Issue 97, Spring 2005

by Joan E. Bertin

Creationists have been battling the teaching of evolution at least since the Scopes Trial of 1925. Battles are still waging in state and local public boards of education, and in the courts. Religious conservatives pressure publishers to present “alternate theories” to evolution and to water down its treatment in biology textbooks. Their efforts in Texas and elsewhere have affected textbooks nationwide (CN 86).

Recently, the school board in Cobb County, Georgia designed stickers for biology books stating that evolution is “a theory, not a fact,..” A federal district court ruled that the stickers are an unconstitutional endorsement of religion and ordered them removed. The decision will be appealed.

Many teachers across the country are wary of teaching about evolution, and some Imax theaters have even banned science documentaries that refer to it. An organization called the Discovery Institute promotes efforts to force school boards to “balance” evolution with teaching “intelligent design,” which invokes a higher power. In contrast to creationism, “intelligent design” does not identify a specific religious “designer,” presumably to avoid constitutional challenge. Nonetheless, some parents, aided by the ACLU, have challenged the teaching of “intelligent design” in schools in Dover, PA. Some 19 states, including Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, and South Carolina are in the process of reevaluating public school science curricula. For more about “intelligent design,” see Jim Holt’s article Unintelligent Design in this issue.