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Creationism Trial Offers Viewers A Lively Show

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While the State of Arkansas tried to defend its bill requiring schools to teach "creation science" last week, minor and major diversions distracted attention from the testimony inside the courtroom.

The Associated Press reported one such event: an exhibition, called ''The Missing Link," of two females wrestling in chocolate pudding held in a Little Rock, Ark., nightclub.

Attracting the most attention, though, were accusations made before the state's defense began that Arkansas Attorney General Steven Clark was "crooked" and guilty of a conflict of interest.

M.G. (Pat) Robertson made the charges on the "700 Club," a television program on the Christian Broadcasting Network (cbn).

Mr. Robertson, host of the program and president of cbn, said that Mr. Clark might be trying to lose the case because he contributed two free lunches to be auctioned at a fundraiser, called "Monkeyshines," for the American Civil Liberties Union (aclu). The civil-liberties group is a party to the suit against Arkansas.

Mr. Robertson later said he had been misquoted. "I said the way the case was being handled was crooked."

Responding to the allegations, Mr. Clark said he has made similar contributions to a number of other groups in the past.

The state's first witness also attracted considerable attention when he testified that he believed in U.F.O.'s, and that they were a manifestation of Satan.

Norman Geisler, a professor of theology at the Dallas Theological Seminary, also admitted that he felt the "inspiration and model" for Arkansas's Act 590, the state law requiring "balanced treatment" of creation science when the theory of evolution is taught in public schools, came from the book of Genesis.

But he added, "I don't think it's of any significance at all."

Federal District Judge William R. Overton, who has tried to make the trial an open forum for discussion of the relative merits of creationism and evolution, berated one of the state's witnesses, who argued that creationism was scientific but had been the subject of "assassinations" in established scientific journals.

Judge Overton told William S. Morrow, a chemistry professor at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., that "you've expressed all sorts of opinions, and I haven't heard one single solid basis for any of them."

Other witnesses offered testimony on the state's contention that because there are "gaps" in the theory of evolution, creationism should be considered a valid alternate theory.

One witness, Margaret Helder, a Canadian botanist, said that variations in the structure of algae demonstrates that evolution's idea of common ancestry is incorrect.

Another state witness disappeared before the appointed hour of his testimony. Dean Kenyon, a professor at San Francisco State University, checked out of his hotel room last Monday night and left no information on where he would be.

And William V. Mayer, head of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study in Colorado and the final witness for the aclu, said he was tired of creationism. "This year alone I have spent two and a half months with creationists in one way or another," he said. "I don't think they deserve that much time."

Testimony is expected to be completed before Christmas.--A.H.

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