Essay: Evolution in 1987, the Supreme Court

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¶ … Evolution

In 1987, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Edwards v. Aquillard. That case was seminal in its importance to the idea of the teaching of Evolutionary theory in the public schools. Since the 1920s, the U.S. Education System has wavered regarding the teaching of creationism vs. evolution in the public schools. In the 1960s, new scientific and teaching standards fueled the debate. Many conservative states attempted to force through legislation that would require the teaching of creationism along with Darwinian evolution. In the early 1980s, a Louisiana law, titled the "Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science in Public School Instruction Act" prohibited teaching evolution unless it was accompanied by a balanced approach in teaching creationism. This essentially forced schools to teach a Biblical belief that life arose abruptly according to Genesis if the school wished to integrate evolution into the classroom.

Louisiana Governor Edwards argued that it did not force the teaching of creationism, but simply required that if evolution was taught, creationism should be taught as well, forming a balanced curriculum. In support of Aquillard, 72 Nobel scientists, 17 state academies of science, and 7 other scientific organizations filed amicus briefs positing that evolution was a scientific theory while creationism a non-scientific explanation based on faith. The Aquillard side did not demean of underhandedly critique the teaching of creationism, but remained convinced that teaching a Biblical theory violated the Constitutional separation of Church and State.

In a 7 to 2 vote the Court ruled against Louisiana and held that the State law did indeed violate the Constitution. Using the Lemon test, the court argued that Louisiana's law failed on all points of the law: First, it was not enacted to test secular purpose. Second, the primary effect of State law was to advance a viewpoint that an advanced being created the universe and it was a series of chemical reactions that occurred to stir life, amid a process of slow change over time to allow species to develop. Further, the Court found that despite the verbiage, the Louisiana law did not protect academic freedom, but in turn required religious beliefs to be introduced into the classroom since modern biology relies on learning evolution as a concept. Dissenting Judges Scalia and Rehnquist wrote that students should be allowed to make up their own minds about topics such as this. This case had a great effect on the American creationist movement, who now sought to redefine and package its views as "Creation Science," even though there is no science involved. It also contributed to an upsurge in the antipathy between evolutionists and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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