Lectures on the Hill

This winter our Wilberforce Forum presented our second Capitol Hill lecture series: "Contours of a Christian Worldview." Our goal is to encourage members of Congress and their staffs to apply a Christian worldview to their primary calling -- making laws. One of the speakers who participated in both the first lecture series in 2000 and this year's lecture series is University of California at Berkeley scholar Phillip Johnson, who also received our Wilberforce Award this year. In 2000 Prof. Johnson addressed for the members of Congress the need to teach the controversy surrounding evolution. Claiming that evolution is established fact, you see, is dishonest. Scientists know there is a controversy and so should the students -- let them hear both sides. Congressman Mark Souder of Indiana heard Johnson speak and was so impressed that he introduced him to Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. Soon thereafter, Santorum asked Johnson for help in drafting an amendment to the No Child Left Behind law. The so-called Santorum amendment states "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." It's a simple statement of academic freedom and intellectual integrity. And now it's the law, passed overwhelmingly. Yet while it was enacted, it was not really implemented. This year we brought Phillip Johnson back to Capitol Hill. He and Sen. Santorum scheduled a meeting with representatives from the Department of Education to encourage the department to write regulations to implement the amendment. You may remember that the Senate office buildings were closed earlier this year because of the poison ricin that was found in one of the buildings. And as a result, the people from the Department of Education got lost trying to find the meeting. When Sen. Santorum called to find out where they were, an embarrassed department sent a new team, one that included an undersecretary -- someone with authority to make changes. Amazing how God works. They met together for two hours -- an unprecedented length of time for a senator under any circumstances. The department has since answered a letter from a superintendent of schools for the state of Montana. That letter affirmed that the federal government does not require, nor does it prohibit, the teaching of any particular scientific view or theory of origins. The Santorum amendment is now being cited in a number of states, like Ohio, considering changes in curriculum. What a great victory in breaking the hold evolution has in education! As Bruce Chapman of the Discovery Institute has said, "What the federal government actually does support is 'academic freedom and inquiry' on scientific theories . . . If states and localities follow that common sense approach, they will not go wrong." Now this kind of thing doesn't happen every day, but when it does, it reminds us that the worldview battle is worth fighting and that God blesses our efforts, providentially ordering events on Capitol Hill, as well as in your school district. For further reading and information: Call 1-877-322-5527 to request a free copy of Dr. Phillip Johnson's February 2004 talk on Capitol Hill, "One Nation under What?" Read the U.S. Department of Education letter regarding teaching the controversy. Phillip E. Johnson, "Intelligent Design, Freedom, and Education," BreakPoint WorldView, May 2003. (This article provides the text and explains the effects of the Santorum Amendment to the federal education bill.) Phillip E. Johnson, The Right Questions: Truth, Meaning, and Public Debate (InterVarsity, 2002). Phillip E. Johnson, The Wedge of Truth (InterVarsity, 2000). "Dr. Phillip Johnson Receives PF's William Wilberforce Award," Wilberforce Forum. BreakPoint Commentary No. 040312, "Good News from Ohio: Teaching the Controversy." BreakPoint Commentary No. 040301, "Charles Darwin Knew: Science and Freedom." Learn more about intelligent design at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. The Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Center endeavors to establish student groups on high school and college campuses. "The Design Revolution" -- a " BreakPoint This Week" CD interview with Dr. William Dembski discussing his new book The Design Revolution (both available from BreakPoint). On June 24-26, the Wilberforce Forum is co-hosting the Intelligent Design Conference with Highlands Community Church. A separate youth conference will also be held at the same time. Register by April 30 to take advantage of the early bird rate!


Chuck Colson



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