general studies

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Academic Freedom


It often takes a monumental court case to provide the turning point in a hotly debated topic, and the perpetual dispute over evolution and intelligent design is no exception. Both the Dover and Scopes rulings illustrate how Darwin's theory - while forever challenged for monopolizing the notion behind man's ascent as a species - is a concept both engrained and accepted despite the lawful decisions that claim just the opposite.Questions on the origin of life and of the universe must have permeated human thought since the very beginning of the thought process itself. Philosophers, natural scientists, and theologians have long historical records of dealing with the explanations of mankind's origin, function, purpose, and ultimate destiny. In a seemingly never-ending process of debate and debunk, the scientific community has clung fast to evolutionary theory as a matter of proven fact. Those opposing this view have, over the course of the twentieth century, morphed the creationistic view into something more, along the way gaining the support of a small portion of the scientific community. In the process, Americans have found themselves being tested along both logical and value based beliefs. This paper will not so much discuss the scientific approach to the controversy. The arguments defending evolution are well documented. What will be discussed is the change in the presentation of creationism to a more scientific theory which is, though still hotly debated, gaining the support of some of science's elite, and what has brought it to this new level of examination and criticism. In order to understand the recent change in the letter of creationism law, it is necessary to first explain, briefly, the difference between creationism and evolution. In Darwinian terms, evolution refers to changes accumulated by natural selection in living things, especially regarding species formation. Darwin's theory is based on the fact that natural selection is the...

What was the John Scopes Trial?

The controversy surrounding evolution and how it should be taught in public schools first entered the public eye in 1925 when John Scopes was found guilty of teaching evolution to Tennessee schoolchildren. The "Monkey Trial" as John Scopes' case was nicknamed, was not really about John Scopes breaking the law, but rather about conflicting social and intellectual values (Linder). William Jennings Bryan claimed that "if evolution wins, Christianity goes" and on the other side, Clarence Darrow warned that banning evolution was "opening the doors for a reign of bigotry equal to anything in the Middle Ages" (Linder). While both of these statements are a bit over the top, they do capture the fears rampant on both sides of the debate. As history tells us, the court found John Scopes guilty of teaching evolution and fined him $100 (the fine was later overturned based on a technicality). The court also stated that while they forbade the teaching of evolution, they "did not require the teaching of any other doctrine, so that it did not benefit any doctrine over the others" (Linder). This case was a giant setback for advocates of evolutionary theory.

What is going on in Kansas?

Intelligent design holds that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power. The Kansas Board of Education voted that students will be expected to study doubts about modern Darwinian Theory. The board said high school students should be told that aspects of widely accepted evolutionary theory are controversial (Washington Post, 2005).

What is going on in Dover, PA?

A trial is currently taking place in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania concerning the question of whether a local school district can require students to be told about intelligent design (ID) as an alternative to Darwinian evolution (Holden 1796). This trial, known as Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, could result in the setting of a national precedence. The reason for this is that the losing side is likely to appeal every step of the way, ultimately arriving at the Supreme Court (Johnson 2). In order to formulate an informed opinion as to whether students should be required to be told about intelligent design, it is necessary to examine the history of the debate, take both viewpoints into account, and understand the stakes behind the decision.


Intelligent Design is the main counterpart for the theory of evolution. The organization that pushes this idea is the Discovery Institute. Its chief statement is that many things in the universe such as life, are best explained by an intelligent cause. This notion of life's existence cannot be supported by experiments and hypothesis like the theory of Neo-Darwinism can, and it is for this reason that the theory of evolution is chosen for curriculum inclusion over Intelligent Design. There are arguments for intelligent design such as irreducible-complexity, and a fine-tuned universe, but these are not thought by the scientific community as a whole to be actually "scientific". Instead, these supporting arguments for Intelligent Design, and for the assertion itself, are considered pseudoscience or not adhering to scientific standards.

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