Originally published in RNCSE 20 (6): 4. The version on the web might differ slightly from the print publication.
On June 13, 2001, the US Senate adopted a “Sense of the Senate” resolution, proposed by Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania), as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act Authorization bill, S1, currently under consideration. The resolution (Amendment #799) reads:
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 the subject generates so much continuing controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subject.
Although the resolution appears innocuous, it is telling that only evolution is singled out from all possible controversial issues. If the goal of the resolution were simply to encourage discussion of the social dimensions of scientific issues, or critical thinking, or some other secular purpose, the second clause of the resolution might have read, “when controversial issues are taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why the subjects generate controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subjects.”
The fact that evolution is singled out from all controversial issues indicates the amendment’s intention to discourage evolution education. It is no coincidence that Senator Santorum cited arguments for “teaching the controversy” made by intelligent design proponent David DeWolf in presenting his resolution. In the June 18 Washington Times, another intelligent design promoter, Phillip Johnson, is quoted as having “helped frame the language” of the resolution.
The vote to adopt the resolution was 91–8. It seems likely that most or nearly all senators were unaware of the anti-evolution implications of the language of the amendment. However, the tactic of singling out evolution for special mention as controversial is commonly used by anti-evolutionists in states and localities where they challenge its place in science education.
The comments of several senators in the Congressional Record suggest that they recognized the implications of the resolution. Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas stated that passage of this resolution would justify the 1999 actions of the Kansas State Board of Education in removing evolution from their test standards. Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia also expressed doubts about the reality of evolution before supporting the amendment.
The comments of anti-evolution groups following passage of the resolution also show the propaganda value they recognize in this language. The Answers in Genesis ministry web site headlined its account “US Senate supports intellectual freedom!”. AIG also informed its readers how to “… contact your Congressman to express your support of the Senate version of the Education bill that states that evolution is controversial…” A student “intelligent design” club at the University of California at San Diego headlined its report “Some Democratic and Republican Senators Feel Questioning of Evolutionary Theory in Schools is Legitimate”.
On June 14, the overall bill passed the Senate 91–8. The House of Representatives had previously passed a version of the Education bill without a comparable evolution statement. The two versions are currently before a conference committee, which will resume work on reconciling the bills following Congress’s August recess.
Other accounts of the Santorum amendment are available on the American Geological Institute’s web site or visit here.
On August 2, 2001, the Hawai'i Board of Education (BOE) voted unanimously to reject proposed changes to the state's science education performance standards, including the changes proposed by BOE member Denise Matsumoto to include "multiple theories of origin" and related wording. As a result, the standards will revert to the original wording, which is more in line with the National Science Education Standards. The BOE members patiently endured 65 three-minute oral testimonials on these changes; about 75% of the presenters opposed the proposed changes. Apparently, this was a record turnout for a BOE hearing. Additionally, the BOE had received over 200 written testimonials.
Testimony opposing the proposed changes came from a wide spectrum of people, including university-level professors, Hawai'i science teachers, concerned citizens, a former BOE member, and a surprising (and encouraging!) number of religious leaders. Almost without exception, this testimony was eloquent and extremely effective in addressing the real points of concern. Those testifying in favor of the proposed changes had a much less unified message to present, covering the typical range of anti-evolutionary positions — attacks on evolution as unsupported conjecture, appeals for children to be given both perspectives and allowed to think critically and objectively to make their own decisions, support of "Intelligent Design" theory as legitimate science, and the moral imperative of teaching the Bible to build character and integrity in our children.
Overall, the testimony provided by supporters of evolution was effective and to the point. Long before the end of hearing, it was evident that this would end up being a "slam dunk" decision by the BOE. There was almost no discussion among board members before making the final, and the final vote was unanimous — making it obvious that even Matsumoto conceded the issue. This outcome confirms resoundingly that community support can help level heads to prevail. In light of this success story, I think that we can renew our confidence in the Hawai'i State Educational system. However, it is clear that we should not allow ourselves to slip into complacency at this point. We were extremely lucky that Matsumoto apparently blundered into the situation with such a naive perspective. Our success was due in part to the disorganization of the opposing side. Had this hearing been coordinated by some of the big anti-evolutionist organizations on the mainland, it might have been a longer, more complicated struggle. What our experience shows is the importance of having a network of concerned and informed citizens ready to act when evolution education is threatened. It is also important that our network reaches beyond the academic world to other interested communities of educators, clergy, and citizens in all walks of life.
Organizations such as NCSE and the American Institute for Biological Sciences (see sidebar on AIBS state list servers, p 35) provide resources and connections to concerned communities throughout the nation. These networks allow us to be ready whenever a threat to evolution education pops up again (as experience tells us it will) and to coordinate efforts with maximum effectiveness.
He brought home a great quantity of bones of various animals, two simian teeth, the thigh bone of a man, and the cap of a skull which some say is that of a man, others, that of an ape, and others still, that of a "missing link". As the brain case is missing, it is not possible to decide to which category it belongs.von Koenigswald, he reports, made a final attempt to find more specimens of Java Man in the 1930s, but all he produced was
He brought home at the same time two human skulls, known as the Wadjak skulls, of large brain capacity... Dr Dubois concealed these on his return... He produced them, however, in 1925, 30 years later... (p 159).
parts of four skulls so broken that the brain capacity could not be determined. Romer, in Man and the Vertebrates, describes these as "three more skullcaps, a lower jaw and an upper jaw". ...As there were only skullcaps, it is impossible to tell what was the brain capacity, but Romer, Vallois and other propagandists for the man-from-ape theory, give the capacity as much the same as that given by Dr Dubois' first specimen — between 800 and 900 cc (p 161)."Skullcaps" again! Had O'Connell ever seen any of them, even photographs? All four — Dubois's from Trinil, and von Koenigswald's from Sangiran — are substantial specimens, from which it is easy to obtain cranial capacities. This is also the case for at least three of the many, many specimens which have been discovered since then, mainly by Indonesian scholars. As for the Wadjak (now Wajak) skulls, they were not "concealed", but described by Dubois in three separate papers in the 1890s (Brace 1987).