of John H. Calvert, Esq.
March 12, 2002
Chairman Callender and members of the Committee,
My name is John Calvert.
I would like to thank you and the Committee for making special arrangements to permit my testimony about HB 481 today.
I have been practicing law in Kansas City since 1968, primarily in the area of corporate finance and business litigation. However, in the past two years I have focused my attention on Constitutional law regarding the teaching of origins science. This has been in connection with my work as Managing Director of Intelligent Design network. Like HB 481, IDnet's mission is to promote objective origins science - origins science that is conducted and taught without religious, naturalistic or philosophic bias or assumption.
I have advised a number of school boards, school administrators and school teachers about teaching origins science consistent with the Constitution. A legal Memorandum and Opinion that I authored along with William S. Harris, a nutritional biochemist: Teaching Origins Science in Public Schools, IDnet, March 2001) is included with my written testimony. It may also be found on the Internet at: http://www.IntelligentDesignNetwork.org. The original version of this opinion was provided to an Iowa School board that was working on science curriculum. That opinion covers the legal and scientific issues in considerable detail.
I am quite familiar with HB 481. Included in the materials supporting this testimony is a nine page "Technical Explanation" of the Bill that I prepared.
I am also enclosing an IDnet brochure which provides a summary description of the scientific and legal need for objective origins science.
The focus of my remarks will be on legal issues regarding HB 481.
HB 481 encourages the teaching of origins science objectively and without religious, naturalistic or philosophic bias or assumption. If an explanation regarding origins of life is based on a material assumption, then the assumption must be appropriately disclosed and explained. It also encourages the development of curriculum that will encourage critical thinking about origins science.
Origins science is defined in the bill as the science which seeks to explain the origin of life and its diversity. Origins science is singled out because it differs from experimental or "laboratory" science in two important respects. Origins science is a historical science where many explanations can not be validated by experiment - they are essentially historical narratives that contain a subjective element not present in experimental sciences. This aspect of origins science demands that it be conducted objectively from a scientific standpoint.
However, the key difference that interests all of us and the entire world is that origins science addresses a question that is fundamental to religion and our world views. Where do we come from? One can not discuss that question without impacting religion. Why is the attention of the World focused on this issue? It is because we are discussing an issue that deals with the very meaning of life. More particularly we are discussing how that subject should be discussed with very impressionable children. It is important because the answer to that question can affect how they form their world views about religion and nonreligion.
Although one can argue about the details, there are essentially only two scientific answers about where we come from. We are either designed - the product of some form of intelligence, which could include a God, or we are not designed, but are merely the product of undirected naturalistic processes. Either view impacts religion. Evidence of design, although it does not require a God, does support theistic belief. Evidence of no design such as Darwinian evolution, although not requiring no God, certainly supports agnostic and atheistic beliefs - nonreligion.
This was made clear recently by a highly regarded Ohio scientist who said:
The reason HB 481 is necessary and desirable is that current origins science is conducted and taught using an irrebuttable materialistic/naturalistic assumption called methodological naturalism. That doctrine irrebuttably assumes that life and its diversity arise only via natural processes. It assumes that life is not designed. The effect of the assumption is to censor any discussion that life may be designed. The censorship is not of religious views, but of scientifically developed evidence that living systems may be designed. This is evidence that derives its authority not from a religious text, but from scientific investigation, observation, data collection and analysis by scientists per the scientific method. Although the evidence obviously impacts religious views, the evidence and the inference is not religious and should not be censored as religion.
The part of the science community seeking to promote Darwinism acknowledges use of the assumption. Indeed, they are presently proposing to incorporate the assumption into the Ohio Science Standards via a definition of science that will permit only "natural explanations for natural phenomena." The implication is that our origin can only be explained via a natural process.
Practically all science textbooks use the assumption. Biology, The Dynamics of Life (Glenco McGraw-Hill, 2000) is a good example. The book leads students to believe that life arose via a naturalistic process. Although the explanation given is tentative, the existence of the competing design hypothesis and its related evidence is not even mentioned. As a consequence students are given no choice to believe anything other than a naturalistic account. The book then turns to the origin of the diversity of life. Here the book is not tentative at all. It essentially treats Darwinian evolutionary theory as the only scientific explanation for the origin of the diversity of life. Again, due to the naturalistic assumption that excludes design from science, the competing design hypothesis and its related evidence is not even mentioned. Here the students have no choice but to believe that life simply results from a purely naturalistic process.
The effect of this method of teaching amounts to nothing less than State sponsored indoctrination in naturalism.
Perhaps I can better explain the issue and HB 481 with a visual image. You should find in your packets with my written testimony, a diagram with three panels.
The first panel shows the way origins science is actually conducted. What really supports Chemical and Darwinian Evolution theory is the assumption of Methodological Naturalism. Naturalism invalidates the competing design hypothesis as a matter of philosophic assumption and not due to any objective consideration of the evidence. Indeed, objective consideration of the evidence is deemed "unscientific" and therefore those who wish to investigate it and report about it in peer reviewed are generally denied that opportunity. Currently, their principal recourse is to write books available to the general public.
If the evolutionary conclusion could be tested by experiment, then this naturalistic assumption would become a moot point. However, evolutionary biology is a historical science where its basic explanations can not be confirmed by experiment. Science can not run an experiment to show what caused the Cambrian explosion. Hence, the only valid way to test the evolutionary hypothesis is by ruling out the competing design hypothesis. However, in this case the competing hypothesis is not ruled out on the basis of the evidence, but just by assumption. This is a violation of the scientific method which destroys the credibility of the evolutionary hypothesis. That is why the phrase "scientific method" is crossed out on the pedestal.
The next panel shows how Chemical and Darwinian Evolution is taught or presented to the public. A table cloth is put over the pedestal so that students and the public are not informed that the theory is based on an assumption that is inconsistent with the scientific method. In addition, the public and students are led to believe that evolution has been validated per the scientific method. The impression we are given is that the scientific answer to the question - "Where do we come from?" - is that life is merely a natural occurrence and that it was not planned or designed for a purpose. That is misleading. It reminds me of the recent Enron scandal where investors are complaining that financial statements did not fairly disclose the true nature of Enron's off balance sheet debt.
How does House Bill 481 deal with this situation?
First, HB 481 encourages, but does not require, schools and teachers to teach origins science without religious, naturalistic or philosophic bias or assumption. This would encourage teachers to do origins science as depicted in the last panel. Instead of using a religious or naturalistic assumption the teachers could show students evidence on both sides of the issue per the scientific method and allow the weight of the evidence to guide explanations rather than an assumption.
Although this objective approach is not mandated its encouragement should protect teachers and school boards from fear of litigation and hollow threats if they choose to adopt a more objective approach to the subject.
Even though subsection (a) of HB 481 would not preclude origins science from being taught per the model shown in the first panel, subsection (b) would effectively negate the misleading scenario described in the center panel. Under subsection (b) the naturalistic assumption would have to be fully and appropriately disclosed and explained.
Legally HB 481 is essential because the use of an undisclosed irrebuttable assumption is constitutionally problematic under the Establishment and Speech Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
The Supreme Court has ruled that under the establishment clause a state may not adopt a practice that "touches" religion unless the practice has (a) a secular purpose (b) is neutral toward religion and (c) does not foster an excessive entanglement of the state with religion. As pointed out, when the state decides to teach children about where they come from, it chooses to engage in an activity that clearly "touches" religion. Hence, the practice that it uses in that activity must have a secular purpose and be neutral toward religion.
The difficulty with using an undisclosed naturalistic assumption in origins science that censors the competing design hypothesis, is that it appears to lack secular purpose. But more importantly it puts the state in the position of an advocate for only one of the competing viewpoints rather than that of an unbiased or neutral teacher.
Perhaps the most pertinent case about the issue is Epperson vs. Arkansas. In that case the state of Arkansas proposed to teach origins science using a rule that would censor one viewpoint about origins. This particular viewpoint was Darwinian evolution - a theory that supports the naturalistic viewpoint. The Supreme Court held that there was no secular purpose for the rule and it placed the state in a position of violating the neutrality required by the Constitution. Although the Court was dealing with the censorship of a naturalistic viewpoint, it stated unequivocally that it may not be hostile to any religion and must be neutral between religion and nonreligion. This would indicate that it may not censor scientific evidence that supports religious belief in order to favor "nonreligion" such as naturalism.
A more recent Supreme Court case is Good News Club, et. al. v. Milford Central School, No ___ U.S.___, No. 992036 (June 11, 2001). There a school excluded a religious club from using school facilities that were made available to the public after hours. The school argued that it was required to exclude the club to satisfy its establishment clause obligations. In reversing the school, the Court held that refusing access to the club would threaten satisfaction of the school's establishment clause obligations to remain neutral. According to Justice Thomas, "allowing the Club to speak on school grounds would ensure, not threaten, neutrality toward religion." By same token, encouraging the elimination of methodological naturalism from the teaching of origins science would "ensure, not threaten, neutrality toward religion."
The second difficulty with methodological naturalism in origins science, is that it would appear to effect viewpoint discrimination that is proscribed by the speech clause of the First Amendment. This is discussed by Professor David DeWolf and Stephen Meyer in an excellent article on the subject: "Teaching the Origins Controversy: Science or Religion or Speech, 2000 Utah Law Review 39 (February 9, 2001). I believe each of you have been provided with a copy of that article.
In summary, HB 481 should be a very positive step towards a more objective and effective origins science, one that will promote academic freedom and critical thinking while satisfying the state's constitutional obligations of neutrality in an area that impacts world views about religion and nonreligion. This should also tend to eliminate the overwhelming public criticism of present origins science and encourage parents to choose public education rather than other private alternatives.
Thank you for listening. I would be pleased to entertain any of your questions.