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The Talk.Origins Archive: Exploring the Creation/Evolution Controversy

Kansas Evolution Hearings

Part 4


CHAIRMAN ABRAMS: We're going to go ahead and get started again. If we could have order and take your seat, please. Mr. Calvert.

MR. IRIGONEGARAY: Just a moment, please.

MR. CALVERT: Doctor Abrams, members of the committee, Mr. Irigonegaray, I would like to introduce to you Doctor John Sanford.

JOHN SANFORD, Ph.D., called as a witness on behalf of the Minority, and testified as follows:


Q. Doctor Sanford, can you tell us a bit about your background and how that qualifies you to testify today?

A. Okay. I'm glad to be here. My name is John Sanford. Just to explain how I got to be here, Doctor John Calvert asked me to testify for you. And I'm not coming here as an advocate, I'm not here really to write your guidelines for you. But if you have questions for me, I'm happy to answer them. So I-- I have not-- I've not studied all the drafts, but I have simply researched for you, and I've taken three days of my life to donate to this discussion. I hope I can answer your questions adequately.

My background is I have training in the area of plant breeding and plant genetics. My Ph.D. is from the University of Wisconsin. I've been a Cornell professor for 25 years. Retired. When I was at Cornell, I did a very diverse range of research. I published on many different topics, had 70 publications in scientific journals, over 25 patents. My main claim to fame is I'm the primary inventor of the GeneGun technology, which has been used extensively in plant genetic engineering. So when the GeneGun technology was developed, I was able-- I was very blessed and able to take a lot of revenue from that. It was a very financially-rewarding invention which eventually let me leave Cornell. So right now I'm a courtesy professor at Cornell with an office there, but I'm not on a paid-- a paid faculty. And I'm presently in the process of writing books. So that's my background.

I-- just one more comment in terms of my qualifications to discuss this, is most of my career I've been an atheistic evolutionist, later in life I became a theistic evolutionist, and later I became a-- a Biblical Christian. And so I'm sure-- as the prosecutor will be asking me, I do have a Christian perspective.

Q. Doctor Sanford, when did you switch from atheism to a Christian world view?

A. About 20 years ago.

Q. And--

MR. IRIGONEGARAY: Excuse me, I'm going to-- this is irrelevant to the standards. And I-- I don't think it does any good to get involved in this.

MR. CALVERT: The rules do not permit this type of interruption.

MR. IRIGONEGARAY: Well, there's got to be some relevancy.

MR. CALVERT: Would you please answer?

CHAIRMAN ABRAMS: He has the time to allow-- to do as he wants to do.

Q. (BY MR. CALVERT) All right. You may answer the question.

A. Twenty years.

Q. Twenty years ago?

A. Yes.

Q. And so-- and I think you said that you were a theistic evolutionist for a period of time after that. You know, why-- why was that?

A. I had been trained in evolution and everything I had ever thought was in terms of evolution. For me, it was a-- as clear as the world around us. It was just uncontestable. But in retrospect, I had not critically assessed much of what I believed. I believed it based upon very little, without critical assessment.

Q. So would it be fair to say that while you were an atheist, you didn't find any personal reasons to critically analyze the theory or to challenge it?

A. Yes. Well, as an atheist, there's no-- there's no alternative hypothesis because if-- if no one-- and there's no designer or creator, then you have to believe that the universe created itself.

Q. So you-- 20 years ago you became a Christian and then at some subsequent time and you-- let me ask you this; do you use evolutionary biology in your operational science?

A. I don't use it. And when I was an evolutionist, I would have argued that evolutionary theory is critical to being a good scientist. I actually realized that it's-- my best science has been done since that time. I've also realized that historically all the founding fathers of science were non-evolutionists and many of them were anti-evolutionists. So I realized that good science is not in any way conditioned upon accepting the evolutionary theory.

Q. The-- is it fair to say then that-- well, you-- you switched from Christianity-- from atheism to Christianity 20 years ago and then there was a period of time where you were a-- I think you described a theistic evolutionist; is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. And then during that period of time, did you have any cause or reason to or did you challenge or critically analyze evolutionary theories?

A. I-- I did not generally question the-- the documents that I had been taught. They were like foundational beliefs and I did not generally question them.

Q. And then at some point in time something caused you to begin to question it?

A. So I had--

Q. Is that correct?

A. Yes. I had friends who basically said, have you looked at the other side? And I said, what other side? I honestly had been at Cornell at that point 20 years and I really did not know that there was a-- a legitimate position which could contest evolutionary assumptions.

Q. And so then you began to look at it critically?

A. I began to look at it critically and for several years I was intrigued by alternative explanations for many different things. And so this was a-- a time of great intellectual excitement for me. So looking at alternatives to evolution, I did not find mental-- mentally deadening but rather incredibly stimulating. And I basically went back and reassessed everything I had ever knew.

Q. What-- what is the GeneGun?

A. The GeneGun is a process, an apparatus for delivering DNA into cells and tissues, and it's been used for genetic engineering of plants and for experimentation in the medical science.

Q. I want you to-- I just lost my file. Doctor Sanford, we have discussed in the proceedings today the definition of evolution as contained in the proposed science standards. And I-- the minority report would substitute the definition of science as, "The human activity of seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us," for a more objective definition. The substituted definition, does it-- in your view, is that important to methodological naturalism? And if so, would you please explain your answer.

A. Okay. The definition of science is tricky business and requires a lot of word-smithing, and I can appreciate the difficulty of coming up with a definition that's acceptable to everyone. I personally believe that the minority report's definition is a slight improvement over the other because it does define science somewhat more broadly.

For example, the first definition talks about only studying physical-- the physical or material world, but there are things that we can study that are not material. For example, information is a non-material entity. As a geneticist, I'm very interested in information. And even though it is often carried through material substances like a CD disk or a tape or a piece of paper, it, itself, is a non-material entity. And so I-- I have a slight preference for the minority's definition of science.

Q. Okay. What--

A. In terms-- yes.

Q. I-- I cut you off.

A. Okay. In terms of methodological naturalism, methodological materialism, I do believe that methodological implies science and naturalism implies philosophy. So we-- one can, in fact, use the methodology of science to study things without a materialistic or a naturalistic philosophy behind it.

Q. Do you believe that the definition in the minority report, which limits explanation to just natural phenomena, describes the science too narrowly? And does that impact, in your view, the issue of religion?

A. I think that in-- in the case that we're discussing, which is the issue of origins, it isn't a reasonable pre-assumption that everything occurred strictly by natural law. In fact, that is the very question, is-- was-- in the beginning did everything arise from natural law or was there a designer. That's-- that isn't-- shouldn't be a premise, it should be the question. In other words, we will use science to ask-- to examine evidence for or against a design versus a randomly-occurring universe.

Q. You've mentioned operational science and historical science in your testimony. And I want to direct your attention to one proposed change in the standards that relates to the issue of historical science. In this particular indicator, the minority-- this is relating to earth and space science. And the proposed indicator would have students understand how to test an historical hypothesis about the cause of a remote past event by formulating competing hypotheses and then describing the kind of data that would support one and refute the other.

A. Uh-huh.

Q. I think we had a discussion a while back and you made the comment that you did not realize that there was a distinction about-- between historical and experimental science until a few years ago. And so I would like you to comment upon that, as well as this indicator, and the importance for students to understand the distinction.

A. Okay. I think that what's proposed is excellent because developing alternative hypotheses and then defining experiments to discriminate between which hypotheses are stronger than others is critical to scientific method and critical to critical thinking. So I think that's an excellent addition to the curriculum. I entirely support it. And I also support the idea of getting students to recognize the distinction between operational science and historical science.

And for myself, as you point out, I often fail to make that distinction even as a Cornell scientist. And I know that many of my colleagues have often failed to make that distinction. If you pick up the General Science and go through it, you'll see that there are some publications which are easily verifiable by any laboratory in the world. That's operational science.

There are other publications which are speaking about non-reproducible events in the distant past which really is historical science. And it is very important to distinguish them for this reason: Operational science must be reproducible. It's incredibly important. It's not science if you can't-- if someone else on the other side of the world can't reproduce your experiment. But historical science is not reproducible.

Let me give you a quick illustration. It's often said that Josephine poisoned Bonaparte, Napoleon, okay? That's historical science. And they say, look, we have scientific proof that she did it because we found arsenic in the bones of the person who's buried in Napoleon's grave.

But I would like to distinguish for you what part of that is operational science and what part is historical science. If we test for arsenic in those bones, you can send it out to twenty different laboratories around the world and they'll all give you roughly an agreement about how much arsenic is in those bones. That's operational science and it's reproducible. Everybody can agree to it.

But there's also historical science. Given the importance and political intrigue associated with Napoleon, was it Napoleon buried in Napoleon's grave? That's an inference. Was he exposed to arsenic by accident or on purpose? That's an inference. If he was exposed to Napoleon (sic) on purpose, was it his wife or someone else or himself? So there's a great deal of inference.

So although it's a science to say we found bones-- we found arsenic in the bones in the grave of Napoleon, that's operational science. Historical science was Napoleon-- (reporter interruption). I'm sorry. Historical science says that Josephine poisoned her husband. It's incredibly important to distinguish these two things.

I'm seeing a lot of novels being published today by evolutionary scientists where they take the next step. If you are a novelist and you wrote about the story of how Josephine poisoned her husband, that's called historic fiction. The problem is historical science can easily blur into historical fiction because there's no accountability, it's largely speculation.

Q. Would you describe evolutionary biology as-- in large part an historical science?

A. It is entirely a historical science. This is-- this is why the distinction is so important. A lot of people say if you don't agree with the current form of historical science in terms of evolution, you are a threat to science at large. But you're not. Operational science is not being challenged.

The space shuttle, modern medicine, modern agriculture, telecommunications, that's all operational science. It is not influenced by this discussion of human origins. It is-- everyone is supportive of that type of science. Historical science becomes more and more uncertain and increasingly subject to error the further back you go and the more inferences that are made. And so very quickly, when you talk about very remote or very ancient events, you're talking speculation instead of science.

Q. I'd like to turn to a more operational science discussion here, and this is with respect to the evolution benchmark. There's an indicator that is proposed by the minority, it's Indicator 2B of the evolution benchmark. And it states, "Inheritable traits may result from new combinations of genes from random mutations or changes in the reproductive cells." And then there's this sentence, quote, "Except in very rare cases, mutations may be-- that may be inherited are neutral, deleterious or fatal." Are those scientifically-valid statements, and particularly the second one, and is it something that students should be aware of to enhance their understanding of biological evolution?

A. I believe those statements are entirely accurate. And the second part of it relates directly to my own area of current research. I'm looking at the question of whether mutation plus selection can create a genome-- or I mean sustain a genome. And I've been studying the nature of mutation a great deal. And geneticists are-- universally agree that-- that mutation is overwhelmingly deleterious.

The ratio of deleterious to beneficial mutations is generally put at about-- at a million to one. One-- for every one beneficial mutation, there's as many as a million deleterious. The most optimistic numbers offered which have-- which I don't believe are well-founded are 1,000 to 1. In other words, there are at least a thousand deleterious mutations for every beneficial one.

Q. I believe you have a-- a power point presentation that deals with this issue that-- are you--

A. I would be happy to share some of my current research with the committee, if they would like.

Q. Okay. And also, in the standards that are proposed by the minority, the minority suggests that intelligent design not be required to be in the standards itself so that the students would not be-- teachers would not be required to teach intelligent design theory or to test the students on it, but that the state would encourage that it not be prohibited.

A. Uh-huh.

Q. And so as you comment on this issue regarding the beneficial mutations, I believe that your comments also tie into your-- your idea that the data is showing actually evidence of design, is that correct, and would--

A. I believe there's evidence of design in the genome. The genome itself is evidence of design. I also believe that as we study the nature of mutation and the genome and what selection can do, that it is a powerful argument against one of the central tenets of evolution, which is that mutation plus selection creates information. So that's-- that's the technical side.

The other side you raise is, should this be open to discussion in the classroom. And I think I'll try to separate them and deal with them one at a time.

Q. Okay. Now, we have just a few minutes left, so--

A. Okay. Because-- for lack of time, let's skip through. Keep going. Okay. Let's stop there for a second. This is the theme of my research. Most-- okay. I'd like to draw an analogy between biological complexity and the information that underlies it, okay?

Most biologists would agree that the human body is much more complex than any human technology that's ever been developed. The space shuttle is enormously simple, it's child's play compared to the design of the human body. So seeking for a-- a technological analogy to life, I've had to go into fiction, fictional technology, the U.S.S. Enterprise.

Okay. This spaceship with its warp-speed engines and holodeck is a closer analogy to the human body than any other technology that we can think of. But most biologists focus on the biological complexity, which is above. But as a geneticist, I'm interested in what's beneath it, and that is the instruction manuals that specify all that complexity. That is the genome.

Okay. Please, quick. So when we talk about historical science from a genetic point of view, the most popular view is that the genome is-- is the book of life. That's a term that's often used in genetics and that it is an instruction manual. And the central axiom of genetics from an evolutionary point of view is that the author of the book of life had misspellings and selective screening or natural-- what's called natural selection. That is absolutely central to Darwin and it is what's taught as the baseline truth for all evolutionary science.

Okay. So just to help you understand what-- what the current paradigm is, if you have a little red wagon and you have the instruction manual that goes with that, including manual-- instruction on how to make the metal, how to make the wheels, how to make the rubber, how to make the paint and how to put it all together, and if you start to introduce typographical errors into that and you select the purpose as superior performance of the wagon, okay, that's-- that's mutation and selection, it will eventually evolve into a superior form of technology.

So over time you might imagine that misspellings have-- have-- create a internal combustion engine and power brakes and all the rest to create a modern automobile. So the modern automobile is specified by a great deal of information. And it's-- if you include the robotic assembly lines and all the component parts, it's pretty mind-boggling how much information goes into an automobile. Enormous amount of specified complexity.

But if we imagine more misspellings in the manuals and perhaps it will develop into a higher form of technology, if you invoke even more mutation and selection, you might get to the final step, which is the next one, which brings us to the Starship Enterprise.

That is a very reasonable analogy for describing the primary axiom of evolutionary theory today. And so misspellings plus-- plus natural selection can explain that.

Now, I've always believed that. And about five years ago someone challenged me and said, are you sure that's true? And I started to examine that, and I've spent the last five years examining that. And I'm here to tell you it's not true. I can-- and it's-- and it's amazingly not true. It's, like, very exciting to look at what selection can and cannot do. So let's-- I don't have-- this would be an hour or two presentation for me to share it with you what I've been doing, so I'm going to try to consolidate it to 30 seconds. You know, so I'm sorry if I rushed through it.

But the actual genome, of course, looks a little bit like this, a t c g, on and on. And if you look at a screen like that every second, so you're just scanning the genome, I would ask you the question, how long would it take for you to look at your own genome, to read your own genome? Of course, you're not reading it, you're just scanning through it one page a second. The answer is, if we could just imagine it clicking every few seconds, it would take you-- if you worked 40 hours a week for the rest of your life and then some, it would take you 381 years, and you would only-- will have read half of your genome. So there's a-- a lot of information in the genome.

The question is, can mutations, which are misspellings, create that information or maintain it. So if we could just click again, I'm going to skip over those, we don't have a lot of time. If you picture misspellings in a text like an encyclopedia, any single misspelling is going to be incredibly trivial; isn't that true? It would be very hard to select. If you start to introduce misspellings into many different encyclopedia sets, it would be very difficult to distinguish which encyclopedia set has been more corrupted, but they're all being corrupted; isn't that right?

Can you picture how many misspellings would improve the content of an encyclopedia? That would be exceedingly rare, wouldn't it? That same factor is known for genetics.

So if-- if this graph shows a range of mutations, on the left minus one means it's a lethal mutation, in the middle a mutation which has no effect, and on the right is a mutation which would double fix, dramatic improvement. If this was true, natural selection would always work, you would just select away the bad ones and select for the good ones and you would always have a net gain of information. But all geneticists know it's not true. Click again.

When geneticists show a distribution of mutations, they don't show the beneficials. They're so rare that they're not even considered. But this is still too optimistic. If we could click again. Most mutations are what are-- is called nearly neutral. That means that they have such a small effect that there's no visible effect on the level of the little red wagon. In other words, a typical misspelling in the assembly manual for a jet fighter will not have an impact on the jet fighter that you can measure and say this jet fighter is better. Does that make sense?

So this is actually a graph produced by a very famous evolutionary population biologist showing the distribution of mutations. And he-- Kimura is famous for putting the box-- do you see the blue box?

Q. The mutations on the right, from zero to .002, those are the positive mutations?

A. So--

Q. And they don't show up?

A. Right. They're-- Kimura does not show any positive mutations in his graph. And then he-- he shows the blue box. The blue box is mutations that are so subtle that they are unselectable. They cause nearly neutral mutations because they just-- they have no effect. They-- they evolve and are not deleterious--

TIMEKEEPER: If I may interrupt. Two minutes remain.

A. Okay. Well, you can see the difficulty of dealing with this in a short time. One more click. Two more clicks. If you look at this graph, I would challenge any evolutionist to explain to me how evolution can occur. You can't select away the bad ones within the box, you can't select for the good ones in the box. The only thing you can do is select away the ones on the far left which are the most deleterious mutations.

So I'm sorry I couldn't give you the whole story, but it's very fascinating. The bottom line is that the primary axiom is categorically false, you can't create information with misspellings, not even if you use natural selection.

Q. (BY MR. CALVERT) Thank you very much. Well, in the last 30 seconds, I believe you have reviewed the minority report in general. Do you have any general comments upon the propriety of those proposed changes?

A. The changes that were shown to me seem to be minor improvements. I-- I'm not quite sure what the big deal is, they're minimal-- minimal changes, in my opinion. It's incredibly important that students be-- have freedom of access to all the information. And because there is a major controversy about the origin of information, origin of life, whether the primary axiom is true, students have a right to know that. And there's nothing more stimulating for a student's mind than to be challenged with multiple hypotheses and being told, you research it and tell me what you think. That's awesome for students.

MR. CALVERT: Thank you. Thank you very much. Your witness.

CHAIRMAN ABRAMS: Mr. Irigonegaray, sixteen minutes.

MR. IRIGONEGARAY: Thank you, sir.


Q. Sir, I have a few-- I have a few questions that I would like to ask you for the record.

A. Uh-huh.

Q. First of all, do you have a personal opinion as to what the age of the world is?

A. I do have a personal opinion.

Q. And what is that personal opinion specifically as to the age? And I'm interested only in the age, not an explanation.

A. I believe that I was wrong in my previous belief that it's 4.5 billion years old and that it's much younger.

Q. How old is the earth, in your opinion?

A. I cannot intelligently say how old it is except it's much younger than I think widely believed.

Q. Give me your best estimate.

A. Less than 100,000 years old.

Q. Less than 10,000?

A. Conceivably.

Q. Conceivably less than 10,000?

A. Yes.

Q. Conceivably less than 5,000?

A. No.

Q. So it's somewhere between 5 and 10,000 years of age?

A. Between 5 and 100,000. But I would like to--

Q. No, I'm asking the questions.

A. Okay. You ask the questions.

Q. Do you accept the general principle of common descent, that all of life is biologically related back to the beginning of life? Yes or no?

A. No.

Q. Do you accept that human beings are related by common descent to prehominid ancestors? Yes or no.

A. No.

Q. If the answer is no, as you have indicated--

A. Uh-huh.

Q. -- what is your explanation for how human-- the human species came into existence?

A. My explanation, humbly offered, is that we were created by a special creation, by God.

Q. And when did that occur?

A. Relatively recent by-- by-- in terms of conventional wisdom. Very-- very recently by conventional wisdom.

Q. Well, according to your opinion, when did that occur?

A. I'm not going to speculate on-- on--

Q. No, I'm not asking you to speculate.

A. Well, you're--

Q. Based-- please listen to my question.

A. What is my--

Q. Based on your opinion, when did that occur?

A. It happened recently. And it's not just my opinion, it's based upon--

Q. Sir--

A. -- analysis--

Q. I'm not asking about recently. Do you have a date?

A. I do not have a date.

Q. Do you have an estimate of the date?

A. I do not.

Q. Less than 5,000 years ago?

A. You know, I'm not going to-- you can play that game.

Q. I'm not--

A. But I-- I'm saying I don't know exactly how old it is.

Q. All right. That's fine.

A. But I do-- I'm willing to tell you that I think it's considerably younger than-- much younger than people are generally told.

Q. Have you read in toto the majority report to the Board of Education?

A. I have not.

Q. So you have been brought here to criticize the majority report without having read it. Correct?

A. That's incorrect.

Q. It is true you have not read it?

A. It is true I have not read it. I-- I didn't come here to criticize anything.

Q. Sir, just answer my question.

A. I am answering your question.

Q. The answer was no, you haven't read it. That's all I asked for.

A. Uh-huh.

Q. Do you believe that science teachers in Kansas when teaching science and evolution as outlined in the current standards, and although you haven't read them, based upon what you've been told--

A. Uh-huh.

Q. -- are leading students to this conclusion; that they are meaningless accidents with no intrinsic purpose?

A. I believe that's a very common teaching in many public schools.

Q. I wasn't asking about many public schools. Based upon what you've been told, is that your opinion as to what's going on in Kansas?

A. You're asking me to assess things I can't assess. I-- I come here to offer my expert testimony in my area, and I'm sorry if I can't give you satisfactory answers to everything you would like to know.

Q. Do you agree with-- have you read the minority report in toto?

A. Yes.

Q. Were you-- strike that. Do you agree with the minority report that teaching science as it is currently practiced constitutes an indoctrination in the philosophy of naturalism, a philosophy key to known theistic belief systems? Yes or no.

A. I believe that statement is correct.

Q. Does this mean to you that the current Draft 2 religiously quotes-- discriminates against theistic beliefs such as Christians?

A. No, I think that's too strong a statement. I-- if you're-- you're asking me to--

Q. I'm just asking you for a yes or no answer, sir.

A. Okay. So the answer is neither.

Q. Neither. You say you hold a Christian view. You understand that that is not very helpful, as many Christians accept both the great age of the earth and common descent. Do you agree with that statement?

A. Many Christians have-- hold many different positions. It's a very-- many positions are held by Christians. I offered that information because your line of questioning clearly goes there, and so I'm just telling you where I'm coming from.

Q. Is the answer to the question yes or no?

A. Okay. Let's phrase the question-- your question--

Q. Let me read my question to you again, sir.

A. Yes, please.

Q. You have indicated to us you hold a Christian view.

A. Uh-huh.

Q. And I suggest to you that is not very helpful.

A. That's okay. I--

Q. Please let me finish the question, sir.

A. Uh-huh.

Q. And please understand this is not-- this is not in any way an attack on your religious views. We respect those.

A. Uh-huh.

Q. We respect those fully and we would defend your right to whatever religious views you hold, that's not the purpose of the question.

A. Uh-huh.

Q. Would you accept then the proposition that many Christians, as scientists and as lay people, accept the great age of the earth as well as common descent?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you agree with Mr. Philip Johnson's opinion as a strong proponent of the minority-- as a strong proponent of intelligent design, that the teaching of science as is currently practiced is an indoctrination in naturalism?

A. Yes, I think that's generally true.

Q. And you would define naturalism as a philosophy that does not allow room for a religious belief?

A. Well, naturalism is a religious belief, but it doesn't leave room for God.

Q. And is it your opinion that the study of science--

A. Uh-huh.

Q. -- in an effort to simply understand nature--

A. Uh-huh.

Q. -- and to provide natural answers to observations--

A. Uh-huh.

Q. -- must, therefore, be naturalists?

A. No, I think that the study of science is the study of-- of-- pursuit of truth using a methodological approach, which is reproducible by others.

Q. And would you agree that that process must remain neutral as it relates to religion?

A. I believe that there's not a neutral scientist on the planet. When I was an evolutionist, I was not neutral and as a-- a person who believes in design, I am not neutral.

Q. I'm not asking you, sir-- I'm not asking, sir, about whether or not individual scientists may or may not have religious views. I'm asking you whether their work in science--

A. Uh-huh.

Q. -- the scientific process--

A. Uh-huh.

Q. -- must it, in order to be valid, remain free of a supernatural implication?

A. I disagree with that.

Q. Is it your opinion that the science and the study of science in our school should include supernatural explanations to natural events?

A. No. I believe the educational process should encourage students to examine the alternative hypotheses and all the evidence, pro and con, so they can make intelligent decisions.

Q. Would it surprise you to learn that that is precisely what the majority opinion states in this Draft 2, that students are encouraged--

A. Uh-huh.

Q. -- and, in fact, are encouraged with their teachers to discuss a broad range of ideas about evolution? You were not aware of that, were you?

A. I think that's great.

Q. You were not aware of that, were you, because you have not read the standards.

A. Yes, I don't feel bad about not having read the standards. I came here as a courtesy to the committee to share my expert opinion. If you don't like that, that's your problem.

Q. Do you agree with Phillip Johnson in the following quote, "Liberal Christians, theistic evolutionists are worse than atheists because they hide their naturalism behind a veneer of religion." Do you agree with that statement?

A. No, I don't.

Q. Would you comment on the following statement by William Dembski, the main theorist of intelligent design, who wrote, "Design theorists are no friends of theistic evolution. As far as design theorists are concerned, theistic evolution is American evangelism, ill-conceived accommodations to Darwinism. What theistic evolution does is to take the-- is to take the Darwinian--" I lost my page. "What theistic evolution does is to take the Darwinian theory and make it, in fact, almost a theistic view." Would you agree with that?

A. No. I believe there's a very diverse group of scientists who dissent from evolutionary perspective. They include theistic evolutionists, they include old earth creationists, young earth creationists and a lot of people who don't know, but they just don't buy the evolutionary story.

Q. Would you agree, sir, that there are observations for which we simply today do not have an answer using the scientific process?

A. Absolutely.

Q. And would you further agree, sir, that those particular limitations have handicapped science since the beginning?

A. No, I wouldn't put it that way.

Q. Is it your opinion that science has always been able to come up with the answers?

A. Certainly not.

Q. So, therefore, you would agree that historically science has not always been able to come up with an answer to a natural observation at any point in time?

A. Yes.

Q. And would you then believe that it is appropriate for scientists, when they cannot find a natural answer to observations, to simply rely on a supernatural explanation for that observation?

A. They should look for the best hypothesis to fit the evidence.

Q. My question--

A. Which can include a supernatural explanation when you're talking about origins and historical science.

Q. Did you-- did you not tell me a little bit ago--

A. Uh-huh.

Q. -- that science should be neutral?

A. I did.

Q. And if science should be neutral, how could it be a good idea to impose a supernatural explanation to something that we simply don't understand?

A. You're trying to put your words into my mouth. I'm sorry, I just--

Q. Is--

A. -- won't be guided in that way.

Q. Is science neutral--

TIMEKEEPER: Two minutes remain.

Q. (BY MR. IRIGONEGARAY) Is science supposed to be neutral?

A. Science ideally should be neutral. It seldom has been.

Q. If science is ideally supposed to be neutral, how can we justify - because we do not understand a natural phenomenon - the attachment to the answer of supernatural explanations?

A. See, those are your words, not mine. What I would advocate is when we don't know something, we develop hypotheses and we test them.

Q. Do you believe in intelligent design?

A. I do.

Q. Do you believe intelligent design answers questions that we yet don't know in science?

A. No. I believe that it's not just a matter of arguing that we don't know enough, so it must have been God. I believe there's powerful evidence against the primary axiom and that in the absence of adequate evolutionary explanations, it is reasonable and rational to seek other explanations.

Q. Do you believe the National Academy of Science and all other major scientific bodies in this nation and indeed the world--

A. Uh-huh.

Q. -- are simply biased against intelligent design?

A. I wouldn't say simply, but I-- I do know that when-- when surveys have been taken, whereas 40 percent of scientists believe in God, only 4 percent of the National Academy members do. So I do believe it-- it represents a limited cross-section of scientists, yes. And they're self-selected. You have to be-- you're-- you're elected by existing members, so there is a tendency for that group to be homogeneous and self-selecting.

Q. Homogeneous and what?

A. Self-selecting. To become a national member, you have to be nominated and elected by the existing members.

Q. Do you think merit and knowledge, research, peer articles--

A. Absolutely.

Q. -- may have anything to do with that?

A. Yes. Yes. All the people on that committee are extremely intelligent, very highly-accomplished scientists.

MR. IRIGONEGARAY: I have nothing further.

CHAIRMAN ABRAMS: Thank you. We have eight minutes.


Q. Doctor Sanford, thank you for coming. I wish we could hear you speak for hours actually. It's fascinating and thank you for your work. Can you give me a number, a ratio of the mutations that are lethal versus those that are healthy? One to what number would I fill in the blank with?

A. Lethal to?

Q. To a healthy or a positive mutation.

A. Okay. Lethals are very rare, beneficials are even more rare. I-- I would have to think about the number. I don't want to just throw a number out.

Q. That's fine.

A. But lethals are extremely rare. They're not the problem, it's the near neutrals ironically. It's-- it's-- it's like rust in a car, it's the stuff you can't see, the deterioration you can't see, that you can't stop.

Q. Okay. That's great. Thank you.


Q. Doctor Sanford, you stated that evolutionary concepts were taught as foundational when you were in school doing your graduate work and you believed them. Were those-- after you went through your Ph.D. program and post-doctoral and started into your research that you're currently involved in, were those concepts central to your research, the near Darwinian evolutionary concepts?

A. Evolutionary theory was taught to me since I was a little boy. I never-- I didn't even know that people didn't agree with this, I considered it as universally accepted. When I was in college and graduate school and early in my career, it was more than a foundation, it was actually my religion. I based my personal ambitions and hopes and dreams upon it, helping to continue the evolution of the human species. And I had defined my own reality based upon what will advance evolution.

But evolution did not help me in my work. My work was always directed from the point of view of there must be a logical explanation. In fact, the belief that we live in a rationally-designed world is the reason why scientific exploration can be trusted to produce results.

Q. I've been a proponent of empirical science, you've probably heard that.

A. Uh-huh.

Q. Observable, measurable, testable, repeatable, and falsifiable. Those are the tenets in which I believe empirical science is-- with which people do good in science. Does empirical science provide data of the type that would support one hypothesis and refute another?

A. Yes.

Q. Is that something that would eliminate biases?

A. Generally you don't find in the operational sciences a lot of controversy because things are verifiable. And if someone questions whether the density of gold is-- is a certain amount, people go out and test it and they put the controversy to rest. And so there's a strong consensus within operational science.

Q. Would you like to discuss or comment on the philosophical claims or the religious claims that are made in the name of science?

A. I think that it's very important that when we as scientists talk about science, that we separate historical science from operational science because the-- the benefits that mankind enjoys, like longer life and-- and more creature comforts and the elimination of hunger, these things come from operational science. But historical science is more in the realm of philosophy. As you develop your theories of history, your theories are very much colored by your real view, you tend to paint a past that fits your ideology.

Q. So how would you describe the ability of the-- of the majority draft and how would you describe the ability of the minority draft to teach the student to distinguish between the different types of data and testable theories of science from religious and philosophical claims that are made in the name of science?

A. I believe that the minority report where I've seen word-for-word comparisons and changes that have been made seems to take a small step toward greater objectivity and greater intellectual freedom for the teachers and the students, which I think is really good.

CHAIRMAN ABRAMS: Thank you very much.



MR. CALVERT: As our next witness we would like to call Doctor Robert DiSilvestro, professor of nutrition at I believe it's Ohio State University.

ROBERT DiSILVESTRO, Ph.D., called as a witness on behalf of the Minority, testified as follows:


Q. Doctor DiSilvestro, would you please give us a little bit about your background and your qualifications to testify with respect to science standards.

A. Yes. I have a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Texas A&M. I'm currently a professor of nutrition at Ohio State University. My research has evolved over the years but with design. Starting from very basic studies of proteins that contain minerals to now looking at some very applied human nutrition and other biomedical issues.

And one of the things I do now to a large extent is try to design pharmaceutical and nutraceutical interventions that affect biological processes for a desired purpose. So I think I bring a little bit of a different perspective to this whole issue because I'm actually trying to change biological systems by design, and I think that gives me a perspective on how hard it is to get what you want without getting a lot of side effects.

And I find it hard to believe that even with me knowing a little bit about life processes and how hard it is for me to get what I want without getting bad consequences, that random processes could do a better job than all us Ph.D.s could do when we're trying to change processes for good.

I have almost 80 peer-reviewed scientific research journal articles, plus I've written various commentaries for both scientific publications as well as the lay public.

Q. Are you working or do you sponsor a research lab?

A. Yes, I have a-- a lab. I currently have five grad students, some undergrads, a couple of technicians.

Q. And what does that lab or that project investigate?

A. Well, we-- as I said, we do a variety of things. I still do some real biochemistry, for example now I'm involved in a project looking at multiple sclerosis. We're testing hypotheses that if we can increase the gene expression for a certain zinc-containing protein and do it at several different stages of the process of gene expression, if we can do that, we might be able to minimize the symptoms of people that have multiple sclerosis. That's an example of a project I'm doing.

Q. You mentioned that you were using design-type thinking in your current research. I would like you to comment on one provision in the evolution benchmark. It's Indicator 6, and I need to put that up on the screen.

Okay. The indicator says, "Biological evolution is used as a broad, unifying theoretical framework for biology." I would like to ask you to first comment on that. To what extent do you use evolutionary theory in the-- in the work that you're doing right now?

A. Well, there's a popular statement that nothing in biology makes sense in light of evolution. I challenge anyone to tell me any single area of biomedical research that one couldn't do if they didn't accept Darwin's current ideas. I-- I'm waiting to hear it. I can't think of a single one. And that question has been asked to some people and they can't give me an answer, either.

So in my work, what I work on could be interpreted in light of some evolutionary theories, but it's not required that I hold a particular theory in order to do my work. I could believe in Darwin, I could believe in punctuated equilibrium, I could believe in spacemen, I could believe in intelligent design. And I pretty much do the work in more or less the same way.

I know people are saying, well, you can't bring religious prejudice to the table. Well, if I'm not mistaken, Newton is one of the greatest scientists of all time, started with the premise that God designed the universe, so it was his job to figure out a little bit about what God did.

Q. Moving on in that indicator on the additional-- on the right-hand side of the column, it says, "Natural selection, genetic drift genomes and the mechanism of genetic change provide a context in which to ask research questions and help explain observed changes in population." What kind of research questions are they talking about there?

A. Well, I think that's a common idea in theory but not in practice. I've read hundreds of biomedical research papers, I've been to hundreds of talks, and evolution is only brought up once in a great, great while. For the most part, it's never even brought up, which is something I wanted to comment on and it's in my written statement, which hopefully some of you got.

When I was involved in the whole Ohio debate over the science standard issues, one of the counterpoints that was brought up was that in a debate you need to keep things fair, so we have two on one side and two on the other side. But if we were really debating all the scientists that could line up on each side, we would have thousands and thousands of scientists over here, and we would only have a handful of people on the other side. I think that's an erroneous idea.

In reality, there are a handful of people that have really gone through the Darwinian ideas, have come to the conclusion that they make compelling sense. There are a few, like myself, who questioned those ideas and have come to the conclusion that they make compelling nonsense. But the overwhelming majority of scientists have never even thought about the question.

My own case, I was an undergrad in biochemistry, I changed some of my spiritual beliefs during college, but I thought the whole idea of evolution was pretty irrelevant. My feeling was, well, let's get through that pretty quickly so I can go on to the areas that are really important that I'm going to use in my job, and I really didn't care about the issue.

And it really wasn't until I was in grad school when I saw that there was this double standard, that my research and almost every other research I knew of was subject to certain kinds of scrutiny. And when it came to origins issues, origin of life, origin of species, these researchers seemed to get a pass on the kind of scrutiny that my research and pretty much every other person's research was subject to. So that was really what got me interested.

But I think the overwhelming majority of scientists, of life scientists, have not really considered the-- the area very critically. Most of us are too busy trying to design drugs, study agriculture, examine ecosystems, do whatever we do for our job, and we more or less take the word of what we were taught, that Darwin's ideas are very solid because that's what we were told, and we're busy doing other things now.

That's not just my opinion, that opinion has been reflected in a publication that goes around to a very large group of scientists and the-- the name of the publication is not very clever, it's called Scientists. But there was an editorial in there where-- basically it was called Curiosity Won't Kill the Science Class. And someone was encouraging more consideration of Darwin from a critical perspective. His opinion was Darwin would come out pretty good if that was done.

And he got all kinds of letters to the editor. And there was one letter written by someone that is in favor of the Darwin ideas, but he made this comment, "Many biologists, I regret to say, don't really know and understand the issue of evolution." And then it goes on, it says, "And ask some biologists to define evolution in a short paragraph, you will wait, alas, in vain for a succinct and lucid explanation." I very much agree with that. I think most scientists have just never critically considered the issue.

Q. I had asked you to look at the very last sentence in that section we're talking about. And the sentence says, "However, reverse engineering and indirected thinking are used to understand the function of biochemical-- or biosystems and information." And I guess that refers to bioinformation. But would you agree with that?

A. Yes. I-- information, as was mentioned by the last speaker, is incredibly complex to life's systems. And as I said, I try to deal with things. It's much easier to get things to go wrong than to get things to go right. And I've heard the comment that given enough time, the unlikely becomes likely. Well, all I can say is given enough time, there's much more of a chance that things can go wrong and break down than to lead to something that functionally makes sense. It's much easier to mess something up than to make something work properly.

Now, along those lines I've heard, well, we have evidence for these microevolutionary changes within species, couldn't they just add up to changing the whole species. Interestingly, a professor at Ohio State that teaches an upper level course in evolution made the comment that that was one of the worst arguments that could be made for macroevolution. He said it's totally-- it's comparing apples and oranges. The kind of changes that take place that make these little microchanges in species could never add up to make a new species because they're-- they're just two different processes. That's what he said. And he is someone that very firmly believes in Darwin and teaches class on it.

I might say, by analogy, one could look at the record for high jump, it's gone up over the last 100 years. But nobody is going to say, well, given another thousand years, people-- the elite high jumpers will start jumping over five-story buildings. Nobody would accept that because the kinds of changes you would need for that to happen go way beyond the kind of changes you need to make the record go up by a few inches at a time.

So I would say that the tremendous amount of complexity in-- in biological systems and the number of ways that things can go wrong compared to the number of ways that things can go right and the limits to changes that take place in microevolution make it untenable to me to think you could make a whole new species or create life that way from no life.

Q. In-- in the work you do at the biochemical level, are you using methodological naturalism or some kind of methodological design to understand the system?

A. Well, I usually initially just start out by saying, how is the system currently working. And I could come to that conclusion either from a design standpoint or from Darwin's standpoint. I really look at what do we know. A lot of times we don't know everything, but what do we know and how can I best affect that system. So I-- I would say I come at it neutral initially.

Q. But do you ever look at the system as if it was designed and try to-- and assuming it was designed, trying to figure out how that design or-- or allow that-- that perception to-- to aid your investigation?

A. Sometimes I-- I think that way in the sense of, well, it was designed, what might happen. But in a lot of concepts of intelligent design, the initial design has changed. I mean, in a Christian concept, for example, of design the Christian concept would be there was a designer that designed everything good and humanity muck it up. And-- and so there would be evidence of the problems as well.

So even if-- even if I do believe there was a designer at the beginning, I also believe there could be problems along the way, so I may not-- may not always see the hand of design. So that's why I say I look really at the system as is, which could reflect design, it could also reflect problems that have developed.

Q. There is an indicator that this-- touches upon the description of scientific knowledge that I want you to look at. It's on the screen now. "Scientific knowledge begins with empirical observations." Oops. Here it is. "Scientific knowledge describes and explains," and the majority report would say, "explains the physical world in terms of matter, energy, and the forces." And the minority report would truncate that and simply say, "Scientific knowledge describes and explains the natural world." Would you comment on those?

A. I like that a little better because I'm not sure what forces are. And I think that's one of the reasons I've been interested in-- in the revisions. I think there's some areas where the majority report is saying something that I look at and I say, well, that could be exactly what I think, too, but I'm not sure because a lot of people will interpret it a lot of different ways. So I think the-- one of the good accomplishments of the minority report is to just say something specifically where there's room for more than one interpretation.

So something like forces, I'm not sure what that means. And I like the minority report because it states things a little more specifically.

Q. Going back to the evolution indicator. There is a-- I would like you to comment on this. This indicator talks about DNA, and there's a statement, "The sequence of nucleotide bases within genes is not dictated by a known chemical or physical law." Is that a scientifically-valid statement?

A. I would think so. Even in my son-- my son now, my son's classes at OSU, he's in honors biochemistry, and he says one of his professors said, boy, isn't it-- isn't it clever how nature manages to do all of this. And, you know, that was-- he's not coming from a theistic perspective at all, but-- but he's just saying that, you know, we can't really figure out how some of this arose.

And-- and to me, this is one of the great arguments for the idea that there could be design in the origin of life. It's what's called order and complexity, that you have order and complexity. I mean, you can have complexity, but it can be all gibberish. You can have order, like somebody saying, go Ohio State Buckeyes, but that's not really complex. But you can then have order and complexity where you have a Shakespeare play, for example. And the genetic codes have got amazing order and complexity.

And-- and no, I've never seen anywhere where anyone said we know how this came about. There are people that have ideas and hypotheses, but I've never even heard the most ardent of naturalists say we know how life started, we know the origin of the genetic code.

Q. They-- in the evolution indicator-- or Benchmark Indicator 1 explains generally the biological evolution concept. In-- in the additional specificity 1A, the minority report adds, "Biological evolution postulates an unpredictable and unguided natural process that has no discernible direction or goal." Is that a scientifically-valid statement?

A. Okay, that's really a philosophical statement, but I think it's important to state that because that's what a lot of people mean when they say evolution. As was indicated earlier today, there's-- there are words that a lot of people mean different things when they say in this whole debate area. So I think that's good to define that. That would be what a lot of people would say, that's what I mean when I say this word.

And in just the kind of-- to go a little further with that, there's been this idea that, what about the implications? Well, that type of a statement has profound theological implications. There's certainly people that hold certain beliefs, that even hold the beliefs that are called Christian that would have no problem with that, they would just say, you know, that's the way God planned it. There's other people that have certain beliefs where they would really have a hard time with that statement and they would say that that really goes against their beliefs.

But my feeling about science, I've heard a lot already about a science neutral. Science should be neutral in the sense of looking at the data and try as best you can to remove your prejudices in what it says. But science doesn't have to be neutral in what it concludes. We shouldn't say you can't teach certain things because it would have anti-religious implications. And that Darwin does, to many people, have anti-religious implications. But we shouldn't say, well, you can't get evidence to support that because that bothers someone's particular belief. By the same token, we can't say--

TIMEKEEPER: If I may interrupt. Two minutes remain.

A. We shouldn't say, well, you can't look at any evidence that points to design because that has religious implications. Your neutral in terms of scientists should be neutral in terms of trying to examine the data objectively, but you don't have to be neutral in what it applies (sic).

And a good example has to do with astronomy of a big bang. At Ohio State University there's a taught-- course taught in cosmology where they teach the big bang, and there's tremendous evidence of that, and the physical universe sprang from the nonphysical. They then say in their class notes, "And that's going to make you ask what caused that. Astronomy doesn't answer that question."

So they don't seem to have any problem with looking at science and looking at facts neutrally, but then saying, well, there are implications and science is supposed to say here's the way it is and then the-- it's up to the philosophy class, the religion class, whatever, to deal with the implications.

Q. (BY MR. CALVERT) In general, we have about a minute left, could you comment generally on the minority report and your view about the propriety of the state adopting that?

A. Well, I think for the most part what the minority report at least did from my reading, maybe some other people read it differently, was it made some very specific comments in some areas. I think there are areas that if you read-- as I said earlier, if you read the majority report, you might come away with the feeling of "I agree with that," and someone else might read it and see something completely different.

So my feeling was what the minority report did was made some statements that were very specific to clarify some language.

Q. Okay.

MR. CALVERT: Thank you very much, Doctor DiSilvestro. Pedro, your witness.

CHAIRMAN ABRAMS: Mr. Irigonegaray, you have ten minutes.


Q. I have just a few questions for you, sir. And for the record, I am interested first what is the age of the world, in your opinion?

A. Well, since that's out of my area, I can't really give an expert opinion, but I haven't heard of any major arguments against the four-and-a-half billion-year-old idea, so I don't challenge that idea.

Q. Do you accept the general principle of common descent, that all of life is biologically related back to the beginning of life?

A. I'm unconvinced of that idea.

Q. Do you accept that human beings are related by common descent to prehominid ancestors?

A. I'm unconvinced by that idea, also.

Q. If you were unconvinced by that idea, do you have an alternative explanation for how the human species came into existence?

A. I think design is a reasonable alternative.

Q. And the design you suggest is by a creator?

A. I would put that in and I would say it's reasonable, though there's other blind forces and other things that people might adapt.

Q. Doesn't intelligent design mean that human beings and other species were specially created since they weren't born of parents?

A. I would say intelligent design says that.

Q. And do you agree with that proposition?

A. I would, but I wouldn't ask the state to agree-- or I would not ask the state to teach my opinion in that area.

Q. I would like for you to listen first to the sentence I'm about to read. "There are many issues which involve morals, ethics, values, or spiritual beliefs that go beyond what science can explain but for which solid scientific literacy is useful." Would you agree with that sentence?

A. Partly. I would agree that there's more to learn, but in science we have to make opinions based on data we have. And in terms of origins, we actually have a lot of data that goes against the Darwin ideas.

Q. Sir, I just asked you if you agree or disagree, yes or no, with that sentence.

A. I'm not on trial, I can't answer that yes or no.

Q. You're not on trial. Sir, you're just simply being questioned, this is not a trial. Do you agree or disagree with that sentence?

A. Partly.

Q. Were you aware that that sentence is in the Draft 2 of the standards?

A. Yes, I am.

Q. You took the time to read the standards?

A. I read the parts that I considered controversial. I skipped over some of the parts that I didn't think were relevant to what I was going to discuss.

Q. Is it fair to say then that you have not read the totality of the standards?

A. That's fair to say.

MR. IRIGONEGARAY: I have nothing further for you.



Q. Doctor DiSilvestro.

A. That's very good with my name, thank you.

Q. You heard me say, I suspect, earlier that I'm a proponent of empirical science. Is that something that you believe would support one hypothesis over another and refute another?

A. Yes, very much. I think-- that's, I guess, why I got into this whole thing is I felt that when it came to issues like origin of life and origin of species that the same good science standards weren't always applied. I did give a written commentary out here, and it's-- basically the title is, you know, What Constitutes Good Science, particularly in some areas of statistics and probability.

Having gone through biochemistry, I never had a stats course. But now that I'm doing work with pharmacology, with nutrition, physiology, I found that I have to use tremendous amounts of statistical analysis, and papers wouldn't even-- the journals wouldn't even look at my papers if I don't have good stats. And I look at what I have to do to get a paper published, then I look at some of the statements made like-- like the one I said earlier, given enough time the improbable becomes probable. Well, in any other area of science, the question that would be asked back is, okay, how much time do you have available, how much time do you need before this becomes probable. And that's not asked here, and I think that's inconsistent with the rest of the science.

Q. Are there religious and philosophical claims that are made in the name of science?

A. I think there are implications. And as I mentioned earlier, maybe I've watched too many episodes of Law and Order, but I think that was kind of the-- the asked and answered thing, I think I-- what I said earlier still applies, that there could be implications of a science finding, but science needs to go forward, whether there's implications one way or another. If there's implications against certain spiritual or philosophical beliefs, they should be pursued. But by the same token, if there's some implications that help some spiritual or philosophical beliefs, I don't think we should say, well, we can't go forward in that area of science.

Q. Which leads to the second part of that. How would you describe the ability of the majority draft and minority draft to teach the students to distinguish between those two?

A. I think there's a lot of good guidelines in the majority report. I just think the minority report defines a few areas a little more precisely, and I think they would be good additions.

CHAIRMAN ABRAMS: Okay. I thank you. It is now 11:45. We'll break for lunch and we'll reconvene and start promptly at 1 o'clock.


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