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Santorum Amendment

The Santorum Amendment is a specific amendment to a 2001 education funding bill proposed by Republican United States senator Rick Santorum from Pennsylvania, which relates to the teaching of evolution in U.S. public schools.

Phillip E. Johnson, a UC Berkeley law professor, proponent of Intelligent Design, author of many books that claim there is a lack of scientific evidence for biological evolution and challenge philosophical naturalism phrased the original amendment. It reads:

"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."

On June 14, 2001, the amendment was passed as part of the H.R. 1 education funding bill by the Senate on a vote of 91–8. This was hailed as a major victory by creationists; for instance an email newsletter by the Discovery Institute contained the sentence "Undoubtedly this will change the face of the debate over the theories of evolution and intelligent design in America...It also seems that the Darwinian monopoly on public science education, and perhaps the biological sciences in general, is ending." Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas cited the amendment as vindicating the 1999 Kansas school board decision (since overturned) to eliminate evolution questions from state tests.

The Senate version of the bill H.R. 1 did not contain the amendment, which meant that a conference committee had to decide its ultimate fate.

Scientists and educators feared that by singling out biological evolution as very controversial, the amendment could create the impression that a substantial scientific controversy about evolution exists, leading to a weakening of science curricula. A coalition of 96 scientific and educational organizations wrote a letter to this effect to the conference committee, urging that the amendment be stricken from the final bill, which it was.

While the amendment did not become law, a version of it appears in the Conference Report (Congressional record) as an explanatory text about the legislative history and purposes of the bill. Such a report may be taken into account if courts later need to consider the intent of the bill, but it has no legal force per se.

The final text of the Santorum Amendment as included in the Conference Report reads:

"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."
(Congressional Conferees Language on Controversies Such as Evolution (Revised "Santorum Amendment"): 2001–107th Congress-1st Session-House of Representatives Report-107 334 No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 Conference Report to accompany H.R. 1)

Opposition to the amendment

The position of mainstream scientists and science educators has been that although evolution has generated a great deal of political and philosophical debate it is generally regarded by scientists as a valid and well-supported scientific theory. They argued that the amendment creates a misperception about the current status of the theory within the scientific community, either intentionally or unintentionally, and in so doing, furthers a specious justification being used to weaken science curricula. It was in response to these concerns and others that a coalition of 96 scientific and educational organizations wrote a letter to the conference committee, urging that the amendment be stricken from the final bill. [1]

In addition, opponents of the amendment cite the stated agendas of the Discovery Institute and Phillip Johnson, which both advocate the use of the wedge strategy to allow the return of religious creationism in the guise of intelligent design to public school classrooms.

See also

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