The following correction was subsequently made to this article in issue 3 (volume2.1):
Two errors of fact occurred in my article, "Why Creationism Should Not Be Taught As Science: The Legal Issues," published in Issue I of Creation/Evolution.
On page 13 paragraph 3 it was stated that the "Tennessee law which John Scopes was charged with breaking" was declared unconstitutional. This is not so. John Scopes was convicted in Dayton, Tennessee, and fined $100, the usual fine for transporting liquor, which in this case seemed to be applied to transporting information. In June of the next year (1926) the case was appealed in the State Supreme Court. The judges were determined to clear up the issue and prevent a further appeal to the U. S. Supreme Court, so they, "having decided that the law was constitutional, nevertheless reversed the conviction on the ground that the fine had been improperly imposed by the judge," thereby implying that the law in question was simply not to be enforced. (Gail Kennedy, Evolution and Religion. New York: D. C. Heath, 1957, pp. 35-52.)
The second error occurred on page 19, next-to-last paragraph. There I stated that the sample resolutions appearing in the July-August 1975 and the May 1979 issues of Acts & Facts were used verbatim in Columbus, Ohio and Georgia. Popular newspaper accounts frequently declared this, but a careful comparison reveals no similarity in Ohio, or Georgia. The Florida bill, however, does show signs of strong influence, though it was drafted by another creationist organization, Citizens for Fairness in Education, in South Carolina. This same group was behind the Anderson, South Carolina resolution, which did take some sentences verbatim from ICR materials.
PART 1. The Legal Issues
The legal objections to placing Special Creation doctrines in the
science classroom form what, quite frankly, can only be called an
air-tight case. For once one understands the history of what Biblical
creationists have been trying; to do, once one grasps the full
significance of their new tactic, and once one is aware of the nature
of their latest legal moves, no choice is left but to acknowledge that
the creationist's aims can never be legal under our present
constitution. Let us, then, explore the history, tactics, and legal
efforts of the creationist movement so as to better understand why it
has never won a constitutional battle.
A History of the Legal Conflict
Large scale challenges to the teaching of evolution by creationists
have occurred on three significant occasions in the last century and a
half. The first was after the publication of Darwin's Origin of
, the second was at the time of the Scopes trial, and the third
is taking place today. On each occasion, creationists have attacked
those in the scientific and. educational community desiring to teach
Looking back on the first battle, Andrew White, in his 1896 book, A
History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom
recalled that. "Darwin's Origin of Species
had come into the
theological world like a plough into an ant hill. Everywhere those
thus rudely awakened from their old comfort and repose had swarmed
forth angry and confused. Reviews, sermons, books light and heavy,
came flying at the new thinker from all sides."
Specifically, one English clergyman, who was vice president of a
Protesant institute to combat "dangerous" science, had denounced
Darwinism as "an attempt to dethrone God." Another creationist,
Wheedle, succeeded in preventing a copy of the Origin
placed in the Trinity College Library. Rougemont had called for a
crusade against evolution in Switzerland. And a similar crusade had
almost taken place among the scientific community in America until Asa
Gray, the foremost American botanist, won it over in a series of
stunning public debates at Harvard that defeated the anti-evolution
movement for a time.
But a dozen years later it flared up again with Darwin's Descent of
- page 3 -
In England, Gladstone condemned it. In America the Reverend Dr. Hodge
of Princeton declared that Christians "have a right to protest against
the arraying of probabilities against the clear evidence of the
However, the problem of the teaching of evolution in the public
schools was not yet an issue. No. In those days the issue was the teaching
of science in any form to children. Huxley had his hands full in
England just trying to lay to rest the old classical and theological
education so as to make room for such "liberal" studies as science, geography, history, grammar,
composition, drawing, and physical education.
This meant that it wasn't until the decade of the Scopes trial that
teaching children about evolution became an issue. And it became an
issue largely because its teaching had finally become frequent enough
to alarm the conservative American religious community. So, once again
the anti-evolutionists formed their battle lines, thereby setting off
the second great conflict.
Between 1922 and 1929, forty-six pieces of legislation aimed at
preventing the teaching of evolution were introduced. Of these, only
three were passed, all of which were later declared unconstitutional.
Writing in 1927 in the Bulletin of the American Association of
, S.J. Holmes said that "the worst feature of the
situation is not so much the intellectual backwardness revealed by the
passage of these statutes as the spirit of religious intolerance and
disregard of intellectual liberty which prompted their enactment."
Many feel it was this sentiment, becoming widely held, that brought an
end to the legislative attacks by fundamentalists. Yet nothing could
be further from the truth.
The only real reason the attacks came to an end was because
evolutionists made a compromising retreat. As Mayer (1978) points out,
"In most American schoolbooks the word evolution
Many times this was done as a mere camouflage maneuver, evolution
still being taught under different names like "change through time" or
"heredity." But at other times it was done in an apparent recognition
As Bette Chambers (1977) noted when president of the American Humanist
Association, "Years ago we were made painfully aware that this
intricate and beautiful principle of modern biology is taught almost
nowhere without extensive apologetics or having first been filtered
through a sieve of nervous religious disclaimers." She was describing
the case of her own daughter who, in 1965, had come home angrily from
junior high school after seeing a Moody Bible Institute nature film in
her science class. "Must
I believe that the spider makes the web
perfectly the very first time she tries because God has `programmed'
her brain like a computer?" she cried.
So, even though the legislative track record of creationists was poor,
they had an impressive long-term success in convincing teachers and
publishers to soft-pedal evolution (Cowen, 1979). That is, they
managed to set up an- page 4 -
environment where evolution was "selected out" of text books by a
"slow and gradual process" which went almost unnoticed. No wonder only
one piece of legislation attempting to prohibit the teaching of
evolution was introduced in the 33 years between 1930 and 1963.
But this couldn't go on forever, not with evolutionary science
developing by leaps and bounds. Sooner or later the scientific and
academic community would have to wake up to the fact that only a
shadow of evolution, if any at all, was being presented in the public
schools. And to help bring about this awakening, biologist Hermann J.
Muller on the centennial of Darwin's Origin
, wrote an article entitled
"One Hundred Years Without Darwin Are Enough."
When the drive finally got underway to bring evolution back into the
classroom, it seemed the public would be receptive. Russian advances
in the space race had parents and school boards calling for more
science education. So, in 1964, biology textbooks sponsored by the
National Science Foundation went into use with government funding.
These textbooks reintroduced evolution and, as a consequence. also
reintroduced the creation/evolution controversy.
This time, however, the religious conservatives were not so blunt as
to reject all science, or even to reject evolution alone. The new ploy
was to appeal to "fairness," and thereby demand "equal time" for
creationism. As a result, at least twenty-five pieces of legislation
relating to the "equal time" idea have been proposed since 1964. At
present, more than 20 states have policies allowing local school
districts to include creationism as an alternative. Ellen Goodman
reports in her newspaper column that "In 27 states, textbook selection
committees are under pressure to accept books which teach Divine
Creation — not as theology, but as biology.
And it hasn't stopped there. With the creationists gaining momentum
and putting forth ever more sophisticated legal arguments (they at
first wanted equal lime for Genesis. but now usually seek it for
"creation science"), they have burst forth in a new wave that is
beginning to blanket the nation.
So far, three pieces of "equal time" oriented legislation have passed,
one of which has already been declared unconstitutional. The real
threat, however, has come from the creationist influence on individual
school boards to either allow or require their "two-model" teaching
program. A large number of local school boards in a variety of states
have been persuaded that equal time for creationism is both fair and
The New Tactic
Obviously the creationists have learned a lot in their long struggle
to unseat evolution. Trial and error has shown them what doesn't work:
Anti-science doesn't, efforts to ban evolution don't, and purely
religious invective is also a losing proposition. The idea of being
open-minded, religiously neutral, and scientific has gained such wide
credence (or at least lip-service) that creationists- page 5 -
can't successfully oppose it, no matter how much they might like to.
So, their new tactic is to declare creationism scientific, then join
in with the majority and espouse the virtues of the times in their own
name. In this way they can pose as latter-day Galileos being
persecuted by "orthodox" science. They can become the champions for
fairness fighting against the "dogmatic" evolutionists who have hauled
them into the "Scopes trial in reverse." In fact, they can even
declare themselves Jeffersonian fighters for church-state separation
against "the religion of evolutionary humanism" in the public schools,
as well as revolutionaries for progress bringing new truths into play
against "the establishment."
How have the creationists accomplished this? With one simple sentence.
Dr. Henry Morris of the Institute for Creation Research probably
deserves the credit for it. In his debates he simply says, "Creation
is just as much a science as is evolution, and evolution is just as
much a religion as is creation."
Such a statement serves three purposes at once. First, it declares
creationism to be an alternate scientific theory to evolution. Second,
it criticizes evolution for being a belief held only on faith. And
third, it confuses school boards and legislatures.
To back up this statement, Morris throws in a variety of
scientific-sounding arguments and legalistic appeals for "equal time"
and "church-state separation The effect of this on his average
audience is one of producing doubt. And in the face of such doubt,
these people begin to think, "Since I can't tell who is right, it's
only reasonable to let both views be taught." And so it happens:
through clever word manipulation and appeals to "equal opportunity,"
the creationists win the day.
When objections are raised, however, the first one is invariably that
creationism is derived from the Bible, that the Bible is a religious
book, that it is unconstitutional to mandate teaching sectarian
religion in the public school science curriculum, and therefore
creationism should not be introduced.
The creationists, however, have a ready answer. The two-model
approach, they declare, "is not
the introduction of the Bible or Bible
stories about creation into the science books or classrooms."
(Creation-Science Research Center, 1980.) "It is the fair and balanced
presentation of the evidence and arguments both pro and con relative
to both models of origins ..."
In addition to this ready answer, they also have ready-made textbooks.
Probably the most famous is Dr. Morris' Scientific Creationism
out by his Institute for Creation Research. The preface states
(Public School Edition) ... deals with all the
important aspects of the creation/ evolution question from a strictly
scientific point of view, attempting to evaluate the physical evidence
from the relevant scientific fields without reference to the Bible or
other religious literature."
However, in spite of this nice-sounding opener, this textbook is
nothing more than a polemical attack on the evidences for evolution,
with almost no- page 6 -
statement of the case for creationism or the nature of the creation
model. Such a ploy is necessary since, outside the Bible, there is no
creation model. This is readily proved by Dr. Morris' revealing
statement, "The Bible account of creation can be taught in the public
schools if only the scientific aspects of creationism are taught,
keeping the Bible and religion out of it altogether." This seems to
mean that Biblical ideas suddenly become scientific once one hides the
fact that the Bible is the source.
So, hide the Bible they do. For example, in another anti-evolution
book entitled Evolution: The Fossils Say No!
, Dr. Morris' colleague,
Dr. Gish, writes, "By creation we mean the bringing into being of the
basic kinds of plants and animals by the process of sudden, or fiat,
creation described in the first two chapters of Genesis." This seems
plain enough. But Dr. Gish wanted his book used in the public schools.
So, what did he do? He wrote a revision of it that left out this
reference to his ultimate authority.
Perhaps he had learned something from the recent experiences of John
N. Moore and Harold Slusher, two other creationists. They co-edited
the controversial high school science textbook Biology, A Search for
Order in Complexity
. Although this book was purported to be objective,
scientific, and non-sectarian, an Indiana Superior Court found it
riddled with religious references such as: " ... the second law
(increasing entrophy) is essentially a confirmation of the universal
law of decay and death postulated in accordance with the biblical
version of the creation model." " . . . most fossil material was laid
down by the flood in Noah's time." " ... the most reasonable
explanation for the actual facts of biology as they are known
scientifically is that of biblical creationism."
The court's verdict, issued by Judge Michael T. Dugan II, was probably
the most embarrassing judicial expose of modem-day creationism ever
handed down from the bench. The Court declared, "Clearly, the purpose
of A Search for Order in Complexity
is the promotion and inclusion of
fundamentalist Christian doctrine in the public schools. The
publishers, themselves, admit that this text is designed to find its
way into the public schools to stress Biblical Creationism. ... The
question is whether a text obviously designed to present only the view
of Biblical Creationism in a favorable light is constitutionally
acceptable in the public schools of Indiana. Two hundred years of
constitutional government demand that the answer be no. The asserted
object of the text to present a balanced or neutral argument is a sham
that breaches that `wall of separation' between church and state
voiced by Thomas Jefferson. Any doubt of the text's fairness is
dispelled by the demand for `correct' Christian answers demanded by
the Teacher's Guide
. The prospect of biology teachers and students
alike, forced to answer and respond to continued demand for `correct'
fundamentalist Christian doctrines, has no place in the public
As one watches creationists, one can see that they learn their lessons
very well. Scientific Creationism, though it mentions a worldwide
flood that occurred less than 10,000 years ago, the "survivors" of
which "emerged" "near the site of- page 7 -
Mount Ararat," and though it refers to a miraculous origin of
languages "near Babylon" " . . . where tradition indicates the
confusion of languages took place," it never mentions the Bible.
At least it never mentions the Bible in the "Public School Edition."
The "General Edition," however, is quite another story. It is
"essentially identical with the public school edition, except for the
addition of a comprehensive chapter which places the scientific
evidence in its proper Biblical and theological context," says the
Foreword. This version is for the Christian
In their public debates, the creationists are even more careful to
avoid stating their creation model. They invariably start out by
saying that what they're talking about has nothing to do with Genesis.
After that, the rest of their material is evolutionary criticism. If
their opponents try to bring up the Bible, they counter-attack by
declaring they came to talk about science, not religion. They further
add that they have a right to their religious faith and should not
have to hear criticism of it during a discussion of the scientific
This approach seems to do well for them most of the time. But constant
demands by evolutionists for creationists to explicitly state their
model has lately forced them to formulate a secularized version of
what they really believe. This version, contrived by attorney Wendell
R. Bird, was published for all the world to see in the December 1978
issue of Acts & Facts
, put out by the Institute for Creation Research.
Clearly, Bird felt it was important to carefully define the
differences between the Biblical creation and scientific
models. It was and is his view that a sharp and consistent distinction
can be made. Acts & Facts
declared, "The scientific creation model is
based on scientific evidence, and the Biblical creation model is based
on Genesis and other Biblical revelations. Mixing presentation of the
scientific creation model and supporting scientific evidence with
references to the Bible, Genesis, Adam, Noah, or the Ark will cause
scientific creationism to be barred from the public schools."
It would seem by all this that the differences between the two models
must be quite radical. Are they? You San find out for yourself by
comparing them side-by-side as is done in the box on the next page. No
doubt you'll notice that the actual differences between the
"scientific" and Biblical creation models are quite small, in some
places only amounting to a change of two or three words.
As I pointed out rather bluntly to Dr. Kofahl, a leading creationist,
during a recent debate in which we both participated, "The differences
between the Biblical model and the science model are so minor, so
minute, that nobody is kidding anyone and nobody is being fooled. Once
you hear the creationist model laid out, you're going to recognize it
immediately as a Biblical model unless you were born in Borneo
somewhere and never heard of the Bible."
In response, Dr. Kofahl argued that this wasn't the creationism he was
interested in, and that he had no desire to bring Dr. Morris'
into the classroom. What he wanted to see was
"the evolution model criticized- page 8 -
on the basis of the scientific evidence."
Well, there we have it again. They don't want to talk about their own
model. They only want to critique evolution. This is the only real way
they can avoid the problem of bringing in the Bible, and they know it.
And yet, when they get careless, they do
bring it in. The
Creation-Science Research Center, of which Dr. Kofahl is a
representative, publishes the Science and Creation Series
, which is a
set of graded public school textbooks. This set was examined by
Richard M. Lemmon for the California State Board of Education in 1975.
In his report he drew attention to a number of religious references in
He wrote, "In the 'Handbook for Teachers', page 75, it is stated that
'It is known that the nation of Israel began about 3700 years ago with the patriarch
- page 9 -
|The Two Creation Models
of Wendell R. Bird
As Taken From the December 1978 Issue of Acts & Facts
||Scientific Creation Model:
||Biblical Creation Model:
Special creation of the universe and earth (by a Creator),
on the basis of scientific evidence.
Divine creation of the heaven, stars, and earth by God, on
the basis of Genesis.
Application of the entropy law to produce deterioration in
the earth and life, on the basis of scientific evidence.
Application of the curse, pronounced by God after Adam's
fall, to produce deterioration in the earth and life, on the
basis of Genesis.
Special creation of life (by a Creator), on the basis of
Divine creation of plant and animal life, Adam the first
man, and Eve from Adam's side by God, on the basis of Genesis.
Fixity of original plant and animal kinds, on the basis of
Fixity of original plant and
animal kinds, determined by God, on the basis of Genesis.
Distinct ancestry of man and apes, on the basis of
Distinct ancestry of Adam and apes, on the basis of Genesis.
Explanation of much of the earth's geology by a worldwide
deluge, on the basis of scientific evidence.
Explanation of the earth's geology by a world-wide flood in
which only Noah, his family, and animal pairs were preserved in
an ark, on the basis of Genesis.
Relatively recent origin of the earth and living kinds (in
comparison with several billion years), on the basis of
Approximately six thousand year time span since creation of
the earth, life, and Adam, on the basis of Genesis.
Jacob.' ... In `The World of Long Ago, 3T', page 29, it is stated that
`The Bible also records a great flood, one that covered the highest
mountains.' ... In `Man and His World, 7T', page 11, we find that a
French explorer `found timber which he believes came from the Ark of
Noah.' . . . In `Beginning of the World, 7T', page 5, there is a
reference to `one eternal personal God as the Creator of all things
(as in Genesis).' ... In the `Handbook for Teachers', page 77, we find
a statement about the ' ... great world catastrophes occurring after
the creation, including especially the great flood recorded in the
book of Genesis...' "
On the basis of these and other discoveries, Lemmon argued that "The
entire purpose of these books is to use science classes to
indoctrinate students in a particularly narrow brand of religious
sectarianism. That sectarianism ignores most of the world's great
religions; its promulgation in the public schools would violate the
Education Code, Article 2, Section 9014, and the California State
Constitution, Article IX, Section 8."
The New Legal Moves
From the foregoing, it would seem the creationists have been rather
clumsy in sticking to their new tactic of secularizing creationism.
But, even if they had managed to carry off such a plan with any
efficiency, their position would still fall short of legal
There are a number of reasons for this; but to understand them
correctly, it will be necessary to first reveal what the creationists
are trying to do with their new "scientific creationism" now that they
have formulated its rhetoric.
In a September 1977 letter of appeal for contributions, Dr. Morris
wrote, "As you know, one of our main purposes here at ICR has been to
reach the schools and colleges of our nation with the message of
creation, so that young people would know there is a valid alternative
to the evolutionary humanism that dominates our society today." In
October he added, "We especially appreciate the splendid efforts of so
many of you to accomplish the goal of getting creation into your own
local schools and colleges."
Nell Segraves, Administrative Assistant of the Creation-Science
Research Center, and one of the founders of the modern creationist
movement, stated in a recent letter to Frank Mortyn of San Diego Mesa
College that, "we are advocating the introduction into science
textbooks and classrooms of scientific data which support the
alternative explanation of origins, namely, intelligent purposeful
design and special creation. In other words, we are calling for a
reform in the teaching of science."
Segraves authored the Center's "action Manual," a guide for
implementing Creation-science curricula in the public schools, the
legal rationale for teaching it, and guides for evaluating textbooks.
In a recent debate she declared, "We feel that we are entitled to at
least 50 percent of the public education system for our point of
view."- page 10 -
Her reasoning is simple and straightforward: The Scopes trial, in
showing the illegality of banning evolution, also showed the
illegality of banning any theory of origins. Since creationism is such
a theory, then by the logic of the Scopes trial, it cannot be banned
When confronted with the argument that creationism has definite
religious overtones, she responds by claiming that the same is true
for evolution. It is "the religion of secular humanism" in the public
schools. This means that any school that teaches evolution without
balancing it with special creation is operating contrary to the
religious neutrality requirement of the U.S. Constitution. It is
setting up a state religion in the science classroom.
These are her arguments; and on the basis of these, the
Creation-Science Research Center is seeking to cut off millions of
dollars in federal funds that come into California. Since the
state-supported schools don't teach both theories of origins as
science, it is claimed the schools are religiously biased and
therefore undeserving of the monies.
CSRC is also suing the state of California for setting up textbook
guidelines that leave out special creation. CSRC wants to prevent the
guidelines from going into effect and has attempted to get a mandatory
court order forcing the state to allow teachers to consider
creationism in science courses.
Other creationist groups go further, however, and try to pass
legislation that not only will allow
creation to be taught, but will
require it. The recent battle in Georgia in March of this year was one
such example. The joint houses of the state legislature came very
close to passing a bill that would have required equal time for
creation any time the issue of origins came up.
In the same month, the Florida House Education Committee voted 7 to 6
for a similar bill. An editorial in the St. Petersburg Times declared:
"This bill would not prohibit the teaching of evolution, at least not
in so many words. But any school that undertook to acknowledge the
theory of evolution — whether in class or merely on its library
shelves — would have to give `balanced treatment' to what is called
`the theory of scientific creationism.'
"And what is that? The bill defines it with a lot of gibberish and
mumbo-jumbo, all of which boils down to this: The biblical account of
creation can be proven literally, with scientific `evidence.' ...
"IN PRACTICE, the bill would simply end he teaching of evolution — and
perhaps all science — because few teachers and school boards would
consent to teach the alternative theories the bill espouses."
And this may be something creationists would like to see. The April
1979 Acts & Facts
stated: "We are not trying to exclude evolution from
public schools, unless creation is also excluded." Nell Segraves put
it more plainly in debate: "It's totally unnecessary to bring origins
into a science discussion. Textbooks today can give good science
without discussing philosophy of origins at all." Dr. Kofahl, in the
same debate, then immediately added, "We would really be satisfied to
see the subject of origins removed entirely from public- page 11 -
school science ... Let's forget
about origins. Let's put all
discussions into the philosophy department."
In Medford, Oregon, it seems creationists easily got their wish. When
a young student of "scientific creationism" started stumping for equal
time, the Medford School Superintendent, Richard Langton, declared the
"Evolution is not taught in any of the schools of District 549C
[Medford] ; neither is creation for that matter. Down through the
years, educators have learned that this is such a controversial
subject that it is far better not to deal with it at all than to try
to deal with it, even on a fair basis, pointing out the claims of both
sides. At appropriate levels, where it is understood, we do teach
simple genetics, but we in no way get into the question of the
evolution of man."
We can now see the entire creationist legal program in all its glory.
First they stump for equal time on the grounds that creationism is an
alternate scientific view. When that fails, they argue for equal time
on the grounds that creationism is an excluded religion
. When that
fails, they say that neither should be taught because both are
. And by the time that fails, the school officials are so
intimidated they begin to wish they had never even heard of evolution.
Still, however, the creationists have one more legal gambit up their
sleeves. Nell Segraves probably deserves all the credit for it. Her
argument runs thusly:
The atheists have won a number of significant court cases that have
resulted in the removal from the public schools of everything
offensive to their atheistic viewpoint. They have gotten rid of
prayers, religious references in text books, religious displays, etc.
Women's rightists have also had much success in removing things that
offend them, such as sexist language in textbooks. Well, now it's time
for Christian fundamentalists to use these same
court decisions in
favor — that is, to remove everything offensive to the Christian
viewpoint. " . . . we
now are on the outside demanding
equal treatment and equal recognition for our, point of view under the
First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and the Civil
Rights Act of 1964," she argues.
Such an interpretation of the relevant court decisions has
implications, and the Creation-Science Research Center reaches most of
They aren't satisfied with calling only evolution
"offensive," but go
on to add
sex education to the list. They further object to the teaching in
of the theory that human societies evolved from tribe to village to
civilization. (They believe that man was civilized when he came off
In the general public sector they use the same arguments to condemn
rehabilitation of criminals, abortion, government grants to Planned
and research grants to behaviorists. In their January, 1980
they make their position very plain: "As theists and
creationists, possessing equal rights and privileges under the Constitution and Federal
Civil Rights- page 12 -
legislation, we can set forth creationist position papers on any and
problems affecting public morals or health, domestic or foreign
policy, whenever government funding is required." This is why seeking
cutoffs of funds is one of their major tactics.
One can only ask, in the face of this line of reasoning, where it will
stop. Obviously, there is no
view taught in our schools that at least
won't find offensive to their religion or value system. The
teaching of physical science in any form is offensive to mystics who
hold that matter is an illusion. If the school nurse talks about
health, she had better not mention medicine or vaccinations, or it
will offend the followers of Christian Science. Teaching English is
bound to be an offense to those who uphold the sacred languages of
Hebrew or Sanskrit. Any geography or astronomy which declares the
world to be round will create problems in the homes of religious
children who were raised by Bible-believing flat earthers.
So, we must ask the practical and legal question: how far must the
schools go to avoid offending someone's religion, and how far must
they go in giving balanced presentations of all viewpoints every time
an "offensive" issue is raised? Furthermore, what state and federal
programs will have to be cut off because someone comes up with a
religious reason for not liking them? Would we have any government
programs or modern education left?
Two creationist women I met during a lecture in Seattle had a simple
solution. Get rid of public schools altogether. Let parents choose
what kind of schooling they want their children to have. In fact, let
them opt for no schooling at all, if they so desire.
The Legal Case Against Creationism
In recent months, bills promoting "equal time" have been introduced in
15 states. The Creation-Science Research Center has volunteers working
on legislators and school officials, to get them to reform the science
curricula, in 37 states. All in all, it appears the creationist legal
movement is operating at full tilt.
Some of the creationists promoting such action probably think they can
win, that the law is on their side. But many others know better, like
Senator Hugh Carter, who, in speaking for Georgia's recent creation
bill, declared cynically from the floor of the State Senate look at
all the good we can do between now and the time it is declared
Those on both sides who have really looked into the matter can see
hopeless flaws in the legal case for creationism. Right off the bat it
starts out with a basic contradiction. First the creationists try to
define science so narrowly that it leaves out evolution. This renders
evolution a religion
, right along with creation. Then they try to so
broadly define the science curriculum
that it allows both "religions"
to be taught in a scientific context. Putting it another way,
creationists demand equal time for creation on religious
grounds,- page 13 -
so they can get it into the schools, and then demand equal time on
science grounds, so they can get science instructors to teach it! No
case this absurd can be tried for long without trying the patience of
In the new legal battles, creationists will often deny they are trying
to replay the Scopes trial. They don't want to ban evolution, they
declare, they just want to make sure it won't be taught without
creation having a place too. But the idea that evolution is OK only if
creation is included is really two ideas in one. First, it is the idea
that when evolution is taught, creation is mandated
. Second, it is the
idea that if creation is not
taught, evolution is banned
. The two must
be dealt with separately. Let's begin with the second.
The banning of evolution on religious grounds has the unenviable legal
status of being totally unconstitutional. In the case of Epperson v.
in 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court held that no religious group
had the right to blot out any public school teaching just because it
was "deemed to conflict with a particular religious doctrine." For to
do so would be to, in effect, establish a religion, or at least a
religion's prohibitions, in the public sector. This is contrary to the
First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which reads in part:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof; ... "
And it doesn't seem to matter if the anti-evolution law is stridently
religious, or is vague on the matter, it is unconstitutional all the
same. For example, the Tennessee law which John Scopes was charged
with breaking, made it unlawful "to teach any theory that denies the
story of Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible and to teach
that man has descended from a lower order of animals." But the
Arkansas law challenged in Epperson v. Arkansas
was less explicit.
Both were declared unconstitutional. The Court declared in Epperson
that it was "clear that fundamentalist sectarian conviction was and is
the law's reason for existence." It was noted that "Arkansas did not
seek to excise from the curricula of its schools and universities all
discussion of the origin of man. The law's effort was confined to an
attempt to blot out a particular theory because of its supposed
conflict with the Biblical account, literally read." Recent legal
moves, though more camouflaged than ever, seem to come to the same
thing. The creationists are trying to remove evolution on religious
It would seem strange, in the light of the Epperson
creationists wouldn't move to do what the Court seemed to allow, that
is, remove all teachings of origins. But I doubt if that is their
first preference. They would probably prefer to find a way to teach
special creation (or, more correctly, Biblical fundamentalism). And it
isn't likely they would be satisfied to have it taught in comparative
religion classes either. Why? Because the science classes will
continue to teach things creationists regard as persuasive in the
"wrong" direction, things that would be devastating to their belief
system if true. So, they want to get religion into the science classes
also. When they can't ban evolution and teach creation, they usually
strive to require
creation and neutralize
evolution.- page 14 -
Teaching neither, then, is hardly satisfactory to them. This is
probably why they don't really push for that except as a footnote to
their bills and lawsuits, as an afterthought in their debates. (The
aforementioned announcement by the Medford, Oregon School
Superintendent that evolution was not being taught did not put an end
to the creationist movement there.) So, let's look into this idea of
Obviously, if banning a teaching in the schools on religious grounds
constitutes the establishment of religion in the public sector, then
it is all the more true that requiring a religious doctrine
schools is to do the same thing! Yet creationists somehow think they
can do better with this idea than with the previous one.
True, appeals for "equal time," "fair play," and "academic freedom"
are more persuasive with the public. But it isn't the public who
decides constitutionality. That operates according to a basic
, one that is to be unchanging, for the most part.
But even if the doctrine being required wasn't religious, it would
still be questionable. As Professor Richard D. Alexander noted in the
February 1978 American Biology Teacher
, "If evolutionists were
attempting to require that evolution be taught it would be no less
pernicious.... when anyone attempts to establish laws or rules
requiring that certain theories be taught or not be taught, he or she
invites us to take a step toward totalitarianism. Whether a law is to
prevent the teaching of a theory or to require it is immaterial. It
does not matter if equal time is being demanded or something called
'reasonable' time, because there can be no reasonable time in such a
In the past when a scientific view was mandated by government, it
resulted in disaster and a stiffling of progress. One particular
example occurred 40 years ago in Russia. A man named Lysenko
temporarily established that Lamarkian evolution was true science and
that Darwin was wrong. This resulted in, first, a mandating of
Lamarkianism. But following shortly on its heels was a banning of
Darwinism. It took decades for Russia to recover from this legal
action and catch up to the modern world in the realm of science.
in the recent Georgia battle, Julian Bond, a black State Senator,
expressed the point in this way. "Thirteen years ago, I sponsored a
bill that called for the teaching of black history in the public
schools. Everybody said, `It's a fine idea, but we can't legislate the
curriculum.' What will we tell the large body of nonChristian children
who sit in Georgia's classrooms and are taught the creation theory?"
In the Georgia State Legislature
, Representative Billy McKinney argued
much the same way. He noted that if government was now going to enter
the business of curriculum design, it should demand equal time for
black history. After all, "There are more black folks in this country
now than there are scientific creationists."
decision, while dealing with a law banning evolution, had- page 15 -
something to say about requiring creation as well. The Court declared,
"There is and can be no doubt that the First Amendment does not permit
the State to require that teaching and learning must be tailored to
the principles or prohibitions of any religious sect or dogma.... the
State may not adopt programs or practices in its public schools or
colleges which `aid or oppose' any religion.... This prohibition is
absolute. It forbids alike the preference of a religious doctrine or
the prohibition of theory which is deemed antagonistic to a particular
In Zorach v. Clauson
in 1951, Justice Douglas wrote the majority
opinion, saying: "Government may not finance religious groups nor
undertake religious instruction nor use secular institutions to force
one or some religion on any person." The comment about financing
religious groups is instructive, because the teaching of creation
would require the use of creationist textbooks and learning materials.
Since only religious creationists offer them, then to make such
purchases could easily amount to the financing of religion by
In California, religious ideas may be discussed in the schools,
provided they "do not constitute instruction in religious principles
or aid to any religious sect, church, creed, or sectarian purpose . .
. " (Younger, 1975.) In view of recent cases, it is clear the courts
would rule that the teaching of special creation would do at least one
of these things. There can be no doubt that creationism is a religious
doctrine, even the "scientific" version, and that the courts would
discover this fact.
As for the question of whether evolution is also a religion, Evelle
Younger, Attorney General for California, had this to say to the
Creation-Science Research Center in 1975:
The "neutrality requirements" of the First Amendment are not violated
by the inclusion in textbooks by the State Board of Education of a
scientific treatment of evolution. The degree to which a scientific
subject should be made more or less "dogmatic" does not involve
considerations of "religion." Such considerations, in the exercise of
the Board's sound discretion, turn upon the degree of scientific
certainty supporting a subject presented in a textbook. Action by the
State Board of Education or local boards of education to modify a
scientific theory may be judicially proscribed if it can be
demonstrated that it is an attempt to modify such theory because of
its supposed conflict with religion.
The issue Younger was commenting upon was the Creation-Science
Research Center's efforts to have evolution taught in a less
"dogmatic" way in California school, s and textbooks. His arguments
indicate that not only can evolution not be banned or "balanced," but
it also cannot be modified (at least not unless the scientific facts,
as determined by the State Board of Education, warrant such
modification independent of religious criteria).
- page 16 -
As for Nell Segraves' argument that prayers in school were removed
because they were an "offense" to atheism: this is nothing but more
creationist revisionist history. The reason prayers were removed was
because they constituted an establishment of sectarian religion in the
public sector (Swancara, 1950). This means Mrs. Segraves can gain no
legal advantage by claiming evolution is a religi, ous "offense" to
And if she tries to point to civil rights legislation that bars
"offenses" to blacks, women, etc., her argument will still miss the
point. The civil rights laws ban disparaging remarks, not courses of
study. Therefore, if blacks are depicted as lazy, women as emotional,
or Christians as bigoted, then legal action will be taken. But no one
can, under these laws, either ban courses or require "equal time" for
black studies, women's studies, or creationism.
It is true, however, that in the case of West Virginia u. Barnette,
Justice Murphy wrote in his concurring opinion: "Official compulsion
to affirm what is contrary to one's religious beliefs is the
antithesis of freedom of worship...." But this only applied to the
compelling of unconscionable statements. Evolution, as normally
taught, does not require the student's allegiance. Only his or her
understanding of the objectively presented concepts is sought.
Therefore, the teaching of evolution is neither a threat to nor an
imposition on the religious freedom of any child. Students are always
free to disagree with any theory they learn.
In the case of Wisconsin v. Yoder, the Court granted Amish parents the
right to take their children out of the public schools after eighth
grade, provided those children were participating in the "long
established program of informal vocational education" that the Amish
taught. The Court declared that "the values of parental direction of
the religious upbringing and education of their children in their
early and formative years have a high place in our society." A similar
right of parents to send their children to private, religious schools
was upheld in Pierce v. Society of Sisters, so long as the children
were prepared "for additional obligation" in society.
All these cases, then, seem to offer a solution to parents like Mrs.
Segraves. If they are "offended" by evolution, they can send their
children to private religious schools, or, as in the case of sex
education, have them released from the class when the subjects at
issue are being taught.
Regarding this solution, creationist lawyer Wendell Bird rightly
points out the unfairness of requiring an individual to make a choice
between his faith and a public benefit. He has a right to both. Free
education and free exercise of religion need not be mutually exclusive
(Bird, 1978). Bird also criticizes the released time plan, citing the
case of atheists who were not satisfied with merely having the right
to leave the classroom during school prayers. Creationists, too, who
in their situation might desire to leave evolution studies "would
probably be prevented by pressure from fellow students, respect for
teacher opinions, and need for other course material missed." (Bird,
Acts & Facts, May 1979.)
- page 17 -
There may be something to Bird's argument that evolution serves to
undermine faith in a literal interpretation of the Bible and is
therefore a burden on a fundamentalist's rights to free exercise of
religion. But this is hardly sufficient to justify forcing all the
rest of the pupils to study creationist religious doctrines or to go
without learning about evolution and thereby receive an inferior
education. It would seem there is a state interest in teaching this
material, and teaching it exclusively. This is made clear by the fact
that evolution is the one great unifying principle of all science.
Students cannot be adequately prepared for scientific careers if they
are left in the dark about its existence. And if it is "balanced" with
a non-scientific theory, then they will get an inaccurate picture of
science and be misled into believing there is a significant split of
opinion among scientists on the issue, when there is not.
Probably the best solution would be to set aside one science class
wherein origins would not he discussed at all. This would be for
conscientious objectors. Such a plan would effectively remove all
"offense" and "burden on free exercise," while still leaving the rest
of the students free to learn a complete science.
Creationist Guerrilla Warfare
Unlike the Creation-Science Research Center and other similar
organizations, the Institute for Creation Research does not engage in
law suits or legislation, at least not directly. In the
January-February 1973 Acts & Facts, Dr. Morris wrote that "no
recommendation is made for political or legal pressure to force the
teaching of creationism in the schools. Some well-meaning people have
tried this, and it may serve the purpose of generating publicity for
the creationist movement. In general, however, such pressures are
self-defeating.... The hatchet job accomplished on the fundamentalists
by the news media and the educational establishment following the
Scopes trial in 1925 is a type of what could happen, in the unlikely
event that favorable legislation or court decisions could be obtained
by this route."
The clear admission that creationism doesn't have a legal case is even
more explicitly stated by Morris in a December 1974 article. He wrote:
"Even if a favorable statute or court decision is obtained, it will
probably be declared unconstitutional, especially if the legislation
or injunction refers to the Bible account of creation."
Since Dr. Morris and ICR, then, clearly recognize the legal shakiness
of their two-model position, what is their plan for getting
creationism into the schools?
Well, they outline it in detail in a number of issues of Acts & Facts.
Here are its salient points:
- page 18 -
- page 19 -
Parents should -
Buy and read ICR creationist books, both religious and scientific.
Teach their children and those of other parents about creationism, and
encourage them to bring the issue up in the classroom.
Talk to the school teachers about it, and if they aren't receptive,
go to the principal or superintendent.
Convince local school boards that the two-model approach is legal,
nonreligious, and in no way contrary to the U. S. Constitution.
Purchase copies of Biology, A Search for Order in Complexity and
Scientific Creationism (Public School Edition) to show to school
officials. Recommend the former for students, the latter for teachers.
Get permission and speak at the next state board of education
meeting or meeting of the proper state curriculum authority.
Get permission and speak at the next state textbook commission
meeting after seeing advance copies of the textbooks and reviewing
Petition that a resolution (not a law) be passed "permitting" or
"encouraging" (not requiring) the teaching of creationism.
Establish a community pressure group with an appropriate name like
"Citizens for Scientific Creationism" or "Civil Rights for
Creationists." Then do things like take a community census poll, raise
funds to buy the school and public libraries creationist books from ICR, promote a workshop on creationism for teachers or a seminar for
the general public, sponsor debates using ICR experts, and/or work up
a lot of media publicity in local and school papers, etc.
Donate money to ICR for further creation research.
School administrators should -
Encourage teachers to teach creationism.
Conduct workshops on creationism for teachers on a graduate credit
basis, bringing in ICR experts.
Provide substitute teachers to teach creationism when the regular
teacher isn't willing, or have regular specialists in the subject.
Have creationist materials purchased for the school(s).
Teachers should -
Introduce creationism into their own classrooms "no matter what the
course subject or grade level may be. . . . whenever the textbook or
course plan contains evolutionary teachings or implications." This not
only includes science, but geography, history, social science, and
Rent or order ICR two-model and creationist audio-visual aids.
Invite creationist speakers to address a school assembly.
Talk to fellow teachers over coffee and win them over to the
Scientists should -
Stand firm to their creationist convictions when faced with the
derision of their colleagues.
Serve as consultants and lecturers for schools and citizen groups.
Join the Creation Research Society.
Pastors should -
Promote Biblical creationism in their church and Sunday school.
Lead community-wide creationist movements involving the churches.
Talk with school administrators.
Promote creationism over the airwaves.
Students should -
Give "careful, courteous, consistent Christian testimony" to the
teacher in a way that is "winsome and tactful, kind and patient."
Raise questions and offer alternative suggestions in class
Bring creationism into speeches, papers, and class
Invite the teacher and classmates to creation seminars.
Suggest a creation/ evolution debate in the classroom.
Give ICR tracts and publications to the teacher and principal.
Answer relevant test questions with the prefacing words
believe that. — " when an evolutionary answer is required to get a
test question correct.
Withdraw from the course if the teacher is too hostile.
Dr. Morris has said: "Creationist teachers are in a unique position to
play a critical role in this strategic conflict," and he has his
strategy all worked out. He notes further that pastors "are especially
capable at the arts of persuasion and instruction" and should use
these to promote the cause. "Scientists and other professionals who
are Christians have a peculiar trust from the Lord." (Acts & Facts,
December 197-1.) The aim here is obviously to bring as much pressure
to hear as possible in order to "bring creation back into the public
Sample resolutions for presentation before school boards and state
curriculum authorities have been published for easy use in both the
July-August 1975 and May 1979 issues of Acts & Facts. They have been
used widely and verbatim all over the country and have had some
success in places like Columbus, Ohio; Dallas, Texas; and Anderson,
South Carolina. They were even used in drafting the recent Georgia
bill. The 1975 Acts & Facts, however, recommends a bit of secrecy as
to the source of the legal wording, saying "it would be better not to
mention ICR at all in connection with it [the resolution], so that the
officials will realize that it is their own constituents who are
concerned with the issue."
What this boils down to is an ICR engineered local grass roots
pressure movement to sneak creationism into the schools through every
back door they can find. But, failing that, they will settle for the
intimidation caused in their wake. knowing full well that such
intimidation tends to prevent, or water down, the teaching of
- page 20 -
It should be clear by now that, legally, the creationists do not have
a case. Any effort to ban evolution because it conflicts with a
religion is an effort ca bring sectarian religious prohibitions into
the public schools. This is unconstitutional. On the other hand, any
effort to add creationism to the science curriculum will amount to the
teaching of sectarian doctrines. This too would be unconstitutional.
To get around this problem, creationists have sought to establish
creationism as secular science. They have gathered data and tried to
remove references to the Bible. But, because they have made little
effort to work through the scientific community, to participate in the
peer review of the journals, to do more than just token field
research; and since they have promoted a rather dogmatic "science,"
the courts have exposed this effort to be a sham.
Yet even if they had become truly secular in their ideas, mandating
inclusion of these through legislation would remain illegal and
contrary to academic freedom. Even evolution can't be forced in this
way. It is not the business of the legislature to determine what is
and is not science. This task belongs to the scientific community.
Therefore, only if there is a legitimate controversy among
knowledgeable field workers on an issue is it proper for more than one
model to be taught. Since there is no such controversy at this time,
creationism is without academic grounds for inclusion (except,
perhaps, as a discredited theory in the same class as Lamarkianism).
This realization has forced creationists to try another ploy: If you
can't join them, beat them — that is, ban all discussions of origins
from the science curriculum, and send them off to the philosophy
Of course there's no need to ban creationism. It isn't part of the
curriculum. And if it's proposed that we ban evolution, we're headed
for another Scopes trial. We must therefore ask creationists why they
want it banned. If it's because it conflicts with their religion, the
constitution will prohibit such a move. But if it's because evolution
is itself supposedly a religion, they will have to prove that. And
they will have to prove it using scientific means, submitting their
arguments to peer review, and actually showing that evolution is untestable and non-scientific in nature.
Because of the difficulty of this endeavor, and because they cannot
win in the courts, some creationist groups have given up legal action
altogether and have emphasized a kind of "religious smuggling." One
part of their plan involves telling school officials that the
two-model approach is both constitutional and scientific, even though
creationists have never won a court case or convinced a scientific
symposium. Another part involves gathering pressure groups to
intimidate school authorities so evolution can be pulled out, or
creation brought in, through the back door. (In such cases, it should
occur to school authorities to ask why pressure is necessary if
creationism is scientifically sound, and why ICR
- page 21 -
has avoided the courts if their position is supposed to be
So far, not having a good case hasn't been fatal to the creationists.
In fact they have flourished! — which shows that the problem will be
with us a long time. Obviously it isn't enough for evolutionists to
have the law on their side, to sit back and let the lawyers do the
work. Creationists have been losing the battles and winning the war.
That is, they have successfully intimidated the schools and textbook
publishers into near submission. This has effectively won them the
Scopes trial. With their continued persistence, and with further
neglect by evolutionists, they may, through their "guerrilla warfare,"
succeed in their primary goal of getting Biblical fundamentalism
taught in our public schools.
Meanwhile, their constant battling costs the taxpayers money and gains
them the supporters they need. As a result, in time they could feel confident enough to push for a constitutional amendment that would turn the legal case around in their favor.
Because it isn't safe to neglect this threat any longer, the time has come to inform the public of the facts — and to guarantee students an adequate education. Respect for science in America is waning. The popularity of both creationism and mysticism are symptomatic of it. It's no longer possible for academics to ignore the public while advancing their scientific careers. If they try, they will soon find creationism in the schools and anti-science in the electorate.
The public never fully accepted evolution. Now that we realize this, we can work to remedy the situation. We can study the creationist arguments to learn where evolution is being misunderstood or feared. We can then tell the public why scientists accept evolution, instead of telling them merely that they do. We can improve the public relations of science in general, and thereby bring it back into respect. But, most importantly, we can update Muller's statement and boldly declare, "One hundred twenty-two years without Darwin are enough!"
In a future issue, PART 2. The Educational Issues. Watch for it.