The Law of Teaching Evolution

Armstrong explains that all the teachers he interviewed were against the new law and that “a majority of instructors are determined to `beat` it if they can do so without getting into trouble.” How did they want to do that? Noting that the law said nothing about the evolution of any organism other than man, Armstrong said he was explaining to his students “that it is illegal to apply to the human race the same method of study and the same conclusions as we apply to the lower orders of life,” commenting, “Instead of curbing their zeal for the acquisition of knowledge, it seems to create a spirit of research that produces results” (Armstrong 1929:18). In June 2013, Kansas adopted the Next Generation National Science Standards, which teach evolution as a core principle of the life sciences. [45] For example, teachers who tell me that their principal told them not to teach evolution have a principal who breaks the law. Another teacher had planned to inform students that the material on certain pages of some books was illegal due to the anti-evolution law, and so they would skip those pages. This strategy was based on a distinction between textbooks, which are clearly mentioned in the law, and reference works or other types that are not mentioned as such. One university professor suggested he could tell students to consult reference books in the library to learn more about evolution without breaking the law. And, of course, students would still be free to buy their own books on evolution, even ordering them from outside the state, if necessary, for their own private use. The Butler Act was a Tennessee law that made it illegal for public schools to teach evolution. It was promulgated on March 13, 1925 and remained in force for 40 years. The act also led to one of the most famous trials of the 20th century, pitting creationists against those who believed in evolution. We are not suggesting that a legislator could never require that scientific criticism of dominant scientific theories be taught. In fact, the Stone Tribunal recognized that its decision to prohibit the publication of the Ten Commandments did not mean that the Ten Commandments could never be used or that the Ten Commandments played an exclusively religious role in the history of Western civilization.

449 U.S., at 42, 101 S.Ct., at 194. Similarly, teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humanity to schoolchildren could be validly done with the clear secular intention of improving the effectiveness of science education. But because the main purpose of creationist law is to support a particular religious doctrine, the law promotes religion in violation of the establishment clause. — Edwards v. Aguillard[7] This decision declared unconstitutional an attempt by the Louisiana legislature to prescribe the doctrine of evolution and creation because the court suspected (wrongly) a religious purpose behind the law, although this was rejected, and the bill emphasized that evidence should be presented without religious content. The bill was challenged by the ACLU in the famous Scopes trial, in which John Scopes, a high school science teacher who agreed to be paid for the charge of teaching evolution, and received an arrest warrant on May 5, 1925. Scopes was indicted on May 25 and eventually convicted; On appeal, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled the constitutional law under the Tennessee Constitution because: The Scopes process – triggered by the Butler Act – crystallized the debate and drew battle lines between those who advocated evolution and those who believed in creationism. Just five days after the trial ended, Bryan died — some said he was heartbroken by his defeat. The verdict was appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court, which upheld the law a year later. What Peay couldn`t imagine was what would happen next. As news of the new law spread across Tennessee, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) offered to defend anyone accused of violating the Butler Act.

The ACLU`s announcement caught the attention of George Rappleyea, an engineer and director of the Cumberland Coal and Iron Company in the small town of Dayton, Tennessee. Inspired by his rejection of religious fundamentalism and his desire to show the world its consequences, he convinced local leaders that a lawsuit would put Dayton on the map and revive its economy. To appear as a defendant, Rappleyea persuaded a 24-year-old biology professor named John Scopes, who wasn`t even sure if he had taught evolution in his classes. But what does the law say about evolution and creationism? There have been a number of legal cases on this sensitive issue (see NCSE legal context), and the law is very clear on several issues. But first, a word of caution! “Never rely on the legal advice of a physical anthropologist!” Although I work with lawyers and, for a layman, know the legal issues surrounding the controversy over creation and evolution, I do not give legal advice, and anyone who has a legal problem should consult a lawyer.) (If only lawyers who make proclamations about science had similar warnings!) On 10 April 2012, a law (HB 368/SB 893) was passed that protects “teachers who study the `scientific strengths and weaknesses` of evolution and climate change”. Proponents of science education have said the law could facilitate the invasion of creationism and global warming denial in the United States.

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