Arkansas House Bill 2548 is a composite of anti-evolutionary sources

News 2001/03/23: HB2548 fails in House vote. 51 votes were needed for approval; the bill received 45 "yes" votes, 36 "no" votes, and 19 abstentions. The bill could still be reintroduced by Rep. Holt in the remaining three weeks of the legislative session, so be sure to let the representatives know your position on this bill.

2001/03/26: Rep. Stovall "served notice" that reconsideration of the vote which failed to pass HB2548 would occur within the time allotted. Translation: The vote on 03/23 was not the final word. Make sure to let the legislators know your opinion on this issue. See the contact information section of this page.

2001/03/27: Rep. Jim Holt was reported to be preparing to re-introduce HB2548 to the Arkansas House. In an article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Holt was reported to say that Jonathan Wells' "Icons of Evolution" was a source for his bill.

2001/03/30: Rep. Holt has scheduled HB2548 for consideration again on 2001/04/02 at 1 PM. First, a vote to expunge the earlier vote (2001/03/23) by which the bill failed, and then (if that vote succeeds) a vote to send the bill back to committee. It was reported by Seth Blomeley that Holt intended to largely re-write HB2548 to say that textbooks should be reviewed for accuracy.


A Modest Suggestion

One issue is avoided by HB2548 entirely: What about claims that something is false that are themselves false or fraudulent? I will suggest the following concept for inclusion as an amendment to HB2548. Some legal eagle can put it into legal-speak.

Section 1 (e)(1)(A): No person shall, under the provisions of this law, falsely label valid evidence or properly defined theories as false or fraudulent.

Section 1 (e)(1)(B): State agencies, city, county, school districts, or political subdivisions shall be guided by the consensus of experts in the field specified by any putative instance of an item to be included under Section 1 (d)(3) of this law, for the purpose of determining whether each such item shall be considered enforceable under Section 1 (d)(3) of this law.

Section 1 (e)(1)(C): Because of the tentative nature of the scientific process discussed in Section 1 (d)(1) and (2), periodic re-evaluation of items enforced under Section 1 (d)(3) shall occur such that any claims of false or fraudulent items may be retracted as they themselves become false

Remember, the above items are NOT part of HB2548, but they or something like them should be. Tell your representative.

The Anti-Evolutionary Sources of Arkansas House Bill 2548

A bill proposed in 2001 in the Arkansas legislature by Representative Jim Holt would make it illegal for the state or any of its agencies to use state funds to purchase materials that contain false or fraudulent claims. A list of such claims is provided in the text of House Bill 2548 (HB2548). What makes this so interesting is that much of the text of those examples is either quoted verbatim from anti-evolutionary sources or is a close paraphrase of such materials. The sources include a cartoon booklet published by Jack Chick. Many of the "examples" selected are themselves either false or misleading.

The full text of HB2548 is available online here.

The status of HB2548 is available online here.

Below are items from Arkansas HB2548, links or references to the apparent source of the quote or paraphrase (where identified), critical summaries of the topic, and links to sources of information either specifically addressing the claim or discussing the general topic.

Section 1 (a): "No state agency, city, county, school district, or political subdivisions shall use any public funds to provide instruction or purchase books, documents or other written material which it knows or should have known contain descriptions, conclusions, or pictures designed to promote the false evidences setforth[sic] in subsection (d) of this section."

Section 1 (b): "State agencies, public school districts, museums, zoos, and all political subdivisions of the state shall only provide information that is as accurate as possible."

Section 1 (c)(1): "During classroom instruction conducted by state agencies, museums, zoos, public schools, and political subdivisions of the state, when any statement in instructional material is identified by the instructor to be a false evidence under subsection (d), the instructor shall instruct the class to make a marginal notation that the statement is a false evidence under this act."

Section 1 (c)(2): "During classroom instruction conducted by state agencies, museums, zoos, public schools, and political subdivisions of the state, when any statement in instructional material is identified by the instructor to be a theory, the instructor shall instruct the class to make a marginal notation that the statement is a theory."

Section 1 (c)(3)(A): "Example[sic] of such theories include, but shall not be limited to: (A) The theory of the age of the earth;"

Section 1 (c)(3)(B): "The theory of the origin of life;"

Section 1 (c)(3)(C): "The theory that homology in vertebrate limbs is evidence for common ancestry;"

Section 1 (c)(3)(D): "The theory that the "geologic column" accurately represents different time periods on earth. The "geologic column" does not exist anywhere on the earth, except in textbooks;"

Section 1 (c)(3)(E): "The theory that fossils represents[sic] missing links between life forms. It can not be proven that any fossil had any offspring."

Section 1 (c)(3)(F)(i): "Carbon, Radioisotope Dating; (i) Shells from living snails were carbon dated as being 27,000 years old;"

Section 1 (c)(3)(F)(ii): "One part of the Vollosovitch Mammoth carbon dated at 29,500 years and another part at 44,000 years;"

Section 1 (c)(3)(G): "Potassium Argon Dating. Basalt from Mount Kilauea Iki, Hawaii in 1959 gave a K-AR age of 8,500,000 years old."

Section 1 (d)(1): "The General Assembly finds that: (1) Science is a special way of knowing and understanding the physical world that uses the "scientific method" to conduct rigorous investigations into processes that are observable and repeatable;"

Section 1 (d)(2): "Science is a discipline that employs skeptical peer review and experiments attempting to falsify ongoing and prior scientific work to ensure the validity and integrity of results;"

Section 1 (d)(3): "Many ideas and evidences of prior scientific work once believed to be true have been proven false or even fraudulent in many cases, including, but not limited to the following:"

Section 1 (d)(3)(A)(i-ii): "Haeckel's Embryos; (ii) Proven false in 1874 by Professor Wilhelm His, Sr. Ernst Haeckel was convicted of fraud for this in 1874. Human embryos never have gills"

Section 1 (d)(3)(B)(i-ii): "(B)(i) The Miller - Urey Experiment: (ii) Scientists have never proven that this test represents the atmosphere at any time on earth."

Section 1 (d)(3)(C)(i-ii): "Archaeopteryx as a missing link; (ii) An X-ray resonance spectrograph of the British Museum fossil showed that the material containing the feather impressions differed significantly from the rest of the fossil slab."

Section 1 (d)(3)(D)(i-ii): "(i) Peppered Moths; (ii) The photographs used in current textbooks are fraudulent as the moths were discovered to be dead and glued in place."

Section 1 (d)(3)(E)(i-ii): "(i) Fossil Horses; (ii) It is fraudulent to state that modern horses descended from fossil horses with four toes."

Section 1 (d)(3)(F)(i-ii): "Heidelberg Man; (ii) Built from a jaw bone that was conceded to be quite human;"

Section 1 (d)(3)(G)(i-ii): "Nebraska Man; (ii) Scientifically built up from one tooth and later learned to be the tooth of an extinct pig;"

Section 1 (d)(3)(H)(i-ii): "Piltdown Man; (ii) The jawbone actually belonged to a modern ape;"

Section 1 (d)(3)(I)(i-ii): "Peking Man; (ii) Supposedly 500,000 years old. Ten humans were found with the "Peking Man" along with crushed monkey skulls and tools.""

Section 1 (d)(3)(J)(i-ii): "Neanderthal Man; (ii) At the International Congress of Zoology (1958) Dr. A. J. E. Cave said his examination showed that the famous Neanderthal skeleton found in France over 50 years ago is that of an old man who suffered from arthritis;"

Section 1 (d)(3)(K)(i-ii): "(K)(i) Homo-erectus (originally "Java Man" and later Pithecanthropus erectus) was made from a few scraps of bone found in 1891. (ii) The skull cap came from an ape and three teeth and thigh bone (50 feet away) came from a human. Two normal human skulls were also found, but purposely hidden for 30 years."

Section 1 (d)(3)(L)(i-ii): "(i) Cro-Magnon Man; (ii) One of the earliest and best-established fossils is at least equal in physique and brain capacity to modern man;"

Section 1 (d)(3)(M)(i-ii): "(i) "Lucy"; (ii) Charles Oxnard studied 16 years and used computer multi-variant analysis and concluded "Lucy" is not intermediate"

Section 1 (d)(3)(N)(i-ii): "(i) Vestigial Structures; (ii) As science improves, our knowledge of the body has increased and functions of parts formerly thought to be useless are becoming known; and no proven vestigial structures exists[sic]. "

Section 1 (d)(3)(O)(i-ii): "(i) Lobe-fined[sic] fish; (ii) Lobe-fined[sic] fish are "index fossils" for rock 325-410 million years old. These fish are still alive today. "Coelacanth" was found in 1938 and still inhabits the Indian Ocean. It is obvious that it cannot be an "index fossil" for any age rock."

Problems Inherent in the Text of Arkansas House Bill 2548

The following list enumerates a number of serious problems which HB2548 has. These are taken from the "Assessment" sections of the "Critical Summary" items given above.

Finding Accurate Information About the Examples of HB2548

Arkansas House Bill 2548 extols the virtues of accurate information (Section 1 (b)), but the text of the bill itself is taken in significant part from unreliable and inaccurate sources.

The essentially misleading and disingenuous nature of the "examples" provided by anti-evolutionist sources becomes clear when one looks at the criticism that these have received. In the following section, links are provided to online sources that deal with the anti-evolutionary objections on various topics mentioned in HB2548.

In general, one should search the Talk.Origins Archive Talk.Origins Archive for critiques of anti-evolutionary claims. The t.o. archive also provides an extensive links page to other sites, including anti-evolutionary ones.

Archaeopteryx: [cf. AR HB S 1(d)(3)(C)] Anti-evolutionists have found the existence of Archaeopteryx lithographica exceedingly inconvenient, and have made a number of claims which collapse upon examination.

Fossil hominids: [cf. AR HB S 1(d)(3)(F-M)] The fossil record as it touches upon the descent of man is an especially touchy subject for anti-evolutionists, who have written much angry nonsense about it (cf. "Big Daddy", the source of much of HB2548's discussion of fossil hominids).

The Age of the Earth: [cf. AR HB S 1(c)(3)(A)] The anti-evolutionary sources from which much of HB2548 derives take a stance that the earth was created by God less than 20,000 years ago. This is known as "young-earth creationism" (YEC). Because this puts YEC in direct contention with scientific findings concerning the age of the Earth and the universe, it is unsurprising that a great deal of denial is engaged in by YEC advocates.

The Geologic Colum: [cf. AR HB S 1(c)(3)(D)] Anti-evolutionists have long denied the existence of the "geologic column" as being seen in any one locale. Apparently, this is supposed to cast doubt upon the entire enterprise of dating strata if not all the strata are seen at a particular location. What they fail to mention is that the geologic column was conceived of and documented by creationists who used no evolutionary principles in their research. Also, geologists know that one can find locations where the entire geologic column is preserved.

Transitional Fossils: [cf. AR HB S 1(c)(3)(E)] The issue isn't whether particular animals had offspring in the past.

Radioisotope Dating: [cf. AR HB S 1(c)(3)(F)] Some of the confusion experienced by anti-evolutionists is reflected in the heading of this section of HB2548: "Carbon, Radioisotope Dating". Some anti-evolutionists seem to believe that carbon dating is the method of radioisotope dating. It isn't. C14 dating is restricted to recent times (<~55,000YBP) and terrestrial carbon cycles. Other radioisotope methods are used to determine ages at longer time scales.

"Icons of Evolution": [cf. AR HB S 1(d)(3)(A,B,C,D,E)] Various items in HB2548 are chapter topics in Jonathan Wells' anti-evolutionary opus, "Icons of Evolution".

Peppered Moths: [cf. HB2548 S 1 (d)(3)(D)(i-ii)] Recently, anti-evolutionists have seized upon photographs of peppered moths on tree trunks as evidence of fraud in evolutionary biology. Again, the anti-evolutionists distort the real situation for political effect.

Abiogenesis: [cf. HB2548 S 1 (d)(3)(B)(i-ii)] Anti-evolutionists like to confuse and conflate the discipline of abiogenesis (or origin of life) research with evolutionary biology. The two are separate. Further, statements such as those found in HB2548 S 1 (d)(3)(B)(i-ii) ignore the fact that more work has been done since Miller's mid-1950's experiment.

Living Fossils: [cf. HB2548 S 1 (d)(3)(O)(i-ii)] Anti-evolutionists tend to think that horseshoe crabs or coelacanths pose difficulties for evolutionary biology. They don't.

Mammoths: [cf. HB2548 S 1 (c)(3)(F)(ii)] YECs and other varieties of anti-evolutionists make claims about mammoths that are not supported by a scrupulous examination of the evidence.

Ernst Haeckel: [cf. HB2548 S 1 (d)(3)(A)(i-ii)] Haeckel's embryological illustrations and dictum that "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" are favorite targets of anti-evolutionists.

Other Problems with HB2548

AR HB2548 has other difficulties besides reliance upon inaccurate or misleading sources.

Philosophy of Science: AR HB2548 S 1(d)(1-2) attempts to define, in two sentences, the philosophical basis of science. This definition follows anti-evolutionary sources closely, and is remarkably similar to language proposed in legislation in New Mexico. It also has the property of being, itself, false. One can find examples of scientific research that do not comport with the definition given by AR HB2548. For example, astronomers routinely investigate phenomena, like supernovas, which are unrepeatable events. In physiological research, it is often the case that the quantities that are measured do not directly come from the process of interest, but rather reflect by-products of such processes. Further, the characterization of science as employing some form of naive falsificationism is a significant distortion of the more complex reality of scientific research.

While AR HB2548 S 1(d)(3) enumerates only purported "false" or "fraudulent" examples from geology and biology, the broad language of the bill will make it difficult to find any textbook of significant scope that could even conceivably pass muster in any discipline that covers empirical findings, and may prove to raise difficulties even for arts and language topics. Textbooks generally lag the current findings in any discipline by several years. Current findings tend to revise or falsify prior concepts. This means that any person determined to block the adoption or purchase of a particular textbook in almost any discipline will be able to use AR HB2548 S 1(d) as a legal bar to such adoption, since any example of a known false concept within a textbook will disqualify it from consideration.

For example, most physics textbooks devote some pages to Newton's laws of motion. However, relativistic physics has shown that there are circumstances under which Newton's laws of motion yield false results, and could thus be considered false. This would be enough under a consistent reading of AR HB2548 to bar the purchase of any such textbook.

Fixation on the labelling of "theories": AR HB2548 S 1(c)(2) dichotomizes fact from theory, as if "theory" were just a "guess or hunch" in science. This is not the case. The National Center for Science Education has prepared a brief article about the various problems with "theory not fact" type legislation.

Examining the Expertise of "Dr." Kent Hovind

Rep. Jim Holt relied upon Dr. Kent Hovind not only for directly quoted material used in HB2548, but also called upon Hovind to testify before the Arkansas legislature in support of HB2548. The following online resources call into question the reliability of various of Hovind's claims, and also delve into Hovind's background.

Kent "Dr. Dino" Hovind's Materials

The following links go to Kent Hovind's web pages:

On Hovind's $250,000 "challenge"

On Hovind's "Debate" Challenges

Hovind's Questions for Evolutionists, Answered

Critiques of Items on Hovind's Web Pages or in Hovind's Seminars

Kent Hovind's Educational Background

Kent Hovind's Position on Payment of Income Tax

Exmaining the Record of John Corrigan "Jonathan" Wells

John Corrigan "Jonathan" Wells has, in contrast to Kent Hovind, a real earned Ph.D. degree from a well-recognized academic institution, the University of California at Berkeley. Wells is a Senior Fellow with the Seattle-based Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture. The CRSC is notable for their promulgation of the "wedge strategy", which seeks nothing less than a complete philosophical change in the basis of how science gets done.

Jim Holt claimed in an article appearing in the 2001/03/27 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that Wells' book, "Icons of Evolution", was the source for some of the items that he listed in HB2548.

Holt said he also used the book Icons of Evolution by Jonathan Wells. He said Wells is an evolutionist but found numerous examples of faulty evidence used to prove evolution. Holt includes these in his bill.

How well does Holt know his sources? In this case, I believe that Holt has seriously mischaracterized Wells, who is one of the country's leading anti-evolutionists.

Wells apparently comes by his objections to certain evolutionary topics via his religious background. Obviously, religious background says nothing about the validity of any argument made, which must be considered upon its merits or lack of same. However, Wells has claimed in the past to have no theological predisposition that puts him at odds with evolutionary concepts. This is at least disingenuous, as Wells has written that by 1978, at the end of his time in seminary, Wells and his religious advisor had plotted his future career, which included seeking a Ph.D. degree in biology for the purpose of "destroying Darwinism".

Darwinism: Why I Went for a Second Ph.D.

by Jonathan Wells, Ph.D.-Berkeley, CA

At the end of the Washington Monument rally in September, 1976, I was admitted to the second entering class at Unification Theological Seminary. During the next two years, I took a long prayer walk every evening. I asked God what He wanted me to do with my life, and the answer came not only through my prayers, but also through Father's many talks to us, and through my studies. Father [the Rev. Sun Myung Moon] encouraged us to set our sights high and accomplish great things.

He also spoke out against the evils in the world; among them, he frequently criticized Darwin's theory that living things originated without God's purposeful, creative activity. My studies included modern theologians who took Darwinism for granted and thus saw no room for God's involvement in nature or history; in the process, they re- interpreted the fall, the incarnation, and even God as products of human imagination.

Father's words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism. When Father chose me (along with about a dozen other seminary graduates) to enter a Ph.D. program in 1978, I welcomed the opportunity to prepare myself for battle.

- Darwinism: Why I Went for a Second Ph.D.

Wells has objected to this text being brought up, variously claiming that it is an ad hominem argument or that it is an example of "viewpoint discrimination". I bring it up here to address a narrow point, which is whether theological issues do or do not enter into Wells' anti-evolutionary activities. It seems clear to me that they do. Wells has also objected that his comments about "destroying Darwinism" only extend to Darwin's mechanism of natural selection, and that he had no prior objections to the theory of common descent. In fact, Jay Wesley Richards, another DI CRSC Fellow, went so far as to claim that Wells had "affirmed" the theory of common descent prior to his coursework at UC Berkeley. I find Richards' claim and Wells' protestations less than convincing. Wells has committed his anti-evolutionary advocacy to various essays, linked from here, but I have tried in vain to find any evidence whatsoever of the "affirmation" of common descent that Richards alluded to.

Links to works by Jonathan Wells:

Jonathan Wells' "Icons of Evolution":

Wells and HB2548:

It does not appear that Wells played any active role in the promulgation or promotion of HB2548. A query to the Discovery Institute got a response that the DI CRSC has not been involved in this legislative activity.

An article by Seth Blomeley in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on 2001/04/02 stated that Jonathan Wells had termed Neandertal Man and Homo erectus as fraudulent. Apparently, Jim Holt told Blomeley that his list of items in HB2548 had come from Well's book. While it is true that "Icons of Evolution" takes up the topic of human evolution in one of its chapters, it does not appear that Wells made these particular claims attributed to him. I wrote a letter to the editor to apprise him of the error.

Wells' topics:

Arkansas Legislature Contact Information

A page with the contact information for the members of the Arkansas state legislature can be found here. The listings below are taken from that page.

Arkansas State Representatives:

(HB2548 sponsors: Holt, Fite, Prater, Mack, Nichols, Adams, M. Smith, Bennett, Duggar, Green, Altes)

Arkansas State Senate: Some of the senators have email, and those with email are listed below:

(Bill sponsors: Critcher, Hunter, Baker)

Text of email from Wesley R. Elsberry to various members of the Arkansas State Senate, 2001/03/23.

Comments and Contributions

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Page created by Wesley R. Elsberry, 2001/03/22

Page maintained by Troy Britain and Wesley R. Elsberry, 2001/03/22-present

We thank our many contributors, who include Thomas J. Wheeler, Ian Musgrave, Michael S. Hopkins, Paul Heinrich, Barbara Forrest, Jim Foley, and Karen Bartelt.