Creationism Debate Planned For TV and State Legislatures
A prime-time television debate between an evolutionist and a creationist will set the stage for similar debates expected to take place this fall in legislatures around the country and in the courts of Arkansas and Louisiana.
On Oct. 13, a 50-minute debate, sponsored by Jerry Falwell's "Old Time Gospel Hour," will be taped for later distribution to local television stations around the country.
The opponents will be Duane T. Gish, associate director of the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego, and Russell F. Doolittle, a protein chemist at the University of California at San Diego.
Mr. Gish holds a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley. He is a widely known pro-creationism lecturer and the author of several books, including Evolution? The Fossils Say NO!, Dinosaurs: Those Terrible Lizards, Manipulating Life: Where Does it Stop?, Speculations and Experiments Related to the Origin of Life (A Critique), Have You Been Brainwashed?, and Gish Answers Faculty, a response, according to the Creation-Life Publishers catalogue, to the critical "ridicule" with which Brainwashed was received.
Mr. Doolittle has published more than 100 articles on biochemical evolution. He has debated Mr. Gish before, in Iowa and California, and said last week that he accepted the invitation to debate only because he was familiar with his opponent's arguments. He said he would have declined the invitation to appear if that would have caused cancellation of the event.
Bill Will Be Pushed in States
In the states, debates over creationism will continue apace when legislatures begin the new legislative year in January. According to Paul Ellwanger, head of Citizens For Fairness In Education and author of the bill on which the Louisiana and Arkansas laws were based, at least 17 states have bills still pending and in another 10 states, bills may be introduced this fall.
"I'm urging all states that had a bill pending to reintroduce the new version, revision number two," Mr. Ellwanger said. "The new version will be longer. The additional length anticipates some of the hangups in understanding the language of the bill. Everyone seems to be bent on confusing the issue.
"The media," he continued, "constantly misrepresent the language of the bill. The single most common distortion is to say that the bill would mandate the teaching of biblical creation. They continue to call it bringing religion into the school. I can't believe the media are that stupid. Either they don't know how to read or they're too lazy to read. The media stinks from one end of this country to the other."
The new bill will provide greater detail on the meaning of "creation-science," according to Mr. Ellwanger.
Mr. Ellwanger's original bill was the result, he said, of conferences with about 30 people in different states, "including science and legal professionals." The revision "has been based on past history and the performance of the bill," among other things, he said.
Mr. Ellwanger is also promoting a second bill, designed for introduction in Congress. Not yet introduced, the bill is "aimed at the evolution monopoly in national parks and national museums where federal monies are currently subsidizing the same monopoly that's in the halls of academia," according to Mr. Ellwanger.
The bill also has a clause, he said, "on the letting of federal grants to do origins research. 6I know two scientists who were kicked in the teeth, treated like dirt, because their direction was a threat to the pet theories of the evolutionary monopolists," he added.
Mr. Ellwanger predicted that the bill would be introduced sometime within the next six weeks but he would not say who will sponsor it.
Witnesses Chosen in Arkansas
Meanwhile, witnesses for the American Civil Liberties Union have been announced in the Arkansas suit brought by the civil-liberties group against the state contesting its new creationism law. The list includes the astronomer Carl Sagan of Cornell University and the theologian Martin Marty of the University of Chicago, as well as scientists from the fields of paleontology, geology, biology, and molecular biophysics. The state has a list of some 67 witnesses from the U.S., Canada, and Switzerland.
Both sides in the suit have opposed efforts by a group of 19 pro-creationism individuals and organizations to intervene in the case. This month, Judge William R. Overton of the Eastern District Federal Court denied the group's motion to intervene.
The judge and representatives from both sides were scheduled to meet last Thursday to decide whether to move the court date from Oct. 25 to some time in December.