After months of debate, the U.S. Congress has finally passed a massive education bill, promising that “no child will be left behind.”1 A jubilant President Bush plans to sign the bill tomorrow, January 8, in Hamilton, Ohio—AiG’s own backdoor.2 But one small item is missing from the bill. Gone is a “controversial” amendment—passed earlier by the Senate—suggesting that students should be told why “biological evolution . . . generates so much continuing controversy.”

Originally, the Senate didn’t think its amendment was so controversial. The amendment passed on June 14, 2001, by a lopsided 91–8 majority. Even the politically liberal stalwart Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts defended it: “We want children to be able to speak and examine various scientific theories on the basis of all of the information that is available to them so they can talk about different concepts and do it intelligently.”3

When news of the amendment spread, however, evolutionists in scientific and educational organizations rose up in bitter opposition. Their effort succeeded in influencing Congress. The final version of the bill, passed on December 18, 2001, says not one word about evolution or the controversy surrounding it.

Why So Much Controversy Over One Sentence?

What was so offensive about this short amendment, proposed by Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania? He simply dared to suggest that evolution is controversial! Here is the original amendment, in full:

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 this subject generates so much continuing controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subject.

Protests by the Evolutionist Establishment

Outraged by the Senate vote in June, several leading evolutionists launched a counteroffensive to kill the amendment once it got to a combined House–Senate conference committee. “We’ll do our letter writing to senators. We’d like to see it die in conference committee,”4 said Wayne Carley, executive director of the evolutionist National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT).1 Eighty scientific and educational organizations, ranging from the American Geological Institute to the National Science Teachers Association, sent a joint letter to the committee asking it to delete the amendment.5

The campaign worked, especially after the education bill dropped out of the media spotlight in the wake of September 11 and the Afghanistan war. The joint conference committee deleted the amendment from the final bill, and inserted a watered-down version in the “conference report”6 that it sent back to the House and Senate (a report explaining what was deleted and inserted in the final version of the bill). The comments below are not part of the law, and they have no binding authority:

The Conferees recognize that a quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. 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, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society.7

What Does It All Mean for the Teachers of Science?

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) crowed about its successful campaign: “The good news for teachers is that they will not have to teach evolution any differently as a result of the new legislation.”8

The NCSE even distorted the meaning of the conference committee’s report, claiming that the committee was discouraging the teaching of creation science. The NCSE reported:

More good news is that the obscure two-sentence distillation of the Santorum amendment reflects the conference committee’s wish to keep “religious and philosophical claims that are made in the name of science” out of the science classroom, a position that NCSE has always supported. Creation science, intelligent design theory, and philosophical materialism qualify as “religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science” and thus teachers are discouraged from presenting them.5

Oddly enough, the Discovery Institute—a leading center for the advancement of “intelligent design”—pushed for the amendment and yet considered the new education bill a victory, too. “The new bill represents a substantial victory for scientific critics of Darwin's theory and for all who would like science instruction to exercise thoroughness and fairness in teaching about contemporary science controversies,” says Bruce Chapman, president of Discovery Institute.9

It seems odd that two archenemies—the Discovery Institute and the NCSE—should approve of the same bill. As so often happens in politics, the same vague political document can be read to support two opposing views.

The Real Need

The key issue is that the law on education reform utterly ignores one of the most important issues facing the United States today—the direct conflict between humanism/Darwin’s theory of evolution and the authority of God’s Word/Creation.

The future leaders of the United States are being taught a falsehood in their schools, one that undermines the Scripture and faith in the Savior. The U.S. Congress has failed to take a stand on this critical moral/social issue that is undermining America.

Far from living up to its title as the “No Child Left Behind Act,” the new education bill has left every public-school child behind, totally in the dark about (a) the science that contradicts the weak theory of evolution and (b) the way in which the evidence can be interpreted to speak for creation—often more comfortably, naturally and directly. Evolutionary leaders in science and education are seemingly not willing to let their scientific interpretations be the subject of questioning discussion. Instead, they have resorted to strong-arm politics, fearful that students might be exposed to the “dangerous” idea that evolution is controversial! (Which might make people take note of the reasons and logic behind the controversy.)

Interestingly, we have only just received a thoughtful e-mail from Tony R., an evolutionist who says he appreciates our Web site for its “thoughtful contemplation” as opposed to being “screaming fanatics.” Tony indicates that he is in favor of schools teaching, in addition to evolution, the “various creationist theories.” While we don’t support compulsion to teach the creation position (imagine how unbelievers would distort our position), it would be good if Christian teachers had the legislative freedom and encouragement to present critiques of evolution and discuss alternatives.

The more you help U.S. get out the information that supports the authority of God’s Word in these areas, the more that it will break through in all sorts of areas—despite the best efforts of the evolutionists to stifle such discussion.

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Footnotes

  1. The new education bill—the biggest overhaul of U.S. education policy since the 1960s—was a hallmark of George W. Bush’s presidential election campaign. It requires students in grades 3 through 8 to take annual tests in mathematics and reading, administered by the states. Schools that fail to meet proficiency standards can get federal aid, but eventually the states are supposed to impose sanctions on the failing schools, including changes in staff, curriculum, or even conversion to “charter” schools. The final version of the education bill did not include vouchers that students could use to help defray the cost of attending private or Christian schools. Back (1) Back (2)
  2. Answers in Genesis is located in Northern Kentucky, in a tri-state area that includes Ohio and Indiana. Just a few miles north of us are Cincinnati and Hamilton, Ohio. Back
  3. “Senate bill tackles evolution debate,” WashingtonPost.com, June 18, 2001. Back
  4. A conference committee is a joint committee comprised of members of both parts of the U.S. Congress—the Senate and House of Representatives—where senators and representatives attempt to settle differences between their versions of a bill. The amendment in question was added to the Senate version of the education bill that was originally passed in the House. Back
  5. Joint letter on evolution sent to congress,” www.agiweb.org, August 2001. Back (1) Back (2)
  6. The original Senate amendment was “watered down” in two senses. First, the Senate identified “biological evolution” specifically as the sole controversy about which students should be “informed.” But the conference report simply makes biological evolution an example of a controversial topic in science. The Senate amendment was watered down in a second sense. Originally, it said the science curriculum “should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subject.” But the conference report says, “The curriculum should help students understand the full range of scientific views that exist” [emphasis added]. Evolutionists find this wording acceptable because they do not believe that belief in creation is scientific, and so they believe this language excludes “scientific creationism” from the classroom. Back
  7. H.R. 1—“No Child Left Behind Act of 2001”: Joint Explanatory Statement of the Committee of Conference Title I, Part A, item 78, edworkforce.house.gov. Back
  8. “Santorum amendment stripped from education bill,” www.ncseweb.org, December 21, 2001. Back
  9. Chapman, B. “Congress Gives Victory to Scientific Critics of Darwin,” www.discovery.org, December 21, 2001. Back