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CNN SUNDAY MORNING

Interview With Jerry Falwell

Aired February 1, 2004 - 08:21   ET

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

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: Here in Georgia, the state superintendent of schools is getting a lot of flack for suggesting that the word "evolution" be stricken from textbooks. Students would still learn about it in science class, they just wouldn't be able to call it that.
CNN's Brian Cabell traces the "evolution" of the controversy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "Evolution," it's a word that may soon disappear from science classes in Georgia's public schools.

KATHY COX, GEORGIA SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT: That is a buzz word that causes a lot of negative reaction. It also causes people to jump to conclusions.

CABELL: Kathy Cox, Georgia's school superintendent, has proposed a curriculum that does not mention "evolution." Instead, it substitutes the phrase "biological changes over time." One state senator is outraged by the proposed change and likens it to the dispute over the Confederate battle flag.

CONNIE STOKES, GEORGIA STATE SENATOR: It's the same kind of issue. People are looking at us thinking, what are they talking about doing in Georgia?

CABELL: Actually, five other states currently do not contain the word "evolution" in their science curriculum. They include Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi and Oklahoma. Cox, who insists she has no religious agenda, said Georgia's new curriculum would include Darwin's teaching of evolution, just not the word itself. But she wants the state's students to be open to all theories, scientific, religious for otherwise.

COX: I don't like to sit and think, well, we've got one accepted model of science and these other scientists are out there and they don't know what they're doing. Every major scientific breakthrough has been done by an individual who was shunned by the rest of the scientific community.

CABELL: Critics say, however, that Georgia students will be shortchanged if Cox has her way.

CARLOS MORENO, EMORY UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR: Students who don't understand what evolution is are going to be at a real disadvantage when it comes time for them to go to college.

CABELL: The controversial curriculum is now posted on a Web site. Education officials asking for feedback have so far been hit by a torrent of criticism.

(on camera): The board of education votes on the proposed curriculum in May. That's when changes can be made if educators and the public demand changes.

Brian Cabell, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: The Reverend Jerry Falwell is a devout creationist, but he takes exception to the proposed curriculum change in Georgia. Reverend Falwell is joining us now from Lynchburg, Virginia, to share his thoughts on this issue.

Reverend, thanks for being with us this morning. Sure do appreciate your time.

REV. JERRY FALWELL, LIBERTY UNIVERSITY CHANCELLOR: Surely.

COLLINS: This is an interesting perspective that you have. Tell us about your thoughts. You think that it's actually OK to teach evolution and, if you will, a little bit of both.

FALWELL: I do. You know, Heidi, the battle we've been fighting for all of these years as creationists is academic freedom. We propose that, as here at Liberty University, with 15,000 students, we teach both evolution and creation, both models. And amazingly, when you give the information on both models, overwhelmingly the students come down on the side of creation.

The problem we have in the public schools is not what they're trying to do in Georgia. It is the total exclusion of any mention of creationism in the public classroom, including higher learning institutions, colleges, universities.

COLLINS: Why do you think that's happening? Why is it OK for sometimes the creationism idea to be left out entirely?

FALWELL: Because -- well, as a matter of fact, there is a total blackout of creation instruction in the public schools of America, and in most of the colleges and universities, because I think the scientists who, under the guise that this is not true science, are afraid to expose their theory, their model to the creation model. And to me, that is a violation of academic freedom.

Way back in 1925, in the Scopes trial, it was just the reverse. A law was passed there to fire a teacher because he mentioned creationism, and they won at the lower level, lost later. That's the opposite of what we want.

We don't want to fire anybody of teaching evolution. We just want to allow the teaching of cretin and other models in the classroom so that academic freedom prevails in the science classroom like it does in every other discipline.

COLLINS: Let me ask you a personal question, if I may. I know that your daughter who is going through medical school of course had to deal with evolution in going through that training. How did she handle that, given the upbringing that she had?

FALWELL: Well, we have two boys and a girl, a doctor, a preacher, and genius surgeon. She's a professor of surgery now for the Medical College of Virginia, and she is also a practicing surgeon.

But back during medical school days, she, likewise, a creationist, would be asked a question that proposed an answer based upon the Darwinian model. And she would give the answer just like the professor, in her mind, wanted it, and then she would simply state, "This is not my personal conviction. I do believe it's the information you want." And they smiled and let her get by with that.

COLLINS: All right. It's the last question for you, sir. Do you really believe that scientific beliefs and religious faith can actually coexist in the classroom?

FALWELL: I do, indeed. As a matter of fact, I think creationism is creation science.

And I believe that people like Dr. Kenneth Ham (ph) at Answers in Genesis in Florence, Kentucky, Dr. Henry Morris at the Institution Creation Research out in San Diego, and thousands of scientists -- Dr. Harmash (ph) used to head the Department of Civil Engineering here at Virginia Tech -- they're all creationists. And there are thousands like them who teach creationism as science and science as creationism, and likewise, teach the evolution model. Young people, when they hear the facts on both sides, or what are proposed to be facts, overwhelmingly, like 80 percent of the American people, accept and adopt creationism.

COLLINS: Well, we should let everyone know that the board here in Georgia is expected to rule on this issue on these proposed changes.

FALWELL: That won't stand in Georgia. The governor came out today, Governor Perdue, opposed to it. And he should.

COLLINS: OK. I'm just saying that this decision is going to be made in May. I want to let everybody know that.

Reverend Jerry Falwell, we appreciate your time this morning. Thanks so much.

FALWELL: Thank you.

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