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Media Promoting Misinformation about the Santorum Amendment

Since Rick Santorum has risen in popularity among Republican presidential candidates, multiple articles in the media have resurrected long-dead talking points about the Santorum Amendment. Probably the most commonly heard untruth holds that the Santorum Amendment pushed or encouraged the teaching of intelligent design.

Washington Post blogger Robert P. Jones claims the Amendment's purpose was "encouraging teachers to provide lessons on intelligent design alongside evolution." The U.K.'s Telegraph likewise states: "Mr Santorum pushed the 'Santorum amendment,' an amendment to the 2001 education funding bill which attempted to push the teaching of intelligent design in science classes." Similarly, the Nashua Telegraph wrongly states that Santorum "called for intelligent design to be part of school curricula under the No Child Left Behind Act."

But an article on Huliq.com by Dave Masko takes first prize for inaccuracy:

For example, the "Santorum Amendment" -- that was a proposed amendment to the 2001 education funding bill, and became known as the "No Child Left Behind Act" -- was backed by then-Republican Senator Santorum to "promote the teaching of intelligent design while questioning the academic standing of evolution in U.S. public schools, states the congressional record.
First of all, the Santorum Amendment didn't become "known as the No Child Left Behind Act." The Act was a much larger law that was passed by both houses of Congress to govern federal funding for public schools on a myriad of different issues.

More to the point, the amendment did not require, "promote," or "push" the teaching of intelligent design. From what I can tell, the phrase "promote the teaching of intelligent design while questioning the academic standing of evolution" doesn't come from the Congressional record, but rather, appears to come from RationalWiki, an atheist-oriented Wiki. The Santorum Amendment simply stated:

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.
Do you see anything about teaching intelligent design? I don't.

Masko's conspiracy theories continue:

In layman's terms, the Santorum Amendment attempted to edit out science in school text books in favor of a religious view of creation; while Democrats opposed the amendment because it cross the line in the "separation of church and state."
On many levels, nothing could be further from the truth.

Santorum's amendment passed the U.S. Senate by a vote of 91-8, with leading Democrats like Senators Joseph Biden, Barbara Boxer, Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Ted Kennedy voting in support. As for the 8 no votes, these were not even Democrats, and they had nothing to do with concerns over violations of separation of church and state. As Discovery Institute senior fellow David K. DeWolf explained in his 2009 article "The 'Teach the Controversy' Controversy," "The only Senators who voted against the amendment were Republicans who were generally opposed to federal control over public education."

So why did Santorum's amendment enjoy support from a broad bipartisan coalition? Precisely because it did not advocate teaching religious views about creationism or taking science out of the classroom. The language of the Amendment (quoted above) aims to help students understand what is and isn't science, so they can distinguish testable science from "philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of science." The point here is to help students understand why some concepts are scientific, and others aren't. It's effect would be the opposite of pushing religion under the guise of science.

The final language adopted into the Conference Report of the No Child Left Behind Act 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.
Again, there's nothing here about taking science out of the classroom. Nor is there anything about teaching intelligent design. Moreover, the language aims to prevent religion from being snuck in as science, and thus respects the First Amendment's prohibition of establishing religion in public schools.

In closing, the Huffington Post dutifully repeats the false talking point, but adds a new inaccurate twist, claiming: "In 2001 he [Santorum] tried to promote the teaching of intelligent design in his failed Santorum Amendment to the No Child Left Behind Act." But the Santorum Amendment did not "fail." Rather, it accomplished exactly what it set out to do: The Santorum Amendment represents a successful amendment where both Houses of U.S. Congress ultimately endorsed language which supported teaching students about the scientific controversy over biological evolution.

If Congress endorsed language that only protects the teaching of science, and would help students understand the difference between science and religious claims made in the name of science, why does the Darwin lobby object?

It's simple: the language also endorses teaching students about "the full range of scientific views that exist" surrounding the controversy over biological evolution. Since most evolution lobbyists want only the pro-Darwin view taught, they misconstrue the actual effect of the amendment in order to censor scientific views they disagree with.