would like to make today and that is that, number one, the study of the origin of life has matter what theory you’re point I’d like to make is scientific theory that’s religious implications, religious implications no going to teach. The second point I’d like to make is that simply because a scientific theory that’s supported by fact has religious implications, that doesn’t exclude it from being taught in the public schools. And the third point that I’d like to make is that excluding an alternative theory that is supported by science, simply on the basis that it may have a religious implication is discrimination against religion. It could violate the teacher’s rights to free speech. It could violate a student’s right to know, and I’ll explain later what I mean by a student’s right to know.

Regardless of which theory is taught, there is going to be a religious implication. Darwin’s theory of evolution says there is no creator. Life was the result of purely natural processes. As Carl Sagan once stated, there was nothing for the creator to do and every thinking person is forced to admit the absence of God. That’s a religious implication to evolution.

You look at the flip side as well, the intelligent design theory which specifically which Roger Dehart is exposing his students to, the intelligent design theory looks at the complex life that we see on earth and examines scientifically natural processes, what we know about natural processes, and it hypothesizes and says natural processes could not have resulted in life as we know it.

Well, then there must be a creator. Now, that’s the implication. That’s not what’s taught, but that is certainly the clear implication behind intelligent design. Same implication as evolution. They’re both religious, but that doesn’t mean they should be excluded from the public schools. We all know that. I’ve been here today and I’ve heard the testimony. I’m sure this panel accepts that.

The real question is how legally to expose students to these issues. The even-handed and objective instruction and intelligent design theory is not illegal. The Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard addressed the issue of creation science, and I’d like to focus your attention on the specific facts of Edwards v. Aguillard. We had a situation where the stated legislative purpose of the act was to increase academic freedom. We have the religious right and fundamentalist Christians heavily advocating for the passage of this bill.

On the other hand, the court looked at what the bill actually did and mandated and said this bill mandates that every time you teach evolution, you must give equal time to creationism. The court simply had a hard time figuring out how that increased academic freedom in the public schools.

I’d like to draw your attention to the quote in Edwards v. Aguillard, and the citation is 96 LED 2d at 525 and 526. We do not imply that a legislature could never require that scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories be taught. In a similar way, teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of human kind to school children might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science and structure. And again, whether this enhances the effectiveness of science and structure, I’ll leave to the scientists.

Again, in Abington v. Schempp, it was been made clear and it’s been quoted to the panel already, that basically that you can present religious material as part of a secular program of education. It does not violate the Constitution.

Contrary to some assertions, intelligent design is not the study of the six-day theory of creation. Intelligent design simply looks at the evidence of life we have here. It looks at natural processes and says we believe evolution does not account for a lot of what we see here today.

From a scientific viewpoint, I don’t think a court can find that there is any fact as to the origin of human life. There is no undisputed fact. And simply the discoveries, the recent discoveries about neutrino particles, the effect that has on the big bang theory, which is all part of the evolutionary process, it shows that evolution is a theory in crisis and theories are in a state of flux. Again, I would draw your attention to the July 20, 1998 cover story in Newsweek entitled Science Finds God.

As a way of concluding, I would just say that students have a right to an unbiased instruction and when we deprive students of certain scientific facts and certain scientific theories merely on the basis of that happens to support a certain religious viewpoint, implicitly supports a religious viewpoint, that should not be excluded from children.

Mr. Dehart, when he teaches to his students, he uses the video, Inherit the Wind, and it’s the video about the Scopes trial. It’s the movie about the Scopes trial. And one of the telling parts in that trial is where they say it is the right to think that is on trial. And I think that’s what we have in this issue as well, the right to think. Will we accept an orthodoxy or will we allow prevailing theories to be challenged by hard science. And I think that’s the issue here today.

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: Thank you very much. Commissioners, questions for the panel?

VICE CHAIRMAN REYNOSO: I always have questions.

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: How about Mr. Anderson.

COMMISSIONER ANDERSON: Thank you. Dr. Meyer, would you tell us what your dissertation was on, the title, at Cambridge?

MR. MEYER: It was called Clues and Causes, a Methodological Interpretation of Origin of Life Studies.

COMMISSIONER ANDERSON: And what was of the scope of that?

MR. MEYER: It addressed the methodological ground rules of the origin of life debate and the nature of historical inference and historical discussion of the development of origin of life theories.

COMMISSIONER ANDERSON: And did it take into account intelligent design theory?

MR. MEYER: No, it did not.

COMMISSIONER ANDERSON: So it was involved primarily with what, evolution?

MR. MEYER: It analyzed the modes of explanation that are used in historical sciences such as evolutionary biology. It focused specifically on evolutionary, chemical evolutionary theory, and Darwin’s theory of evolutionary biology.

COMMISSIONER ANDERSON: Was it a critical dissertation?

MR. MEYER: It was an analytical one. What I was attempting to establish there was that there are certain methodological cannons in the historical sciences that actually legitimate alternative points of view. My subsequent research subsequent to my Ph.D. has — I’ve published a number of articles making the point that there is an equivalency of methodology in these two different strands of thought.

If you take the — you analyze evolutionary biology and analyze the rules of evidence and inference that are employed to decide what’s a legitimate claim, you find that those same rules of evidence and inference can be used equally to legitimate alternative conclusions, and there has been a significant legal issue over the definition of science and this is known arcane philosophy literature is the demarcation issue.

And in the early 80’s in the first of the creation trials in the south, in Arkansas, a definition of science was promulgated by Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science, a five-fold definition that Judge Overton accepted. And this definition was immediately repudiated by other philosophers of science. And much of my work has been designed to show that the definition he used in order to exclude alternative points of views is philosophically tendentious and untenable.

And interestingly, in 1992 or 3, 1993, after actually Ruse and I spoke at a conference in Dallas, he repudiated that his previous testimony publicly in a Triple AS Meeting in Boston no longer asserts that there is a clear philosophical definition of science that can be used to make categorical exclusions of certain points of view. And this is a very significant development, both philosophically and legally.

COMMISSIONER ANDERSON: It seemed to be significant to the faculty in Cambridge.

MR. MEYER: Well, my initial research was at least, yeah.

COMMISSIONER ANDERSON: How would you describe the difference between creationism and intelligent design?

MR. MEYER: I have a slide I wish I had with me. There are — design has two crucial planks. one is that there is — that some sort of intelligent agent acted to create and that that action is detectable scientifically. And, for example, you have your big billboard here, but when you go into Victoria Harbor up north there, there is a mural or red and yellow flowers against the background of the harbor and it’s a very specific arrangement. And as you get closer, you make a design inference. You can detect intelligence was involved in the arrangement of those flowers because they in effect spell a message, Welcome to Victoria.

The theory of design stipulates that the presence of high information content is an indicator of intelligence so that design, an intelligent cause is detectable by some clear probabilistic or information theoretic criteria. So the idea is that a designer acted and that it is detectable in some way.

The theory of special creation stipulates a number of things. It is not strong on the idea of detectability. Often times, creation is simply asserted as the result of a prior religious commitment. It’s a deduction from religious authority rather than an inference from data. And it also stipulates a very specific tenet such as a six-day creation in six 24-hour literal days, the reality of Noah’s flood, a number of things that are drawn directly from the Genesis text.

Design theory has no truck with any of those matters.

COMMISSIONER ANDERSON: I think, Sir Isaac Newton believed that there was an intelligent design behind physics. Would you say that teaching Newtonian physics is akin to teaching creationism?

MR. MEYER: Well, it’s very interesting. I’ve just written an SA, and Newton’s design arguments are actually quite extraordinary and very sophisticated. And he makes his arguments on the basis of the precise configuration of parts that you find, for example, in the eye or in the configuration of planets. And these kinds of arguments are coming back into currency.

I’m going to enter into evidence this book by Michael Behe called Darwin’s Black Box, which is now in its twelfth or thirteenth printing. It’s done very well. This is a photocopy enhancement of bacterial flagellum, a motor that is really an outboard motor on the back of a cell that powers — gives the cell its locomotion. It has 50 separate protein components. Each of these must work in precise coordination in order to attain any function. Behe argues much as Newton did many centuries ago that this system is irreducibly complex, that if you remove any of the components, you cease to get function. Now, he says this type of system cannot be explained by Darwinian gradualistic evolution because to get any functional advantage, which is the stipulation of Darwinian theory, you have to have all the parts before you get any function. So you can’t build this up gradually. If you have 50 percent of the parts, you don’t have a broken motor — you don’t have a motor that works half as well, you have a broken motor.

And so this kind of evidence in biology is resuscitating these kinds of design arguments. And this is part of the evidential basis for this theoretical approach.


COMMISSIONER HORNER: I think that Dr. Scott might like to say something.

MS. SCOTT: I was going to ask you about protocol. Is it possible for us to comment?

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: Yes. If you’d like to say something, you may.

MR. MEYER: I knew she’d want to say something.

MS. SCOTT: We’ve done this before. I was interested in your bringing up Newton because Newton made a very clear distinction — as a very religious scientist, he made a very clear distinction about how science should work, which is directly relevant to what my two companions here have said about science in disagreement with it.

Newton’s view was that we should understand the natural world solely by using natural processes. And he said this for religious reasons because he didn’t want God’s existence or God’s transcendence, shall we say, to be tested by the base methods of science. There is — without getting into philosophers dancing on the heads of pins here, which we’re dangerously close to doing, we have to distinguish between science as something that is naturalistic in a methodological sense. Yes, we explain the natural world restricting ourselves only to natural cause. This is what Darwin meant when he said, we will explain without recourse to the supernatural. This is what modern-day scientists say when they’re studying any aspect of science. We’re only talking about natural processes. Evolution is not inherently atheistic. It is methodologically naturalistic.

There is also, I will agree fully and I’ve criticized it myself, here something Steve and I can agree on, it is also the case that there are those who have taken evolution and made a philosophy of it. Now, I do not think that that should be — that philosophical view of evolutionary naturalism, if you will, should be promoted from the school room or from the college podium anymore than should religious views. But I think it should be made very clear that evolution is not inherently a philosophical system as both of my companions have claimed.

MR. MEYER: May I come back on each of those three points.

COMMISSIONER HORNER: Sure, sure. I’ll just hold my questions.

MR. MEYER: The historical point on Newton I afraid is just simply incorrect. If one opens to the general scholium, the introduction to the Principia, arguably the greatest book of science ever written, one finds an exquisite design argument by Newton in which he makes clear that the arrangements of the planets can only be explained, not he says by natural law, but only by the contrivance of a most wise artificer. He’s very explicit about this. This is in the introduction to his magnum opus.

And you find these kinds of design arguments all throughout the scientific revolution from Hoyle, from Kepler, from others. The convention of methodological naturalism to which Eugenie appeals is an entirely tendentious standard, and as Neil Gillespie establishes, a historian of biology, this was a result of the Darwinian polemic. Darwin established in conjunction with other scientists who were like-minded in the late 19th century this convention. It nowhere existed prior to the late 19th century. And the presence of these design arguments in the writing of the early scientific founders makes this clear.

We are, in addition to challenging the evidence, the Darwinian evidential claims, challenging the normative function of that convention, of methodological naturalism. That is up for grabs. We do not concede it. And it should — and this is one of the reasons that students are being limited from hearing this evidence because science has been defined, by definition, as an entirely naturalistic enterprise.

MS. SCOTT: That’s right.

MR. MEYER: But that definition wins the debate by stipulation, and we don’t want to allow that. We want a free and open discussion of the evidence and let the evidence lead us to the truth, no holds barred.

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: Let me say that Commissioner Horner is going to ask her questions. We are not going to have you go back and forth and back and forth. Then we’ll never get to all the questions. Then you’ll have an opportunity for other exchanges as we go along.

COMMISSIONER HORNER: My question is for Dr. Meyer. Your chart has an arrow going from intelligent design and microevolution to theistic world view.


COMMISSIONER HORNER: My question is, is it possible to have intelligent design without a theistic world view?

MR. MEYER: Absolutely. The arrow there I intended — this is a fine point of logic, but an arrow of implication not entailment. For example, there are naturalistically-minded scientists. Scientists who hold a naturalistic world view such as Fred Hoyle, for example, and perhaps — we don’t know quite how to take Francis Crick on this point, but Crick and Hoyle have both suggested that perhaps the origin life is such a difficult problem and Crick says so many are the different conditions that have to come together, that perhaps the best explanation is that it was seeded here by intelligent beings from outer space.

MS. HORNER: Is that the only alternative?

MR. MEYER: Well, no.

COMMISSIONER HORNER: Can you define intelligent designer — or intelligent design without reference to a conscious deity or without reference to an alien being?

MR. MEYER: Well, I think you can define it by reference to a conscious mind without stipulating identity of same.


MR. MEYER: My point is that if a student is trying to integrate what he or she is learning into a world view framework, they are often prevented in that process by this convention of methodological naturalism. And design theory, for obvious reasons, fits nicely in a theistic world view, but it doesn’t entail — it’s not a proof of God’s existence.

COMMISSIONER HORNER: And one last question for the philosophically illiterate of us on this panel, at least to me, are you repairing in your thinking to an older metaphysics that has been superseded in modern times or are you repairing to something entirely metaphysically new?

MR. MEYER: Personally, I’m more of a traditionalist. I think my — but this differs from scientist to scientist. My own metaphysical interests are more traditionally theistic. But there are others who have different points of view. We have some fellows in our Discovery Institute, David Berlinski, for example, basically a secular Jewish scholar who is very critical of Darwinism. And I frankly don’t know don’t know what his metaphysical inclinations are, but he has scientific reasons for opposing neo-Darwinism, and he’s done so with great elegance.

COMMISSIONER HORNER: But it is the case that almost all people who share your point of view are at least theistic.

MR. MEYER: Well, I get a lot of letters pantheistic new age sort of folk who think that this is kind of interesting, you know. And myself, I could make philosophical arguments against their position. I think, you know, this debate is, you know, what you make of this is in a sense your own — subject to your own philosophical consideration.

COMMISSIONER HORNER: I guess what I’m trying to get at is whether there is a very intimate, politically and philosophically intimate connection between intelligent design and believing in God in some traditional broad sense or whether there is a secular counterpart in support of intelligent design. I’m thinking of something, for instance, if you’ll just bear with me just a moment.

MR. MEYER: Sure.

COMMISSIONER HORNER: This is very hard to talk about. About 20 years ago, I read some book by Teilhard de Chardin which seemed to suppose that over a period of millennia or millions of years, some period of time, all people would blend into one universal mind or something like that.

MR. MEYER: Right, right, right.

COMMISSIONER HORNER: Is it possible that there are people who believe in intelligent design from that point of view?

MR. MEYER: Yes, it is. Just as there are people who believe in evolution who find a way to merge that with a theistic world view.


MR. MEYER: Right.

COMMISSIONER HORNER: It’s a minority view, but there are —

MR. MEYER: Right. There are easier and harder kinds inferences to make.

COMMISSIONER HORNER: Okay. That’s enough. Thank you.

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: Okay. Other questions from other commissioners. Vice Chair.

VICE CHAIRMAN REYNOSO: I have a, question for Dr. Scott. You mentioned, Dr. Scott, and the material that you gave us indicates that you take a different view in terms of the melting of — or potential melting of science, even Darwinian theory, with religion. The implication is that there may not be any incongruity. Am I reading the material correctly?

MS. SCOTT: Could you restate question, please. I’m not really sure what you’re asking.

VICE CHAIRMAN REYNOSO: Can one accept a Darwinian theory of evolution and at the same time believe in God?

MS. SCOTT: Now I understand. Of course. And one of the articles that I’ve included in your packet is a review that I wrote for Annual Review of Anthropology in which I represent the creation/evolution continuum. This is not a dichotomy where evolutionists line up on one side and creationists on another.

One reason why I would argue strongly against the presentation creationism with evolution in the K-12 schools is because what creationism are you going to use? Are you going to use Catholic creationism? Are you going to use one of the many kinds of protestant creationism, young earth creationism, old earth like Steve.

VICE CHAIRMAN REYNOSO: Native American creationism.

MS. SCOTT: And which Native American creationism are you going to use? You will remember that there are many, many different tribal groups with different traditions.

. I think before we get bogged down in either philosophy or history, you forgot LaPlace by the way if you’re going to talk about Newton, I think — I’m sorry. I couldn’t help that.

COMMISSIONER HORNER: It’s all right. We didn’t understand it.


MS. SCOTT: That’s okay. He understood.

I think it’s important for us to remember how it is we determine what we teach at the K-12 level. And we don’t determine what we teach at the K-12 level based upon a popularity contest. what we do is we look to see what is being taught at universities and what scholarship in that particular field, whether it’s literature or geography or science or whatever, what the people who do that for a living consider to be state of the art scholarship. So even though we find there is great enthusiasm for perpetual motion machines, and I can show you plenty of web sites that are promoting — and that would be great because then we’d solve the energy problem, we don’t teach perpetual motion machines because physicists have decided that’s not going to work.

What Stephen is doing and his colleagues at the Discovery Institute and elsewhere in the country, a small group of people, they are going about trying to establish design theory in the right way. They are discussing this. They are holding conferences. They are writing papers and they have by and large, unfortunately for them, been met with a large thud. Design theory has been heard and it has at this point not yet been accepted.

There’s an article in the packet by a man named Gilchrist who did a computer survey looking at scientific articles to see the place of intelligent design theory. This is an idea that is a contender in the world of science, and I think if you look at the article, you will see that he does not have any evidence for that at all.

Maybe intelligent design theory will someday prove to be a valid scientific alternative. I doubt it, and thus far, it isn’t. And I don’t think we should be presenting it to K-12 students until it has achieved its status within the world of science and scholarship as a whole.

If you go to Brigham Young or Baylor or Notre Dame, you will not be taught intelligent design theory. You will be taught evolution and you will be taught that evolution happened.

MR. MEYER: May I respond to that point?

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: Do we have questions from any of the other Commissioner?

Yes, you may respond, and she may respond, and then you may respond.


MR. MEYER: The side of cultural hegemony in one domain as a justification for the continuance of cultural hegemony in another is tendentious. We in fact have some very cutting edge scholarship coming is a brochure about a new book, The Design Inference, by Bill Dembski, double Ph.D., math, philosophy, University of Chicago. This is Cambridge University Press, 1998. A colleague in biology, Paul Nelson, has a book coming out in the distinguished Evolutionary Monograph Series at the University of Chicago Press in a month. The book as a creationist, if you will, in the broad sense, a design-based critique of Darwin’s Common Ancestor Thesis. We have a book on anthology coming out this fall with some 15 design theorists.

It is indeed very difficult because of the convention of methodological naturalism, which Eugenie Scott cited before, for many of our people to make explicit the importance of their scientific research. Many of our people publish their research, the nuts and bolts of science, without making their theoretical point of view clear. But we have found that there is an openness with top level academic publishers to our work and we’re developing a very robust publishing program, and this is not something that’s just taking place here in Seattle at Discovery. But there are places. There are Germans, Munich Institute of Technology. There are Israelis. There are people all around the world that hold this perspective who are finding ways to get their scientific case out.

So I think this is — again, I’d ask the Commissioners to weigh the importance of this doctrine which Eugenie mentioned before, this idea of methodological naturalism. This suppresses the free expression of scientific ideas that are contrary to the Darwinian perspective and that has to be taken into account in weighing the numbers game and counting heads. Even so, we have a very robust publishing program under works.

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: May I just make a minor intervention in the emphasis in fairness to Commissioner George. We heard what you said about the robust publishing program and all the rest of it and that’s fine. But do you deny that there are distinguished organizations of academics who are scientists who still believe, and I don’t just mean people who are against creationism philosophically, but most of the major scientific organizations still believe that evolution is a valid scientific theory and that the weight of the evidence is in support of it. Are you denying that this is the case or are you saying that there is this developing field —

MR. MEYER: I would agree with you — yeah, I would agree with you about the majoritarian point.

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: You do agree with that. I’m just only doing it to balance it out.

MR. MEYER: No, sure, I understand. But I do not agree with the point about the weight of the evidence. I want to emphasize how important to this commission methodological naturalism is. This is a review I have quoted, a review of Michael Behe’s book by Robert Shapiro, and he commends the book a top notch job of explaining and eliminating one of the most vexing problems in biology, the origin of — the complexity of the —

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: Mr. Meyer, if I may —


CHAIRPERSON BERRY: I’m not trying to engage you about the validity of the argument. I’m not even interested in that.

MR. MEYER: Oh, sorry. You just want a straight yes or no answer. Sorry.

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: No. I am simply putting in the record that there are many other scholars who have, you know —

MR. MEYER: Different claims.

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: claims to distinction —

MR. MEYER: Yeah.

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: who are in distinguished organizations of academics whose list of books I do not have here, and I don’t know if Ms. Scott does so she can read all their latest works, that on balance there are scholars, many of them, who believe that the theory of evolution is a valid theory and that it is scientifically supported and that they have major works done by major publishers over the years and that the weight of scholarship is not all to the side of intelligent design.

MR. MEYER: Oh, no, I mean, I —

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: I’m only just stating that for the record.

MR. MEYER: I’m not making that point. The point is, is there a debate here that’s worth having in front of our students.

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: Right. And I don’t know the answer. I’m just saying that that’s covered my intervention, not to get into an argument over it.

MS. SCOTT: And that is exactly the point. Is this a debate worth having before our students?

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: Sure, any debate is worth it.

MS. SCOTT: Well, is it? I mean, no, that is an important issue because we could spend a lot time at the K-12 level talking about many things that are debated in science. My suggestion andone that I make in my article for our teachers on teaching evolution and avoiding the mine fields is to encourage the teachers to have debates between students of actual scientific controversies.

Now, we’ve had a number of things jumbled together. We’ve had origin of life, which is not the same thing as of descent modification. Origin of life and actual common ancestry are different phenomena. We’ve had certain confusion about what is science and what is religion and does science have to be methodologically naturalistic and so forth.

There are many valid controversies in science that students could debate, whether evolution took place is not one of them. We can debate how it took place.

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: Okay. Do you have something, Commissioner George?

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: I do have some questions, but I think Mr. Anderson —

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: Okay. Go right ahead.

COMMISSIONER ANDERSON: As I see the issue here for this panel, and maybe I’m just speaking for myself, is, number one, is any alternative to evolution so tainted by religion, that it constitutes the establishment of religion in the public schools and therefore cannot be taught. That’s one issue. And the other issue is whether there is a significant scientific literature and debate about the theory of evolution that alternative theories ought to be presented as good education policy.

Now, we can — I don’t know how you measure the weight of the evidence, whether you weigh all the books on the one side, but I think at one point, a lot of books on one side and Galileo had —


COMMISSIONER ANDERSON: So you can measure weight in different ways. But it seems to me that that ought to be the two issues, at least that I would see addressed here, number one, is there independent scientific grounds to see whether there’s an alternative to the theory of evolution that ought to be discussed and, secondly, are those alternatives so tainted by religion as to be inappropriate in the public schools.

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: He’s just simply stating, unless you want him to explicate again.


MS. SCOTT: One place to look for the answer to the first question that you raised is at the National Academy of Sciences which consists of the most highly regarded scientists in the country. They advise congress and groups like yourselves. They have recently published a book which I included in your red packets, except unfortunately, you, Commissioner Lee and you, Commissioner Reynoso, I discriminated against my fellow Californians. I will get you your copies when I get back to my office. I didn’t have enough to bring.

But in that book which is teaching about evolution on the nature of science, they reiterate the fact that evolution is considered state of the art science. Teachers need to teach it. And it’s absolutely appropriate for the K-12 level.

CHAIRPERSON ANDERSON: I don’t see anybody on this panel saying evolution ought not to be taught. I mean, that’s not the issue we’re discussing.

MS. SCOTT: This may not be what Steve and are I are discussing. But this certainly is happening out there in the big world, the grass roots examples that I gave you. There are many, many places where evolution is misunderstood to be anti-religious, inherently anti-religious, inherently a philosophical system such as ideas presented here, and therefore you can’t teach it because you would be offending somebody’s religion. And I think this is more the issue for — that the Commission would be concerned about rather than, you know, we dancing on heads and pins over here.

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: We like dancing on heads and pins, but first let me see if Mr. Sybrandy or Dr. Meyer, do you want to respond to what she said before I let Commissioner George ask questions.

MR. MEYER: I just wanted to make a point in response to Mr. Anderson’s point which is that the detection of an intelligent cause is something which does not depend on a religious premise. We do it all the time. There are whole industries that are based on the ability to detect intelligence, cryptography, fraud detection in insurance work. I’m looking at a sign which I assume had an intelligent cause behind it because it has a high information content.

I don’t have to have a religious point of view in order to detect the effects of intelligence. And so I think the theory of design can be separated in a meaningful way from a prior religious commitment that’s not incorrigibly tainted. And I forget what else is being discussed.


CHAIRPERSON BERRY: You’ll have another chance. Do you want to say anything, Mr. Sybrandy?

MR. MEYER: Let the lawyer get in.

MR. SYBRANDY: If I could address also Mr. Anderson’s point as far as the first point you were making, is intelligent design so tainted by religious purpose or by religion that it constitutes an establishment. I think the weight of the cases that we’ve seen so far indicate that it is not. The Freiler case, which was discussed here earlier today, wasn’t a case regarding whether intelligent design should be taught. It was a disclaimer case where every time someone mentioned evolution, the school, the biology teacher had to say, and by the way, I’m not in any way trying to denigrate your belief in the six-day version, Genesis Biblical version of creation.

The court found that that disclaimer was unconstitutional because it had a sectarian purpose. And in fact, in Freiler, the court noted prior to this mandate of giving disclaimer, the court stated that teachers had academic freedom to discuss all sorts of alternative theories in evolution. And the court mentioned that with approval, that you could mention alternatives to evolution. But they said in this case, we just don’t see any secular purpose in doing this.

That’s really where the court on every single creation and evolution cases come down. And I think it’s important instead of looking at the dicta of a case to determine what is legal and what’s not, they started to look at the holdings of the cases. Again, going back to Edwards, look at the holding of the case, look at exactly what the facts were and was the Lemon prong of sectarian versus secular purpose.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Thank you, Madam Chair. As I understand the debate, there’s a certain asymmetry here. Dr. Scott is taking the position not only that evolution must be taught in science curriculum in K through 12, but also that alternatives or criticisms of evolution must not be taught.

Dr. Meyer by contrast, and here Is the asymmetry, is not arguing that evolution may not be taught, but only arguing that criticisms of evolution must be taught along with evolution.

Now, let me just pause here to ask whether I’ve represented both of your points of view accurately.

MS. SCOTT: I’m afraid not in my case.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Okay. Could you correct me.

MS. SCOTT: Alternatives to evolution can certainly be taught if they are, in the words of Edwards v. Aguillard, have a secular intent and are not religiously based. I mean, you have to teach secular alternatives to evolution, not religious alternatives. The problem is that Justice Brennan was a wonderful jurist, but he didn’t know zip about science and there are no scientific alternatives to evolution that are recognized by scientists. Now, the whole history of the creation/evolution controversy from creation science to the recent alternatives to evolution intelligent design theory or varieties has always been, well, we’re going to teach the evidence against evolution, and because evolution is not true, that means our position is true. I congratulate Steve and his colleagues because they are at least attempting to come up with some sort of positive arguments for intelligent design. My personal opinion and that of most others is that they haven’t succeeded. They may yet. If they do succeed, then they have a right to be taught. But they have to earn their spurs so to speak within the body of scholarship that decides what is state of the art science.

I mean, we’ve all had papers rejected, right? I mean, we’ve all had our ideas, some are accepted, some aren’t. I don’t think that we should make a decision as to what to teach at the K-12 level until these issues have been decided at the level of scholarship which is most appropriate which is the college and professional level.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Then I’m not sure that I did misrepresent your position.

MS. SCOTT: Well, maybe I was just unclear on what you said.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Let me try again. You take the view that at least for now students may not be presented with any punitive reasons not to believe evolutionary theory.

MS. SCOTT: I think that students who are presented with these alternatives to evolution such as the ones discussed in my statement are receiving bad science. They may not be getting anything illegal, but it is definitely bad science. And if you look at the statements from the National Science Teachers Association and the National Association of Biology Teachers, they would agree with this.

As somebody who values scholarship and as a former academic, it pains me to rely upon authority for decision-making. This is not a comfortable feeling for me, but I think to some degree, we do. I mean, I don’t know how many of you could tell me why perpetual motion machines don’t work, but we all agree that we will not teach perpetual motion manufacture in the schools.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Surely, Dr. Scott, you believe that competing accounts of evolution such as those given by Gould, say, on the one hand or my old colleague at New College Oxford, Scott Dawkins.

MS. SCOTT: Dawkins?

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Dawkins, ought to be taught although one side is plainly right and the other side plainly wrong.

MS. SCOTT: What you are talking about are debates about how evolution takes place. And I was saying before, if we were going to have debates among students as a critical thinking exercise, we should have them debating things that are validly considered —

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: But those are debates where there are minority and majority decisions.

MS. SCOTT: Those are debates about how evolution takes place, not whether.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Oh, I understand that. But It’s a ferocious debate, is it not?

MS. SCOTT: uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: By which there have been claims of irrationality made by both sides against the other, and besides the fact that they’re in minority and majority positions, you think it’s a good thing to teach the conflict.

MS. SCOTT: Actually, I would be a little reluctant to have students engage in a who will be the Dawkins side and who’ll be the Gould side debates, because they don’t know enough about evolutionary theory to debate this issue.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Well, which do we teach them then? Do we teach them Dawkins’ view or Gould’s view?

MS. SCOTT: You know the irony of this is that students get so little evolution at all in school.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: You’re evading the question, Dr. Scott. Which would it be? Really, seriously, which should they be taught?

MS. SCOTT: How would you characterize Dawkins, view and Gould’s view, because we may have a different understanding. The way I would look at it is they are both talking about natural selection, but they are both talking about difference of importance. The effect of natural selection in different kinds of contexts has different importance and explains different aspects of the fossil record.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Are we agreed that in speaking of evolution, we’re speaking not only of descent from a common ancestor, but of a mechanism of random mutation and natural selection? Can we agree about that?

MS. SCOTT: And others, other mechanisms as well. The random mutation and natural selection is Darwinism. There are other mechanisms of evolution in addition.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: In addition or as competing accounts in the mechanism?

MS. SCOTT: In addition.


MS. SCOTT: Because nobody says natural selection doesn’t work. That’s a double negative, but you know what I mean.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Let me follow that that nobody says natural selection —

MS. SCOTT: Everyone agrees evolution works. Everyone agrees natural selection is a major component.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Everybody who — everybody who both believes evolutionary theory and — well, that is just a tautology.People who believe in natural selection, believein natural selection.


COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Or is it not true that there are some people who believe in descentfrom a common ancestor, but not in the mechanism of natural selection?

MS. SCOTT: I think there would be very few because natural selection — what natural selection does is shape groups within — shaped populations within species. That, coupled with the phenomenon of reproductive isolation and speciation mechanisms is what causes speciation.

Now, that basic picture is something I think you would find in all the textbooks and you’d get all the evolutionary biologists to agree with. Where these people square off and start arm wrestling is over the presence or absence of other factors such as reorganizations of the genome to various genetic processes, developmental biological processes and these other —

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: Before you guys go too far afield from civil rights issues, let me just ask again, am I clear that you said that you didn’t mind discussions of evolution and criticisms and different theories being presented so long as that they were not based on religion and so long as they were secular in nature. Did I understand you to say that, quoting Aguillard when you first began there? You said you didn’t mind the definition in Aguillard. That was before you complained about Brennan not knowing anything about science. And you were asked whether you thought people shouldn’t discuss criticisms of evolution or different theories, and you said something about so long as they had a secular purpose and they were not based on religion. Did I hear you right or not? If I didn’t, then tell me.

MS. SCOTT: Criticisms of evolution based on religion are unacceptable.

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: That’s what I mean. Is that what you said?

MS. SCOTT: If there are solid scientific criticisms of evolution, of course, they can be heard.

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: I’ll give it back to Commissioner George.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Let me take it back in a civil rights angle. Did I hear Dr. Scott right to say that she would object to criticisms such as those offered by Berlinski and Behe and all these other -Dembski and all these people, she would not object to those criticisms being presented on grounds that they were religious and therefore a violation or separation of church and state or something, but rather, that she would object to them on the grounds that they’re bad science.

MS. SCOTT: You lumped a lot of people into the same hopper, Berlinski and Behe differ enormously in their attitude.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: But they’re critics of –

MS. SCOTT: The point is they’re dealing with different matters completely.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: But they’re all critics of evolution.

MS. SCOTT: Yes. They’re all critics of evolution.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: And you wouldn’t object to their views being presented on the grounds of separation of church and state or any constitution. You would object to their criticisms to — they give reasons against believing at least certain theories of evolution.

MS. SCOTT: And some of these are religious reasons and some of these are secular reasons.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: And say Berlinski’s, you wouldn’t object to Berlinski. Berlinski’s not a believer how are you going —

MS. SCOTT: Berlinski, if you read Berlinski’s criticisms of evolution, he’s just rehashing creation science except he leaves out the age of the earth. He talks about the second law of thermodynamics.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Does he get excluded then on religious grounds? Are you going to say now you can’t have students exposed to that, that’s not only bad science, that’s religion?

MS. SCOTT: He would be excluded on the grounds of bad science.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: But not religion. So we don’t have a civil rights —

MS. SCOTT: He’s pretty careful about not mentioning religion.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Is that a hint about his motive or

MS. SCOTT: Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: So you’re suggesting that his motive really is religious and therefore you’re going to exclude him.

MS. SCOTT: No, no. I don’t think either of us think David is religious. I have other reasons for thinking — I think David is doing something different with this exercise.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: But I want to get to the civil rights. In other words —

MS. SCOTT: It is a difficult issue because we are talking about civil rights and civil liberties. We’re also talking — and I at least part of the time am talking about tautological issues, what’s good science and science literacy.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Okay. If we could just keep it –

MS. SCOTT: And we may have slipped back and forth.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: And I appreciate that in your unusual position because you are both a scientist and an advocate, political advocate. But could we just stay on the civil rights dimension so that we could say that there are some people as much as you might object to them on scientific grounds and object on straight out school curricular grounds, you wouldn’t object on civil rights/civil liberties grounds to their positions being presented in biology classes.

MS. SCOTT: I would not make a blanket statement.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Well, I’m not asking for a blanket statement. I’m not saying everybody. I’m saying there are some people like Berlinski’s views.

MS. SCOTT: I don’t know Berlinski’s agenda. I think you’re asking for a hypothetical that I’m reluctant to give you.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: No. I’m asking for a specific. It’s not a not hypothetical. You know Berlinski’s view very well. Okay. If Berlinski’s view is to be excluded, but not on the grounds that it’s religious, but on some other civil rights/civil liberties grounds, what’s the civil rights/civil liberties grounds for excluding —

MS. SCOTT: Berlinski’s view is not unique to him.


MS. SCOTT: I mean, the position Berlinski advocates has been advocated by those who on the purpose prong of Lemon are definitely intending for religious establishment.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: People argue for civil rights on the basis of religion and on the basis of secular things. We’re we going to say because some people work for civil rights on religious grounds and invoke God and the brotherhood of man, that any advocacy of civil rights was itself a violation of civil rights?

MS. SCOTT: If you are familiar with the arguments that are raised in the creation science the vast majority of them never mention God. lot of them have to do with supporting ideas like the whole world being supported by things, inundated by a flood, by evidence that the world is actually young, an awful lot of the literature not the stuff —

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: But that’s not Berlinski. If Berlinski’s view were being presented to students, would there be anything objectionable on civil rights/civil liberties grounds?

MS. SCOTT: I would want to ask a lawyer.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Okay. Then, let me ask is it your position, Dr. Scott, that the evolution that you would like to see presented in schools without criticism, because none — at least there’s at the moment no criticism that would be sufficiently serious to put forward, okay, that that that you were presenting is a view that has no preconditions or premises that are not themselves empirically verifiable, in other words, it rests on no questionable metaphysical assumptions. That’s your view?

MS. SCOTT: My view is that science should be — evolution should be taught as science without metaphysical implications.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: And that to believe in evolution with the mechanisms that we’ve discussed and perhaps additional mechanisms, say, natural selection, one can believe that without any nonempirical assumptions being made. In other words, to believe in that does not presuppose as people like Phillip Johnson claim it does, certain assumptions that are not themselves empirically variable, certain assumptions that are metaphysical rather than —

MS. SCOTT: I think Phillip Johnson is dead wrong in his depiction of evolution as a fundamentally naturalistic philosophical system. It is no more naturalistic than heliocentrism. Excuse me. It is no more philosophically naturalistic than heliocentrism.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Dr. Meyer, would you like to comment?

MR. MEYER: One of the of the — let me first clarify my position and then come back. What we are advocating is teaching the controversy within the limits of the law. And there are legitimate scientific reasons for criticizing Darwinism. I started to point out Behe’s molecular motor here. Some 50 book reviews have been written about Behe’s book, many by scientists,most often conceded his point that there are no neo-Darwinian explanations for the origin of these motors. And so the grounds for exclusion, which is of his view has been again this convention of methodological naturalism, it’s against the groundrules which we have decided —

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Can I just interrupt?

MR. MEYER: Yes, sure.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: When you say, his view, I take it his view being the denial of the neo-Darwinian mechanism —

MR. MEYER: Right.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: — not descent from a common ancestor because as I understand Behe’s position, he does not deny a common ancestor.

MR. MEYER: He’s either in favor of that or agnostic about that.

MR. GEORGE: Go ahead.

MR. MEYER: So my concern for science education has been rhetorically the same as Eugenie’s. It’s the bad science. We have a selective presentation of evidence going on. Its not fair to say that because you don’t have a lot of people using the jargon, that there is not a significant scientific dispute here. Paleontology journals are full of discussions of the problem that the Cambrian explosion poses for the neo-Darwinian gradualistic model. Behe did a literature search in his book on systems like this and looked for neo-Darwinian explanations for their origin and found virtually none.

There is weighty evidence for this, and we want the evidence — students to be exposed to the evidence that supports these other viewpoints.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Now, do you take the view, contrary to Dr. Scott’s view, do you take the view that in fact some nonempirical assumption must be made either way?


COMMISSIONER GEORGE: So that there are metaphysical hypotheses not themselves empirically verifiable which must be made prior to one’s adoption of either the design theory or evolutionary theory.

MR. MEYER: Right. In the diagram, I show a two-way arrow between world view assumptions and theoretical viewpoints. The two can inform each other. And secondly, I think this is clearly the case by something that Eugenie has said already that she accepts the principle of methodological naturalism That’s not an empirical or empirically verifiable principle. That is a philosophical principle. It’s something that is a ground rule if you will —

MS. SCOTT: On both sides.

MR. MEYER: — which is not established by viewing nature. It’s something which has I would say rather dubious philosophical arguments.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Doctors of all science may take that to mean —

MS. SCOTT: Not just of evolution, of all science.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: — that although it’s a nonempirically verifiable assumption, it is nevertheless a noncontroversial one. I take it that your view over Dr. Meyer is that it cannot be made in a way that does not shade over into a more comprehensive naturalism.

MR. MEYER: Correct.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: So it looks to me — and then I’m going to let Dr. Scott come back and take a shot at me on it. It looks to me like your side has radicalized the discussion in such a way, radicalized meaning going to the root, in such a way as to drive the issue out of the realm of science precisely to the realm of philosophy where you make the orthodox scientists defend on philosophical grounds —

MR. MEYER: A latent philosophical principle of their whole enterprise, exactly.


MS. SCOTT: I think the link between methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism is faulty. One can be a methodological naturalist without being a philosophical naturalist.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Now, there you disagree —

MS. SCOTT: Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: — not only with people like Dr. Meyer, but also with people like Dawkins and Lewontin.

MS. SCOTT: Dawkins and — will provide and others of that particular persuasion, will admit that there are people who are methodological naturalists who are theists.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Oh that’s a — we know that. But don’t they take the view, and I can tell you they do because I had this discussion with Dawkins, that if you understand, if you have a correct understanding of evolution, you realize that there’s no possibility of theist.

MS. SCOTT: I don’t agree with Dawkins either. Philosophically, I’m more similar to him than —

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: So if we talk Dawkins’ view, this I guess is the point, if we talk Dawkins, view in school, we’d be committing a civil liberties violation.

MS. SCOTT: Oh, absolutely, yeah. I have discouraged that. In fact, Will Provine and I have gone back and forth on this on a number of occasions.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: So the Blind Watchmaker or Provine’s works really shouldn’t be taught —

MS. SCOTT: No, no, no. The philosophical views that they have, Provine has done very good work in History of Science and, you know, there reason to —

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Not all his works, but, I mean, look at the Blind Watchmaker. Look at Dawkins’ book. In Dawkins, book it quite exclusively —

MS. SCOTT: It had —

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: — adopts naturalist views so —

MS. SCOTT: It also presents a lot of straight science.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Well, yes, but I mean, are we going to permit it to be — wouldn’t that be —

MS. SCOTT: We should not be advocating the view that evolution or science equates with disbelief because it’s false and it also isan establishment problem or free exercise problem.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: Just to conclude my line of questioning. So you both agree that there shouldn’t be a viewpoint discrimination, and Dr. Scott would say therefore Dawkins’ Comprehensive Naturalism and Meyer’s, Berlinski’s and others design theory ought to both be excluded. It would be viewpoint discrimination to allow Dawkins, Comprehensive Naturalism a place, but not Meyer’s design theory, but I take the real difference is that just Dr. Scott says there are no legitimate scientific reasons that can be presented at least for now against evolution and therefore viewpoint discrimination isn’t a problem between evolution and nonevolutionary views, at least at the moment, because there’s no plausible nonevolutionary view.

MS. SCOTT: And you have to distinguish between keeping out Dawkinzoid metaphysics and intelligent design or creationist metaphysics, and whether or not you teach science as methodologically naturalist.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: And your position you’re trying to make out here is that I’ve got a view and we, the orthodox scientists and biologists have a view that itself does not have any questionable metaphysical presuppositions.

MS. SCOTT: Not per se, although it certainly has implications. But it’s clear that — I mean, look at something — look at an idea like natural selection. Natural selection was taken by Marx and modified to suit his agenda. It was taken by the Nazis and modified to suit their agenda. It was taken by the robber barons and modified to suit their agenda.

Now, you’ve got very, very different social and political ideas here, all claiming to be derived from natural selection. So clearly, I mean, I’ve often joked you could probably take photosynthesis and make a religion out of it if you wanted to. You should not confuse the philosophical implications or ideas people derived from a science with a science itself.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: If something is random, it can’t be directed, yes?

MS. SCOTT: Now, this is again a little bit of fancy foot work that goes on in this debate. When people who oppose evolution talk about randomness, they are generally using random in the sense that the man on the street is going to understand it, that there’s nothing out there except just stuff falling into the place, and obviously you’re not going to get a brick wall by all the bricks falling into their actual position, or the tornado that goes through the hangar and constructs the 727.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: But on the other side, there’s also Dawkins why says, yeah, random —

MS. SCOTT: But random as a concept important to evolution refers to the production of genetic variation, which is random in respect to the, quote, needs of the organism. Now, evolution is not a random process, particularly, if natural selection is the mechanism that directs it, which most of us accept. Natural selection is the opposite of randomness. This is why this matter becomes so very complicated. We can get bogged down real fast at school board levels, in the operations like this talking about very technical scientific elements.

What really matters I think is how do we decide what to teach in the curriculum. We can’t make everybody happy. I suggest in an essay that I wrote two teachers ways that they could teach evolution without ruffling too many feathers. And I would encourage you to consider them when you make your report.


CHAIRPERSON BERRY: Thank you.I have considered this has been a wonderful discussion. I wish we could have had it in my seminar and took all day and had lunch and then dinner.

And I must say, though, Dr. Meyer, I was so attracted to the intelligent design theory when I misunderstood it. And I thought you were going to say that the way the DNA particles encoded and so on that there had to be an intelligent, you know, workman up there and that it was God. And then I was going to say, hooray, I like that theory and it reinforces my beliefs. But then when you didn’t want to concede that there was a being up there, God, or somebody —

MR. MEYER: I think the being was God and I think other arguments can be made for that. But it’s a technical point as to whether you have an implication or a strict entailment, a proof of God’s existence. I think the best explanation is that God is the designer, but it could be different.

COMMISSIONER GEORGE: A self-organizational pantheism, could it not?

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: I want God to be.

MS. SCOTT: Don’t forget the extraterrestrials. That’s it. We’ll teach kids evolution, we’ll teach them God, and we’ll teach them extraterrestrials, and we’ll teach them pantheism. Boy, wouldn’t that go over well in the school districts.

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: I want to thank the panel very, very much. This is very illuminating. We have taken up our break with the discussion so we have to bring the next panel. So we thank you.

Stephen C. Meyer

Director, Center for Science and Culture
Dr. Stephen C. Meyer received his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in the philosophy of science. A former geophysicist and college professor, he now directs the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle. He is author of the New York Times-bestseller Darwin’s Doubt (2013) as well as the book Signature in the Cell (2009) and Return of the God Hypothesis (2021). In 2004, Meyer ignited a firestorm of media and scientific controversy when a biology journal at the Smithsonian Institution published his peer-reviewed scientific article advancing intelligent design. Meyer has been featured on national television and radio programs, including The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, CBS's Sunday Morning, NBC's Nightly News, ABC's World News, Good Morning America, Nightline, FOX News Live, and the Tavis Smiley show on PBS. He has also been featured in two New York Times front-page stories and has garnered attention in other top-national media.