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Creation's Tiny Mystery
Chapter 8: ACLU Strategy Revealed at Little Rock

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Part:  A  B  C  D

The Arkansas trial began on a cold Monday morning in December 1981 at the Federal District Court in Little Rock. Judge William Overton presided over the trial where there were more than 200 spectators—including 60 magazine, newspaper, and TV personnel registered as members of the media. They included such metropolitan newspapers as the New York Times, Washington Post, the Times of London, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Kansas City Times, Detroit News, Milwaukee Journal, and Memphis Press Scimiter; magazines like Time, U.S. News and World Report, Harper's, Nature, Science 81, Science News, Discover, and Science; the AP and UPI news services; and of course the national TV networks NBC, CBS, ABC, and PBS, and even the BBC (British Broadcasting Company).

The expert witnesses for evolution gave their testimonies during the first week of the trial. They came out with "guns blazing," a procedure which decidedly reinforced the psychological advantage they already held. The ACLU witnesses had been well coached to make evolution appear invincible. The excellent preparation of these witnesses reflected the efforts of a large, competent ACLU legal contingent. That contingent consisted of two local attorneys, two New York ACLU lawyers, and two more from one of New York's most prestigious law firms, Scadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, and Flom. In addition, many other lawyers and paralegals from Scadden and Arps backed up the ACLU. Altogether, the ACLU had over 50 lawyers and paralegals working on the case.

In contrast, the Arkansas Attorney General's office could only commit three of its attorneys to the case. This placed the State's case at a disadvantage even before the trial began. To counter the perception that evolution was incontrovertible required that the State strongly confront the expert [p. 100] evolutionist witnesses during their cross-examinations and, just as importantly, be prepared to expose any flaws which might be uncovered. It was impossible for the few State attorneys to completely prepare for the cross-examinations and to also adequately rehearse their own witnesses for direct testimony. They had no choice but to concentrate on the latter; nevertheless, the cross-examinations of the ACLU witnesses were conducted proficiently. On several occasions the State attorneys actually exposed some of the fatal weaknesses in the ACLU case; but this seemed to have little impact on the judge. In fact, in one instance the State was actually thwarted from exploiting a critical weakness in the ACLU case by the judge himself.

The ACLU's Plan for the Treatment of Origins

From my viewpoint as a former evolutionist, it was quite revealing to see how the ACLU treated the subject of origins. In my university courses the theory of evolution encompassed the spontaneous origin of life as well as its diversification. But at the trial the ACLU sought to present the question of origins as something apart from evolution. One of their witnesses, Dr. Francisco J. Ayala, a geneticist from the University of California at Davis, reportedly maintained that even though life had arisen from nonlife by natural laws, this occurrence was not a part of evolution. (Ayala's exact words are not quoted here because his testimony had not been transcribed as of this writing in the spring of 1986. However, his testimony is summarized in Norman Geisler's book, The Creator and the Courtroom (Geisler 1982, 82-84)). There were good reasons why the ACLU wished to avoid directly linking evolution with the spontaneous origin of life.

After decades of research the ACLU knew that evolutionists had been unsuccessful in their attempts to produce life from inert material. But obviously they did not want the State to focus on this glaring failure as evidence that one of the basic tenets of evolution was wrong. On the other hand, the ACLU had to maintain that life could be formed naturalistically; otherwise they would have to consider the possibility of a sudden creation of life, which Act 590 ascribed to creation science. I watched with interest as the ACLU unfolded their strategy to divert attention away from this issue.

Direct Examination of the ACLU Witness for Biophysics

That strategy was unveiled in the direct examination of their expert witness for biophysics, Dr. Harold Morowitz, from Yale University. ACLU Attorney [p. 101] Jack Novik's examination of Morowitz began with the usual legal formalities and then focused almost immediately on how Act 590 depicted the origin of life from the creation science perspective. According to the official transcript of the trial (Smith 1982a), some of the exchanges between Novik and Morowitz on this topic were as follows (all quotes from the transcripts follow the original wording except where indicated in brackets):

Q       Doctor Morowitz, let me show you a copy of Act 590 marked, I believe, Exhibit 29 in these proceedings. Had you read this Act before?
A Yes, I have.
Q Would you look at Section 4 of this statute, particularly Section 4 (a), purporting to define creation science. Do you see any reference in that section to the origin of life?
A 4 (a) (1) refers to sudden creation of life from nothing.
Q And is "sudden creation" a term that has scientific meaning to you?
A No. To my knowledge it is not a term in scientific literature or in general use in the scientific community.
Q Do you know the meaning of the words "sudden creation"?
A "Sudden creation" assumes a creator, and, as such, implies the supranatural explanation, and, therefore, lies outside the bounds of normal science. [Smith 1982a, p. 495, l. 20, to p. 496, l. 13]

Having presumably established that "sudden creation" is excluded from conventional science because it requires "a creator," Novik subsequently asked:

Q       Does the theory of evolution as used by scientists include the study of the origins of life?
A Normally that's treated as a separate subject in a technical sense. [Smith 1982a, p. 498, ll. 17-20]

Ordinarily Morowitz's response would have kept the lid on the origin-of-life matter. Yet the ACLU still had to maintain acceptability for the naturalistic origin of life in order to preserve the image that evolutionists have the truth about origins. Thus Novik found it necessary to return to the question of the origin of life on two separate occasions in his later direct examination of Morowitz.

Q       Doctor Morowitz, do you know how life was first formed on this planet?
A We do not know in any precise way how life was formed. However, it is a very active field of research. There are a number of studies going on, and we are developing and continuing to develop within science a body of knowledge that is beginning to provide some enlightenment on this issue. [Smith 1982a, p. 499, l. 24, to p. 500, l. 6]
[p. 102]
Q Do you know how life was formed precisely?
A Again, not in precise detail, although as I pointed out, it is an active area of scientific research, and at the moment one, as an enthusiastic scientist always feels, that we are getting close. [Smith 1982a, p. 509, ll. 11-15]

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Earth Science Associates