75 years after the Scopes trial pitted science against religion, the debate goes on

Supreme Court rulings and the debate today

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Supreme Court rulings and the debate today

The Scopes trial did not go beyond Tennessee but the evolution versus creation, science versus religion debate raged on.

It was not until 1968 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the matter. In Epperson v. Arkansas, the court ruled that evolution can be taught in public schools because it is a science, but not creationism, because it constitutes religion, Linder said. The wall between church and state can be found in the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

The issue once again reached the nation's highest court in 1987 in a case from Louisiana. In Edwards v. Aguilar, the court ruled that the state-mandated teaching of evolution and creationism side-by-side is unconstitutional, again because teaching creationism meant the state was endorsing religion.

By no means did the decisions end the debate in U.S. society. The rift between the two camps is evident to this day in the public policy arena. Some examples:

• In 1999, the state education board of Kansas voted to remove evolution as a subject matter in standardized tests. Some experts believe that move effectively means teachers will not teach evolution because students will not be tested on it.

• Textbooks in Alabama carry a state-mandated disclaimer that says evolution is a theory believed by some scientists, not fact.

• Oklahoma's textbook committee wanted to include a similar disclaimer, but the state attorney general said the committee has the authority only to pick textbooks, not add disclaimers. To circumvent that problem, a state lawmaker introduced legislation that required textbooks to carry the statement that God created the universe, said Wayne Carley, executive director of the National Association of Biology Teachers.

• In Minnesota, a teacher who believes creationism is valid science has gone to court because he was reassigned to another class when he wanted to present a critique of evolution in class, Linder said.

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