Physics Nobelist takes stand on evolution
"By the same standards that are used in the courts, I think it is your
responsibility to judge that it is the theory of evolution through natural
that has won general scientific acceptance. And therefore, it should be
presented to students as the consensus view of science, without any alternatives

being presented."
--Dr. Steven Weinberg
The following is a transcript of testimony to the Texas State Board of
Education. Dr. Steven Weinberg, professor of physics at the University of Texas
at Austin and a Nobel prize winner for electroweak theory, addresses the Board.
DR. WEINBERG: Thank you. Hello. Thank you for the opportunity to talk to you.
I should say at the outset that I haven't read the textbooks in question and
I'm not a biologist.

My Nobel Prize is not in biology, but is in physics. But I have been a
physicist for a long time. And I think I have a good sense of how science works.
It doesn't deal with certainties. We don't register things as facts that we have
to swear allegiance to. But as mathematics and experiment progress, certain bodies of understanding
become as sure as anything reasonably can be. They attract an overwhelming
consensus of acceptance within the scientific community. They are what we teach
our students. And the most important thing of all, since our time is so precious to us,
they are what we assume as true when we do our own work. Evolution -- the theory
of evolution through natural selection has certainly reached that status as a
consensus. I've been through these issues not very much professionally in recent years,
but I was on a panel of the National Academy of Sciences some years ago that
reviewed these issues in order to prepare an amicus brief in a similar argument
that was taking place in Arkansas at that time. At that time, it had reached
the courts. We know that there is such a thing as inheritable variations in
animals and plants. And we know that these change through mutations. And it's
mathematically certain that as given inheritable variations, that you will have
evolution toward greater adaptation. So that evolution through natural
selection occurs can't be in doubt. As I understand it, many who want to put alternative theories into our
textbooks argue that, although that may be true, we don't know that that's all
that happens, that there is not some intelligent design that also assists the
process of evolution. But that's the wrong question. We can never know that
there isn't something beyond our theories. And that's not just true with regard to
evolution. That's true with regard to everything. We don't know that the theory of physics, as it's currently understood,
correctly accounts for everything in the solar system. How could we? It's too
complicated. We don't understand the motion of every asteroid in the asteroid
belts. Some of them really are doing very complicated things. Do we know that no

angel tips the scales toward one asteroid moving a little but further than it
otherwise would have in a certain time? No, we can never know.
What we have to do is keep comparing what we observe with our theories and
keep verifying that the theories work, trying to explain more and more. That's
what's happened with evolution and it continues to be successful. There is not
one thing that is known to be inexplicable through evolution by natural
selection, which is not the same as saying that everything has been explained,
because it never will be. The same applies to the weather or the solar system or

what have you.
But I can say this, and many of the peak scientists here will have said, I am
sure, the same thing. You must be bored hearing this again and again. But how
can you judge? I'm not a biologist, you're not biologists.
There is a natural answer which is very congenial to the American spirit, I
think. And that is, well, let the students judge. Why shouldn't they have the
chance to judge these issues by themselves? And that, I think, is the argument
that many are making.
But judge what? Judge the correctness of evolution through natural selection?
Judge the correctness of Newton's law or the conservation of energy or the
fact that the Earth is round rather than flat? Where do we draw the line between

the issues that we leave open to the student's judgment and the issues that
we teach as reasonably accepted scientific facts, consensus theories?
The courts face a similar question. They often are presented with testimony
or testimony is offered, for example, that someone knows that a certain crime
wasn't committed because he has psychic powers or someone sues someone in tort
because he's been injured by witchcraft. The Court does not allow -- according
to current doctrines, the Court does not allow those arguments to go to the
jury because the Court would not be doing its job. The Court must decide that
those things are not science. And the way the Court does is by asking: What --
do these ideas have general scientific acceptance? Does witchcraft have
general scientific acceptance? Well, clearly, it doesn't. And those -- that
testimony will not be allowed to go to the jury.
How then can we allow ideas which don't have general scientific acceptance to
go to high school students, not an adult jury? If we do, we are not -- or you
are not doing your job of deciding what is there that is controversial. And
that might be an interesting subject to be discussed, as for example the rate
of evolution, the question of whether it's smooth, punctuated by jumps or
whether it's -- or whether it's just gradual. These are interesting questions
are still controversial which could go to students and give them a chance to
exercise their judgment.
But you're not doing your job if you let a question like the validity of
evolution through natural selection go to the students, anymore than a judge is
doing his job or her job if he or she allows the question of witchcraft to go to

the jury. And why this particular issue of evolution? Why not the round Earth
or Newton's theory or Copernicus, the Earth goes around the sun? Well, I
think it's rather disingenuous to say that this is simply because there's a real

scientific conflict here, because there is no more of a scientific conflict
than with those issues.
I do get involved in this issue. I think it's clear that the reason why the
issue was raised with regard to evolution is because of an attempt to preserve
religious beliefs against the possible impact of the theory of evolution.
I don't think teachers have any business either preserving religious beliefs
or attacking religious beliefs. I think they should teach science.
And science, as the courts understand it, in that other context, is what is
generally accepted by scientists. And what is the evidence that evolution
through natural selection is generally accepted through science? I don't think
general acceptance doesn't mean unanimity.
I know there are Ph.D. scientists who take an opposite view.
There's not one member of the National Academy of Sciences who does.
There's not one winner of the National Medal of Science who does.
There's not one Nobel Laureate in biology who takes the view that there's any
question about the validity of the theory of evolution through natural
selection or that there is any alternative theory that's worth discussing.
So by the same standards that are used in the courts, I think it is your
responsibility to judge that it is the theory of evolution through natural
selection that has won general scientific acceptance. And therefore, it should
presented to students as the consensus view of science, without any alternatives

being presented.
Thank you very much.