Monday, July 30, 2001

TO: Hawaii State Board of Education
FROM: Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church
RE: Testimony for Summary Oral Presentation on Thursday, August 2, 2001, Regarding New Standards of Science Education Performance
DATE: Monday, July 30, 2001 - Sent Via Fax Transmission
__________________________________________________

Aloha Chairman Watanabe and Members of the Board of Education:

My name is Mitchell Kahle and I represent Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church (HCSSC).

Board of Education member Denise Matsumoto has proposed allowing "biblical creationism" as an "alternative theory" to biological evolution within the new performance standards established for science education.

We have two immediate concerns regarding the proposal:

1) The inclusion of purely sectarian religious content within the public school curriculum is unconstitutional.

2) Religious "creation theories" do not meet the requirements for inclusion within the context of any science curriculum.

It is unconstitutional for any public school to advance one religion over others or to advance religion generally over non-religion. The Constitution requires that all government actions must: 1) serve a principally secular purpose; 2) not in effect advance religion over non-religion; or 3) avoid excessive entanglement with religion. Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971)

The U.S. Supreme Court has directly addressed the issue of including creationist views on the origin of life in public school
curriculums. In West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette (1943), Justice Robert Jackson wrote: "If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein."

The High Court ruled in Epperson v. Arkansas (1968) that a state statute banning the teaching of evolution in public schools violated the First Amendment. The courts position was reaffirmed in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987), which struck down a Louisiana law requiring that creation theory be taught alongside evolution. In McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education (1982), a U.S. District Count declared, "creation science is not scientific and masks religious beliefs."

To pass constitutional requirements, inclusion of the Bible within any public school curriculum requires the simultaneous inclusion and equal treatment of all other religious points of view. But this approach is impractical, because there are literally thousands of contradictory religious theories concerning the origins of life.

With due caution, the Bible may be used within a balanced course on comparative religion or ancient mythology. The Bible may also be taught as literature or within the context of history. When restricted to use within inclusive, pluralistic, and non-scientific courses, study of the Bible does not violate the Constitution.

Within the context of science, however, we must never tolerate the inclusion of any purely religious non-scientific theories. To be
considered for formal inclusion within the science curriculum, any hypothesis must be supported by empirical evidence obtained through strict adherence to the methods of modern scientific inquiry, rigorous testing, and peer review.

The preponderance of evidence obtained through science must support the proposed theory without contradiction.

Creation theory has failed all credible scientific research and testing and has been rejected by every accredited university science department in the world. Evolution, on the other hand, has consistently passed repeated testing through millions of scientific experiments since Charles Darwin published "On the Origin of Species" in 1859.

Evolution is no longer just a theory; it is a well-established principle of science. Evolution is taught as fact in every university because there are no scientifically valid alternative or competing theories. Evolutionary biology has in fact become an applied science, with widespread use by the biotech, environmental, medical, and pharmaceutical industries.

Were the BOE to incorporate Christian mythology within the science curriculum, teachers would be required to advance religion at the expense of true science education. If a religion-based "alternative theory" is introduced to the curriculum, then who will choose which "theory" to advance?

Such theories would not just affect biology, but other subjects of science. Anatomy, anthropology, archeology, astronomy, chemistry, geology, history, math, and physics would be adversely impacted as well. The consequences of this policy boggle the mind.

For instance in geology, would the BOE require teachers to advance an alternative theory that the Earth is only 6,000 years old? If so, then how will schools ever teach students that the earliest civilizations developed more than 10,000 years ago? How will students learn about the Paleolithic and Neolithic ages of human history? How will they learn that the species homo sapiens has been traced back more than 25,000 years?

What about the formation of the Earth, which in truth occurred over billions of years? Will geology teachers be required to offer an alternative theory that our planet may have been created in just six days?

When students are taught about volcanism and plate tectonics, will teachers advance a theory that Hell exists at the center of the Earth?

Will geography classrooms be required to replace the globes with small flat tables? The Bible, after all, does insist that the Earth is flat and has four corners.

What about primordial life and the dinosaurs, which in fact each evolved over countless millions of years? Will biology teachers be required to offer that dinosaurs may have been ferried about on Noah's Ark?

In astronomy, will teachers be required to suggest an alternative Earth-centered view of the universe? The Bible claims the Sun and Moon travel above the Earth in something called the "firmament." It is a scientific fact that stars are suns spread throughout the observable universe: will astronomy students be taught that stars are instead "holes in the firmament through which the light of Heaven shines"? Will students be taught that the Moon is "God's lesser light to rule the night"? Will teachers insist that a man once stopped the Sun in its journey across the sky? Will students be required to read horoscopes and astrology charts?

Newton's theories of motion and gravity and Einstein's theories of special and general relativity are the basis for our understanding of how the universe works. Will the BOE require an alternative theory of gravity? How about an alternative theory of relativity? Willthe "Big Bang" theory be forced to compete for classroom time with ridiculous and unsustainable ideas like creationism?

In mathematics, will teachers require that Pi (p = 3.14) be interpreted as a round number (3) to avoid contradiction with the biblical view of God's perfection? Will seven and twelve be taught as magic numbers of spiritual significance?

Will anthropology students be required to consider that Adam and Eve were the first humans? Will anatomy courses be required to teach that Eve, the first female, was created from the rib of Adam, the first man? Will anatomy students be told the human body includes a soul?

Will language students be required to consider the "Tower of Babel" theory of linguistics? Will history students be told the story of Moses as part of Egyptian and Middle Eastern history?

Will chemistry and physics students be taught that rainbows are "an indication of God's covenant with man" or that they are caused by sunlight refracted through water droplets in the air?

The absurdity of mingling unsupported religious claims and mythologies with science education should be clear to any intelligent person.

Public schools are institutions of knowledge; they are not temples of ideology!

Is the BOE going to replace all of the science textbooks with "Christian-approved" versions? Will standardized tests be revised to
include biblical questions and answers? Who will grade these religious tests and how?

If the BOE wishes to address the issue of religion fairly, then it must include all religious views as equally viable. More than two-thirds of Hawaii residents are non-Christian. Buddhism, Shintoism, Daoism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, the Hawaiian Ho`omana and others each deserve and must receive equal treatment to remain within the limits of the constitutional separation of state and church.

No religion, however, may be included in any scientific context within the public school curriculum. Religion is not ever science!

The Board of Education's action on this proposal will dramatically affect the national and international opinion of Hawaii and its residents. Please don't make Hawaii the laughing stock of the nation. Don't cause Hawaii's public schools to forfeit their science accreditation. Don't make a mockery of hard-working, well-educated science teachers. And don't insult the intelligence of Hawaii's citizens.

On behalf of HCSSC, its members and supporters, I hereby urge the Board of Education to reject the inclusion of any non-scientific
"alternative theories of origin" and to instead mandate an absolute ban on the teaching of any non-scientific or religious theories within the context of science education.

Sincerely,

Mitchell Kahle
Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church

Phone: 524-6208 Fax: 524-9578 Email: hcssc@lava.net