The Truth about the “Santorum Language” on Evolution

(from NCSE's analysis of the Santorum language)

Kenneth R. Miller, Professor of Biology, Brown University

The "No Child Left Behind" Education Act does not call for the teaching of "Intelligent Design."

One of the remarkable ironies of the battle over evolution's place in the Ohio State Science Education Standards is that the opponents of Darwin, in the name of "truth," are spreading falsehoods about the law of the land. Their point of contention is the "No Child Left Behind Education Act," which was signed into law by President Bush on January 8, 2002.

During the March 11, 2002 panel discussion on evolution in front of the Ohio Board of Education, the Discovery Institute's Stephen Meyer claimed that two purportedly anti-evolution sentences known as the "Santorum Amendment" were part of the recently signed Education Bill, and therefore that the State of Ohio was obligated to teach alternative theories to evolution as part of its biology curriculum. I answered Meyer's contention by showing, using my own computer, that the Santorum language was not in the Bill, a copy of which I had downloaded from the Congressional web site. The effect on the crowd in attendance was devastating. The proponents of "intelligent design" had been caught in a lie.

Ever since that day, they have been trying to pretend otherwise.

The Santorum Language does not Appear in the Final Version of the Education Bill

Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, writing in the March 14, 2002 issue of the Washington Times, claimed that his language was a "provision" of the bill:

At the beginning of the year, President Bush signed into law the "No Child Left Behind" bill. The new law includes a science education provision where Congress states that "where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist." If the Education Board of Ohio does not include intelligent design in the new teaching standards, many students will be denied a first-rate science education.

This claim was repeated by Ohio Representatives John A. Boehner and Steve Chabot in a March 20, 2002 story also in the Washington Times, quoting the Congressmen as writing: "The Santorum language is now part of the law." The fact is that the Santorum language does not have the force of law, despite the Congressmen's claims.

Anti-evolution activists are now circulating rumors charging me with lying about the Santorum language. One email that has been sent to me made the following claim:

Dr. Kenneth Miller tried to convince the audience at the 3/11 debate that the word "evolution" does not appear in the bill. He stated that he preferred to use "empirical evidence." He scanned the first 600 pages and came up empty. This was due to the fact that the Santorum language is on p. 703. Congress approved the conference report with the same vote as the statutory text. It seems that Dr. Miller retrofitted the empirical evidence to make an inaccurate point.

I cannot know if this statement is merely a mistake, or an outright, intentional lie, but here are the facts: I did not scan just the "first 600 pages" of the bill at the March 11 debate. I scanned the whole thing, and the Santorum language was not it in. Why?

Because it had been struck from the bill, and it is NOT part of the law. What's remarkable about this little squabble is just how easy it is to find out the truth. Congressional and Department of Education web sites contain the full text of the Education bill, all six versions of it, as it moved through Congress, including the final version signed by President Bush, which is now Public Law 107-110. Check it out yourself, and you will see that the Law makes no mention of "evolution" or any of the other language that Senator Santorum attempted to insert in the bill.

Here’s how you can check for yourself

First, go to the Congressional Web site, which includes legislative histories of all bills introduced in Congress. Then, type in the legislative name of the bill, which was HR-1, and search for the bill's legislative record. You will bring up this page, which lists the 6 different versions of the bill as it moved through Congress: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c107:H.R.1:

If you have the patience (and a speedy Internet connection), you can download each version and do a search for the word "evolution" or any of the distinctive phrases that appear in the Santorum language. You will find that the language appears only in "Version 1" of the bill, on page 1196. This is the version that was "engrossed" (first passed) by the Senate. It does not appear in any of the other versions, including the only one that really matters, the final version passed by both houses and presented to the President, which is the "enrolled bill," Version 3. This was the version I used for my search in Ohio on March 11, and it is exactly 670 pages in length. So the claim that I manipulated the search is false. I searched every page of the bill. The Santorum language is not there because it was struck from the bill.

The same web page noted above has a link to the new Education Law itself. I invite you to examine Public Law 107-110, and look for the Santorum reference to evolution. Guess what? It's not there! The Congressmen, the Senator, and the "intelligent design" people have been telling the public that the Education Bill contains language that Congress actually removed from the Bill.

How do these folks justify making fraudulent claims? By a little bit of mental gymnastics that shows exactly how willing the anti-evolution crowd is to misrepresent the truth. Go to the web page of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. As you scroll down the page you will first see a link to the Law itself. Then you will see a link for the Bill as presented to the President, then links to help implement the bill, then remarks by the First Lady, and only then a link to the "Conference Committee Report."

After Santorum's language was deleted from the bill, he was able to insert a watered down version of his language in the explanatory report of the conference committee. Here is where the language about evolution is located, right on page 703. However, a committee report, even when it is accepted by the Congress, is not a bill. It was not sent to the President's desk for signature, and it is not part of Public Law 107-110. Case closed. Committee reports simply do not have the force of law. The new Education Act simply does not require the teaching of "Intelligent Design."

The fact that the anti-evolutionists eagerly misrepresent both the content of the Education Bill and the language in the new Education Act is at once distressing and instructive. It is indeed sad to see how people who claim only to be interested in the truth are willing to mislead the public, but it also sets a standard of inaccuracy by which the people of Ohio may judge the reliability of their scientific claims as well.

These folks are wrong about the law, and wrong about science.