Dogging Darwin: America’s Revolt Against the Teaching of Evolution
Stern, Ruth C.
DiFonzo, J. Herbie
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More than four in ten Americans believe that God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago. American antagonism toward the teaching of evolution is deeply rooted in fundamentalist tradition and an aversion to intellectualism. These forces have combined to demonize Charles Darwin to such an extent that sectarian-based legal and political attacks on evolution show no signs of abating. Darwin’s day in court began in 1925 with the famous Scopes Monkey Trial. It continued into the 21st century with Kitzmiller v. Dover Area Schools. Throughout, the core creationist agenda has remained the same, although an evolution in labeling has produced such variants as “creation science,” “intelligent design,” “teach the controversy,” and, more recently, “sudden emergence theory.” Along the way, anti-evolutionists invoked the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause to argue that religious freedom trumps the church-state divide. They also claimed, pursuant to the Establishment Clause, that maintaining a secular state imposes a decree of non-belief on Christian citizenry. Bracketed by the events in Dayton, Tennessee and Dover, Pennsylvania, this article explores the anti-evolutionist crusade and concludes that creationist interpretations of the First Amendment are untenable. Current law continues to uphold limitations on expressions of religion in state action. Our legal traditions, as well as reputable science education standards, support the teaching of evolution in America’s public schools unencumbered by religious doctrine.