As Cooper commented at the end of the exchange, it was a "fascinating discussion."
But was Boston effective as he challenged Yoest? Is this a good way to publically engage leaders of the Christian Right?
COOPER: Well, the battle over what children should be taught in school has been raging for nearly a century now. The question is, is there room for compromise?
Joining us to talk about it is Robert Boston of the Americans United For Separation of Church and State, and Charmaine Yoest of the Family Research Council.
Appreciate both of you being with us.
Robert, let me start with you.
Polls show that nearly half the American believes that people didn't evolve from lower life-forms, but were created, in our present form, by God. If so many people think that, shouldn't we at least be discussing it in a science class?
ROBERT BOSTON, AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE: Well, I think we need to look really not at what polls show, but what the scientific evidence shows.
We wouldn't want to teach something in the public schools that was factually incorrect, simply because some people believed it was so. So, we really have to look at the science. If you look at the scientific community, you don't see this great disparity in polls. You see most of the scientists backing the theory of evolution.
COOPER: Charmaine, what about that? Why should a science class be forced to -- to teach something which mainstream science says is simply not true?
CHARMAINE YOEST, VICE PRESIDENT FOR COMMUNICATIONS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, you know, mainstream science, throughout history, has been challenged by questions. And that's how we make advances in science, is being open to all different perspectives.
And that's all that we're calling for, is saying that, you know, have we gotten to a place in our culture where science has such an orthodoxy around Darwinian theory that we can't even question it, that we can't even look at some of the gaps in the theory, and ask, how can we do better and how can answer some of these questions?
That's all we're asking for, is an openness of dialogue and looking at all of the research.
COOPER: Robert, President Bush has suggested that this theory of intelligent design should be taught in public school classrooms. The idea is that kids should be able to make up their own minds; they should get different points of view.
Robert, what is wrong with that?
BOSTON: I disagree.
I think that there is a mechanism in science that allows for these views to be aired through peer-review journals. And the intelligent-design advocates...
YOEST: Well, sure.
BOSTON: ... have not been able to public any research that indicates...
YOEST: That's just not true.
BOSTON: ... their point of view.
Let me finish, Charmaine.
And one of the important things we need to remember, too, is that some of the ideas that groups would like to bring into our schools have been completely discredited, for example, the idea that the Earth is 10,000 years old and that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time. Scientifically, that's untenable.
Yet, that is what the creationists believe. And that is what, ultimately, I think they would like to bring into our classrooms.
COOPER: Charmaine, I mean, do you -- do you believe that dinosaurs walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden? And, if so, is that the -- the basis of your argument?
YOEST: What we are looking at here is saying, there are legitimate scientific questions on the table. And it is not true that -- that there is a complete cohesiveness among scientists.
So, we're really, really seeing an amazing censorship of anything that questions Darwinism. And you see this kind of thing where, immediately, the minute you question Darwinism, people like Rob come up and say, oh, no, you're going to talk about God.
Well, you know, I think our children have more robust intelligence and -- and questioning to be able to cope with looking at all the different theories that are out there. I think it's -- I just have to ask, what is he so scared of?
COOPER: Robert, do you believe this is really about -- a debate about science, or is it a debate about religion?
BOSTON: Of course it's about religion.
And notice how she did not answer your question about the age of the Earth and dinosaurs and humans coexisting. I would guess that, if you took a survey of the members of the Family Research Council, you would find, overwhelmingly, they believe that the Earth is 6,000 to 10,000 years old, that dinosaurs died because they were too big to fit on Noah's Ark, or that they existed alongside human beings, other pseudoscientific ideas that has been debunked time and time again.
YOEST: Hey -- hey, Rob...
BOSTON: Why would we want to bring this into the classroom, when there's absolutely no scientific evidence?
BOSTON: Charmaine, answer the question, yes or no. Age of the Earth?
YOEST: You are trying to confuse the issue of conflating...
BOSTON: Age of the Earth, answer the question.
YOEST: I am trying to answer the question.
BOSTON: How old is it?
YOEST: I'm trying to answer the question.
BOSTON: How old is it, Charmaine?
YOEST: I can't get a word in -- that you're trying to conflate creationism with intelligent design.
BOSTON: That's because you want...
YOEST: I'm saying that you should look at...
BOSTON: ... you want creationism in the classroom. Answer the question.
YOEST: I didn't say -- I didn't say that.
BOSTON: Ten thousand years or six billion?
YOEST: The only thing I have talked about is intelligent design.
BOSTON: Why are you afraid to answer the question?
YOEST: Why are you afraid of the fact that 90 percent of the American people do believe in God?
BOSTON: I know exactly what you want to do. You want to teach your book of Genesis as if it's some kind of literal, scientific truth, instead of maybe possibly metaphor or lots of other history. You want to bring it into science. It's not going to fly.
COOPER: Do you want your children -- Charmaine, do you want your children to be exposed to a belief which the scientific community has disproven? I'm not saying that they have disproven all of this. But, in certain cases, I mean, some things clearly...
COOPER: ... have been disproven.
COOPER: Things which have been clearly scientifically disproven, do you still want them taught?
YOEST: Well, absolutely. That would -- that would come in, in a history of science, in a philosophy of science.
That's why I'm saying, there's different kinds of classes. So, we're talking about kind of a broad array of things. Your kids need to know what opinions are out there and -- and -- and see what the evidence is, consider the evidence.
COOPER: So, for other subjects in a science class that people disagree on, but that have been disproven, the kids should be taught those as well?
COOPER: They should -- they should -- they should know that there are other people who disagree on... YOEST: Absolutely.
COOPER: ... just about every scientific issue?
YOEST: I'm not afraid of my kids knowing about any controversy that is out there, as long as you put the evidence on the table and consider what -- what the debate is. That's what education is all about, is having a vigorous debate.
COOPER: Charmaine Yoest, appreciate it, and Robert Boston as well.
BOSTON: Thank you.
COOPER: Fascinating discussion.