Thursday, September 22, 2005

Monkey Trial Redux

The Wall Street Journal gives us Scopes, 2005: 'Design' Theory Faces Legal Test.


Debates about the boundaries of science and religion that marked the famous Scopes trial in 1925 are likely to unfold next week at a Harrisburg, Pa., federal courthouse in the first legal test of an anti-evolution doctrine known as "intelligent design."

Aided by the American Civil Liberties Union, 11 parents of Dover, Pa., schoolchildren have filed a federal lawsuit against that town's school board, accusing it of violating the principle of separation of church and state. The school board requires that at the beginning of the 9th grade unit on evolution, teachers are supposed to read a statement to a biology class: "Because Darwin's theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact...Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view."

Science teachers balked and many Dover parents were angered as well. The plaintiffs are asking the court to void the intelligent-design policy in the class.

... and ...

"The intent [by Dover officials] is to systematically destroy the theory of evolution because the theory tells the students we came from monkeys," said plaintiff Bryan Rehm, who has a daughter in ninth grade at Dover High. "According to them we didn't come from monkeys. God made us as the way we are today...That's fine, but that's not science. That's the book of Genesis. And the last time I checked, the Bible is still a religious text."

The jury at the carnival-esque Scopes trial in 1925 supported a Tennessee law making it unlawful "to teach any theory that denies the story of divine creation as taught by the Bible." But the legal tide since has not been kind to evolution opponents. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the last of the Scopes-type anti-evolution laws in Epperson v. Arkansas in 1968, and lower courts followed suit in scuttling so-called "equal time" laws that required schools to teach creation science. In January, a federal court ordered Cobb County, Ga., to remove evolution warning labels on biology texts, saying they had "an impermissible effect" of promoting religion. That decision is on appeal.

Nevertheless, the anti-evolution forces have pressed on. The Kansas Board of Education voted in August to include greater criticism of evolution in its school-science standards -- which lists all aspects of the subject teachers should present. An outside academic agency is reviewing the proposed curriculum and it comes up for a vote in October. In 2002, Ohio adopted science standards requiring students to examine criticisms of biological evolution.

Anti-evolution forces are marcing on! (Gasp!) All sarcasm aside, I wonder about this tactic. First, my bias: I love all the ID stuff. I love reading about it and rejoicing at God's handiwork. I love hearing about the mussels in the ocean that have a stronger adhesive than anything man has invented, and so on. However, should we be cramming this down the throats of unbelieving, non-covenant children? I'm quite excited about teaching my own (covenant) children about all these wonderful truths, and non-believing children should certainly receive the Gospel. But the public schools seem a bizarre battle ground. Perhaps my apprehension comes from the utter train-wreck that is the U.S. public schools. Should that institution be trusted to present anything about God? Just asking ...