Friday, April 27, 2007

The US Supreme Court on Teaching Evolution in Public Schools

In a previous post, I showed why school boards and teachers should make decisions based on Edwards v. Aguillard, and ignore the Kitzmiller decision. A previous post looked at Anthony Kennedy's views on how to decide "church and state" cases and his "coercion test," and why that was crucial. Here is one more related post.

The voting pattern in the recent partial birth abortion case provides further confirmation of my views expressed previously. The New York Times has an article providing further support to my position here:

AFTER the 5-to-4 decision last week in which the Supreme Court reversed course on abortion, upholding the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, many court watchers were wondering what to expect next.

For guidance, law professors and Supreme Court specialists looked to lists of 5-to-4 cases in which Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who retired last year, had been the swing vote. One list, compiled by Martin S. Lederman at Georgetown University, had 31 entries, with cases on religion and race, elections and crime, medicine and free speech.

Last week’s abortion decision, Gonzales v. Carhart, demonstrated the court’s new math. With the justice who took the O’Connor seat, Samuel A. Alito, in the majority, and the new swing justice, Anthony M. Kennedy, writing the decision, the court upheld, by a single vote, the abortion act.

The majority on Edwards who said you cannot teach "Creation Science" had this to say, and this still controls:
We do not imply that a legislature could never require that scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories be taught. Indeed, the Court acknowledged in Stone that its decision forbidding the posting of the Ten Commandments did not mean that no use could ever be made of the Ten Commandments, or that the Ten Commandments played an exclusively religious role in the history of Western Civilization. In a similar way, 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. But because the primary purpose of the Creationism Act is to endorse a particular religious doctrine, the Act furthers religion in violation of the Establishment Clause.

Putting the seven person majority together with the two who whould have allowed teaching Creation Science, you have a unanimous court explicitly approving teaching scientific critiques of evolutionary theory. And now you have a court that may support Kennedy's coercion test.

Schools and teachers should put aside "intelligent design" and simply present students with all the scientific evidence for and against macroevolutionary theory. They would be on very solid ground.


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