Thursday, April 05, 2007

On Intelligent Design, Part 2

This is a continuation of the paper I began posting yesterday:

a. History

i. Evolution in School

This country was founded on the principal of religious freedom. For most of our country’s history, Americans interpreted that rule to mean that they could worship God and the Bible as they pleased. So important was the right to religious freedom that the Founding Fathers took care to address it foremost in the Bill of Rights, as follows: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or the free exercise thereof….”[i] For years, however, religious “creationism” instruction was commonplace in public schools, and the idea that any other theory on the origin of man existed did not exist. This changed with Charles Darwin’s book “On Origin of Species,” which proposed that evolution may account for how people have come to be.

At first, this new theory made little headway into the public education systems across the country. However, as the theory persisted, states resisted by passing laws forbidding schools and teachers from teaching evolutionary theory in public schools. Tennessee passed its Anti-evolution statute which read:

An ACT prohibiting the teaching of the Evolution Theory in all the Universities, Normals and all other public schools of Tennessee, which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, and to provide penalties for the violations thereof.

Section 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, That it shall be unlawful for any teacher in any of the Universities, Normals and all other public schools of the State which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.

Section 2. Be it further enacted, That any teacher found guilty of the violation of this Act, Shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction, shall be fined not less than One Hundred $ (100.00) Dollars nor more than Five Hundred ($ 500.00) Dollars for each offense.

Section 3. Be it further enacted, That this Act take effect from and after its passage, the public welfare requiring it.[ii]

This led to a challenge of the statute by way of high school coach and part-time biology teacher John Scopes, who had been teaching evolution in a state-approved text. He became the defendant in a challenge of the statute that went up to the Tennessee Supreme Court, where the statute was upheld but the decision reversed because the trial judge issued the fine, not the jury.[iii] Ultimately the case was dismissed, but the result of the trial was felt across the country, as only two of the fifteen states that were considering anti-evolution statutes passed them.

One of those two states was Arkansas, which passed its Arkansas statutes §§80-1627 and 1628 in 1929. These statutes, like Tennessee’s statute, made it unlawful to teach evolution in any public school or university.[iv] (SEE endnote). In Epperson et al. v. Arkansas, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of banning evolution. The Court struck down the Arkansas statute and criticized Tennessee’s statute, ruling

In the present case, there can be no doubt that Arkansas has sought to prevent its teachers from discussing the theory of evolution because it is contrary to the belief of some that the Book of Genesis must be the exclusive source of doctrine as to the origin of man. No suggestion has been made that Arkansas' law may be justified by considerations of state policy other than the religious views of some of its citizens. It is clear that fundamentalist sectarian conviction was and is the law's reason for existence. Its antecedent, Tennessee's "monkey law," candidly stated its purpose: to make it unlawful "to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals." Perhaps the sensational publicity attendant upon the Scopes trial induced Arkansas to adopt less explicit language. It eliminated Tennessee's reference to "the story of the Divine Creation of man" as taught in the Bible, but there is no doubt that the motivation for the law was the same: to suppress the teaching of a theory which, it was thought, "denied" the divine creation of man.[v]

Additionally, the Court stated:

It is of no moment whether the law is deemed to prohibit mention of Darwin's theory, or to forbid any or all of the infinite varieties of communication embraced within the term "teaching." Under either interpretation, the law must be stricken because of its conflict with the constitutional prohibition of state laws respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The overriding fact is that Arkansas' law selects from the body of knowledge a particular segment which it proscribes for the sole reason that it is deemed to conflict with a particular religious doctrine; that is, with a particular interpretation of the Book of Genesis by a particular religious group.[vi]

This ruling effectively established the theory of evolution as standard instruction in the public school systems of this country, and struck a blow against the instruction of Creationism in those same schools.



[i] U. S. Const. amend. I.

[ii] 1925 Tenn. Pub. Acts 27.

[iii] See Scopes, 289 S. W. at 367.

[iv] Ark. Stat. Ann. §§ 80-1627, 80-1628 (1960 Repl. Vol.).

[v] Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U. S. 97, 108 (1968).

[vi] Id at 103.

2 comments:

Hann said...

Cool, I love reading things interesting or things I haven't known. I just finished an Youth Issues essay and my topic was youth immigrants, racism and discrimination. It was interesting to delve deeper into gangs, policing and upbringing too, I touched it all in my essay and I will wait 4 weeks now for my marks :(

AVONLADY said...

I think students ought to be exposed to as many viewpoints as possible objectively.

Isn't the point of school for us to learn about what is going on OUTSIDE of our homes and learn some skills to cope?

Individual churches we choose can reinforce values we are learning at home.