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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

A Critical Look at the Preface

Explore Evolution gives a frame for its discussion of evolution and antievolution in the prefatory material. The frame selected is one of fairness, such that 'both sides' of an issue are presented. This is a useful frame for the EE authors, since its American audience likes few things better than to think that they are being fair.

However, Americans don't particularly like being 'taken', either. They wouldn't respond well to the idea that it is 'fair' to 'balance' chemistry with alchemy or germ theory with 'humors theory'. Yet we have the same situation in the case presented by EE, where an established and accountable body of scientific knowledge, in this case evolutionary science, is stated to require 'balance' with 'evidence against' its theories and concepts, though what is actually presented nowhere rises to the level of being 'evidence against'. Instead, the arguments given as if 'evidence against' are tired old antievolution chestnuts, of no more current value than alchemy and humors theory, and of considerably less historical interest than such milestones in scientific history as the interplay between 'phlogiston' and 'oxygenation'.

Of course, antievolutionary activism has long sought equal credence with evolutionary science. Following the Epperson v. Arkansas decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1968, the rules of the game changed for antievolutionists. Prior to Epperson, they could play a direct exclusion strategy, where their narrow literalist version of Biblical interpretation could be discussed in science classrooms, but evolutionary science could be excluded by law, policy, or custom. The Epperson decision brought an end to that, as the justices opined that science could not be restricted from a science classroom on the grounds that it was deemed to be at variance with some particular religious doctrine. Thus began a long and multifaceted campaign that promoted the same old antievolution arguments, but now referred to them as "scientific" in character. After all, if science can't be excluded from the science classroom, then antievolution advocates would lay claim to their own share of science class time.

This first came out under the rubric of "scientific creationism", promoted most notably by the Institute for Creation Research. A label change followed some years later, as the "-ism" ending connoted belief rather than evidence, and "creation science" became the new moniker for the very same body of arguments. This pattern of behavior is apparently fixed in the antievolution population now. From the mid-1970s through 1987, the most notable antievolution efforts concerned attempts to have state legislatures pass "equal time" or "balanced treatment" laws to mandate that whenever evolutionary science was taught, "creation science" received equal time or was given equal credence for "balance". In 1982, a decision in the McLean v. Arkansas case foreshadowed things to come: Arkansas's "balanced treatment" Act 590 was found unconstitutional. The state of Arkansas did not appeal the decision. A similar act in Louisiana led to a 1987 decision by the SCOTUS in the Edwards v. Aguillard case, again finding a "balanced treatment" law to be an unconstitutional establishement of religion, as it mandated teaching of a religious doctrine of supernatural creation of humans as science. The dissenting opinion in the Edwards v. Aguillard case, though, has given hope to antievolutionists over the years, as it said that states, of course, have the ability to teach both evidence for and against any scientific theory in the classroom.