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CNN SUNDAY MORNING

Interview With Mike Malloy, Joseph Loconte

Aired September 29, 2002 - 11:11   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Now to a national debate over religion and choice in American classrooms. An Atlanta, Georgia suburb county has decided that evolution will be just one of a number of theories taught in their classrooms. Board members unanimously approved the new policy that would allow teachers to introduce other ideas for discussions, including creationism. Critics say the move will allow religious teaching in public classrooms, but proponents say they are simply giving students greater choices. CNN's Jenny Gojuolia (ph) has the background.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JENNY GOJUOLIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In this upscale Atlanta suburb, the Cobb County Board of Education is voting whether or not to allow public school teachers to discuss, in the board's words, "disputed views of academic subjects," most significantly, the origins of mankind.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) want to introduce creationism to the science curriculum alongside evolution. They stress that when children ask the question, "where do we come from," it's fair they're presented with different possibilities.

JOHN CALVERT, MANAGING DIRECTOR, INTELLIGENCE DESIGN, INC.: I think the state needs to allow the kids to see the evidence that supports both concepts. Yes, this evidence has religious implications. The evidence in design has clear religious implications, but the evidence of no design has clear religious implications.

GOJUOLIA: Those opposed, however, say introducing concepts like design to students is simply a masquerade to bring religion into public classrooms, and that is inconsistent with the constitutional separation of church and state.

Major opponents, including the D.C. watch group Americans United argue that by portraying evolution as just another theory will hurt students in the end.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you want to believe that "The Flintstones" cartoons were people and dinosaurs exist at the same time are documentaries, you're entitled to believe that. But once you start to introduce those kinds of ideas into a public school classroom, you've crossed the line and are teaching junk science, not real science.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WHITFIELD: And that was Jenny Gojuolia (ph), who was reporting for us.

More now on the debate that goes back farther than the so-called Scopes monkey trial, the famous 1925 courtroom battle that put a biology teacher on trial for teaching evolution. On one side, we're joined by Joseph Loconte of the Heritage Foundation, and he's with us from Washington. And on the other, Mike Malloy, well-known syndicated radio talk show host, and he's here in Atlanta. Thank you, gentlemen, for joining us.

Well, Mr. Loconte, let me begin with you. It seems like offering a choice would make everyone happy. Why isn't it?

JOSEPH LOCONTE, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: I think there are at least three things that the evolutionists are arguing that are deeply mistaken. They forget that the people who gave birth to modern science were people of deep religious commitment, Christian commitment. So when they looked into nature, they saw evidence for design and they gave birth to modern science to begin with. That's the first point that the evolutionists forget. They owe their very profession, really, to people of faith commitments.

In one sense, this is nothing new that people with faith commitment are introducing an alternative scientific theory to the origins of life. The second point is that I think what we're seeing here is a kind of puritanical approach to science in the sense that the high priests of evolution, they want to burn at the stake anybody -- any scientist who dissent from their Darwinian dogma, so there is no room for dissent within the scientific community.

WHITFIELD: Well, Mr. Malloy, you are both bristling and laughing. Why?

MIKE MALLOY, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, I'm listening to the religious terminology that your guest is using. The only persons who have ever been burned at the stake were scientists who refused to accept religious dogma.

Look, the reason it's called the theory of evolution is because science is designed to accept change. When new evidence is presented, that evidence is incorporated. The reason they call it religious doctrine or dogma is because it is not open to change. To inject religion into the classroom is wrong.

Let me give you a quick example. In Utah recently, the idea of teaching yoga breathing exercises got everybody in that state in a tremendous uproar, those on the political and religious right. They said this is an introduction of religion. And yet here in Georgia and in Ohio and in Kansas last -- a couple of years ago, the idea of introducing Christian fundamentalist theory, where it -- or mythology -- where it concerns the creation of humankind is seen as giving children a choice. That's a lie.

LOCONTE: But that's a false argument, sir. No one is talking about introducing the Bible here. What we're talking about is letting scientists follow the scientific evidence that leads to design and intelligence. Even the leading evolutionists...

MALLOY: There is no scientific evidence.

WHITFIELD: Well, doesn't this healthy exchange that you're having right now exemplify the exact kind of discussions that would take place in Cobb County, that's the county where these kids are here in Georgia are now going to be able to exercise?

MALLOY: No, it would not, Fredricka. It would not.

LOCONTE: What are the evolutionists so afraid of? Even leading evolutionists like Richard Dawkins say when you look at the record, it gives the complexity of the simplest forms of life that suggests intelligence and design. Even Dawkins admits that, but he won't follow the evidence where it leads him. That's dogma. That's a philosophy. That's not science.

MALLOY: He won't follow -- he won't follow what you are labeling as evidence, sir, because it is not evidence. Religious mythology is religious mythology. Science is science.

LOCONTE: In no other realm of life do we look at complex structures and conclude that they came about randomly. I don't step in a 747 and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) pilot, no?

WHITFIELD: But Mr. Loconte, isn't the goal not necessarily to convince these children which approach to take but instead to allow the healthy discussions to take place, and then perhaps through the guidance of their churches or perhaps their families at home, they can present these very same arguments at home, because it was at least -- or at least the seed perhaps was planted in school?

(CROSSTALK)

MALLOY: Again, Fredricka...

LOCONTE: The scientific community should not be afraid to entertain alternative scientific views for the complexity and the origin of life. They shouldn't be afraid to entertain those views. That's a democratic process.

MALLOY: That's such an absolute untruth. There is no science to religion whatsoever. Come on.

LOCONTE: We're not talking about that. We're talking about intelligent design, not the Bible.

MALLOY: When you talk about the religion being the foundation of science, that it's Christian religion, are you discounting the ancient Chinese, are you discounting Arabic science? When you say -- when you say...

LOCONTE: No, when you say that there's nothing...

MALLOY: No, sir, no, sir, when you say science has a Christian foundation, that's an absolute untruth. And shame on you for believing that.

LOCONTE: We believe in an orderly universe...

WHITFIELD: Mr. Loconte, hold on a second. Mr. Malloy, do you still, though, have some concerns that perhaps since the teachings really are certainly going to be influenced by the teacher at the head of the class, does it concern you that perhaps the teacher may take a biased approach on exactly where the emphasis should be in his or her teachings in the classroom?

MALLOY: There's no question. Once you bring religion -- if the instructor is of the Hindu faith and is told to teach creationism, what is he going to teach? What is she going to teach? If the instructor is Native American, what is she going to teach? If the instructor is Jewish, Christian or Muslim, what are they going to teach?

WHITFIELD: So Mr. Loconte, Mr. Loconte, who then is going to be the police of every classroom?

LOCONTE: We don't need a policeman. We just need intellectual honesty in the teaching of science. So when Richard Dawkins says in his book, the living results of natural selection overwhelmingly impress us with the appearance of design as if by a master watchmaker, that's a leading evolutionary biologist admitting it looks like there is an intelligence behind this thing, but he won't follow the evidence.

MALLOY: The appearance of design -- no, sir...

LOCONTE: Students need to know that there are divergent views within the scientific community.

MALLOY: Absolutely untrue.

LOCONTE: That's intellectual honesty.

MALLOY: The appearance -- no, it's not. It's religious dogma. The appearance of design is not design. And to suggest that the appearance of design equals design is a false argument on your part.

LOCONTE: But to rule that argument out of bounds from the outset is not science; that's a philosophy and a dogma.

MALLOY: Well, I'm not saying (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

WHITFIELD: Well, it sounds as though both of you are setting an example of what's going to be taking place in this classroom.

LOCONTE: And let's have more of it. Exactly. Let's have more of it.

MALLOY: Look, evolutionary biology has already suggested that the brain is hard-wired to accept spirituality. But in that hard wiring, there is no indication of what sort of spirituality should be taught. Let the schools, the mosques and the synagogues teach religion or creationism. Let the schools teach science.

WHITFIELD: All right. Mike Malloy, you just had the last word.

MALLOY: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Joseph Loconte, also, thank you very much.

LOCONTE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: .. for joining us. We're out of time, but we appreciate the very healthy debate.

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