This article was last modified on May 14, 2012.

Empire Strikes First: Edwards v. Aguillard

This month, an anniversary will pass by that probably will not receive much attention in the media, but it is one I think everyone who believes in education should be aware of. On June 19, it will be 25 years since the Supreme Court handed down their decision on Edwards v. Aguillard (1987).

A little back story: The State of Louisiana had passed the “Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act” in 1981. The law required that if the science of evolution was taught in public school, then “creation science” must be taught as well. Creation science, of course, is the position that the Bible can be proven literally true through the use of science. Such events as the six-day creation and the Great Flood of Noah would be presented as facts, and dinosaurs would be presented as co-existing with humans. The stated purpose of the Act was to protect “academic freedom”. The Supreme Court ruled — correctly — that the law was unconstitutional because it was specifically intended to advance a particular religion and therefore violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Creation science could still be taught in private schools, but public (taxpayer-funded) schools could not present a view that clearly favored Christianity.

The Court wrote, “We do not imply that a legislature could never require that scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories be taught… Teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to schoolchildren might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction.” In other words, creation science was to be banned because it was clearly religion draped in scientific clothing, but legitimate scientific challenges to evolution would be allowed and encouraged. Indeed, while evolution is today considered a fact, much debate still exists about its exact mechanisms and whether or not changes are gradual or start-and-stop (what is called “punctuated equilibrium”). Any evidence that goes against evolution is welcomed by the scientific community.

Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, dissented, accepting the Act’s stated purpose of “protecting academic freedom” as a sincere and legitimate secular purpose. They construed the term “academic freedom” to refer to “students’ freedom from indoctrination”, in this case their freedom “to decide for themselves how life began, based upon a fair and balanced presentation of the scientific evidence”. Scalia wrote, “The people of Louisiana, including those who are Christian fundamentalists, are quite entitled, as a secular matter, to have whatever scientific evidence there may be against evolution presented in their schools, just as Mr. Scopes was entitled to present whatever scientific evidence there was for it.”

Scalia errs here, and it is a common enough error. He accepts at face value that creation science is, in fact, science. It is not. Its claims are untestable, and are therefore without merit. Scalia is correct that the people of Louisiana are entitled to any evidence for or against evolution. No scientist would argue against a healthy debate, and the majority opinion stated this. Students should question if evolution is correct, just as they should question the validity of tests that date the ages of fossils or any other complex idea. Still further, they should be made aware of gaps in the fossil record (“missing links”). But Scalia fails to realize that creation science is not a refutation of evolution at all, as it does not rely on empirical evidence.

Scientists had a victory party, but the celebration was short-lived. The Court’s decision directly lead to the rise of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement. Within two years of the ruling, a creationist textbook was produced: Of Pandas and People, which attacked evolutionary biology without mentioning the identity of the supposed “intelligent designer”. While those who push the ID hypothesis could just as easily be followers of Aristotle’s “unmoved mover” or some other belief, they are invariably Christian. ID’s “father” and strongest proponent, Phillip Johnson, has explicitly identified the “intelligent designer” with an evangelical Christian God. Johnson’s scientific credentials (he is a lawyer by training) should be questioned by his followers: besides denying evolution, he has also been the champion of denying a link between HIV and AIDS.

And yet, if readers think I am attacking Christianity, I must make myself clear: being pro-evolution does not automatically make someone anti-Christian. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church has recognized evolution as the way life developed ever since 1950, under the leadership of Pope Pius XII. Pius took a neutral stance personally, but fully accepted that evolution was worthy of study. Pope John Paul II would later acknowledge “the recognition of evolution as more than a hypothesis.”

The spread of Intelligent Design would eventually lead to another court case, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, which went to trial on September 26, 2005 and was decided in U.S. District Court on December 20, 2005 in favor of the plaintiffs, who argued that teaching intelligent design in public schools was an unconstitutional establishment of religion. This sounds like another victory for science, but it was but a small one; because the Dover, Pennsylvania school board chose not to appeal, the case never reached an appellate court or the U.S. Supreme Court.

Man has long been afraid to admit he is not the most important being in the universe. We fought hard to deny that the Earth was not the center of the universe, and that millions upon millions of planets exist. And now some of us continue to fight in order to have man be seen as a being created from dirt into the image of God. As truth must always triumph over myth, this is a vain attempt and a fool’s errand. But mankind has no shortage of vain and hopeless fools.


For fun creationist reading, be sure to pick up a copy of Of Pandas and People, The Central Question of Biological Origins

Also try another article under Political, Religious
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

2 Responses to “Empire Strikes First: Edwards v. Aguillard”

  1. Dennis Thompson Says:

    Its funny, 2400 Scientists originally signed a paper stating that Global Warming is real. Only 1000 of them still have their names in agreement. Evolution plays a numbers game. The more years they can get people to agree on the existance of earth, etc, the better chance a crazy unproven theory exists as viable.
    Science Disproves Evolution

    The Law of Biogenesis

    Spontaneous generation (the emergence of life from nonliving matter) has never been observed. All observations have shown that life comes only from life. This has been observed so consistently it is called the law of biogenesis. The theory of evolution conflicts with this scientific law when claiming that life came from nonliving matter through natural processes (a).

    Evolutionary scientists reluctantly accept the law of biogenesis (b). However, some say that future studies may show how life could come from lifeless matter, despite the virtually impossible odds. Others say that their theory of evolution doesn’t begin until the first life somehow arose. Still others say the first life was created, then evolution occurred. All evolutionists recognize that, based on scientific observations, life comes only from life.

    a. And yet, leading evolutionists are forced to accept some form of spontaneous generation. For example, a former Harvard University professor and Nobel Prize winner in physiology and medicine acknowledged the dilemma.

    “The reasonable view [during the two centuries before Louis Pasteur] was to believe in spontaneous generation; the only alternative, to believe in a single, primary act of supernatural creation. There is no third position.” George Wald, “The Origin of Life,” Scientific American, Vol. 190, August 1954, p. 46.

    Wald rejects creation, despite the impossible odds of spontaneous generation.

    “One has only to contemplate the magnitude of this task to concede that the spontaneous generation of a living organism is impossible. Yet here we are—as a result, I believe, of spontaneous generation.” Ibid.

    Later, Wald appeals to huge amounts of time to accomplish what seemed to be the impossibility of spontaneous generation.

    “Time is in fact the hero of the plot. … Given so much time, the ‘impossible’ becomes possible, the possible probable, and the probable virtually certain. One has only to wait: time itself performs the miracles.” Ibid., p. 48.

    What Wald did not appreciate in 1954 (before, as just one example, the genetic code was discovered) was how the complexity in life is vastly greater than anyone at that time could have imagined. [See pages 14-20] So, today, the impossibility of spontaneous generation is even more firmly established, regardless of the time available. Unfortunately, several generations of professors and textbooks with Wald’s perspective have so impacted our universities that it is difficult for evolutionists to change direction.

    Evolutionists also do not recognize:

    that with increasing time (their “miracle maker”) comes increasing degradation of the fragile environment on which life depends, and

    that creationists have much better explanations (such as the flood) for the scientific observations that evolutionists think show vast time periods.

    Readers will later see this.

    b. “The beginning of the evolutionary process raises a question which is as yet unanswerable. What was the origin of life on this planet? Until fairly recent times there was a pretty general belief in the occurrence of ‘spontaneous generation.’ It was supposed that lowly forms of life developed spontaneously from, for example, putrefying meat. But careful experiments, notably those of Pasteur, showed that this conclusion was due to imperfect observation, and it became an accepted doctrine [the law of biogenesis] that life never arises except from life. So far as actual evidence goes, this is still the only possible conclusion. But since it is a conclusion that seems to lead back to some supernatural creative act, it is a conclusion that scientific men find very difficult of acceptance. It carries with it what are felt to be, in the present mental climate, undesirable philosophic implications, and it is opposed to the scientific desire for continuity. It introduces an unaccountable break in the chain of causation, and therefore cannot be admitted as part of science unless it is quite impossible to reject it. For that reason most scientific men prefer to believe that life arose, in some way not yet understood, from inorganic matter in accordance with the laws of physics and chemistry.” J. W. N. Sullivan, The Limitations of Science (New York: The Viking Press, Inc., 1933), p. 94.

  2. Dennis Thompson Says:

    Science Disproves Evolution
    by Jonathan Gardner

    New scientific evidence suggests that the more ancient creatures, according to the theories of evolution, are less diverse than the younger creatures. (link)

    The most diverse creatures? Birds and mammals. The least? Reptiles, particularly crocodiles and the lizard-like tuatara.

    What does it mean? It means that yet another assumption of evolution has been turned on its head. The longer a creature has been around, the less evolving it has done, but the shorter it has been around the more evolving it has done. How can one kind of creature evolve 10,000 times faster than the same creatures it has come from? Either it has been around 10,000 times longer or shorter than we thought, or the creatures do not come from the same stock. 6,000 years times 10,000 is about 60 million years, which is interesting.

    As Answers in Genesis points out, any sane scientist would question evolution rather than rush to try and adapt the failed theory to the new evidence. (link) After all, science shouldn’t start with a conclusion and try to make the facts fit.

    The scientists at AiG point out that that’s exactly what they do: start with the Bible and look around the world for evidence corroborating it, and that’s what they get criticized for, and rightly so. After all, AiG is less about science and more about religion, pointing out how science doesn’t contradict the Bible as is popularly believed.

    Evolutionists who do it while claiming the mantle of science are lying to you. Those evolutionists are motivated by articles of faith, not science, and should be treated as religionists who believe in the theory of evolution, not scientists. Scientists, after all, question and disprove prevailing theories, proposing new ones in their stead.

    In fact, a truly honest and objective assessment of the facts would lead most people to believe that creatures were either transplanted or created through some unknown force, and that creatures are gradually becoming more and more degraded over time. This, of course, suggests something closer to the account in the Bible and farther from the story of evolution.

    I strongly doubt any evolutionist will attempt to understand the points I make in this article, instead blindly attacking me as unqualified to make such statements. This attack is a logical fallacy called ad hominem, meaning, they are attacking the messenger and not the message. Those who use it tend not to hold the winning side of the argument in science.

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