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U. S. Senate Passes Santorum Amendment, Supports Critical Thinking Regarding Evolutionary Theory

***Santorum Amendment Update***

On January 8, 2002, President Bush signed into law the H.R. 1, the "No Child Left Behind Act," into which the "Santorum Amendment" was originally included. There has been some dispute over whether or not the Santorum Amendment (further described below) was actually included as a legal and binding part of the bill. Rather than being incorporated directly into the bill, language from the Santorum Amendment was included in the Conference Report, put together by a committee of legislators who worked on the final version of the bill.

Some Darwinists, such as Kenneth Miller, have publically alleged that the Santorum Amendment was rejected by the conference committee and demoted to an unbinding portion of the bill, implying that Congress somehow rejected the Amendment. This, however, is not the case.

The Conference Report, where language from the Santorum Amendment was included, is not law in a strict sense, but is meant to be an explanation of the intent of the bill. Every 1st year law student quickly learns that when courts decide cases, they regularly consider more than the mere black letter of the law. Especially at higher courts, judges attempt to discern the true meaning of a law by considering the intent of the legislature. In this case, the Conference Report would most likely be an item that a court would take very seriously when trying to discern the intent of the legislature and deciding a case on the teaching of evolution.

Though perhaps not explicitly law, the statements made in the Santorum Amendment were explicitly supported by Congress when they were included in the Conference Report, and when it comes to deciding a case, that is just about as good as law. This is congruent with the spirit in which the Amendment was originally passed by the entire U.S. Senate, as the "Sense of the Senate."

In conclusion, even if the Santorum Amendment language was only included in the non-binding Conference Report, in passing the bill, the House and the Senate explicitly agreed with the Amendment. Given that the Amendment itself was only originally passed as the "Sense of the Senate," the Amendment has found its proper place in H.R. 1, and was not rejected by Congress. Language from the original Santorum Amendment found its way into the explanatory Conference Report as the following: "The Conferees recognize that a quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from the 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." The Santorum Amendment (what happened originally):

On June 13, 2001, the United States Senate strongly supported an amendment which states, "(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;
(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."
This amendment 799 to S.1 was introduced by Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) to be part of the Better Education For Students and Teachers Act, and was strongly supported by a 91-8 vote of the Senate.

Some noteworthy comments on the ammendment were made by various senators including those from Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Massachussetts), who supported the ammendment because it encouraged critical thinking: "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." Another Senator, Robert Byrd from West Virginia (D), said, "[this] 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." He also supported critical thinking and the need to discuss viewpoints of many kinds on this issue by saying: "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." Finally, Senator Brownback (R) from Kansas took the opportunity of having the theory of evolution as the topic on the floor to "clear the record about the controversy in Kansas." He noted that the actions taken by the State of Kansas School board have been misrepresented by the media and were not out of line: "In August of 1999 the Kansas State School Board fired a shot heard 'round the world. Press reports began to surface that evolution would no 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.

"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. "
To view these comments on the online Congressional Record for June 13, 2001, and the supporting statements, carefully follow the following directions:

Go to "" and click on "Senate" for June 13. The table of contents for the Senate for that day appears. Item number 4, the "BETTER EDUCATION FOR STUDENTS AND TEACHERS ACT" should be clicked on. Scroll down about 20% of the page to the first listing for Mr. SANTORUM and click on the link "Page:S6148".

After reading Mr. Santorum's statement you will have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the page, past discussion of a different amendment, and click on "Forward" in the second column of links. Scroll down about a third of the way to the first statement of Mr. KENNEDY on this page.

Then scroll all the way down and again click on "Forward". On the new page, scroll down about a quarter of the way to the first mention of Mr. BYRD. Read his statement and that of Mr. BROWNBACK and the vote follow one after another from this point.

To follow progress of this bill, go to Thomas ( and search on S.1 or H.R. 1.

Dr. Roland Hirsch is to be kindly thanked for providing the directions for finding this information.