Creationism Vs Evolution article
I ran across this more than a year ago while debating a theist on a different forum. I saved it in my email and just stumbled across it again today while looking through old emails. It's a long article, but it's a great one as well.
Intelligent Design Part I: An Ambiguous Assault on
By Ker Than
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 22 September 2005
12:42 am ET
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…"
-- From the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Editor's Note: As part of a special report on the theory of evolution and an alternative idea known as intelligent design, LiveScience reviews current legislation and historically pertinent court cases.
Science can sometimes be a devil's bargain: a
discovery is made, some new aspect of nature is
revealed, but the knowledge gained can cause mental
anguish if it contradicts a deeply cherished belief or
Copernicus' declaration in 1543 that the Sun and the
heavens were not, in fact, revolving around the Earth
and its human inhabitants was one such painful
enlightenment. The publication in 1859 of Charles
Darwin's book, "The Origin of Species," set the stage
Darwin's truth can be a hard one to accept. His theory
of evolution tells us that humans evolved from
non-human life as the result of a natural process, one
that was both gradual, happening over billions of
years, and random. It tells us that new life forms
arise from the splitting of a single species into two
or more species, and that all life on Earth can trace
its origins back to a single common ancestor.
Perhaps most troubling of all, Darwin's theory of
evolution tells us that life existed for billions of
years before us, that humans are not the products of
special creation and that life has no inherent meaning
For Americans who view evolution as inconsistent with
their intuitions or beliefs about life and how it
began, Creationism has always been a seductive
Creationism's latest embodiment is intelligent design
(ID), a conjecture that certain features of the
natural world are so intricate and so perfectly tuned
for life that they could only have been designed by a
Real or apparent design?
"The question that we're facing in biology is that
when we look at nature, we see design," said Scott
Minnich, a microbiologist at the University of Idaho
and an ID proponent. "But is it real design or
apparent design? There are two answers to the question
and both are profound in terms of their metaphysical
In an August interview with National Public Radio,
Republican Senator and ID supporter Rick Santorum
stated exactly what he believed those implications
were for evolution. Asked why he, a politician, felt
compelled to weigh in on what was essentially a
scientific debate, Santorum replied:
"It has huge consequences for society. It's where we
come from. Does man have a purpose? Is there a purpose
for our lives? Or are we just simply the result of
chance? If we are the result of chance, if we're
simply a mistake of nature, then that puts a different
moral demand on us. In fact, it doesn't put a moral
demand on us."
By adding morality to the equation, Santorum is giving
the scientific theory of evolution a religious
message, one that does not come on its own, said
Kenneth Miller, a biologist at the University of
Like Santorum, Miller is a devout Roman Catholic, but
he believes evolution can only explain how life arose
and how it diversified. Why there is life at all is
another question entirely, one that Miller believes is
outside the realm of science.
Lawrence Krauss, a physicist at Case Western Reserve
University in Ohio, expressed a similar sentiment.
"The questions of purpose are not part of science,"
Krauss said. "How you interpret the results of science
is up to you, and it's based on your theological and
The ID nerve center
The ID movement is orchestrated by the Center for
Science and Culture (CSC), a subdivision of the
Discovery Institute, a conservative Christian think
tank based in Seattle.
The CSC strategy for countering evolution is twofold:
challenge its soundness as a scientific theory, then
replace it with ID.
The CSC is using a campaign called "Teach the
Controversy" to carry out the first part of the
strategy. The campaign is aimed at public schools and
teachers are urged to expose students to the
"scientific arguments for and against Darwinian
theory." It exploits disagreements among biologists,
pointing out gaps in their understanding of evolution
in order to portray evolution as a "theory in crisis."
Selling ID as a viable alternative to evolution,
however, is proving more difficult. In modern science,
a theory must first undergo the gauntlet of
peer-review in a reputable scientific journal before
it is widely accepted.
Measured by this standard, ID fails miserably.
According to the National Center for Science
Education, only one ID article by Stephen Meyers
(Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington,
2004) has passed this test and even then, the journal
that published the article promptly retracted it. The
journal also put out a statement that said "there is
no credible scientific evidence supporting ID as a
testable hypothesis to explain the origin of organic
Straddling the fence
The ID movement's greatest strength lies in its
ambiguity. It makes no claims about who the designer
is or the steps taken to create life. ID does not say
whether the designer intervened in the history of life
only once or multiple times or even whether the
designer is still actively guiding the destiny of life
The ambiguity is intentional and part of what Phillip
Johnson, a retired law professor from the University
of California, Berkeley and one of the ID movement's
lead strategists, calls his "big tent" strategy.
By paring the origins debate down to its most
essential question—"Do you need a Creator to do the
creating, or can nature do it on its own?"—Johnson has
managed to create a tenuous alliance between various
groups of skeptics and conservative Christians,
including Young Earth Creationists—those who believe
that the Earth is only a few thousand years old—and
Old Earth Creationists.
In front of mainstream audiences, ID proponents refuse
to speculate about the precise nature of the designer.
Regarding this crucial point, ID proponents are
agnostic. It could be God, they say, but it could also
be a superior alien race.
Even if an ID version of science were to prevail, the
designer's true identity may still never be revealed,
"I think it's outside of the realm of science,"
Minnich said in a telephone interview. "You can infer
design but the science isn't going to tell you who the
designer is. It has theistic implications, and then
its up to the individual to pursue that out of
interest if they want."
When speaking or writing for Christian audiences,
however, ID proponents are more candid. Some have
openly speculated about who they think the wizard
behind the curtain really is.
"The objective is to convince people that Darwinism is
inherently atheistic, thus shifting the debate from
creationism vs. evolution to the existence of God vs.
the nonexistence of God," Johnson wrote in a 1999
article for Church and State magazine. "From there,
people are introduced to 'the truth' of the Bible and
then 'the question of sin' and finally 'introduced to
Also in 1999, a fund raising document used by the
Discovery Institute to promote the CSC was leaked to
the public. Informally known as the "Wedge Document,"
it stated that the center's long-term goals were
nothing less than the "overthrow of materialism and
its cultural legacies," and the replacement of
"materialistic explanations with the theistic
understanding that nature and human beings are created
The means for achieving these goals was explained
using a simple metaphor: "If we view the predominant
materialistic science as a giant tree, our strategy is
intended to function as a 'wedge' that, while
relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at
its weakest points."
In a 1999 interview with Insight Magazine, Johnson
explained why he singled out evolution when his real
target was all of modern science: "Evolution is a
creation story and as a creation story, it's the main
prop of the materialist explanation for our
After watching and analyzing the CSC's strategy for
years, Barbara Forrest, a philosopher at Southeastern
Louisiana University, was reminded of another
metaphor, one she used for the title of her book,
"Creationism's Trojan Horse."
Like the hollow wooden horse the Greeks used to enter
the city of Troy, ID is being used as a vehicle to
sneak Creationism into public schools.
"They know that if you can get [ID] into a school,
you're going to have some teacher who's going to
present it as religious creationism," Forrest told
LiveScience. "They know that, but they can't admit
that until they get their foot in the door of the
The writers of the Wedge Document laid out a
comprehensive roadmap for the CSC that included 5- and
20-year goals and strategies to achieve them. To date,
nearly all of those goals—including the publication of
books, engaging evolutionary scientists in public
debates and getting media coverage—have been achieved.
All except for one.
"It was supposed to be their first goal and the
foundation of the whole strategy and that's doing
science," Forrest said. "They haven't done any because
you can't do science in such a way as to test for the
Although their arguments have been flatly rejected by
the majority of mainstream scientists, ID proponents
have managed to successfully pitch their idea to the
"They're really exploiting their own audience,"
Forrest said. "They're taking advantage of the fact
that Americans like to be fair, but its really grossly
unfair. They haven't done any science, and you don't
have the right to argue that anything you've done
should find its way into a classroom unless you've
done the hard work that other scientists are required
The Darwinist religion
While denying that ID is religiously motivated, ID
proponents often portray evolution as its own kind of
religion, one that is atheistic and materialistic,
whose converts no longer cast their eyes towards
heaven but who rather seek to build heaven here on
Earth using their scientific knowledge.
The implication is that by destroying the idea that
Man is the paragon of God's creation, evolution robs
life of meaning and worth. And by limiting God's role
in creation, evolution opens up the terrifying
possibility for some that there is no God and no
universal moral standard that humans must follow.
Forrest thinks this is just silly. "Where did
immorality come from before Darwin figured out natural
selection?" she asked.
Far from robbing life of meaning, Forrest believes
that it is because of evolution that we are capable of
living meaningful lives.
"It's evolution that gives us the advanced nervous
system we have so that we can interact with our
environments at a highly conscious level," Forrest
Miller thinks such claims are also self-fulfilling.
"You have essentially told people that if that Darwin
guy is right, there is no God, there is no morality,
there is no law you are obliged to obey," Miller told
LiveScience. "I don't know of any evolutionary
biologists who would say that, but I do hear a lot of
people on the other side saying it."
What's at stake
On its website, the American Association for the
Advancement of Science (AAAS) stated that allowing ID
into public schools will "undermine scientific
credibility and the ability of young people to
distinguish science from non-science."
Miller thinks the stakes are much higher than that.
In addition to sowing confusion about what constitutes
proper science, ID has the potential to drive people
away from science. If classrooms are allowed to become
theological battlegrounds, then schoolchildren will
basically be told that science is hostile to new ideas
and that scientists believe in a ludicrous theory that
negates the very existence of God.
"Evolution is not opposed to religion unless people
make it so," Miller said. "The message of evolution is
that we are just as Genesis told us, we are made out
of the dust of the Earth and that we are united in
this web of life with every other living creature on
the planet, and I think that's a fairly grand notion."
Intelligent Design Part II: 'The Death of Science'
By Ker Than
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 23 September 2005
12:01 am ET
In his highly influential book "The Structure of
Scientific Revolutions," science philosopher Thomas
Kuhn presented the idea that science is not a gradual
progression toward truth, but a series of
insurgencies, with scientific theories constantly
usurping one another.
That is sometimes true. And proponents of intelligent
design love Kuhn's argument.
They see intelligent design (often called ID) as a
revolutionary new science and themselves as
revolutionaries. They envision toppling Darwinian
evolution – once a revolutionary idea itself – and
erecting in its place a theory about life that allows
for supernatural explanations, a theory that makes
God, or some entity very much like him, not just
possible but necessary.
But in order to attract converts and win over critics,
a new scientific theory must be enticing. It must
offer something that its competitors lack.
That something may be simplicity, which was one of the
main reasons the Sun-centered model of the solar
system was adopted over the Earth-centered one
centuries. Or it could be sheer explanatory power,
which was what allowed evolution to become a widely
accepted theory with no serious detractors among
So what does ID offer? What can it explain that
To answer this, it is necessary to examine the two
main arguments—irreducible complexity and specified
complexity—that ID proponents use to support their
claim that a Supreme Being is responsible for many or
all aspects of life.
Irreducible complexity asserts that certain
biochemical systems in nature contain parts that are
too well matched to be products of evolution.
Every part of an irreducibly complex system is
necessary: take away even one, and the entire system
will no longer work. Because their parts are so
intricate and so interdependent, such systems could
not possibly have been the result of evolution, ID
Irreducible complexity's main proponent is Michael
Behe, a biochemist at Lehigh University in
Pennsylvania. Among the systems that Behe claims are
irreducibly complex are the bacterial flagellum, a
microscopic whip-like structure that some bacteria use
to swim, and the cascade of proteins that make up the
human blood-clotting system.
Darwin himself admitted that if an example of
irreducible complexity were ever found, his theory of
natural selection would crumble.
"If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ
existed, which could not possibly have been formed by
numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory
would absolutely break down," Darwin wrote.
Yet no true examples of irreducible complexity have
ever been found. The concept is rejected by the
majority of the scientific community.
To understand why, it is important to remember that
Behe's main argument is that in an irreducibly complex
system, every part is vital to the system's overall
A necessary—and often unstated—flipside to this is
that if an irreducibly complex system contains within
it a smaller set of parts that could be used for some
other function, then the system was never really
irreducibly complex to begin with.
It's like saying in physics that atoms are the
fundamental building blocks of matter only to
discover, as physicists have, that atoms are
themselves made up of even smaller and more
This flipside makes the concept of irreducible
complexity testable, giving it a scientific virtue
that other aspects of ID lack.
"The logic of their argument is you have these
multipart systems, and that the parts within them are
useless on their own," said Kenneth Miller, a
biologist at Brown University in Rhode Island. "The
instant that I or anybody else finds a subset of parts
that has a function, that argument is destroyed."
Viewed this way, all of the systems that Behe claims
to be irreducibly complex really aren't.
A subset of the bacterial flagellum proteins, for
example, are used by other bacteria to inject toxins
into other cells and several of the proteins in the
human blood-clotting system are believed to be
modified forms of proteins found in the digestive
Evolution takes pieces and parts and re-uses them.
The second major argument for intelligent design comes
from William Dembski, a mathematician and philosopher
affiliated with the Discovery Institute, a
Seattle-based Christian think tank that serves as the
nerve center for the ID movement.
Dembski argues that nature is rife with examples of
non-random patterns of information that he calls
"complex specified information," or CSI for short.
To qualify as CSI, the information must be both
complex and specified. The letter "A," for example, is
specific but not complex. A string of random letters
such as "slfkjwer," on the other hand, is complex but
not necessarily specific. A Shakespearean sonnet,
however, is both complex and specific.
An example of CSI from nature is DNA, the molecule
found in all cells that contains the genetic
instructions for life. DNA is made up of four
repeating chemical bases arranged into complimentary
pairs. The bases can be thought of as "letters" in a
four-letter alphabet and can be strung together to
form genes, which can be thought of as the "words"
that tell the cell what proteins to make.
The human genome is made up of some 3 billion DNA base
pairs and contains about 25,000 genes. DNA is
obviously complex. The fact that humans always give
birth to humans and not chimpanzees or naked mole rats
shows that DNA is also specific.
The fact that CSI exists in nature is evidence for
design because intelligence is necessary to produce
CSI, Dembski says. This is the part of Dembski's
argument that many scientists have trouble with.
The nylon problem
There is a way to settle this, however, because like
Behe's irreducible complexity, the concept of
specified complexity can also be tested.
"If Dembski were right, then a new gene with new
information conferring a brand new function on an
organism could never come into existence without a
designer because a new function requires complex
specified information," Miller said.
In 1975, Japanese scientists reported the discovery of
bacteria that could break down nylon, the material
used to make pantyhose and parachutes. Bacteria are
known to ingest all sorts of things, everything from
crude oil to sulfur, so the discovery of one that
could eat nylon would not have been very remarkable if
not for one small detail: nylon is synthetic; it
didn't exist anywhere in nature until 1935, when it
was invented by an organic chemist at the chemical
The discovery of nylon-eating bacteria poses a problem
for ID proponents. Where did the CSI for nylonase—the
actual protein that the bacteria use to break down the
There are three possibilities:
The nylonase gene was present in the bacterial genome
The CSI for nylonase was inserted into the bacteria by
a Supreme Being.
The ability to digest nylon arose spontaneously as a
result of mutation. Because it allowed the bacteria to
take advantage of a new resource, the ability stuck
and was eventually passed on to future generations.
Apart from simply being the most reasonable
explanation, there are two other reasons that most
scientists prefer the last option, which is an example
of Darwinian natural selection.
First, hauling around a nylonase gene before the
invention of nylon is at best useless to the bacteria;
at worst, it could be harmful or lethal. Secondly, the
nylonase enzyme is less efficient than the precursor
protein it's believed to have developed from. Thus, if
nylonase really was designed by a Supreme Being, it
wasn't done very intelligently.
‘Death of science'
After examining ID's two main arguments, the answers
to the original questions—what does ID offer? And what
can ID explain that evolution can't?—is not much and
nothing, leading scientists say.
"The most basic problem [with ID] is that it's utterly
boring," said William Provine, a science historian at
Cornell University in New York. "Everything that's
complicated or interesting about biology has a very
simple explanation: ID did it."
Evolution was and still is the only scientific theory
for life that can explain how we get complexity from
simplicity and diversity from uniformity.
ID offers nothing comparable. It begins with
complexity—a Supreme Being—and also ends there. The
explanations offered by ID are not really explanations
at all, scientists say. They're more like last
resorts. And, scientists argue, there is a danger in
pretending that ID belongs next to evolution in
"It doesn't add anything to science to introduce the
idea that God did it," Provine told LiveScience.
Intelligent design "would become the death of science
if it became a part of science."
Intelligent Design Part III: Belief Posing as Theory
By Ker Than
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 26 September 2005
12:01 am ET
A major source of public confusion in the escalating
debate between intelligent design and evolution is the
question of what a scientific theory actually is.
It is a question that will be at the heart of the
Pennsylvania court case beginning today that tests the
legality of teaching intelligent design, or ID, in
ID proponents argue that life is too complex to be
explained by evolution. Instead, some being or entity
must have designed it all.
Evolution states that all organisms are descended from
a single primordial ancestor and that organisms
expanded and diversified by acquiring and passing on
new traits by means of several mechanisms, one of
which is natural selection. Evolution is a theory
supported by evidence from such disparate fields as
paleontology, geology, genetics, and astronomy.
One of the things that will be decided in the
Pennsylvania hearing is whether ID should be regarded
as a valid scientific theory, or whether, as its
critics maintain, it is just creationism's latest
The question of whether ID is a theory is also central
to a spate of antievolution legislation cropping up
across the country, some of which argue that students
should be exposed to different theories about the
origins of life.
What is a theory?
But what exactly is a scientific theory? Is ID a
theory? Isn't evolution only a theory? If both ID and
evolution are scientific theories, why should one be
taught and not the other?
A large part of the confusion stems from the fact that
there is a big difference between how the word
"theory" is used in science and how it is used in
ordinary conversation. A hunch, conjecture or an
educated guess can become a hypothesis. But a theory
is much more.
In science, a theory is an explanation that binds
together various experimentally tested hypotheses to
explain some fundamental aspect of nature. For an idea
to qualify as a scientific theory, it must be
established on the basis of a wide variety of
scientific evidence. Its claims must be testable and
it must propose experiments that can be replicated by
"[Evolution is] a theory in a special philosophical
sense of science, but in terms of ordinary laymen's
use of language, it's a fact," said Richard Dawkins, a
biologist from Oxford University, in a recent radio
interview. "Evolution is a fact in the same sense that
it's a fact that the Earth is round and not flat,
[that] the Earth goes round the Sun. Both those are
also theories, but they're theories that have never
been disproved and never will be disproved."
It is about as sensible to doubt that evolution occurs
as it is to doubt that gravity exists, scientists say.
On Earth, release an apple and it will fall towards
the planet. This is a fact, and the theory that
explains this phenomenon is the current theory of
gravity. Similarly, all living organisms share a
common ancestry. This is a fact, supported not only by
the visible similarities in body structures among
organisms, but more powerfully, by evidence from
genetics. The theory that best explains these
similarities is evolution.
ID, on the other hand, is not a theory. It is a
hypothesis, but it is not even a scientific hypothesis
because there is no way to experimentally verify its
central claim that a Supreme Being intervened in the
creation of life on Earth.
Like religion, ID is a belief. And while many people
take their religion as fact, science would go nowhere
if it operated that way. Many of the great
discoveries—from disease cures to advanced
technologies and trips to the Moon—would never have
been possible without the rigorous scientific process
that carefully distinguishes between belief and
"Evolution is an organizing principle and when we call
it a theory, we mean it's a theory, we don't mean that
it's a belief that someone holds," said Alan Leshner,
the CEO of the American Association for the
Advancement of Science (AAAS) and executive publisher
of the journal Science, in a teleconference last week
with reporters organized to discuss the Pennsylvania
ID proponents have exploited the dual meanings of the
word "theory" to boost ID's status in the eyes of the
public, critics say.
"They're trying to cut in line and not go through the
normal steps to merit wearing the cloak of science,"
Leshner said. "They just want to take on the cloak of
science because they like the credibility that comes
One way to determine whether ID should be taken
seriously as a theory is to examine the central
arguments ID proponents use to support their claim.
Journalists often neglect to do this and instead make
the mistake of giving equal coverage to both sides
without exploring the science, said Lawrence Krauss, a
physicist at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.
"In science there often aren't two sides," Krauss
said. "You know, gravity works."
Intelligent Design Part IV: Anti-evolution Attacks on
By Ker Than
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 27 September 2005
12:06 am ET
"Congress shall make no law respecting an
establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free
-- From the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Editor's Note: As part of a special report on the
theory of evolution and an alternative idea known as
intelligent design, LiveScience reviews current
legislation and historically pertinent court cases.
Current State Legislation Involving Evolution
In 1925, the Tennessee State Legislature passed the
Butler Act, a bill aimed squarely at evolution that
made it illegal to teach any theory that denied the
biblical account of creation. The bill was promptly
challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union
(ACLU) and thus began the famous Scopes Monkey Trial.
The plaintiff in the case was John T. Scopes, who was
accused by the state of illegally teaching evolution
to his high school biology class. In the end, Scopes
was fined $100 by the judge, but a year later the
Tennessee Supreme Court reversed the decision on a
technicality and the case never went any further.
Since then, Darwin's theory of evolution has been
tried by American courts 10 times (including a trial
in Pennsylvania that began yesterday).
Two of those instances have been before the nation's
Supreme Court. After each defeat, creationists have
reinvented themselves in ever more sophisticated
guises. First there was creationism, then creation
science and now intelligent design, also known as ID.
On the heel of each reinvention came a rash of
antievolution legislation. The same spate of activity
has occurred with ID.
This year alone, at least 17 bills challenging
evolution's place in the public school curriculum have
been considered in 13 states. Many of them also argue
that a place be made in the classroom for ID. Here
Introduced into the Alabama State Legislature earlier
this year, House Bills (HB) 352 and 716 and Senate
Bill (SB) 240 would have allowed teachers to "to
present scientific critiques of prevailing scientific
theories" and the right of students to "hold positions
regarding scientific views."
Status: Not Passed (all)
Introduced into the Arkansas House of Representatives
in March, HB2607 would have required the State
Department of Education to include "intelligent
design" in school curriculums.
Status: Not Passed
Also known as the Academic Freedom Bill, HB837was
introduced into the Florida House of Representatives
in February and would have purportedly allowed
students to sue teachers for teaching evolution.
Status: Not Passed
Introduced into the Georgia House of Representatives
in January, HB179 will require that facts
“inconsistent with or not supporting” evolution also
House Resolution (HR) 6018 was introduced into the
Kansas House of Representatives in February and
recommends the teaching of "the full range of
scientific views that exist” in order to encourage
“objectivity in science education.”
Status: Passed but nonbinding
Introduced in January, SB2286 advocated for "balanced
treatment to the theory of scientific creationism and
the theory of evolution" and would have required
"instruction in scientific theories of both evolution
and scientific creationism if public schools choose to
Status: Not Passed
Introduced last December, HB35 would have required
that “all biology textbooks sold to the public schools
of the state of Missouri shall have one or more
chapters containing a critical analysis of origins.”
Status: Not Passed
In March, two evolution-related measures failed to
pass through the Montana State Legislature. One of
them, LC1199, advocated the teaching of “competing
theories of origin.” The other, SJR8, endorsed "the
importance of separation of church and state" and
opposed including "theories commonly referred to as
creationism, creation science, and intelligent design
theory" in science classes.
Status: Not Passed (both)
Introduced into the New York State Assembly in May,
Assembly Bill 8036 would have required that "all
pupils in grades kindergarten through twelve in all
public schools in the state ... receive instruction in
both theories of intelligent design and evolution."
Status: Not Passed
Introduced in 2004, SB719 will allow school boards to
use 20 percent of their textbook money on books not
approved by the state, including religious or
Introduced in March, HB1007 will allow school boards
to include "intelligent design" in curriculums
containing evolution and allow teachers to use
"supporting evidence deemed necessary for instruction
on the theory of intelligent design."
A section in SB114, a senate bill introduced in
December 2004, would have required the creation of a
committee to examine whether alternatives to evolution
should be offered in schools; the section was
subsequently removed in February. Introduced in June,
SB909 will require that “where topics are taught that
may generate controversy, such as biological
evolution, the curriculum should help students to
understand the full range of scientific views that
exist, [and] why such topics may generate
Status: SB909 is still ongoing
Introduced in December 2004, HB220 will allow the
state to decide what can be included in textbooks. The
sponsor of the bill said he wanted to see creationism
be taught alongside evolution and for the mention of
evolution be removed from science textbooks
Legislation requiring instruction of “divine design”
is being threatened in Utah.
Status: On hold
Historical Court Cases Involving Evolution
"Congress shall make no law respecting an
establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free
Over the years, people attempting to ban evolution in
classrooms or to peddle creationism as science have
constantly found their efforts thwarted by these
sixteen words. Known respectively as the
“Establishment Clause” and the “Free Exercise Clause”
of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, these
two statements together form the foundation of
religious freedom in this country.
Of the many court cases involving government and
religion, nine have dealt specifically with the
treatment of evolution and creationism in public
schools. LiveScience reviews them here:
Epperson v. Arkansas (1968)
In 1968, Susan Epperson, a high school biology teacher
in Little Rock, Arkansas, was faced with a dilemma:
the school district had recently adopted a new biology
textbook that included sections on evolution, but
according to state law, it was illegal to teach them.
Yet, if Epperson didn't teach evolution, she risked
disciplinary action from the school board.
Epperson sued the state, and the case was brought
before the Supreme Court. The court ruled that the law
violated the Establishment Clause and concluded that
the primary motivation behind it was a literal reading
of the Book of Genesis. In other words, the court
found that there were no secular reasons for not
teaching evolution, only religious ones.
Segraves v. State of California (1981)
Kelly Segraves sued the state when he learned that his
three young boys were being taught evolution at
school, arguing that his and his childrens' freedom of
religion were being violated.
The California Superior Court disagreed, pointing out
that by law, scientific class discussions about the
origins of life could focus only on how life might
have developed, not on what its ultimate cause might
be. Therefore, the teaching of evolution shouldn't be
construed as either an establishment of religion or as
an infringement upon anyone's religious beliefs.
McClean v. Arkansas Board of Education (1982)
Finding their efforts to outlaw the teaching of
evolution constantly rebuffed by the courts,
creationists tried a different tactic: If evolution
can be taught in public schools, isn't it only fair,
they said, that alternative theories about the origins
and development of life be taught as well?
Legislators in Arkansas thought so, and passed a law
requiring the “balanced treatment” of evolution with
“creation science.” When the case reached a federal
court, however, the judge struck down the law and
ruled that creation science wasn't really science
because its language was based on creationist text.
Edwards v. Aguillard (1987)
If you can't beat them, join them.
That was the thinking of Louisiana legislators when
they passed the state's “Creationism Act,” which made
it illegal to teach evolution unless creation science
was taught as well.
The Supreme Court found the act unconstitutional. By
implying that a supernatural being created humankind,
creation science was an impermissible endorsement of
religion. The court pointed out that teachers were
never forbidden from presenting alternative scientific
theories before the act was passed. Therefore, the
real purpose of the act was to tack creationism onto
any curriculum that included evolution.
Webster v. New Lenox School District (1990)
In 1987, an Illinois social studies teacher named Ray
Webster began teaching creation science to his
students after disagreeing with a textbook statement
that said the earth was more than four billion years
A student complained, and when a school superintendent
warned him to stop, Webster sued, claiming that his
First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were being
The case was eventually brought before the Seventh
Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that teaching
creation science for any reason was a form of
religious advocacy and that schools could prohibit
teachers from teaching it.
Peloza v. Capistrano School District (1994)
Turning the tables on the scientific community, high
school biology teacher Ray Peloza sued the Capistrano
School District in California, claimed that
“evolutionism” was itself a kind of religion, one that
promoted a secular worldview.
Teaching it in public schools therefore violated the
First Amendment rights of both students and teachers,
Peloza said, because it imposed a religion on the
former and restricted the religious views of the
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals didn't agree and
dismissed Peloza's claim, saying that it rested on the
false assumption that evolution denied the existence
of a creator. The court further ruled that a public
employees right to free speech could be restricted
while on the job because they are representing the
Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish Board of Education (1997)
On the ostensible grounds of promoting critical
thinking, the Tangipahoa School District in Louisiana
passed a law requiring teachers to read aloud a
disclaimer before teaching evolution. The disclaimer
emphasized that evolution was only a “theory” and that
teaching it was “not intended to influence or dissuade
the Biblical version of Creation or any other
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals saw through the
creationist ruse, however, and found that the
disclaimer did not in fact promote critical thinking
because it essentially told students not to question
what they already knew. The judges further concluded
that the motivation behind the disclaimer was
religious and therefore unconstitutional.
LeVake v. Independent School District 656 (2001)
When Rodney LeVake, a high school biology teacher in
Minnesota, began teaching the students in his 10th
grade biology class “evidence both for and against the
theory” of evolution, the school principal became
uneasy and reassigned LeVake to the 9th grade.
LeVake sued, arguing that he was being discriminated
against because of his religion and that his right to
free speech was being violated in order to silence his
criticisms of evolution.
The district court judge ruled that it was a public
school teacher's responsibility to teach evolution
according to the curriculum and that teachers could be
prevented from teaching a biology course if they
couldn't adequately teach evolution.
Selman v. Cobb County School District (2005)
In 2002, Georgia's Cobb County School District began
placing stickers in its newly adopted high-school
biology textbooks stating that: "This textbook
contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory,
not a fact, regarding the origin of living things.
This material should be approached with an open mind,
studied carefully and critically considered."
Five local parents sued the school district, claiming
that the stickers inhibited the teaching of evolution
and promoted a view about the origins of life that was
A district court judge agreed and said the sticker
"misleads students regarding the significance and
value of evolution in the scientific community." The
judged ruled that the stickers undermined the first
amendment and that the stickers must be removed.
And the link still works. lol.
Once-Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.