John H. Calvert, Esq.
February 27, 2002
Thomas E. McClain, and
I attended the meeting of the Standards Committee on February 4 and listened with great interest to Dr. David Haury's response to the remarks that I made on January 13 about what Ohio should tell students about the origin and diversity of life - origins science.
I commend you and the Committee for your approach to this difficult issue. You are doing exactly what should be done. You are carefully investigating in a reasonable and unbiased way both sides of the issue. You are listening to experts and you are allowing appropriate time for open discussion. This process of open investigation and deliberation is what makes all of us proud to be U.S. Citizens. It is a process that builds trustworthy intellectual infrastructure.
Dr. Haury indicated that he had listened to my talk on January 13 and I presume that he received a copy of Teaching Origins Science in Public Schools (March 21, 2002, http://www.IntelligentDesignNetwork.org/legalopinion.htm) which was distributed to each member of the Committee and the State Board.
Dr. Haury did an excellent job of explaining the view of the "science community" about the issues. Certainly, what he said is consistent with my understanding of the position of that "community." Although there is much of what he said that I can agree with, I do disagree with his ultimate conclusions. I also disagree that his views are representative of the actual thoughts of the real "science community." Even with the intellectual discrimination that is practiced against those scientists who break the "Rule" of naturalism, the Report(1) shows a very large majority of highly credentialed scientists disagreeing with its use in origins science.
The effect of having two experts talk back to back about the same subject is that it tends to narrow the issues. The process is like a sieve. When the issues get narrowed, it becomes much easier for the decision maker to address core problems and "get to the bottom" of things.
This letter expresses my views about areas of agreement and disagreement between the position of objective origins science represented by my talk and naturalistic origins science as represented by the Dr. Haury's talk. Next I discuss the conclusions one may reasonably draw from the two talks. Finally, I provide a set of suggestions which reasonably follow from those conclusions.
What is Objective Origins Science?
Before going further I would like to summarize again the essential goals of objective origins science. First, it defines origins science as the science which seeks to explain the origin of life and the origin of the diversity of life - biological origins. Next, it holds that this science should be conducted and taught with scrupulous objectivity and without religious, philosophic or naturalistic bias or assumption. To the extent that assumptions are used they should be fully and appropriately disclosed.
It is essential to distinguish between origins science and other kinds of science for two reasons. First, origins science is an historical science where explanations for the most part can not be tested by experiment. This renders it imperative that competing explanations not be censored. Competition is the only effective test for an historical hypothesis that can not be confirmed by experiment. Second, origins science unavoidably impacts religion. Any explanation will have either a positive or negative impact on it. That being the case, it is imperative that this science be conducted objectively. Otherwise the science community will be at odds with a large segment of the patrons for whom they work and the US Constitution.
The effect of objective origins science is to permit scientists to consider objectively all the evidence and to allow the evidence rather than assumptions guide the formation of explanations. This approach fosters critical thinking, academic freedom and a search for the truth. It allows consideration of evidence which suggests that phenomena in the natural world consist of more than purely physical and material entities that are directed only by the known laws of physics and chemistry and chance. It recognizes that nature may also be governed by non-physical causes or as yet unidentified laws. For example, the highly regarded theoretical physicist, Paul Davies has challenged the "science community" to explain the "semantic" quality of biological information. As he points out this is a pure intangible that can not be weighed, measured, or observed with any machine. He says:
The balance of this letter is intended to briefly discuss the following matters:
Summary of my January 13 presentation: [It can be found at http://www.intelligentdesignnetwork.org/ohioboardtalk.htm]
The question I discussed was: WHAT SHOULD OHIO TELL CHILDREN ABOUT THEIR ORIGINS?
I advised you that the proposed standards would have the effect of telling children that they are derived only from natural processes without disclosing to them that credible scientific evidence exists that they may be the product of design. This will amount to state indoctrination in Naturalism - a "nonreligion." Naturalism is defined by Webster's Third New International Dictionary as "the doctrine that cause-and-effect laws (as of physics and chemistry) are adequate to account for all phenomena and that teleological [design] conceptions of nature are invalid." This is consistent with Dr. Haury's definition of metaphysical naturalism.
State sponsored naturalism is wrong because (a) the historical nature of origins science makes the use of epistemological naturalism(2) inconsistent with good science and (b) use of epistemological naturalism, particularly undisclosed epistemological naturalism, has the effect of metaphysical naturalism and is inconsistent with the establishment and speech clauses of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
I urged you to abandon the use of naturalism [of whatever form] in Origins science and teach it objectively, and without philosophic, naturalistic or religious assumption or bias.
I urged you to give due consideration to the Modifications that are reflected in the Report that was distributed to you on Feb 4 reflecting endorsements by 77 of 82 persons holding doctoral degrees, including a member of the National Academy of Sciences and 39 holding doctoral degrees in the biological and life sciences.
2. Summary of Dr. Haury's Views:
Dr. Haury's February 4 response acknowledges that the standards apply a naturalistic definition of science, however, he claims that this definition does not seek to imbue a belief in naturalism because the naturalistic assumption is merely used as a method for doing science. He implicitly acknowledges that it is not appropriate for science to promote metaphysical naturalism. - to indoctrinate or "require acceptance" of a naturalistic explanation of our origins.
He implicitly recognizes that epistemological naturalism is essentially an assumption against design and that it is not based on an evidentiary finding. Thus, he should agree that it is an assumption derived from a philosophical view rather than an empirical scientific conclusion. In fact he acknowledges that there may be more to the world than its material aspects.
He did not explicitly discuss whether the proposed standards attempt to adequately disclose the use of the assumption against design to students. When questioned about this issue, his equivocal response was that he thought they did. As indicated below, the proposed standards not only fail to provide for disclosure, the writing team has rejected out of hand written proposals to make a disclosure.
As to this issue, Dr. Haury's remarks seem to explicitly acknowledge that use of the assumption in origins science is problematic, both scientifically and legally. This is because he seems to deny that the proposed standards deal with "origins science." He appears to attempt to make this claim by claiming that "evolution is [not] concerned with origins ... or explaining past events."
This raises an interesting, but crucial factual question: Do the standards contemplate the teaching of origins science, a historical science in Ohio public schools. If the answer is yes, then Dr. Haury's remarks would seem to implicitly endorse the thesis of my argument - epistemological naturalism should not be used in origins science.
As to the legal issues, Dr. Haury seems to argue that because the standards do not deal with origins science but only with a narrow view of "evolution, they are perfectly OK, citing the court's dictum in McLean v. Arkansas. Again, his conclusion is legally problematic if one views the proposed standards as encouraging, contemplating or permitting discussions about the origin of life and/or the origin of the diversity of life.
Although he did not deal directly with the issue of whether intelligent design is illegal, he implied that to be the case by referring the Board to the misleading summary of the Freiler case. As explained in my memo to you of February 4, 2002 relating to the Freiler case, there is no legal basis for that implication.
On February 8 Dr Haury gave a shorter version of his presentation to the Writing Team. After that presentation, the Life Sciences subgroup added a naturalistic definition of science to the proposed standards. That definition is:
This definition incorporates the assumption of epistemological naturalism that Ohio children (natural phenomena), along with the rest of us, result only from natural processes and not by design. According to Dr. Haury, use of a materialistic/naturalistic definition of science precludes any discussion of design theory in a science class that gets into a discussion of origins. I believe he would agree that this is consistent with the intended interpretation of the definition.
Summary of conclusions regarding factual and legal issues covered by the two presentations
1. The proposed standards do apply an irrebuttable assumption of "no design" (epistemological naturalism) by virtue of their use of a definition of science that permits only "natural explanations for natural phenomena."
The two talks make this proposition clear. Indeed, it appears that the purpose of Dr. Haury's talk was to validate the use of this limit on explanation,(3) at least as to science that "is [not] concerned with origins .... or explaining the past." Our concern is with use of the assumption to limit what can be scientifically investigated and explained about where we come from - our origins.
2. It is inappropriate for the Standards to promote metaphysical naturalism.
Dr. Haury's presentation implicitly recognizes that it is inappropriate for the State to be promoting metaphysical naturalism in a science class. Essentially the only difference between the two, and the only difference expressed by Dr. Haury, is that metaphysical naturalism "requires acceptance" of the proposition that all phenomena result only from natural causes and not by design, while epistemological naturalism "merely" assumes the truth of the proposition as a "method" of science. Hence he recognizes that it is inappropriate for the state to adopt a method of teaching that "requires acceptance" of the naturalistic proposition.
3. The Proposed Standards Will have the Effect of Promoting Metaphysical Naturalism!
It should be clear that the standards will promote metaphysical naturalism. This is a key conclusion. If the Board agrees that the effect of the Standards will be to promote metaphysical naturalism, then it must revise those standards to avoid that effect. It must do so for logical, pedagogical, scientific and legal reasons.
This kind of misinformation is particularly problematic due to presentations in biology textbooks which will be the tools used to carry out the mandate of the Proposed Standards. Those textbooks first inform students that explanations they will read in the book have been tested via experiment per the scientific method without telling them that explanations regarding origins science are based on an irrebuttable naturalistic assumption in an area of science where "Laws and experiments are inappropriate techniques for the explication of such events and processes" [See page 17, Section 3.2 of Teaching Origins Science in Public Schools.]. This reminds one of Enron allegations that its financial statements were represented as fairly presenting its financial condition, while not disclosing a billion dollars of off balance sheet liabilities.
To avoid "required acceptance" of the assumption, it must be made rebuttable and it must be fully and appropriately disclosed and explained. Otherwise the standards will have the effect of State indoctrination in metaphysical naturalism.
To avoid this problem the proposed standards must be revised to make clear that teachers:
4. The proposed standards "are concerned with Origins."
Although Dr. Haury did not explicitly claim that the proposed standards do not deal with origins science, he seemed to suggest that through his contention that "evolution is [not] concerned with origins....or with explaining the past." This is a critical issue. If Ohio's science standards discourage discussion with students about the origin of life and its diversity, then we can fold our tents and go home. The focus of this discussion is about what we should tell children about where they come from, not about how they work and what they are composed of. Since the proposed standards actually address both issues, the time is not ripe for folding tents and packing bags.
Any common understanding of "evolution," its use in the proposed standards, and its use in currently available biology textbooks indicate that "evolution" is "concerned with origins .....and explaining the past." Indeed, the effort of the scientific community has been to use chemical and biological evolution to explain everything, including the origin of the mind, consciousness and the origin of the universe itself. At best, it would appear that Dr. Haury's notion of what "evolution" covers is simply a semantic construct used to avoid the significant legal issues that arise from the reality of what is actually happening - the reality of state involvement in teaching children about where they come from.
However, regardless of the semantics of the slippery word "evolution," it is clear that the proposed standards "are concerned with origins and explaining the past."
This is made clear from Proposed Indicators(4) #29 and 30, for tenth grade biology, and the definition of "scientific knowledge." These items require Ohio children to:
The definition of science limits the permitted explanations of both origin of life and origin of diversity of life to only "natural explanations" by stating that:
Thus, it is clear that the proposed standards are "concerned with origins... and with explaining past events," ONLY in a naturalistic way.
It is also clear that currently available biology textbooks seek to show that life originates via chemical evolution and that it subsequently diversifies via - natural selection - Darwinian evolution.
Unit 5 of Biology, the Dynamics of Life, [Glencoe-McGraw-Hill, 2000], a tenth grade biology text used throughout the country deals with "Change Through Time." Chapter 14 is called "The History of Life." Its two subsections deal with "The Record of Life" and "The Origin of Life." The origin of life discussion shows children naturalistic theories of origins without even mentioning the design hypothesis. The children have no real choice about what to believe.
The same is true with respect to the origin of the diversity of life. Chapter 15 of the text is titled "The Theory of Evolution." The book states that the chapter is important because "Evolution explains the diversity of species and predicts changes." Section 15.1 deals with "Natural Selection and the Evidence for Evolution" and chapter 15.2 deals with the "Mechanisms of Evolution." With only a naturalistic mechanism shown - natural selection - children are led to believe that the only scientific explanation for the diversity of life is a purely naturalistic one. The competing hypothesis regarding the origin of the diversity of life, being censored by epistemological naturalism, is not disclosed or even mentioned.
This irrebuttable and misleading naturalistic account of our origins is cemented in the introductory portions of the textbooks where children are led to believe that science uses the scientific method to validate these historical explanations. This is misinformation. Those explanations, rather than being tested per the scientific method, are materially supported by use of the irrebuttable assumption against design and by censoring honest scientific criticisms of evolutionary theory. The censorship of design and criticism occurs at the textbook and class room levels. Censorship in the class room occurs when teachers such as Rodney LeVake, Roger DeHart, Professor William Dembski and others are fired, reassigned or otherwise discriminated against when they attempt to teach or investigate the subject "honestly" and critically.
Other biology textbooks, which are replete with misinformation about evolution, follow the same naturalistic approach as Biology, Dynamics of Life in teaching students about the origin of life and its diversity. The misinformation in nine additional textbooks is described in detail in Jonathan Wells book Icons of Evolution: Why much of what we teach about evolution is wrong (Regnery, 2000).
Accordingly, contrary to Dr. Haury's implicit suggestion, the proposed standards are "concerned with origins....and explaining the past" and they propose to answer those questions with a predetermined explanation - a purely naturalistic one.
5. A number of options are available to the Board to correct the problems inherent in a naturalistic approach to origins science.
Although Dr. Haury provided a rehash of the "summaries" of the "eight cases" listed on Eugenie Scott's web site, he provided no cases or legal authorities that contradict the opinions expressed in my January 13 talk, Teaching Origins Science in Public Schools and in the Freiler memorandum.(5)
His presentation was interestingly silent on issues such as: "is intelligent design" religion, and is it legally permissible for the state to use epistemological naturalism to censor the evidence relating to that hypothesis. From a legal standpoint, both questions yield a "no" answer. To avoid this discussion he resorted to the standard model of attempting to cast the debate as one of science vs. creation science. Using this tactic he avoided discussion of the real legal debate - whether the board should engage in biased origins science or objective origins science.
His presentation also did not discuss the following options that are clearly and legally available to the Board:
6. Dr. Haury does not deny the contention that "origins science" impacts religion. Nor does he deny that a materialistic assumption impacts religious views.
These are also fundamental assertions made in my talk on Jan 13. They are also key to an understanding of why the State must remain neutral in this religious arena. The fact that Dr. Haury did not respond to these key assertions also suggests either tacit agreement or a lack of any legal or factual basis for denying the assertions.
7. Dr. Haury did not explain any reason or purpose for using epistemological naturalism in origins science.
Dr Haury's omission to discuss this issue may turn in part on his contention that "evolution is [not] concerned with origins." However, as mentioned above, the proposed standards are clearly designed to discuss origins with students. His response therefore leaves uncontested my contention that there is no secular purpose for using epistemological naturalism in origins science. This issue is extremely important from a legal standpoint. The state must have a secular purpose for using a practice in matters touching religion. Origins science touches religion and a decision to use epistemological naturalism to censor explanation about our origins is a state practice that must therefore have a secular purpose. To date, Dr. Haury has not explained any purpose, much less a secular purpose for using that irrebuttable assumption in origins science.
8. Dr. Haury did not respond to my argument that State indoctrination in naturalism is unconstitutional.
This was the very thesis of my talk on Jan 13. However, his comments noticeably avoided any discussion of this issue. Presumably because he either tacitly agrees with the conclusion or because he has no legal basis to counter it. As indicated under the preceding point, state use of epistemological naturalism to limit explanation in origins science lacks secular purpose. It also violates that State's constitutional obligation to remain neutral in an area that touches religion and amounts to viewpoint discrimination. He did not deny any of these assertions.
Based on the above, my suggestions are as follows:
1. Recognize that this is a highly complex constitutional, educational and scientific issue. It is an issue that deals with the legal and proper way to educate children about a subject that significantly impacts religion. The decision about how to do that can not be answered only by the "science community." It deals with fundamental school policy and it is clearly within the province of the Board to exercise an informed judgement about it. Indeed, it may be one of the most important policies the board has had to issue. Although input from the "science community" is important, the Board should recognize that the scientific community is divided over the issue (See the Report).
2. Carefully revise the definition of science so that, at least in the area of origins science, it does not use a naturalistic assumption. Indeed, legally, it appears to me that one must discard use of epistemological naturalism in origins science - a science that unavoidably takes the state into a religious arena. Epistemological naturalism robs the state of its required neutrality, lacks secular purpose and amounts to viewpoint discrimination.
3. Encourage schools to teach origins science objectively and without religious, naturalistic or philosophic bias or assumption. Adoption of the Modifications would go a long way towards the accomplishment of this goal. Look again at the modifications. They are appended to the Report. They reflect a very modest approach to the subject. They have been endorsed by a significant number of credentialed scientists, lawyers and Ohioans.
4. Adopt a statement that will encourage the development of curriculum that will help students think critically, understand the full range of scientific views that exist regarding the origins of life, and understand why origins science may generate controversy. In particular, make it perfectly clear that teachers and students are permitted to discuss scientific criticisms of evolutionary theory.
5. Do not adopt the Standards as currently proposed "as is." I believe those proposals provide for state sponsored indoctrination in naturalism contrary to the establishment and speech clauses of the First Amendment. Teaching Origins Science in Public Schools, the Utah Law Review article by Professors David DeWolf and Stephen Meyer and my Feb 4, memo regarding the Freiler case provide the authority for this opinion.
In concluding this long letter I am reminded of Lance Armstrong's inspiring battle with cancer. Lance is the American cyclist who twice won the Tour De France after winning that battle. He was successful in part because he sought second opinions about how to deal with a very severe case of the disease. Similarly, I strongly urge you to seek additional legal advice on these important issues. In doing so, it is particularly important that your counsel fully understand the issues presented by the proposed standards, the scientific bases for the design hypothesis, the manner in which a design inference is developed, the evidence upon which it is based, the historical nature of origins science and the effect of an undisclosed use of epistemological/methodological naturalism in that area of science. I assume you would also furnish them this letter, Teaching Origins Science in Public Schools, the February 4 memo on the Freiler case and the Utah Law Review article by Professors DeWolf and Meyer.
I would also welcome the opportunity to meet and discuss these issues with your counsel on a face-to-face basis. This kind of dialogue would promote a friendly and productive process.
Thanks for your kind consideration of these thoughts about an issue that has once again attracted the attention of the world.
Very truly yours,
John H. Calvert, Esq.
1. Report on Comments on Proposed Modifications to Draft of Ohio Science Academic Content Standards, Tenth Grade, Life Sciences Section (indicators only), As of January 31, 2002 (Intelligent Design network, inc., February 4, 2002, at http://www.intelligentdesignnetwork.org/ohiopoll.htm). The Report was furnished to the Committee on February 4, 2002.
2. This is Dr. Haury 's term for "methodological naturalism" which is also known as scientific materialism. I will use Dr. Haury's term to avoid confusion in this letter. In Teaching Origins Science and other writings I have referred to it as "methodological naturalism." By same token, Dr. Haury refers to "philosophical naturalism" as "metaphysical naturalism." Again , I will use his term in this letter. They mean the same thing.
3. Dr Haury used a definition of science that is limited to "gathering observational data about 'natural events.'" Although this language would not expressly exclude events ordered by intelligence, his advocacy of the use of epistemological naturalism - the assumption against design and non-natural entities - would dictate that interpretation. Hence, his definition is essentially the same as the one that has been added to the proposed standards - the definition that permits only "natural explanations for natural phenomena."
4. The indicators reflect revisions made on February 8 to Indicators 20 and 21, respectively that appear in the first draft and which are discussed in the Modifications.
5. Dr. Haury's materials did include a suggestion that the District Court's decision in the Freiler case had categorized design theory as impermissible "creation science." However, my memo of February 4, 2002, clearly shows that Freiler rather than censoring design theory suggests schools should permit discussions of alternative theories.