Strengths and Weaknesses  

“The student is expected to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information.”[1]


The open and vigorous public debate on controversial issues is one of the hallmarks of America .  As a people, we cherish and defend, perhaps above anything, freedom.  Academic freedom.  Political freedom.  Freedom of association.  Freedom of movement.  Freedom of thought.  

Conversely, we abhor the restrictions of freedom without robust reasons and what attorneys call ‘compelling state interests’ for doing so.  Even in our recent ‘terrorist’ threats and responses to it, there are those who say the responses go too far in restricting freedoms.  We rarely censor anything, particularly prior to publication.

Sadly, in the area of the theory of biologic evolution, our public school textbooks have become more of an instrument of censorship as opposed to one of critical thinking and learning.  Even though Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) rules mandate that weaknesses in theories be exposed, there is a silence on the part of textbook publishers to acknowledge such weaknesses.

These weaknesses are numerous and growing as our knowledge of biologic systems grows, but will not be enumerated in detail here.  Perhaps the largest weakness lies in the inability of the theory of evolution to explain where the information we now know is coded in the DNA molecule came from in the first place.  Related to that is that all known scientific observations of how DNA is replicated indicate that the processes are conserving in nature – no new information is produced.  In some isolated cases existing information might be rearranged or degraded or destroyed, usually to the detriment of the cell or organism involved, but in no case is there any observational evidence of the production of information, say to turn one species into another.  Even widely promoted items such as Darwin’s finches and antibiotic resistant bacteria have been shown to be conserving or destructive in nature at the genetic level – not examples of upwards macroevolution.

The “Santorum Amendment”

A recent debate on the floor of the United States Senate, arguably the world’s best deliberative body, is instructive.  Debate is a misnomer – there was essentially no debate.  Senators from both sides of the aisle voted overwhelmingly to adopt an amendment proposed by Senator Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) that later in December 2001 became (in slightly modified form) part of the final conference report on the “No Child Left Behind” act that stated:

“The Conferees recognize that a quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society.”[2]

In the discussion of this amendment, key Senate leaders from both sides offered support.  Senator Edward Kennedy (D – Mass):

Mr. President, first of all, on the Santorum amendment, I hope all of our colleagues will vote in support of it. It talks about using good science to consider the teaching of biological evolution. I think the way the Senator described it, as well as the language itself, is completely consistent with what represents the central values of this body. We want children to be able to speak and examine various scientific theories on the basis of all of the information that is available to them so they can talk about different concepts and do it intelligently with the best information that is before them.  

I think the Senator has expressed his views in support of the amendment and the reasons for it. I think they make eminently good sense. I intend to support that proposal. [3]

Senator Robert Byrd (D – W. Virginia ):

Mr. President, I have been interested in the debate surrounding the teaching of evolution in our schools. I think that Senator SANTORUM's amendment will lead to a more thoughtful treatment of this topic in the classroom. It is important that students be exposed not only to the theory of evolution, but also to the context in which it is viewed by many in our society.  

I think, too often, we limit the best of our educators by directing them to avoid controversy and to try to remain politically correct. If students cannot learn to debate different viewpoints and to explore a range of theories in the classroom, what hope have we for civil discourse beyond the schoolhouse doors?

Scientists today have numerous theories about our world and its beginnings. I, personally, have been greatly impressed by the many scientists who have probed and dissected scientific theory and concluded that some Divine force had to have played a role in the birth of our magnificent universe. These ideas align with my way of thinking. But I understand that they might not align with someone else's. That is the very point of this amendment--to support an airing of varying opinions, ideas, concepts, and theories. if education is truly a vehicle to broaden horizons and enhance thinking, varying viewpoints should be welcome as part of the school experience. [4]

Senator Sam Brownback, (R – Kansas) spoke eloquently in recounting a recent situation in his home state of Kansas, which while different from textbook adoption, dealt with the same mindset of those who would defend Darwin in spite of the evidence.

Mr. President, as my friend from Pennsylvania , and perhaps every one in the free world, knows the issue he brings up with regard to how to teach scientific theory and philosophy was recently an issue in my home State of Kansas . For this reason, many of my constituents are particularly sensitive to this issue.

I would like to take the opportunity of this amendment to clear the record about the controversy in Kansas .

In August of 1999 the Kansas State School Board fired a shot heard 'round the world. Press reports began to surface that evolution would not longer be taught. The specter of a theocratic school board entering the class to ensure that no student would be taught the prevailing wisdom of biology was envisioned. Political cartoons and editorials were drafted by the hundreds. To hear the furor, one might think that the teachers would be charged with sorting through their student's texts with an Exacto knife carving out pictures of Darwin .

However, the prevailing impression, as is often the case was not quite accurate. Here are the facts about what happened in Kansas . The school board did not ban the teaching of evolution. They did not forbid the mention of Darwin in the classroom. They didn't even remove all mention of evolution from the State assessment test. Rather, the school board voted against including questions on macro-evolution--the theory that new species can evolve from existing species over time--from the State assessment. The assessment did include questions on micro-evolution--the observed change over time within an existing species.

Why did they do this? Why go so far as to decipher between micro and macro-evolution on the State exam? How would that serve the theocratic school board's purpose that we read so much about? Well, the truth is . . . their was no theocratic end to the actions of the school board. In fact, their vote was cast based on the most basic scientific principal that science is about what we observe, not what we assume. The great and bold statement that the Kansas School Board made was that simply that we observe micro-evolution and therefore it is scientific fact; and that it is impossible to observe macro-evolution, it is scientific assumption. [emphasis added]

The response to this relatively minor and eminently scientific move by the   Kansas school board was shocking. The actions and intentions of the school board were routinely misrepresented in the global press. Many in the global scientific community, who presumably knew the facts, spread misinformation as to what happened in Kansas . College admissions boards, who most certainly knew the facts, threatened Kansas students. The State Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the State universities were threatened based on the actions of school board. All of these effects caused by a school board trying to decipher between scientific fact and scientific assumption. The response to the actions of the board, appeared to many as a response to the commission of heresy.

For this reason, I am very pleased that my friend from Pennsylvania offered this amendment. He clarifies the opinion of the Senate that the debate of scientific fact versus scientific assumption is an important debate to embrace. I plan to support the amendment and urge my colleagues to join me. [5]

Senator Rick Santorum, (R – Penn.), in proposing the amendment had stated minutes earlier that:

Mr. President, I rise to talk about my amendment which will be voted on in roughly 40 minutes. This is an amendment that is a sense of the Senate. It is a sense of the Senate that deals with the subject of intellectual freedom with respect to the teaching of science in the classroom, in primary and secondary education. It is a sense of the Senate that does not try to dictate curriculum to anybody; quite the contrary, it says there should be freedom to discuss and air good scientific debate within the classroom. In fact, students will do better and will learn more if there is this intellectual freedom to discuss.

I will read this sense of the Senate. It is simply two sentences--frankly, two rather innocuous sentences--that hopefully this Senate will embrace:

   ``It is the sense of the Senate that--

   ``(1) good science education should prepare students to distinguish the data or testable theories of science from philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of science; and

   ``(2) where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why this subject generates so much continuing controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subject.

It simply says there are disagreements in scientific theories out there that are continually tested. Our knowledge of science is not absolute, obviously. We continue to test theories. Over the centuries, there were theories that were once assumed to be true and have been proven, through further revelation of scientific investigation and testing, to be not true.

One of the things I thought was important in putting this forward was to make sure the Senate of this country, obviously one of the greatest, if not the greatest, deliberative bodies on the face of the Earth, was on record saying we are for this kind of intellectual freedom; we are for this kind of discussion going on; it will enhance the quality of science education for our students.

I will read three points made by one of the advocates of this thought, a man named David DeWolf, as to the advantages of teaching this controversy that exists. He says:

“Several benefits will accrue from a more open discussion of biological origins in the science classroom. First, this approach will do a better job of teaching the issue itself, both because it presents more accurate information about the state of scientific thinking and evidence, and because it presents the subject in a more lively and less dogmatic way. Second, this approach gives students greater appreciation for how science is actually practiced. Science necessarily involves the interpretation of data; yet scientists often disagree about how to interpret their data. By presenting this scientific controversy realistically, students will learn how to evaluate competing interpretations in light of evidence--a skill they will need as citizens, whether they choose careers in science or other fields. Third, this approach will model for students how to address differences of opinion through reasoned discussion within the context of a pluralistic society.“

I think there are many benefits to this discussion that we hope to encourage in science classrooms across this country. I frankly don't see any down side to this discussion--that we are standing here as the Senate in favor of intellectual freedom and open and fair discussion of using science--not philosophy and religion within the context, within the context of science but science--as the basis for this determination. [6] [emphasis added]

By roll call vote the amendment enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support, being passed by 91 ayes , 8 nayes and 1 absence. “The amendment (No. 799) was agreed to.” [7] 

Scientists Question Darwinian Biologic Evolution

Many scientists, including those of assorted and even no religious faith, now question whether Darwinian natural selection could account for the information required, the complexity observed, and numerous other aspects of life on this planet.  Harvard’s late Stephen J. Gould and his colleague, Niles Eldridge, proposed what they called ‘punctuated equilibrium’ precisely due to the lack of evidentiary support for gradualistic evolution.  However, Darwin himself would not have endorsed their idea, saying in his book that:

"If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down."[8]

Nobel laureate Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA, now subscribes to an extra-terrestrial origin of life on our planet, having concluded that Darwinian evolution cannot explain its origin.

The Creation Research Society has over 600 voting members with earned advanced science degrees.  Few if any of their members subscribe to a Darwinian evolution model.

The Discovery Institute lists nearly 300 fully credentialed scientists who expressed skepticism toward the central claim of Darwinian evolution, saying that

“We are skeptical of the claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life.  Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”[11]

In Ohio alone, a group of 52 scientists issued a call for academic freedom relating to the teaching of evolution.[12] ( Ohio now permits teaching flaws in and alternatives to evolutionary theory).

Recent testimony in Texas presented 22 additional scientists, mostly professors in various schools across the state, who also indicated skepticism of Darwinian concepts.

Issue Enjoys a Wide Range of Support Across America

The issue of teaching weaknesses of or alternatives to evolutionary dogma to our children is a clear winner across the landscape of America .  Gallup polls routinely show that only a small minority (typically less than 10%) of Americans actually believe, even after decades of exclusive evolutionary instruction, that a purely naturalistic materialistic evolution is capable of explaining life. 

The Zogby polling group specifically examined whether weaknesses to or alternatives to evolution should be presented, or whether evolution should be presented in public schools exclusively.  In August of 2001, they found that 71% of those polled agreed with the statement that “Biology teachers should teach Darwin’s theory of evolution, but also the scientific evidence against it.”  Only 15% agreed that “Biology teachers should teach only Darwin’s theory of evolution and the scientific evidence that supports it.”  [underscore added] While not the subject of our efforts with Texas textbooks, that poll goes on to examine the question of “When Darwin’s theory of evolution is taught in school, students should also be able to learn about scientific evidence that points to an intelligent design of life.”  78% agreed with the statement, either strongly (53%) or somewhat (25%).  Only 13% disagreed, either strongly (8%) or somewhat (5%).[13]

Later in Ohio, even in the face of withering fire from those that would censor weaknesses in evolution from schools, Zogby found that 65% thought that “Biology teachers should teach Darwin ’s theory of evolution, but also the scientific evidence against it.”  Only 19% agreed that “Biology teachers should teach only Darwin ’s theory of evolution and the scientific evidence that supports it.”  Similarly on the question of “When Darwin’s theory of evolution is taught in school, students should also be able to learn about scientific evidence that points to an intelligent design of life”,   78% agreed with the statement, either strongly (55%) or somewhat (23%).  Only 13% disagreed, either strongly (10%) or somewhat (3%).[14]

Similarly, the Cleveland Plain Dealer conducted a poll during their controversy.  It showed, among other things, that only 13% of respondents agreed with a purely naturalistic explanation of life, only 8% would agree that teaching biologic evolution exclusively was correct (59% would specifically teach both evolution and intelligent design (Ohio’s issue), another 15% would teach weaknesses of evolution but not intelligent design).[15]

Summary Polls


For Teaching Both Strengths and Weaknesses of Evolution 
(but no I.D.)

For Teaching Both Evolution and I.D.

Against Teaching Both Evolution and I.D.

Teach Evol. Only

Zogby August 2001 71% 78% 13%  
Zogby Ohio 2002 65% 78% 13%  
Cleveland Plain Dealer 2002 74% 59% 8%



Who represents 'mainstream' America and who are really the 'extremists'? (ID=Intelligent Design)

In short, thinking Americans, in spite of the censorship of scientific evidence against evolution from the classroom, in academia, and in public television, have and continue to reject evolution as inadequate.  Zogby further found that younger Americans were even more likely to reject naturalistic evolution than those over 65 years of age.


TEKS HS Biology requirement 112.43 (b)(3)(A) states that both strengths and weaknesses to theories and hypothesis should be presented to students, (see cover page).  However, books reviewed to date do not include weaknesses to the biologic theory of evolution.  Hence, if no changes were made to the textbooks, the rule of law says they must all be rejected as non-conforming until such scientific weaknesses can be incorporated into the texts.  I am optimistic that this area of weakness in the textbooks themselves can be corrected in a timely fashion.

Those who would thwart the clear will of the people in this regard, particularly in light of recent advances in science, can only be described as censors, no matter what their organizational name may say.

If alternatives to and criticism of Darwinian biological evolution turn out to be false, what do the supporters of Darwin have to lose?  If those alternatives turn out to be true, we all have much to gain.

"A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question." – Charles Darwin in The Origin of Species[16]

Thank you.

June 24, 2003

electronic copies of the above, with active html links, may be obtained by request.


[1]  From  the TEA, TEKS requirement for Biology, grades 9-12, as published in section 112.43 (b)(3)(A) on the TEA website URL , document page 97, electronic PDF page 106.

[2]  2001-107th Congress -1st Session-House of Representatives Report-107 334 No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 Conference Report to accompany H.R. 1

[3]  Senator Edward Kennedy, (D) Mass. , Senate - June 13, 2001 , in reference to the Santorum Amendment as originally proposed by Senator Santorum, as reported in the online Congress ional Record,

[4]  Senator Robert Bird, (D) W. Virginia, - June 13, 2001, in reference to the Santorum Amendment as originally proposed by Senator Santorum, as reported in the online Congress ional Record,

[5]  Senator Sam Brownback, (R) Kansas,  - June 13, 2001, in reference to the Santorum Amendment as originally proposed by Senator Santorum, as reported in the online Congress ional Record,

[6]  Senator Rick Santorum, (R) Penn. , presenting what came to be known as the “Santorum Amendment”, as reported in the online Congress ional Record,

[7]  Senate Roll Call Vote of the “Santorum Amendment” as reported in the online Congress ional Record,

[8]  Darwin, Charles, The Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life,  Mentor Edition (1958), p. 171 [Originally published 1859].

[9]  Francis Collins, quoted on the BBC website page located at:

[10] Dr. Francis Collins, Director, National Human Genome Research Institute, “Remarks Prepared for Delivery at the Press Conference Announcing Sequencing and Analysis of the Human Genome”, Feb. 12, 2001, as found at URL

[12] Science Excellence for All Ohioans see URL

[13] Zogby America Report, communicated from he Zogby polling group to the Discovery Instutute, as archived at URL

[14] Zogby Ohio Poll, communicated from he Zogby polling group to the Discovery Instutute, May 8, 2002 , as archived at URL

[15] Poll by the Cleveland Plain Dealer , reported June 2002, as archived at

[16] Darwin, Charles, The Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life,  Mentor Edition (1958), p. 28 [Originally published 1859].