Science vs. creationism: the ongoing battle

In 1922, more than 60 years after Darwin published the Origin of Species, Protestant fundamentalists in the United States launched a campaign to ban the teaching of evolutionary theory in public schools. In the 84 years since, attempts to undermine the teaching of evolution, though taking different forms, have been relentless.

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High school biology teacher John Scopes is convicted and fined $100 in Dayton, Tenn., for violating a new state law making it a crime to teach evolution in public schools. Within three years, similar laws are enacted in Mississippi and Arkansas.

The Genesis Flood is published, claiming geological evidence for the biblical version of creation. The book spawns a nationwide “creation science” movement. This school of thought holds that the creation of the universe as described in the Bible is supported by scientific evidence.

The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Arkansas’ anti-evolution law for violating the First Amendment requirement of separation of church and state (Epperson v. Arkansas). Tennessee had repealed its law the previous year. Citing the Epperson case, the Mississippi Supreme Court strikes down the state’s evolution ban in 1970.

In McLean v. Arkansas, a federal district court strikes down Arkansas’ “equal time for creation science” law as a violation of the First Amendment.

The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the teaching of “scientific creationism” in Louisiana public schools (Edwards v. Aguillard).

The Discovery Institute, a conservative Seattle think tank, establishes an educational center advocating “intelligent design” as science.

Kansas is thrust into the national limelight when anti-Darwinians on the state board of education remove refer-ences to evolution from the state’s science standards. The decision is reversed two years later when a moderate majority is elected to the board.


  • One year after regaining control of the Kansas board of education, conservative members adopt state science standards deni-grating evolution. In response, Popular Science magazine names “Kansas biology teacher” the third-worst job in science — behind “dung inspector” and “human lab rat.”
  • A federal judge in Atlanta orders the Cobb County school board to remove stickers from science textbooks warning that “evolution is a theory, not a fact.” The decision, Selman v. Cobb, is under review.
  • U.S. District Court Judge John Jones III strikes down the teaching of intelligent design in the Dover, Pa., schools as a violation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause (Kitzmiller v. Dover).

The newly elected, pro-evolution school board in Dover agrees to pay more than $1 million to cover plaintiffs’ legal expenses in the Kitzmiller case.

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