William Overton (judge)
William Ray Overton was a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas.

Overton was born in Malvern, Arkansas
Malvern, Arkansas
Malvern is the county seat of Hot Spring County, Arkansas. The city had a population of 10,318 at the time of the 2010 census and is also called the "Brick Capital of the World" because of the three Acme Brick plants in the area...

. He received a B.S.
Bachelor of Science
A Bachelor of Science is an undergraduate academic degree awarded for completed courses that generally last three to five years .-Australia:In Australia, the BSc is a 3 year degree, offered from 1st year on...

Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 from the University of Arkansas
University of Arkansas
The University of Arkansas is a public, co-educational, land-grant, space-grant, research university. It is classified by the Carnegie Foundation as a research university with very high research activity. It is the flagship campus of the University of Arkansas System and is located in...

 in 1961, and an LL.B. from the University of Arkansas School of Law
University of Arkansas School of Law
The University of Arkansas School of Law is the law school of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas, a state university. It has around 445 students enrolled in its Juris Doctor and Master of Law programs and is home to the federally-funded National Agricultural Law Center and the...

 in 1964. He was in private practice of law in Little Rock, Arkansas
Little Rock, Arkansas
Little Rock is the capital and the largest city of the U.S. state of Arkansas. The Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 699,757 people in the 2010 census...

 from 1964 to 1979.

Overton was nominated to the district court by President Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter
James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. is an American politician who served as the 39th President of the United States and was the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, the only U.S. President to have received the Prize after leaving office...

 on March 7, 1979, to a new seat created by 92 Stat. 1629. He was confirmed by the United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 on May 10, 1979, and received his commission on May 11, 1979. Overton continued to serve on that court until his death in 1987.

He is known for his ruling on Act 590 "The Arkansas' Balanced Treatment Act" in McLean v. Arkansas
McLean v. Arkansas
McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, 529 F. Supp. 1255, 1258-1264 , was a 1981 legal case in Arkansas.A lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas by various parents, religious groups and organizations, biologists, and others who argued that the...

, which was a law seeking to require the teaching of Creation Science
Creation science
Creation Science or scientific creationism is a branch of creationism that attempts to provide scientific support for the Genesis creation narrative in the Book of Genesis and disprove generally accepted scientific facts, theories and scientific paradigms about the history of the Earth, cosmology...

 in classrooms. This statute was advocated by its supporters as providing equal treatment of creation science as the Theory of Evolution in the science classrooms.

When Judge Overton struck down the Act in 1982, he used the criteria that a scientific theory must be tentative and always subject to revision or abandonment in light of the facts that are inconsistent with, or falsify, the theory. A theory that is by its own terms dogmatic, absolutist and never subject to revision is not a scientific theory.

In summary, he held that a scientific theory to be taught in schools must have the following properties:
  1. It is guided by natural law;
  2. It has to be explained by reference to natural law
    Natural law
    Natural law, or the law of nature , is any system of law which is purportedly determined by nature, and thus universal. Classically, natural law refers to the use of reason to analyze human nature and deduce binding rules of moral behavior. Natural law is contrasted with the positive law Natural...

  3. It is testable against the empirical world;
  4. Its conclusions are tentative, i.e., are not necessarily the final word;
  5. It is falsifiable
    Falsifiability or refutability of an assertion, hypothesis or theory is the logical possibility that it can be contradicted by an observation or the outcome of a physical experiment...



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