The issue: What restrictions does the First Amendment place on the ability of states and school boards to restrict the teaching of evolution or encourage the teaching of "creation science" in the public school classrooms?
A CREATIONIST: A creationist is a person who rejects the theory of evolution and believes instead that the each species on earth was put here by a Divine Being. A Creationist might accept "micro-evolution" (changes in the form of a species over time based on natural selection), but rejects the notion that one species can-- over time-- become another species.
YOUNG EARTH CREATIONIST: A young earth creationist believes that the earth is nowhere near the 4.6 billion or so years old that most scientists estimate, but is instead closer to 6,000 or so years old, based on the assumption the Genesis contains a complete listing of the generations from Adam and Eve to historical times.
INTELLIGENT DESIGN PROPONENT: An ID proponent rejects the theory of evolution and, more generally, the notion that natural law and chance alone can explain the diversity of life on earth. Instead, the ID proponent argues--often from statistics--that the diversity of life is the result of a purposeful scheme of some higher power (who may or may not be the God of the Bible).
EVOLUTIONIST: An evolutionist accepts the Darwinian argument that natural selection and environmental factors combine to explain the diversity of life we see on earth. An evolutionist may or may not believe that evolution is the way in which a Divine Being has chosen to work in the world. Evolutionists divide into various camps, including PUNCTUALISTS (who believe that evolution usually occurs sporadically, in relatively short bursts, as the result of major environmental change) and GRADUALISTS (who are more inclined to believe that evolution occurs more evenly, over longer periods of time). The PUNCTUALISTS seem now to be winning the argument.
2. Is it a violation of the Establishment Clause for a biology teacher to discuss with her students the reasons that she believes in "intelligent design theory" (the theory that holds the universe was the product of the conscious design of a Creator)?
3. Is it a violation of the Establishment Clause for a biology teacher to tell his students "the story of creation in Genesis is hogwash and here's why"?
4. If a State Education Board decides to drop evolution from the list of courses it requires to be taught in public schools, does that decision violate the Establishment Clause?
5. May a biology teacher be fired, on competence grounds, either for teaching creation science or for not teaching evolution?
6. Is the desire of state or school board
officials to avoid entanglement in a primarily religious controversy a "secular
7. May a school system allow Fundamentalists to opt out of classes in which evolution is discussed? Would that be a good solution to the controversy?
The case for the theory of evolution is made most compellingly in Science and Creationism (Ashley Montagu, ed.)(1984 Oxford Press) which includes essays by scientists such as Asimov, Hardin, Gould, Marsden, Boulding, Stent, and others.
Harvard paleontologist Stephen
Jay Gould devoted considerable attention to the issue. His works are
voluminous. Some of the better reads include Wonderful Life (1989),
Bully for Brontosaurus (1991), Dinosaur in a Haystack (1995), and
Ever Since Darwin (1977).
The most important critique of evolution is presented by Berkeley law professor Phillip Johnson in his Darwin on Trial (2nd ed., 1993).
Why does this debate go on and on?
Perhaps the state should not force exposure to the theory of evolution to those students who view the theory as too threatening. Perhaps. But at the same time, the majority of students who do not subscribe to a literalist interpretation of the Bible need to be prepared for advanced study in biology, should they choose to undertake it. They need to know about evolution. Teachers should follow the facts wherever they go.
|Four Evolutionists||Four Creationists|
William B. Riley
William Jennings Bryan
Stephen Jay Gould
Henry M. Morris
Phillip E. Johnson
2. Although fossil evidence sufficiently demonstrates the fact of evolution, even more compelling evidence today comes today from DNA testing of species. In the future, most of our additional knowledge of evolution will come from what we can learn from DNA.
3. To call evolution a "theory" says nothing about its ability to accurately explain facts observed in the world. The sun-centered solar system of Copernicus and Galileo is a theory.
4. Evolution is the central theory of biology. It is a powerful tool for explaining the presence of millions of fossils and other evidence (such as the fact that over 98% of the DNA of chimpanzees and humans is identical) about the origin of life forms.
5. Evolution is not considered to be inconsistent with the religious beliefs of most Christians or Jews. Most mainline Protestant denominations, the Catholic Church, and many other religious faiths accept the teaching of evolution. (See, e.g., essay below describing the Pope's accepting view of evolution.)
6. There is not a single first-rate biologist*
in the United States who does not believe that life on earth has developed
through the process of evolution, starting with single-cell organisms.
(*This seems to be a controversial assertion. As one objective measure, consider the group of tenured members of the biology departments in the nation's fifty top-rated universities. I do not mean, of course, to suggest that all people who reject evolution are second-rate thinkers.)
7. There are disputes about evolution as there are about almost any theory. For example, most--but not all--biologists believe that evolution has not worked evenly throughout history: they believe that there have been periods of rapid evolutionary change followed by long periods of relatively little evolutionary change.
8. It took over 200 years, but eventually the Catholic Church accepted the scientific evidence that the earth revolved around the sun. Eventually, most Fundamentalists will come to accept the theory of evolution as well--whether in 20 years or in 200 is hard to say. But it will happen. Facts are stubborn things.
Center for Scientific Creation
Creation Research Society
Access Research Network
Answers in Genesis, Response to Sci Am's "15 Answers"
Sites Generally Supporting Evolutionary Theory:
BBC's Evolution Website
Scientific American, "15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense"
Evolution Entrance (UC_Berkeley)
Darwin's Evidence for Evolution
Origin of Life
Introduction to Evolutionary Biology
Creation/Evolution Bibliography Database
Creation "Science" Debunked
National Center for Science Education
Design Arguments Critiqued
What the Vatican Says About Evolution
The Rise of Fundamentalism in America and the Joining of the Battle Over Evolution
From Francis Galton to Scopes's Classroom: The Eugenics Movement
Cosmologist Steven Weinberg on the Science vs Religion Conflict
Fresh Air from WHYY, October 4, 2005 · Historian Edward Larson has written extensively on the intersection of science, politics and religion.
In 2004, Larson's Evolution: The Remarkable History of A Scientific Theory traced the contentious history of the theory of evolution -- from before Darwin to arguments now taking place over school curricula and other issues.
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