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

Kansas Evolution Hearings

Part 7


CHAIRMAN ABRAMS: My apologies to you that have heard this twice before, but there are some that haven't been here. On behalf of the State Board of Education I welcome you to these hearings. My name is Steve Abrams. I'm chair of the State Board of Education and also chair of the science subcommittee. My fellow board members on the subcommittee are Mrs. Connie Morris and Mrs. Kathy Martin. The purpose of the hearings that will be held today are to assist us as State Board members in understanding the complex and oftentimes confusing issues regarding science education. A brief history of how we arrived at these hearings may be helpful. In June of last year a statewide committee appointed by the Commission of Education and comprised of twenty-six public and private educators spanning elementary, primary, secondary and post secondary levels, retired educators, curriculum coordinators and private practice physicians began the process of reviewing and revising the State science standards. The writing committee met several times between June and November and presented a draft of the standards to the State Board in December of 2004. At the same time, eight members of the writing committee submitted what is now referred to as the minority report asking the State Board to consider some changes to the draft. Through much discussion at the State Board, and subcommittee, the three of us was formed to further examine the issues contained in the minority report. Also after much discussion it was decided the best forum to address the issues was via hearings such as these we'll have today.

In order to conduct the hearings in a reasonable time frame and in a civil manner there are a few house rules and procedures that you, the audience, and indeed all of us should be aware of. First, we're on a tight schedule. We have many witnesses today and it is critical that we stay on schedule. In order to do this, I request that no comments come from the audience. The expert witnesses have come from quite a distance to present their information and we should allow them every courtesy. We should not have display of support or opposition by yelling, applause and so forth. In addition, we would also ask that each of you, every one of you, turn off your cell phones. Each expert's testimony has been given an allotted amount of time as determined by the presenters. Following the expert's presentation, the legal counsel for the opposing viewpoint will be given half that amount of time to ask questions. Following that, we, the subcommittee, will be given half of that time to ask questions. For example, if an expert testifies for twenty minutes, the opposing counsel will be given ten minutes for questioning and the subcommittee members will be given five minutes for questioning. The time for questions will be adhered to. Therefore, the questions should be succinct and not sound like a speech. We will take one fifteen-minute break this morning, break for lunch at 12:00, resume at one o'clock, with another fifteen-minute break this afternoon. We'll try to end by-- on or about 5:30. Additionally, please note that Memorial Hall does not have-- allow food or drink in the auditorium. We would greatly appreciate it if you would abide by this policy.

I'd like to introduce some people. Mr. Pedro Irigonegaray is over here for majority, and Mr. John Calvert is on the other side for the minority. Additionally, a court reporter is recording all of the proceedings and a transcript will be made available to the public at a later date. Thus, to those that are speaking, please annunciate clearly and don't talk on top of each other. As an aside, particularly for the media, the witness testimony presented immediately after the break will be by phone. The phone will be right here on the stage. I thank you for your interest in Kansas education. Mr. Calvert.

MR. CALVERT: Thank you. Dr. Abrams, Chairman, and members of the committee, Mr. Irigonegaray, members of the committee, the public and media, I'd like to introduce you to my first witness today, who is Dr. Nancy Bryson. Dr. Bryson did her undergraduate work in biology at Mississippi University for Women and earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of South Carolina.

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


Q. Good morning.

A. Good morning.

Q. Dr. Bryson, as an introduction, would you please amplify a bit on your background and what you plan to talk about today?

A. Yes, sir. I have a Ph.D. in physical chemistry, 1982, from the University of South Carolina. And I spent the last twenty years in higher education. I've been teaching chemistry at the college level for all of that time. I've taught at a variety of public and private institutions. And the reason that I'm here is that in February of 2003 I was working at Mississippi University for Women and I gave a presentation to our honors forum entitled Critical Thinking on Evolution. And the honors forum is a set of the most academically talented students at MUW. And in my talk I presented some criticisms of evolution that I felt that the students might not have heard. And I also spoke about an alternate theory of origin called intelligent design. And the talk was very warmly received by the students.

Q. Could I interrupt you for just a second?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. The forum that you were speaking at, was this a part of the ordinary curriculum or was this an extra-- essentially an extracurricular activity?

A. It was extracurricular. It was not part of the class presentation.

Q. And you were-- how long had you been at Mississippi University?

A. I had been there one and a half years at that time.

Q. And you previously had been teaching for some seventeen or eighteen years?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. And what was your position at Mississippi University then?

A. I was the head of the Division of Science and Mathematics.

Q. So that was a reasonably responsible position that you held?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. And again, could you give me a bit of the background on why you were teaching this particular extracurricular course?

A. In the fall of 2002 there was a call for professors to speak at the honors forum. There was an open invitation for people to submit topics on which to speak. And I sort of wanted to introduce myself to the university and some of my interests to the university, and so I submitted my topic as-- Critical Thinking on Evolution as a topic that they might want to accept for presentation at the honors forum.

Q. Had you been teaching that particular subject in your physical chemistry courses or otherwise?

A. No.

Q. What triggered your interest in that particular area?

A. In the early nineties I became-- I was-- had an undergraduate degree in biology and had really come along probably believing that evolution was more or less true. But in the early nineties I started doing some independent study, reading some things, and by the time that I had given this talk, I was pretty well convinced that there were a lot of significant criticisms of evolution. And I just thought that I would like to present them to the students.

Q. Did you-- I think you mentioned that-- let me ask you this. Had you done any other presentations on the same subject matter or was this a totally original presentation?

A. It was totally-- it was certainly the first time I had given such a presentation.

Q. So you had-- as I gathered, you had a background in biology, you didn't really critically analyze evolution, you sort of accepted it, and then you decided at some point-- something triggered your curiosity and you began to look at it and then read about it, and this opportunity came up and you thought this was an opportunity to express your views as to what you found?

A. That's correct.

Q. Okay. Now, had you vetted your proposed talk with anybody before you presented it?

A. No, I had not. I had just proposed the topic to the director of the honors forum and I had not discussed the presentation with anyone else.

Q. Was there any reaction to that?

A. To the talk?

Q. Yes.

A. Yes.

Q. To the title?

A. Well, apparently the director of the honors forum had talked to the biologists and informed them about the nature of this talk. And at the-- as I gave the talk, most of the biology faculty were present for the talk.

Q. If I could just interrupt a bit, I think you said that your honors-- the guy that was running the honors program received the title of your talk and then he discussed that with members of the biology department?

A. Apparently he informed them.

Q. And did you get-- have any prior feedback from the biologists?

A. Yes. The evolution professor e-mailed me twice and asked if I would give him the specific thrust of the talk. And I was hustling to get this prepared anyway and didn't fully know, you know, exactly what I was going to be saying, so I just said, "Well, why don't you come to the talk?"

Q. So what did you-- so you didn't really respond, but you did get an inquiry about a talk that would critically analyze evolution?

A. Exactly.

MR. IRIGONEGARAY: Excuse me a second, Mr. Calvert. Pursuant to the rules, I have an objection. This has nothing to do with science standards in Kansas. This has been a litany about complaints about something that happened when this witness was trying to give a speech--

MR. CALVERT: This is totally--

MR. IRIGONEGARAY: Let me finish. This record is being paid by Kansas taxpayers. And I believe that to have this record on this issue is irrelevant to the issues present. There has been absolutely no connection to the Kansas standards and I would object to a continuance of simply a litany of complaints that occurred in other states and in a different situation. For that, I ask that they get to the point.


MR. CALVERT: This objection is totally inconsistent with the rules. The rules said I would be able to do my presentation uninterrupted. This objection is simply one regarding relevance and that is an inappropriate objection, and there is a huge amount of relevance between what this witness has to say and the issues in this proceeding. And--

CHAIRMAN ABRAMS: You're suggesting that there is relevance between what the witness is saying and what the Kansas science curriculum standards are?

MR. CALVERT: Very definitely.

MR. IRIGONEGARAY: May I have a proffer?

MR. CALVERT: I don't think a proffer is called for by the rules. Because I think that the rules do not allow for this objection. Now, I think if the Chair wants to change the rules, that's something else, but consistent with the rules, this objection is totally out of-- is not consistent with the rules.


MR. CALVERT: I mean, right now we have spent--

CHAIRMAN ABRAMS: Mr. Calvert, Mr. Irigonegaray has made an objection. You have stated that it is going to be tied to the Kansas science curriculum standards.


CHAIRMAN ABRAMS: I would say proceed.


Q. (BY MR. CALVERT) Ms. Bryson, I believe where we left off-- and I would ask that the-- a couple of minutes be added to my time here.


Q. (BY MR. CALVERT) That simply the title of the topic that evolution was going to be critically analyzed generated significant interest by the biology department?

A. Yes.

Q. Then on the evening and occasion you presented your talk, could you further amplify on that?

A. The nature of the talk or the response to the talk?

Q. Well, just tell us about the talk and the response, too.

A. Well, in the talk I brought up some of the criticisms of evolution that I had been reading about. For example, the Cambrian Explosion is often not mentioned in general biology textbooks at college level. And I think that presents a big problem for evolution. I also talked about the origin of life scenarios and the unlikelihood that any of those scenarios, for example, the Miller/Urey experiments, that have very little relevance to anything that I know about. I basically talked-- those were my two basic points in my talk, I guess, origin of life scenarios and the Cambrian Explosion.

Q. And then what was the reaction?

A. At the end of the talk the evolution professor stood and read a prepared statement. He brought in a prepared statement and the-- he talked for about five minutes, and the gist of his statement was that-- what he said - this is a quote - "This is just religion masquerading as science."

Q. And then what was the reaction of the students?

A. The students very warmly had received the talk and they were appalled at his diatribe against me and the talk. And that was about it.

Q. Did you have a lot of students come up to you afterward?

A. I had probably fifteen to twenty students come and tell me they'd never heard any of that.

Q. What happened the next day?

A. The next day was a Friday, and about five o'clock that afternoon I was in my office and my boss, the vice president of Academic Affairs came in and told me that I would not be serving as division head the next year. And he suggested that - he did not say directly - that I might not be on the campus at all the next year.

Q. Did he explain why?

A. He did not. And I asked repeatedly why he made this decision at this time. I never heard anything like that. And he just simply didn't answer. He said, "Well, I'm not required to give you any sort of an answer."

Q. What did you do subsequently?

A. Well, one of the things that happened subsequently was I found out that several professors had been up to see him the morning after the talk and complained about the talk. And I-- my story was picked up by the American Family Association and there was a big outcry in the State of Mississippi about the whole issue. But ultimately, I was dismissed from my division head position.

Q. But the decision that was made the day after your talk was temporarily reversed?

A. After about three weeks of public outcry, it was temporarily reversed, but for about three weeks the president and the BPA stood by that decision.

Q. And then I think you said that subsequently that decision was reversed again, and could you explain the basis for the the second reversal?

A. Yes. When my faculty evaluations came out in the late spring of 2003, they were indeed very negative. The previous year, which was the only year I had a faculty evaluation there, they had been overall positive and nothing had ever been said to me about any problem with my evaluations. So the president of the university said that on the basis of those negative evaluations that I would not be division head anymore.

Q. Obviously you have a bias in the matter, but in your opinion, were the evaluations in any way soundly based or were they based upon what you perceived to be misinformation or--

A. Certainly I don't think they were soundly based. In my time there I got the only grant that anyone had gotten. I had worked hard. I had done everything. I had written all the reports, managed the budget, kept it in the black. You know, I think I was doing a good job with my position.

Q. I think you mentioned that at some university you had received the Bear Hug Award?

A. Yes.

Q. What-- tell me about that.

A. That's just a name-- that was just a name for the award given to the faculty staff member of the year, and this is at Shawnee State University. That was about a 3200-student university. It was just a-- basically a teaching-- an award for being a good teacher, good division head.

Q. And when was this award granted in relation to the time you were terminated?

A. I got that award in the year 1999, I think.

Q. So that was two or three years before your termination--

A. Yes, sir.

Q. -- at Mississippi University?

A. Yes.

Q. Mississippi University was your alma mater, is that right?

A. Mississippi University for Women, yes.

Q. And that's where you got your first degree?

A. Yes.

Q. What is-- how has this incident impacted your career?

A. Well, I was allowed to stay at MUW as a faculty member. I stayed on one additional year as-- at the division head position. I certainly felt in that year-- and I anticipated staying on at MUW. It was my alma mater, I loved the school. I certainly feel that I was harassed in that next year by the new division head. I knew that I could never get tenure there. And so I moved on to Kennisaw State University where I'm now teaching as a one-year temporary.

Q. Have you had an opportunity-- have you had an opportunity to review the proposals contained in the minority report?

A. I have.

Q. And could you comment on-- well, let me back up a bit. The incident that you were involved in would appear-- in which you were simply trying to inform students about criticisms of evolution - many of which I assume that we've heard during the last two days - resulted in a significant personal sanction, is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. And do you think your circumstance is unique?

A. No.

Q. What do you base that on?

A. Well, I don't really know the details of all of this, but I think that other people have gone through the same thing, Roger DeHart and others.

Q. Do you feel like within the biology classroom there is academic freedom where teachers and students can candidly discuss these theories?

A. There is absolutely not academic freedom. And I-- subsequent to my talk, students would come by and talk to me about that. And when they saw the battering I took, actually they were a little bit afraid to talk to me, so they would come by after hours, and they told me directly that you just-- you couldn't challenge-- you couldn't put up any-- you couldn't ask any questions in the evolution. That's the truth. So on that campus, the whole incident had a very chilling effect. And, you know, I guess chilling effect was already there, but my incident just brought it out.

Q. I think I asked you if you've read the minority report.

A. I have looked at the minority report, yes.

Q. And I take it-- what is your assessment of the proposals relative to Kansas standards for providing guidelines to teachers on how to conduct this discussion of evolution?

A. Well, the things in the minority report that revised-- the proposed revisions, the things that struck me as being very good were, one thing, that there should be additional information presented on evolution. For example, the Cambrian Explosion. I think that's great. I think-- you know, why wouldn't we present all of the information to students? I also think-- one of the things that I noticed was that you're redefining the definition of science, so we're not-- we're not necessarily excluding science to be-- we're not necessarily getting into naturalistic definition. So as I recall, you reposition that word naturalism. So in other words, you would allow more than methodological naturalism into the discussion.

Q. Would you say that the-- what happened to you at Mississippi University for Women was essentially an implementation of methodological naturalism?

A. Yes.

Q. It was essentially a way to enforce the rules?

A. Absolutely.

Q. And you believe that the minority report would essentially remove that bias or rule from the discussions, and would that give the teachers academic freedom?

A. I think it would. Of course, just having the rule doesn't really necessarily ensure academic freedom because there are all of these subtle fractures in academia. There are these subtle fractures where even if-- even if you follow the rules, you can be denied tenure for any reason that need not necessarily be the true reason.

Q. Do you believe that the issue of evolution and origins impact religion?

A. Yes.

Q. And what is the effect in your mind-- in your view of methodological naturalism as applied to the issue of origin, the origin of life?

A. Well, if we insist on methodological naturalism, then that is inconsistent and excludes any theistic ideas.

Q. So it excludes evidence that would support theistic views?

A. Yes.

Q. And it permits only showing evidence that supports the other view?

A. Yes.

MR. CALVERT: I don't have any further questions. Thank you so much.

CHAIRMAN ABRAMS: Mr. Irigonegaray, ten minutes.


Q. I have a few questions for you that I'd like to place on the record first, please. The first thing I'd like to ask you is what is your personal opinion as to what the age of the world is?

A. I'm undecided.

Q. What is your best guess?

A. I'm totally undecided.

Q. Give me your best range.

A. Anywhere from 4.5 billion years to ten thousand years.

Q. And, of course, you have reached that conclusion based on the best scientific evidence available?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you accept the general principle of common descent, that all of life was biologically related 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. What is your alternative explanation for how the human species came into being if not from a common descent from prehominids?

A. From science, I have no alternative explanation.

Q. In your personal opinion?

A. In my personal opinion, I believe there was an intelligent designer.

Q. And when did that intelligent designer create the human species?

A. I'm not sure.

Q. Now, that opinion that you have about intelligent design, that's not based on science, correct?

A. Correct.

Q. That's based upon your theistic views?

A. Correct.

Q. And you would agree with me that religion has no place in science?

A. Yes.

Q. And you would agree with me that in a science curriculum religion should not be included, correct?

A. Correct.

Q. Have you read the majority report?

A. No, sir.

Q. Have you read the minority report in toto?

A. No, sir. I've read a summary of the proposed revisions.

Q. You've indicated that evolution has an impact on religion, is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. You would also agree with me that at one point in the history of humanity the argument as to whether or not the earth was the center of the universe also had religious implications?

A. Yes.

Q. And you would agree with me that there was a time when scientists who argued differently were, in fact, shunned, correct?

A. Yes.

Q. And you would agree with me that it is dangerous to mix science and religion, correct?

A. Yes.

MR. IRIGONEGARAY: I have no further questions.


Q. Dr. Bryson, what were the two items that you discussed in your presentation that got you reprimanded?

A. I don't know what got me reprimanded, but the items I discussed in my presentation were-- I spent most of my time on the origin of life scenarios, like the Miller/Urey Experiment, and I feel very qualified to comment on that since my training is in thermodynamics. The other issue I discussed was the Cambrian Explosion.

Q. That with which you talked, is that generally classified or characterized as neo-Darwinian evolution?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Is the method that neo-Darwinian evolution-- is how it is taught normally taught in a methodological naturalistic method?

A. Yes.

Q. Is methodological naturalism another way of stating a philosophical claim? Is methodological naturalism another method of stating a philosophical claim?

A. Yes, absolutely. My-- sorry.

Q. Go right ahead.

A. My thrust-- my big point in my talk was you couldn't have ever got the whole thing started. From my understanding of thermodynamics there's no origin of life scenario, no prebiotic evolution scenario, no chemical evolution scenario that would have ever allowed for self-organization of matter.

Q. And so what do you base that on? I mean, what method of science or how do you come to that decision?

A. Of my reading-- in my reading it all made good sense to me thermodynamically. You just don't have that kind of self-organization occur. And there would be so many processes that would be occurring on the early earth that would have prevented any self-organization; dissolution of amino acids in the ocean, the fact that amino acids combine in different ways, the fact that non proteinaceous amino acids combine with proteinaceous amino acids. It-- the whole scenario is utterly impossible in my opinion.

Q. Are you basing that conclusion upon empirical science?

A. I think so, yes. Yes.

Q. How would you define empirical science?

A. That which we observe. So I looked at the observations of others and the writings of others and it made-- and filtering that through my chemical training it made perfectly good sense.

CHAIRMAN ABRAMS: Thank you very much.


Q. I don't know, how do you feel your students' education benefit or did not benefit from being allowed to discuss such things in any of your classes?

A. Well, I just think it's incumbent upon any teacher to present the pros and cons of any theory. For example, in chemistry-- in general chemistry we always present two theories of chemical binding when we say, "Here's the pros of this one and cons of this one, here's the pros and cons of this one." It's just amazing to me that we can't do the same thing in origin science. And the students-- if you want to have a bunch of robots as your students, then you feed them just only the data that you want them to have, but if you want them to be critical thinkers, you give them all the data and let them decide.

Q. So regardless if the data has not been accepted widely in the community of science, it still-- you think it's very beneficial for the students to hear critical data?

A. Very beneficial, yes.

MRS. MARTIN: Thank you.


MR. CALVERT: Thank you. Thank you very much, Mrs. Bryson.

MR. IRIGONEGARAY: Mr. Chairman, as a point of order, throughout these hearings the minority has relied on Power Point presentations that have been made part of this record. I respectfully request that you order the minority to provide us with the full disk or cassette or CD, whatever fashion they employed for these presentations. Those are important for us to have for the record. And I would also ask that those Power Point presentations be formally made part of the record in addition to the presentation that was made here about them.

MR. CALVERT: The slides that we presented will be provided to the committee.

MR. IRIGONEGARAY: No, not just the slides, the Power presentation in toto for each witness that was used.

MR. CALVERT: The slides that were presented will be presented to the committee.

MR. IRIGONEGARAY: No, they have a Power presentation that they use for each witness. In order to have a complete and accurate record of what they have done and what they have relied on, it is only appropriate that the record include all of the those Power Point presentations, and I respectfully ask that you order so.

CHAIRMAN ABRAMS: I would suggest that the Power Point-- the Power Point that has been used be presented. For instance, Mr. Irigonegaray, there was one of the witnesses yesterday that had two or three Power Points on his CD that we never even got to. He kept saying, "No, no, that's not the one, that's not the one." So not all the Power Points--

MR. CALVERT: That's right, and I--

CHAIRMAN ABRAMS: Just the ones that have been referenced.

MR. CALVERT: That's exactly correct.

MR. IRIGONEGARAY: There were Power Point presentations from which certain particular slides were taken. We want the Power Point presentation because it was what was used for the witness's testimony. Maybe not all the slides were shown, but the Power Point was used as the basis for the questions and answers. And I believe it is important that we have those. I've just stated my request.

MR. CALVERT: Dr. Abrams, the rules-- this is not a legal proceeding. And the rules don't provide for any discovery. And what Pedro is asking for is something that you might find, you know, in a legal proceeding. What we are doing is providing to the committee what we are presenting to the committee, and we don't believe that there is any requirement within the rules or otherwise for us to do anything more.

CHAIRMAN ABRAMS: What the committee would like to see and what ought to be in the record are those slides that were presented that were discussed from.

MR. CALVERT: We would be pleased to do that. Our next witness is Dr. James-- no, Mr. James Barham.

JAMES BARHAM, MA, called as a witness on behalf of the Minority, testified as follows:


Q. Dr. Barham, I notice-- or Mr. Barham, I notice on-- our bio perhaps needs to be corrected because it has a Ph.D. after your name--

A. That's a mistake.

Q. And I believe you're working towards that, but you haven't gotten there yet?

A. That is correct.

Q. Would you please tell us a bit about your background and, you know, the work that you've done and the articles you've written and so forth?

A. Okay. I'm not quite sure where to begin. I was for many years a committed Darwinist. My-- you know, my understanding of-- I had graduate training in the history of science. I was in graduate school before when I was young but never finished my Ph.D.

Q. Where did you get your bachelor's degree?

A. University of Texas at Austin.

Q. And what was that in?

A. Classics.

Q. Classics? And then your master's degree was in what?

A. History of science.

Q. The history of science.

A. I was working on ancient astronomy.

Q. Okay, and you're now working towards your doctorate?

A. That's correct.

Q. And when do you expect to complete that?

A. Two or three more years.

Q. And what is your interest there?

A. History and philosophy. So my emphasis has switched from history to philosophy over the years.

Q. Now, is it fair to say that you are an independent scholar?

A. Yes, I've been working as an independent scholar for the last fifteen, twenty years.

Q. Could you explain what that means?

A. Well, it just basically means I'm following my own interests, reading things that I'm interested in, drawing my own conclusions. I have published about a dozen papers over the years. And I gather that one of my recent publications came to your attention. I got a call from you out of the blue, and that's why I'm here.

Q. And the paper that drew my attention, is that contained in a book?

A. The Debating of Design book?

Q. Yeah.

A. I assume that's what--

Q. Could you tell us about that book?

A. About the book?

Q. And your article, just briefly.

A. Well, the book grew out of a conference that I attended at Concordia University in Wisconsin. And I was simply asked to contribute, you know, to the ideas that I had been developing over a period of time, over a period of about fifteen years, which basically consists of two parts. A is a critique of the idea that natural selection is a complete and convincing account of evolution; and B, some-- trying to integrate some newer ideas to the sciences such as discipline as to the condensed matter physics and other methods as perhaps an alternative way of understanding the functional coordination of humanology that I believe is real and objectively there.

Q. Now, as an independent scholar, how does that distinguish you from other scholars? I mean--

A. Well, I was not being paid by anybody to do this research. I was just doing it because I felt compelled to do it.

Q. And you're not tied to any academic environment or university?

A. I was until very recently. I reentered graduate school two years ago.

Q. Did you feel like you had ultimate academic freedom in that as an independent scholar?

A. Nobody could tell me what I couldn't read, exactly, what I couldn't think.

Q. Okay. And is it-- I think when we talked you said that you had-- you have experienced two convergences in your life. Would you explain those?

A. Well, I prefer to say a loss of faith than a convergence, but I was raised-- I was born in Dallas, Texas, raised as a Southern Baptist, but I lost my Christian faith very young, many-- doing reading, Why I'm Not a Christian and other similar things, around the age of twelve. And I was a convinced materialist, atheist, Darwinist for some twenty years, but I was extremely interested in science. I was always interested in both the humanities and the sciences, hence my degree in classics and working on my Ph.D. in the history of science. And later, it just slowly over the years began to dawn on me that I couldn't reconcile these two sides of my life, my interests. On the one hand, I'm a human being interested in the arts and literature. I'm interested in the whole spiritual side of humanity. On the other side, I'm interested in the scientific account of how the human being fits into the universe, which is in complete conflict with the first account. So, you know, my curiosity led me to try to think things through more deeply and to see how I could reconcile these, and I came to doubt that natural selection was a complete explanation for the existence and function of organisms.

Q. In your book or the article that's in the Debating Design book, what caught my attention was this quote. You say, quote, "The mechanistic consensus holds that the known laws of physics and chemistry together with special disciplines such as molecular biology fully explain how living things work and the theory of natural selection explains how these laws have come to cooperate with one another to produce the appearance of design in organisms. According to the mechanistic consensus, design is not objectively real but merely an optical illusion like the rising and setting of the sun. On this view, living matter is nothing special. It is just chemistry shaped by natural selection." And that's what you describe as the mechanistic consensus.

A. Right.

Q. Is that a fairly apt description of evolutionary biology as it is taught at the higher academic levels?

A. I think that's fair to say. It's the consensus mainstream opinion. There are, however, scientists who would dispute that.

Q. Okay. Is it fair to say that a core claim of evolution is that the apparent design of nature is just an illusion?

A. Well, it's kind of a sociological question. I haven't done-- I'm not a sociologist, but my impression is that, yes, that's the case.

Q. And would you-- okay. I'd like to turn your attention to a definition-- and by the way, have you read the minority report?

A. Yes, I've read it a couple of times. I don't know everything in it, but I've read it.

Q. I want to turn your attention to the evolution benchmark, which is on page-- page 15.

A. This is James Watson?

Q. Beg pardon?

A. My page 15 has the quotation by James D. Watson.

Q. Well, the page 15, if you'll look on the screen--

A. Oh, I see. All right.

Q. Okay. On the left-hand side is a general description of biological evolution, and then on the right-hand side the minority report has added some additional descriptive information. And the first sentence says, "Biological evolution postulates an unpredictable and unguided natural process that has no discernible direction or goal." Do you agree with that statement?

A. Well, I agree that the mainstream opinion is that. So when you say, "biological evolution postulates," if you interpret that to mean what most biologists believe, then, yes, that's what we believe.

Q. And the mechanism itself that you describe, is that mechanism itself that is postulated, does that mechanism produce a goal or a purpose?

A. I'm not quite sure I understand your question.

Q. Natural selection, random mutation.

A. Are you interested in my own opinion or the opinion of the majority of scientists?

Q. Yes. Well, an opinion of the majority of science.

A. Then, no, certainly. Because the claim is that there is no such thing as purpose. The very concept of purpose, value, meaning, all these concepts are simply illusions.

Q. And-- okay. I think you-- I believe you-- my question is-- for you is what is it that caused you to change your mind about the Darwin story?

A. Well, there are a couple of things. First of all, as I mentioned, it just seemed to be inconsistent. On the one hand, the essence of human life is purpose and meaning and value. And yet, the supposed scientific explanation for how we got here doesn't recognize any of these categories, so that in itself is a problem. But beyond that, it seems to me that the theory of natural selection simply presupposes the function and coordination of organisms at many points so that as an explanatory structure it was incoherent. You can't at the same time say there isn't such a thing as purpose and then presuppose purpose throughout.

Q. You have, I believe, written testimony, prepared remarks?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you bring extra copies with you?

A. I have them. Unfortunately, they're in the trunk of someone's car. I don't have them with me, but I can get them.

MR. CALVERT: We will provide those to the committee.

Q. (BY MR. CALVERT) Could you go into a bit more detail about why you doubt the Darwinian method?

A. Well, in the prepared remarks I made a couple of basic points. First of all, I want to draw the simple distinction which frequently gets overlooked between the fact of whether or not evolution has occurred on the one hand and our theory, our explanation of how that's happened on the other hand. I believe in evolution. I believe that we are here due to a process of common descent. What I'm questioning is whether the theory of natural selection as it's usually presented is a convincing and complete explanation of that. And the reason that I tend to doubt that it is, is because it seems to me if you examine the structure very carefully, you see that it's actually presupposing a function and coordination as it's alleged to have explained at many points. The basic problem is all selection can do is winnow. It can't produce anything. So the question is where does the coordination come from in the first place? An organism has to already exist, has to already be successful, has to already be a viable organism before it can be selected. So you're back to the question of the origin of coordination.

Q. So you think chemical evolution is a problem for--

A. That's a separate issue. I haven't studied that as deeply. It's a big problem. I agree with the previous presenter's remarks that we basically have no idea at the present how it happened. I, as a naturalist, believe that there will be an answer found, but that's a kind of faith that I have. I can't give you--

Q. That is a matter of faith?

A. Yes, naturalistic faith.

Q. I take it that-- from your article that you don't particularly embrace the idea of intelligent design?

A. You know, when you were reading my remarks, I was wondering if you slipped, because I usually eschew the word design. I usually prefer the word theology because it seems to me that design is building in an answer to the question. I just want to pose the question. The apparent purpose of this is the question if Darwin as a complete explanation of the metaphysical system claims that it's able to solve the problems of-- that's what I'm denying. But I don't want to say that there's-- necessarily we must therefore conclude that there was a mind external to the universe. It seems to me there could be other ways to explain the origin or the purpose in the universe and the value in the universe and origin from some kind of internal mechanism that we simply haven't discovered.

Q. So I take it your position is that-- and where you disagree with the Darwinian concept, the Darwinian concept poses the purpose of concept.

A. That's correct.

Q. And you're-- you think that there is real purpose there.

A. That's correct.

Q. And the question is what caused it.

A. That's correct.

Q. And you don't have an answer to that question?

A. Well, I have some ideas.

Q. You have some ideas.

A. They're tentative. I point to them in my argument. As I said, there's some very interesting-- there's interesting work being done in physics, in condensed matter physics in particular. How to get coherence from internal law-like processes, but not random processes. But it's-- you know, it's a frontier field and it's certainly premature to say that any particular theories are going to pan out.

Q. There is a provision in the minority report on page 4 where it says, "According to many scientists, the core claim of evolutionary theory is that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion." And I take it you agree with that?

A. Sure.

Q. And that other scientists disagree. And would you agree with that?

A. Yes, there are scientists who disagree with that.

Q. Now, do you think it's legitimate for science to explore the history?

A. Certainly.

Q. Would you also-- what is your comment about the second-- the third sentence, "These standards neither mandate nor prohibit teaching about this scientific disagreement." Do you think that that's a reasonable posture given the present state of science on intelligent design?

A. Yes, I do.

Q. You have looked at the other provisions in the minority report regarding the teaching of evolution, the issue of historical sciences and so forth. Do you believe that those are appropriate provisions, that they call for student understanding that would actually enhance their understanding of biological evolution?

A. Yes. By and large I was in agreement with nearly all of the-- the main quarrel I would have is again the failure to properly make the distinction between the fact of evolution versus the explanation for it. I wish that-- that would be my chief criticism.

Q. Well, how would you do that?

A. Just say what I just said. I don't think that-- I mean, it seems to me that there's a conflation of issues. You know, one can argue that we can infer common descent directly from the body of evidence even in the absence of the theory of natural selection, and then it's a further question of whether the theory of natural selection is a complete and convincing explanation of these factors.

Q. Do you have-- and it would be helpful to me if you could articulate your idea in writing.

A. Oh, well, I have these.

Q. Do you have a particular suggestion, then? Do you have it with you or--

A. Well, again, I don't have them here. Unfortunately I left them in the car, but, you know, I can go get them and bring them in.

Q. Well, I have a copy of your report here. Would that be of any help?

A. Is that the most recent version?

Q. Well, I'm not really sure. It's called Test Prepared Remarks, Topeka Hearings, May 7th.

A. I was still working on those up until yesterday, so I'm not quite sure. But anyway, yeah, more or less, that's it.

Q. We have two minutes. We probably don't have time for that, but it will show up in your written testimony?

A. That's correct. I have them.

Q. Do you think-- could you briefly explain your views on methodological naturalism and whether that is an appropriate concept and use in origin science?

A. Thanks for reminding me. I should have said that before when you asked me my opinion of the standards. There are two-- there's a distinction that would be helpful to make, it seems to me. On the one hand, we use the word naturalism to mean that the natural world, the universe as a whole is complete and that we should not look outside of it to some transcendent realm for a causal explanation in short. Naturalism is opposed contrastably with the supernatural, theism. On the other hand, sometimes we use it to mean avoiding any normative language, avoiding discussing things in terms of purpose, design, intelligence, avoiding these categories which we felt not to be properly part of science. I myself am a naturalist in the first sense, but I am denying that the second sense of naturalism need be the case. It seems to me that there's no good reason why we can't eventually expand our notion of what science-- empirical science is, and there are people who have some ideas about how to do this already. Whether they pan out is another question. But there are people, Robert Loughlin, in condensed matter physics, has a new book out in which he's trying to explain the concept of-- Stuart Kaufman is perhaps a better name. Who would-- there are certainly naturalists like I am in the first sense, but they're not naturalists in the second sense. They're saying these categories are not illusions, they're real, they're objectively there and we must find a new way of understanding that goes beyond Darwin.

Q. So you would find fault with particularly origin science as opposed to using methodological naturalism that essentially denies purpose?

A. Yes, I would deny that.

MR. CALVERT: Thank you very much, Dr. Barham. I believe-- Mr. Irigonegaray, your witness.


Q. Sir, I have some initial questions for the record. How old, in your opinion, is the earth?

A. Four and a half billion is the accepted view. I would accept that. I have no reason to doubt that.

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

A. I do.

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

A. Yes, I do.

MR. IRIGONEGARAY: Counsel, would you please put up page 15 for me, please?


Q. (BY MR. IRIGONEGARAY) And by the way, sir, while he's doing that, did you take the opportunity to read the majority report in toto?

A. No, I've only read the summary of proposed revisions.

Q. And who sent you those?

A. Mr. Calvert.

Q. Did Mr. Calvert, in order to give you a fair and complete evaluation-- opportunity of Kansas standards for children, send you the majority report as well?

A. I was given to understand that all of the relevant--

Q. No, sir, listen to my question. Listen to my question, please. In order for you to have a fair and complete understanding of what the Kansas standards are all about for Kansas children, did Mr. Calvert include for your review the majority opinion commonly referred to as Draft 2, yes or no?

A. I can't give a yes or no answer to that because of the way you phrased it. In order--

Q. Let me rephrase the question. Did you receive Draft 2 for your review?

A. If it's distinct from this, which is entitled Summary of Proposed Revisions, then the answer is no.

Q. Do you see on page 15 where it says, "grades 8 to 12 indicators"?

A. On the left?

Q. Yes. Would you please read that statement marked No. 1 for me?

A. "Biological evolution descendent modification is a scientific explanation throughout history of diversification of organisms from common ancestors."

Q. And do you know whether or not that's the majority opinion?

A. That is the majority opinion, isn't it?

Q. All right. And then take a look to the right, No. 1a. And would you read that for the record?

A. "Biological evolution postulates an unpredictable and unguided natural process that has no discernible direction or goal. It also assumes that life arose from unguided natural process."

Q. Now, I want to ask you something. Do you see on the majority position anywhere the terms unpredictable and unguided?

A. Obviously what's on the right is not on the left.

Q. And would you further agree with me that you would oppose for the teaching of simply unpredictable and unguided natural processes?

A. Well, I don't think that that's being taught. I think what it's saying is that mainstream-- the mainstream interpretation, biological evolution postulates that.

Q. Sir, in all fairness, that's nowhere in the majority opinion.

A. Well, this is an expansion explanation of the too-succinct version on the left.

Q. The fact is that nowhere-- in order to be fair to the majority in Draft 2, nowhere does it state unpredictable and unguided, and that is simply a straw man argument that has been created by the minority to create controversy where there is none, correct?

MR. CALVERT: I think the rules do not permit questions that actually have embedded in them arguments for a particular position or not. I think they are limited to just questions.

A. It's not a straw man argument.

MR. IRIGONEGARAY: Hang on a second, sir. There's been an objection made by Mr. Calvert on the record. I respectfully disagree. Throughout this entire process the minority has insisted that it is inappropriate to have unguided and unpredictable in the teaching of Kansas children's scientific curriculum. The fact is, those two words appear nowhere in the majority report. The fact is that is nowhere in-- on the majority report the intent of the majority, and that the minority has placed these two words in its report simply as a straw man argument to come in here and argue on supposition that those two issues exist when they do not. And my purpose in questioning the witness is to ascertain whether or not he agrees with that proposition.

A. I disagree. It is not a straw man argument because that is a correct assessment of the majority opinion of the scientific community in this country.

Q. (BY MR. IRIGONEGARAY) So in your opinion, the majority of the scientific community in America follows 1a?

A. Yes.

Q. Although it's nowhere in the Kansas standards, correct?

MR. IRIGONEGARAY: Counsel, I would urge you not to do that.

Q. (BY MR. IRIGONEGARAY) Correct, sir?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Where in the standards do you find the term Darwinism in the majority opinion? Oh, you haven't read the majority opinion, have you? Would it surprise you to learn that the term Darwinism is not in the majority opinion?

A. Would it surprise me? No, it wouldn't surprise me.

Q. In your opinion, would teaching according to the majority opinion, which is Draft 2, equate to teaching materialism and atheism?

A. Can you repeat the question?

Q. I'd be happy to. Is it your opinion that to teach children in Kansas pursuant to the position of Draft 2 equates to materialistic and an atheistic perspective?

A. Pursuant to the position of Draft 2? You mean everything contained in the summary of--

Q. As it relates, yes.

A. That's hard to say. That's speculating about how it's going to be interpreted by the children. I think that it's fair to say that that is the framework within which the doctrine is being taught to the children. And therefore I would like to see it made possible for teachers who question that metaphysical framework to be allowed to present challenges to the mainstream view. But what the children get out of it, I can't speculate.

Q. Would you agree that the document marked as Draft 2, irrespective of what the authors may think about their religious beliefs, in your opinion, then, supports materialism and atheism? Is that what I understand you to say?

A. Implicitly I think it's-- it's not explicit, though, I'll grant you that.

Q. So it is perhaps your suggestion or opinion, although it is not what it says?

A. Based on my understanding of the larger context within which these ideas, which, after all, are simplified for presentation to children.

Q. Does draft-- it's kind of hard to question you about Draft 2 if you haven't heard it, but would-- did you-- have you been told by anyone that in Draft 2 that the only opportunity or the only decision presented is that natural selection is the only mechanism involved in the history of life?

A. That's my understanding.

Q. And your understanding based on what?

A. Well, why are we here today if that's not the case? If it were possible to question that, we wouldn't, any of us, be here.

Q. And it's your understanding that the Kansas standards do not allow for questioning?

A. Yes.

Q. Have you had an opportunity to have Mr. Calvert or anyone involved on the minority side read this sentence to you, "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 that resolve your concern about what Kansas should do as far as opening the door for a full and complete discussion?

A. I certainly approve of the statement, but--

Q. Would it be a surprise to learn, to you, that that is precisely what the majority opinion says?

A. It still does not address the issue specifically about the origin of life, the adequacy of natural selection as the theory of evolution, however.

Q. You would agree with me, then, that if, in fact, Kansas standards do state that there are many issues which involve material-- which involve morals, ethics, values, or spiritual beliefs that go beyond what science can explain but for which solid scientific literacy is useful, that is the appropriate way to proceed, correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Does that sentence seem to reflect naturalism, the philosophy that matter and energy is all there is, or does it seem to reflect the philosophy that there's more to the world than what science can investigate?

A. That particular sentence appropriately does indicate the limitation of our current scientific understanding.

Q. And that does, in fact, make it clear, does it not, that the majority in the committee understands that there's more to human knowledge than what science can provide and that Draft 2 does not imply, enforce or support naturalism over any theological view, correct?

A. Not quite, because there's still the question about evolution itself.

MR. IRIGONEGARAY: Thank you, nothing further.


Q. Sir, how would you-- do you teach class now in high school or college?

A. I'm a teaching assistant in an undergraduate program.

Q. How is the best way to prepare students to distinguish data and testable theories of science?

A. Well, I don't teach science. I teach philosophy, so it would be-- I'm not a scientist, I'm in philosophy of science. So I would simply talk in general terms about knowledge and about scientific knowledge in particular and about the difference between, you know, what's observable and what's an inference, just talk in general philosophical terms.

Q. Then let's go to a different question, then. With a background in philosophy of science, are there philosophical claims about science that are made in the name of science?

A. Oh, yes, there certainly are. Are you asking what are they?

Q. Yes, what are they?

A. Well, we've just been discussing them at some length, the idea that natural selection provides a complete explanation for not only living organisms but human beings and all of our characteristics, I think, is simply false. I think it's a philosophical framework. It's a world view, it's metaphysics, but it's not an empirical claim that can be shown or demonstrated.

Q. So the difference between a philosophical claim of science and an empirical-- and a testable theory of science would be the empirical analysis of that, the evidence-- the empirical evidence?

A. Sure. If you go to the laboratory and do repeatable experiments, that's one thing. And if you're making inferences and making, you know, extremely general claims about the way the world works, that has a different--

Q. Do philosophical claims of science have any ability of evidence behind them or are they inferences from other pieces of evidence?

A. I mean, I'm not saying that's bad, I just want to make a distinction, that's all. Naturally we-- most all of us want to arrive at a coherent and comprehensive world view. There's nothing wrong in that. It's just that you can't then claim the same authority for that world view that you claim for in the laboratory as a scientist what you can actually show me in a repeatable experiment. When the scientist steps out of the laboratory and makes these much more general claims, we're wearing a different hat, wearing a philosophical hat.

Q. Do you have any background in talking about the religious claims of science?

A. I'm not sure what you mean, the religious claims of science.

Q. That's what I'm asking, if you had any background, and the answer is no apparently.

A. I guess not.

Q. That's what I was asking. Is it possible to take evidence and to develop two different sets of philosophical claims from it?

A. Sure.

Q. As a philosopher of science, what is proof? What constitutes proof?

A. Well, there are all kinds of different kinds of proof. There's deductive proof, but that's really not relevant to empirical science. In science we have inference to the best explanation. We construct theories, we take all of the evidence at our disposal and we weigh, we judge, we make a determination as to what makes sense to us. Human beings weigh these decisions in different ways, therefore they come to different overall opinions about what makes sense.

Q. Is-- do scientists in general, bench scientists as well as scientists that are interested in the philosophy of science, are they interested in what is the truth?

A. Sure. Now, even among bench scientists, obviously you're going to have disputes. You're going to be weighing evidence in different ways, but there the connection between what we can observe and the theoretical aspect is much closer, much narrower, and eventually enough evidence is accumulated where there is-- everybody becomes persuaded and there a consensus forms, but these much more general questions about purpose and value, I don't think we can arrive at a consensus in the same way on those. Not yet, anyway.

Q. But at the same time, even though there is more argument among the philosophers of science as opposed to the bench scientists, that's still a correct statement to say they are interested in what is the truth?

A. Oh, absolutely, we're interested in the truth. And I think most scientists and most philosophers are.

CHAIRMAN ABRAMS: Thank you very much. We're going to take a break.

MR. CALVERT: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to ask Mr. Barham to look at the second page of his document that he was referring to that he had read and then read the title to that, the second page. I just want to make a point that you were referring to the fact that you'd read the summary of the proposals, and I believe the document you have contains not only--

A. Oh, I see. I'm sorry, yeah, I read the--

MR. IRIGONEGARAY: What is going on here? They're out of time.

CHAIRMAN ABRAMS: We're going to take a break. It is 9:45. We're going to reconvene promptly at ten o'clock.

(THEREUPON, a short recess was taken.)


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