Talkback Live

Kansas Deletes Evolution from State Science Test

Aired August 16, 1999 - 3:00 p.m. ET


BARRY LYNN, SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE: This act by the Kansas State Board of Education took Kansas back 100 years in science teaching and education, and I hope the courts will be the ones who force them to correct the decision.

GARY DEMAR, AMERICAN VISION: You cannot apply the scientific method to evolution. It has never been observed. You cannot repeat the experiment, and so what is being sold as science, in terms of evolution, really isn't science in terms of the way they define it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The amendment passes.


BOBBIE BATTISTA, HOST: Is the Kansas state school board making a monkey out of evolution? The board says schools are no longer required to teach the theory of evolution, but it did not go so far as to ban it.

It's a new tactic in a nearly 100-year battle between evolutionists and creationists. Where and when did life begin, and how did mankind enter into the picture?

Evolution gets the ax, but is a larger agenda at work here in the battle between science and religion?

Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to TALKBACK LIVE.

Where did we come from? How did we get here, and how did it all begin? These are the fundamental questions both science and religion attempt to answer. It has been nearly 75 years since the so-called "Scopes Monkey Trial" brought the conflict between creationism and evolution into the national spotlight. Why is it still being fought today?

Let's first chat with Melissa Bruener about the Kansas school board decision. She's an anchor with CNN affiliate WIBU in Topeka, Kansas, where she -- WIBW, rather, in Topeka, Kansas, where she covers the state house among other things as well as the religion beat.

Melissa, thanks for joining us.

MELISSA BRUENER, WIBW-TV ANCHOR: Good afternoon. Thank you.

BATTISTA: We have to say that most of the headlines on this story were are not entirely correct, we have learned today. And so the question I'm going to pose to you is did the Kansas board of education delete references to evolution in the state science curricula or not?

BRUENER: Not entirely; you're right. It has been kind of a confusing thing, because nationwide people are hearing that Kansas students will no longer be learning about evolution and that's not entirely true. What the state board of education did, however, do was vote to remove any questions on the theory of evolution from our statewide science assessment test.

What that means is that local districts can still teach evolution in their science classes.

BATTISTA: But the theory being about those who are opposed to this, that if students are not required to answer questions about this on a test, then teachers may not bother to teach it?

BRUENER: That's right. When you talk about a curriculum that states develop for their schools to teach, of course, it would stand to reason that schools are going to focus on those things that the students will be tested on in the assessment test: so the feeling being that local districts may decide that since the theory of evolution isn't going to be on the assessment test, teachers may instead decide to focus on something else and not teach about the theory of evolution, just because it won't be on that assessment test.

BATTISTA: Have you talked to some teachers throughout the state?

BRUENER: We have, especially here in the Topeka area, our local school districts. And the general feeling seems to be that at this point the board of education's decision isn't going to have an impact on them. Their feeling is that tests like the SAT and the ACT will still address evolution, so they are still going to go ahead and teach it in the schools right now. The feeling from one biology teacher who develops the curriculum, the science curriculum at one of the local high schools here is that you can't teach biology without teaching the theory of evolution. So therefore, he will go forward and teach it in his classes.

However, he is careful to say that he does, when he brings the topic up in class, say this is one theory among many out there. So he says he is careful with the way he approaches evolution in his classroom.

BATTISTA: Melissa, stay with us, if you will. I'm going to bring two other people into the conversation. Eugenie Scott is executive director of the National Center for Science Education, and Phillip Johnson is a professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of the book Darwin on Trial.

Welcome to both of you.


BATTISTA: Eugenie, let me start with you, if I can. Before we get into the larger debate on the core issue here, let's talk about how this may affect students in the Kansas City school system. Do you see this as a sort of slippery slope in a way? Are the kids going to be at a disadvantage?

SCOTT: Your commentator was talking about the Topeka system, and there -- what I have found at looking at this controversy over the years is that teaching of evolution is not so much of a problem in the big city, big towns of the United States, it's a problem in the suburbs and small towns. And without a state science standard to hide behind, so to speak, an awful lot of teachers are going to be intimidated because of local pressure against teaching evolution, and they will simply drop it from the curriculum.

It's easier to do it that way and you don't have Mrs. Brown standing on your desk the next day because you've taught little Jimmy about evolution.

BATTISTA: Mr. Johnson, what is your objection to evolution being taught in the public schools?

PHILLIP JOHNSON, AUTHOR, "DARWIN ON TRIAL": I think we should teach a lot about evolution. In fact, I think we should teach more than the evolutionary science teachers want the students to know. The problem is what we're getting is a philosophy that's claimed to be scientific fact, a lot of distortion in the textbooks, and all the difficult problems left out, because they don't want people to ask tough questions.

This is indoctrination not genuine science education, which should teach people to raise those tough questions and to look at the philosophy and separate the philosophical claims from the real facts. That's the kind of education we need, and there's a public protest that is going on that wants to get that kind of education.

BATTISTA: You know what? Could you be a little bit more specific for us, because you're speaking very generally?

JOHNSON: Sure, I'll be very specific. There is a claim being made as fact that science has discovered a mechanism which has been tested and can be shown capable of creating the enormously complex things that we call living organisms. The evidence is, in fact, totally inadequate for that. It's basically a philosophical claim, and if people think that that goes way beyond the available evidence, in my opinion they're right to think so. And in any case, they ought to be able to challenge it. So this is really a growing public protest against dogmatism and the imposition of a naturalistic philosophy in the name of science education.

BATTISTA: So is your goal then not to have education taught in the public schools and to have creationism taught instead?

JOHNSON: No, as I said, my goal is to teach a lot more about the controversy and why the subject is controversial and why so many people having growing doubts. Instead, what we're getting is this is the official line. Believe it. You're just supposed to just accept it because we say it's true. And that's not the real science education.

BATTISTA: OK, let me ask Miss Scott if she has a problem with that?

SCOTT: Well, I obviously have a different interpretation of what's going on. Ten years ago, anti-evolutionists were saying we'll teach evolution but teach something called "creation science" to balance it out. There was a court decision that said teaching creation science is advocating evolution in the public schools. Public schools are supposed to be religiously neutral. You can't do it.

So now what they're saying is, OK, teach evolution but teach the arguments against evolution. Give the kids all the evidence.

As a scientist, I don't know any scientific arguments against evolution, but when you ask the proponents of this idea, what exactly are you planning to teach? It turns out to be the old crummy science of creation science that they tried to pass off on us ten years ago.

I think there's a lot of concern in the general public that if a child learns evolution, this child is going to give up his faith in God, and this is simply not the case. I do not see, in my discussions with K-12 teachers around the country -- and that's what I do for a living. I talk with these teachers a lot -- I do not see the teachers are saying here's all the evidence for evolution. Now take your religion and shove it. What I see is teachers saying here's all the evidence for evolution, here's why scientists accept that creatures shared common ancestry, and you can accept it or not. You can believe it or not.

BATTISTA: I haven't seen much evidence of that in the last 60 years myself, but, Melissa, before you go, where is this going to end up? Is this going to end up on the governor's desk or in the courts or...

BRUENER: It's hard to say. It really is. What happened, and what this grew out of was, you know, the gentleman on your panel mentioned philosophical issues, and that's sort of what it grew out of. Our state board of education has an even split right now between conservatives and moderates, and that grew into, as they were developing the statewide science assessment test, this debate over whether or not to teach evolution, because does that then say that its the end-all, be-all theory that's out there.

The governor is opposed to what the state board of education decided. There has been some concern here in our state about whether the state board of education is needed at all, and that discussion may come up when the legislate session begins in January again: Do we need our state board of education? Look what they did. You know, this is gaining national attention. We've had a company who decided to write Kansas off the list of places where they might relocate their headquarters to because of this issue. So it has had national implications. We're just going to have to wait and see, and see if any of the districts out there are going to take this as -- or take the next step with this and decide not to teach evolution.

Again, right now, we have not seen that happening. Most of the schools are saying we're going to go ahead as we have been and continue to teach it.

BATTISTA: All right, we have to take a break. Melissa Bruener from our affiliate, WIBW, thanks so much for joining us today, appreciate it.

BRUENER: Thank you.

BATTISTA: And we'll continue with the debate in just a moment.

In 1925, teacher John T. Scopes stood trial in Tennessee for teaching evolution. The "Scopes Monkey Trial" resulted in Scopes being convicted and fined $100.

The verdict was later reversed on a technicality by the state supreme court.


BATTISTA: Welcome back.

Let's take a phone call at this point. Jack in South Carolina is on the phone with was. Jack, go ahead.

JACK: Yes, teaching creationism in the schools is just another attempt of Christians trying to force Christianity on non-Christians. There is absolutely no evidence to support the story of creationism. It's just that, a story, actually an ancient fairy tale.

BATTISTA: Jack, thanks very much.

We should remind you that the Supreme Court says you cannot, at this point, teach creationism in the schools.

Mr. Johnson, let me ask you something basic: How do you think the world began?

JOHNSON: How the world began? Evolution of biology..

BATTISTA: Or the universe, whatever.

JOHNSON: ... is the story of life. What I think is that...

BATTISTA: OK, the universe, whatever. What is your philosophy on how it all began?

JOHNSON: Yes, life requires an intelligent cause. You can't turn non-living chemicals into a living organism by chemical laws and chance, and natural selection, the claimed Darwinian mechanism of creationism, doesn't have any creative power.

If you look at the evidence of science objectively and not through naturalistic philosophical blinders, you'll see that that's the case. Life looks like it was intelligently designed, as even the Darwinists concede, and the reason is because it was. Now we don't know much about the details -- certainly I don't -- but I don't think we should impose a dogma on all education that goes against the evidence, that says you don't need a creator because unintelligent material forces can do and did do all the creating, and that's exactly what's being done.

BATTISTA: So when you say "intelligently designed" or "an intelligent cause," you're kind of speaking around there. By whom? By what?

JOHNSON: Well, the evidence of science can't tell us very much about the nature of the intelligent designer. Of course, I think it's God, if that's what you're asking, but you need information from more than science to know anything that's really worth knowing about God. What you learn from science is that unintelligent, purposeless, material forces, like mutation and selection, can't do the job that they're claimed to be doing...

BATTISTA: Well, what I...

JOHNSON: ... and that just comes from the scientific evidence.

BATTISTA: What I'm hearing from you, then, is that evolution could possibly be God's idea.

JOHNSON: Well, if by evolution you just mean a gradual process that took a long time, then certainly it could be guided by God, and it would then be a creation mechanism. But that's not what is being taught, and that's not what our evolutionary science community teaches. What they teach is that evolution is unguided. It operates solely by impersonal natural laws of chance, and so we are the accidental products of a materialistic universe in which we might just as well not have come to exist. That's what the implication is.

Now, it's not all told right at the start. The kids get it bit by bit, until they get the full story, but that's what all the leading evolutionary scientists preach when the coast is clear. This reassuring, we're not saying anything about God, only comes when they are dealing with public reaction and trying to quiet it.

BATTISTA: So, Ms. Scott, is it all by chance that we are here at this stage that we're at today?

SCOTT: What is taught in science class is this what happened, not who done it. If you have ideas that the universe was intelligently designed or created by God or that your ancestors came out of a hole in the San Francisco mountains called the Sipapu, which is what the Hopi believed, that is a religious explanation. There is nothing wrong with that, but it's not science. All science tells you is that the best explanation we have for why plants and animals look like they do today and where human beings came from is that we shared common ancestors back in the past. And that's all that's being taught. This idea that somehow evolution has become this materialist philosophy that is being crammed down students' throats is nonsense.

BATTISTA: Let me get a little audience reaction here, Norma?

NORMA: I don't think it should be taught, because it's not a proven theory.

BATTISTA: Evolution, you mean?

NORMA: Evolution is not a proven theory.

BATTISTA: But is creationism a proven?

NORMA: The world had to be created by a higher intelligence than we have. And I believe that the theory of God is a proven theory.

BATTISTA: Where is the evidence, Mr. Johnson? Is there any stronger evidence that creationism is, indeed, fact over evolution?

JOHNSON: Well, creationism is a loaded word, which is usually used to refer to Biblical literalism. I'm talking about is something much broader, which is intelligent design, and, yes, there's plenty of evidence for this. It's given in books published by academic publishers, like Cambridge University Press, and by other scholars, scientists, philosophers in the intelligent design movement, which I represent, and which is carrying this issue into the universities and into the mainstream public discussion. So, what we really want is honest teaching of the controversy. In a way, that's what you're trying to do with this program, is give different views a chance to be heard, give people a chance to question the evidence and to challenge the experts, and not have this shoved down their throat the way that it's being done in a doctrinaire and a propagandistic manner.

BATTISTA: Would God like this intelligent designer theory, or would he prefer that it's more literal?

JOHNSON: Well, that's quite another question, and it doesn't go into my position. What tends to happen, whenever you try to raise an issue on this subject, is that people want to turn the conversation to the Bible, because they know how to deal with that. They want to find some way to ridicule the Biblical story, say it is fantasy -- you've seen people come in -- or say it's not science, by which they mean it's not true; it's fantasy. I don't want to talk about that. I don't think there is any need to bring the Bible into this. Let's just look at the scientific evidence and see objectively what it shows and what it doesn't show. And if we do that, the neo-Darwinian orthodoxy is going to collapse of its own internal contradictions. You can't prove that on a TV program, but that's what's going to happen when we get an unbiased discussion of this in the appropriate public venues.

BATTISTA: To the audience again, Glenn?

GLENN: Well, one thing that I don't understand is, our country is founded on freedom of choice, so why can't we teach both of them, since they are widely accepted theories, and then let the person choose on their own?

BATTISTA: Let me have Ms. Scott answer that first. I want you to both answer that. Why can't they both be taught, side by side?

SCOTT: I think that we should teach about religion in the public schools. I think we should teach about the various forms of Christianity, about Hinduism, about Native American beliefs, of which there are many, but that's different then saying we should advocate any of these views as being true and supported by empirical evidence.

People have to realize that science is a limited way of knowing. We're just trying to explain the natural world and we limit ourselves to explaining the natural world with natural processes. When we do this, it looks very, very much like the history of the planet and history living things has been one that changed through time and that living things shared common ancestors.

Now, many religious traditions have looked at this, and said, that's the way God wanted to do it. Other religious traditions have said, no, we believe, as Phil was saying, that the Bible is literally true. God created all the kinds of animals at the same, and that they didn't share common ancestry. Those are all religious beliefs that are in addition to science.

And, you know, what do you teach in a science class? You teach science, and we shouldn't really turn the science class into a political forum, in which we're trying to meet everybody's religious views. It just is not going to work.

BATTISTA: Mr. Johnson, I have to take a quick commercial break, and I'll get your answer to that question when we come back.


BATTISTA: Let me go to Phil Johnson, to ask him about whether he thinks both can be taught successfully in the public school system.

JOHNSON: It's really just a question of what the scientific evidence shows. I think we should stick to scientific evidence and not go off into folk ways. But you know, the world's leading Darwinist, Richard Dawkins, says at the start of one of his books, that biology is the study of extremely complicated things that look as if they were designed for a purpose. Francis Crick, another of the most famous Darwinist, says biologists constantly have to remind themselves that what they are studying was not designed, it evolved. Now, we think that the reason those organisms look as if they were designed by a creator, is that is, in fact, the case. Now, that's a question of what the evidence shows, and you ought to be able to have fair-minded discussion of what the evidence shows and what it doesn't show, and how philosophical prejudices may be coloring the way some people view the evidence. So, that's really what we stand for, in the intelligent design movement, is an open philosophy of science that allows freedom of thought, freedom of inquiry and freedom of discussion, and it's quite a battle to try to get that established.

BATTISTA: Go ahead, in the audience, Siwonka?

SIWONKA: OK. I would just like to say that what we was talking about earlier -- I mean, dealing with evolution -- you made the comment that you -- we could be created in God's image and still have evolved. That negates itself. Evolution is a process. God created and made. OK. And evolution, itself, sometimes when scientists -- the way they describe -- we found these ancient artifacts, these bones. There has been written proof that the bones they find don't even belong to so-called Cro-Magnon man.

So, as we stated earlier, you cannot just put forth some of your beliefs, or your theories, and make that fact and just teach it. I mean, give creationism a chance, too. We came here, our forefathers on this country, because of religion oppression. Now, you come and here, and you're still oppressed. You take all religion out of school, everything is broken loose. It's supposed to be a fact; it's not a fact.

And when you really sit down, research and look at things, evolution has a lot of holes in it, just as those would say creationism does also. So, they're both theories. Teach both. Give us a freedom of choice. That's America. You have the right to choose.

BATTISTA: Ms. Scott, we haven't talked about the theories of evolution or the interpretation there of. I mean, there isn't just one concrete theory of evolution, is there?

SCOTT: No. There is the general overall idea that the universe has had a history, that galaxies have changed, that planets have changed, that stars evolve, that life on Earth evolves. Evolution is an awful lot more than just man evolved from monkeys, which is what most people think when they hear the word evolution.

If you say, well, evolution didn't take place, you are undermining virtually all of modern-day science, from physics to chemistry, to geology, to biology, anthropology, even history. Nobody is saying that God didn't create. What we can say is that the evidence that we have science, which is limited, suggests to us very strongly that the universe has had a history, that things changed through time, they were not created all at one time, and that living things also shared common ancestry.

This can be taught, and in my experience, is almost uniformly taught at the K-12 level without philosophical overtones, without the assumption that you have to give up your faith in God.

I wish people could understand that. I think they would find that their fear and loathing of evolution is really unnecessary.

BATTISTA: Let me go to the audience and Lyn here.

LYN: I just think it's unfortunate that in this country and I guess really in this world today we have to be right or wrong about every issue. Why can't the answer lie somewhere in the balance? Why can't God work through a scientific process? I believe in creation, but why does saying that mean that I have to believe that it took six days? Why couldn't it take 600 million years and the processes work along with that?

BATTISTA: Good question. We have to take a break, and at this time, Eugenie Scott and Phillip Johnson, we thank you both very much for joining us today. Appreciate it.

In a moment, God and science: Is everyone who believes in evolution an atheist? We'll talk about that in a moment.


Australian scientists say they have found evidence that complex life forms existed on earth 2.7 billion years ago, up to a billion years earlier than was thought. The report came out last week in the journal "Science," two days after the Kansas school board decision.


BATTISTA: We are talking about evolution and creationism, and joining us now is Robert Russell, executive director and founder of the Center for Theology and Natural Science, and Duane Gish, senior vice president of the Institute for Creation Research.

Mr. Russell, let me start with you. Please tell us that there is a way to marry theology and natural science.

ROBERT RUSSELL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND FOUNDER, CENTER FOR THEOLOGY AND NATURAL SCIENCE: Well, the simplest way is to say what some of your viewers already said: Evolution is God's way of creating. God creates the universe continuously through love and freedom, and provides the beauty of nature. And science teaches us about that just like physics teaches us about the laws of the planets and about cosmology, which is also part of God' creation.

So it's not creation versus science. It's a creation interpretation of science, which as a Christian I would give.

BATTISTA: Mr. Gish, do you have a problem with that?

DUANE GISH, INSTITUTE FOR CREATION RESEARCH: Yes, I do have a problem with that. There are several issues that I would like to address here that have been discussed already today. The fact, what is the nature of science, first of all? Secondly, can creation science be taught in public schools? And thirdly, do we have scientific evidence for creation?

Now, science is our study of the real world as it now exists. We use only natural laws and natural processes, of course, in our attempt to understand and explain the operation of the universe or the operation of living things. But evolutionists insist that we use these same natural law and processes to explain the origin of the universe, the origin of life, the origin of all living things. Now, you cannot do that.

You see, these events happened in the unobservable past. They're not repeatable in the present.

BATTISTA: But so did the creationist theory, didn't it?

GISH: That's true. Both creation and evolution, neither is a scientific theory. They are theories about history. To insist, as Dr. Scott does, that we can only teach evolution in the schools because that's science -- creation is religion -- know that is not true.

Now, according to the Supreme Court, can creation be taught in the public schools, following the Louisiana decision? Actually Professor Zimmerman, for example, in bioscience, October 1987, after the Louisiana decision, he said this: The Supreme Court did not in any way outlaw the teaching of creation science. Dr. Scott, herself, in her letter to the editor of "Nature" magazine, following that decision, she said...

BATTISTA: OK. Let me ask you this, though, because you're losing us a little bit. What -- when you say creation science -- and the Supreme Court refers to it as creation science -- what do they mean?

GISH: They mean the scientific evidence that supports creation. That is what we're talking about when we mean creation science. We don't mean the Bible. We don't mean the book of Genesis.

BATTISTA: OK. Let me ask Mr. Scott -- Mr. Russell...

GISH: She herself -- let me say this, first...

BATTISTA: Let me ask Mr. Russell, though, what he believes creation science to be.

RUSSELL: Creation science is a pseudoscience. It's actually religion in disguise.

Good science can study historical phenomena. If you said you couldn't say historical phenomena, you couldn't have science of big bang cosmology, because that studies the past of the universe. If you rule out evolution, you rule out astronomy, cosmology. You rule out human genetics. You rule out geology, planetary formation.

All of science would crumble if you say you can't study events in the past.

BATTISTA: How can you rule out all these things?

RUSSELL: Because these are about events in the past.

BATTISTA: No. I mean Mr. Gish.

GISH: That, of course, is nonsense. Our scientific evidence for creationism is based upon the facts of science, the fossil record, the laws of thermodynamics, the laws of probability, all of the important evidence that we have relating to the subject of origin. Of course, we use only science. Now, let me, for example, mention the fossil record. Evolutionists believe that some invertebrate evolved into a fish over millions of years of time. We have billions times billions of fossils of complex invertebrates. We have billions and billions of fossil fishes.

Now, if an invertebrate evolved into a fish, we ought to have billions times billions of fossils of transition form showing an invertebrate changing into a fish. As a matter of fact, we have none. Every major kind of fish that we know anything about appears fully formed. There is not a trace of an ancestor for any of these major kinds of fishes, and there are no connecting forms, connecting one kind of fish to another. Now, that's the historical evidence and it supports creationism, precisely what we'd expect and predict, but it's absolutely incompatible with evolutionary theory.

BATTISTA: Mr. Russell?

RUSSELL: Well, I think it shows why it's so important to have the community of scientists, the biological community decide what is good science, and they have. That's the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution. And it shows why it's so important to teach it in high school, because if we don't, we'll get pseudo-science, such as Mr. Gish is giving us, which is actually a religious point of view and a philosophical point of view taught as science, which would be the end of good science education. I -- when my kids were in high school, I wanted the best for them in terms of science education, theories of economics, theories of political justice, and so on. And I think if we give up on good science, we give up on an awful lot of stuff that really counts for our kids.

BATTISTA: We have to go to commercial break. As we do, a comment from Magda.

MAGDA: I think, on a very elementary level, one of the problems we have with such controversies is that we're becoming increasingly ethnocentric and very intolerant, which could eventually lead to violence, and we've seen places of violence. And I speak as a Lebanese-American Christian, and I would like to have both theories taught in schools.

BATTISTA: All right. We'll be -- continue in just a second.


BATTISTA: And welcome back. You know, this is a lot more a political tug of war, I think, than it is scientific, in many respects, with an awful lot of children caught in the middle. Laura, from Missouri, here in our audience, is a teacher. She is, also, an anthropologist, and you have some thoughts about the kids.

LAURA: Well, like this lady over here was saying, she would -- she said that we don't give students enough credit for thinking about the ideas of creationism and evolutionism, and as a teacher in a public school system, I know that we are not allowed to teach about creationism, but when the subjects come up in the classroom, you have to address them. You can't just ignore the questions that the kids have. And we don't have all the answers, and as the case with evolution, it's constantly changing. The scientific facts of what I learned 15 years ago in school have changed considerably through time. So, we have to just keep making ourselves available to all the information that's coming out there, and be willing to have an open mind to address the questions kids have.

BATTISTA: Mr. Gish, can you be a Christian and believe in evolution?

GISH: Yes. You can be a Christian and believe in evolution. However, my comment about atheistic evolution -- she's dead wrong twice. She's dead wrong on his theology, and dead wrong on his science. Now, it was just mentioned that you can't legally teach creation. I want to make very clear, you can teach creation in public schools. Now, you cannot compel teachers to do that, but they have the legal right to do that. I have just, Eugenie Scott, Dr. Scott, who's on this program, she, herself, said that you can legally teach creation science in public schools. Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard University, famous evolutionist, he said, following the Louisiana decision, you can teach creation science in public schools. It is legal, and I quoted professor Zimmerman (ph) to the same effect. It is legal. Now, you cannot compel a teacher to do it.

BATTISTA: I have another lawyer in the audience. Let's get her take on it, Keisha?

KEISHA: I just feel that, you know, the experts are not giving kids enough credit for thinking for themselves. Kids are so much smarter nowadays than adults give them credit for, and if you present both issues, I think kids nowadays can make the distinction between what they want to believe and what not to. So, you're just assuming that, by giving both theories, that children are somehow going to be psychologically damaged by something. Give them both theories, let them make the choice, and if they want to discuss it further, go home and talk about it. But it should not such a pressing issue, as far as teaching both theories in school.

BATTISTA: Let me ask a young person in the audience. Stephen, what do you think?

STEPHEN: Well, I'll tell you right now, I believe in God and I believe in evolution, and I believe God made it so that we'll eventually, like, change. I'll take a look at my body on, you know, those little -- in school I'll see maps or pictures of the human body and I'll see body parts that aren't used anymore, and I think evolution will eventually rule that those body parts will stop appearing, and new ones will eventually, if our environment changes, will eventually grow.

BATTISTA: So, you're taking the theory -- you think man is still evolving?


BATTISTA: OK. What about that, Mr. Gish? Is man still evolving, and where is God's hand in that?

GISH: Well, there are many animals on this earth that have been here supposedly for millions of years, and yet there is not one single example, anywhere on the earth, of one creature beginning to becoming something else.

Now, here's the false teaching that this young man just mentioned, the idea that we have vestigial organs in our bodies that are left over from our evolutionary ancestors. He has been taught that we have gill slits -- the embryo, human embryo has gill slits. That's a thoroughly discredited theory. It's known to be false. Evolutionists, themselves, know it's false, and yet it's in our biology books today, taught to our children, that here is powerful evidence for evolution, which is totally false, and you see, we need to let these students know that. We need to let them know that that there's no vestigial organs in humans. And this other evidence that they're being taught, that...

BATTISTA: I'll be honest with you, I don't think most kids remember that out of their biology class. I don't -- Mr. Russell, are we -- is evolutionary science that off base?

GISH: Well, this young man...

RUSSELL: Of course not. That's part of the propaganda of creationists

The issue is simple: Your audience is concerned with freedom of choice, looking at competing theories, and I support that very much. I think we have a political right and a moral duty to look at competing theories. But the question is which theories constitute science.

Now, we have competing theories in evolution about the evolutionary processes. But Scientific Creationism and Intelligent Design are not competing scientific theories. They're pseudoscience. I wouldn't want to see them taught any more than I'd say, in an astronomy course, teach astrology, too, or teach that the sun goes around the earth, because that's a theory too. There are certain things that are not good science, but it is important for Christians, Jews, Moslems, Native Americans, to have a moral view about science and to consider its implications. Those are very important. I support the reflection of Christians and Jews and Moslems and atheists on science.

BATTISTA: Got to take a break. We'll be back.


BATTISTA: Very cute,that Internet message there.

Let me go to the audience for some reaction -- Richard.

RICHARD: I support the teaching of evolution in schools because I believe that by giving the children the knowledge and the background that will give them the facility to explore and debate it by themselves, they'll be able to tap into the existing information we have through the findings that have been made in Kenya and neighboring countries like Ethiopia that have taken the theory of evolution back billions of years. They will be able to think it out for themselves and come and taking up from where the discoveries that have been made in Kenya have reached, be able to explain it even better for us as the years go by.

BATTISTA: Mr. Gish, do you have no faith in the evidence supporting evolution?

GISH: There is -- are evidences or arguments on both sides, but I am absolutely convinced the massive weight of the evidence strongly supports creation. There are facts from the fossil record, from the laws of thermodynamics, the laws of probability that renders evolutionary theory impossible. Not only impossible, but the evidence has shown that it has not happened, it is not a historical process, it cannot be supported by history, it cannot be supported by the natural laws and processes now operating in this universe.

BATTISTA: We are entirely out of time. I'm so sorry to interrupt. And we certainly aren't going to solve this weighty issue on this hour, but we thank both of our guests for being with us today. This half hour: Robert Russell and Duane Gish, thank you much.

And we'll see you again tomorrow for more TALKBACK LIVE.

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