Teachers and parents defend evolution
Published Nov 17, 2005 2:16 AM
Reporters from around the world swarmed into
a small courtroom in Dayton, Tenn., in July 1925 to watch an historic trial that
debated Darwin’s theory of evolution. High school teacher John Scopes was
accused of violating a state law that prohibited teaching evolution in public
After the jury found Scopes guilty—the verdict was later
overturned by the State Supreme Court on a technicality—the fever ish,
reactionary opposition to evolution died down. Tennessee finally repealed the
law that had sparked the so-called Scopes “Monkey Trial” in 1967.
Twenty years later the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a state law requiring the
teaching of “creation science” was unconstitutional.
80 years after the Scopes trial, the right wing is once again leading an all-out
campaign against evolution. They won a victory Nov. 8 when the Kansas Board of
Education voted 6-4 that the state’s science curriculum must teach
students that there are doubts about evolution.
This year more than a
dozen state legislatures have introduced anti-evolution bills, according to the
National Center for Science Education. One bill introduced by the Michigan
legislature would revise science standards to have students question the theory
of global warming as well.
While anti-evolution proponents once espoused
“creationism”—belief in the account of creation in the
Bible—this movement now advocates “intelligent design,” which
holds that human beings and other life forms did not evolve through genetic
modifications over time in a process of natural selection but were designed by a
Phillip E. Johnson, author of the 1991 book
“Darwin on Trial,” is one of the leading proponents of intelligent
design. He is also credited with writing Sen. Rick Santorum’s amendment to
the 2002 “No Child Left Behind” Act, which would have required
school curriculums to describe evolution as controversial. The amendment was
stripped from the final bill.
‘Separate church and
People around the country are fighting back against the
movement to throw out this basic finding of science—as established as the
existence of gravity or the roundness of the Earth.
scientists have been at the forefront of the struggle. The National Academy of
Sciences and the National Science Teachers Association told the Kansas
department of education that it could not use educational materials from these
two bodies in textbooks that also belittle evolution.
The Wall Street
Journal reported Nov. 14 that more than 120 faculty members at Iowa State
University signed a petition this year condemning “all attempts to
represent intelligent design as a scientific effort.” Universities around
the country have been offering courses promoting intelligent
Communities are also battling the anti-evolution movement. In
Dover, Penn., eight families sued the city’s school board over its policy
requiring teachers to discuss intelligent design in biology classes and point
out “gaps” in the theory of evolution. At a trial this month, the
families argued that the policy violates the U.S. Constitution’s
separation of church and state. A ruling is expected in January.
people of Dover issued their own verdict on Election Day: they voted out eight
board members up for reelection who backed intelligent
Darwin’s “The Origin of Species,” published in
1859, was a revolutionary book at the time. It had a great impact on Karl Marx,
who saw a parallel between Dar win’s theories of successive forms of life
and his own analysis of successive forms of social relations.
Darwinism and Marxism
Friedrich Engels drew the connection
between the two in his graveside eulogy to Marx. “Just as Darwin
discovered the law of development of organic nature,” Engels said,
“so Marx discovered the law of development of human history ... . Marx
also discovered the special law of motion governing the present-day capitalist
mode of production and the bourgeois society that this mode of production has
It makes sense that people who are against Marx and the
idea that social relationships could change would also be against the idea that
all life has evolved from lower to higher forms.
But while segments of
the ruling class may support ideas like intelligent design for their own means,
it is dangerous for them to do so. The United States has been falling behind
other countries in education, and the gap will only widen if children are not
taught basic science.
In a Nov. 2 editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer,
University of Maryland professor Steven Salzberg concluded that the next
generation of scientists needs to understand evolution in order to combat
diseases like avian flu. “Scientists in my lab and others can tell you
that developing a vaccine for the flu absolutely requires that we understand its
evolution,” Salz berg writes. “We can also tell you that the flu
doesn’t ‘care’ if we believe in evolution. It will keep
evolving anyway, and it will kill us if we ignore it.”
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