The present ruling in the Kitzmiller v. Dover court case about Intelligent Design is that it is nowhere near being any form of science. It is related to a religious concept, which is why it cannot be taught alongside Evolution in the U.S.’s science classrooms. The question arises, though, of why the movement against Evolution is so strong in the United States.
Television, radio, newspapers, and weekly magazines provided immense amounts of coverage of the federal district court trial’s decision on Kitzmiller v. Dover in late December 2005. The court case was introduced by Tammy Kitzmiller and ten other concerned parents in Dover, Pennsylvania, against the Dover Area School Board. Their dispute claimed that Intelligent Design (ID) was a form of Simulation Creationism and should be taught in the ninth-grade science classes as an alternative to Evolution in the Dover area high schools.
For several years now, the teaching of Evolution has been controversial. A couple of years ago, a conflict arosewhen a student-painted scene of human evolution was torn down and the situation was escalated by a school district employee. In 2004, traditional school board members were concerned about the new Pennsylvania state science education standards necessitating the teaching of Evolution in schools, and they set out searching for ways to maintain the presentation of Evolution alongside something that would also consider the conventional religious views of society.
In the United States public schools, students are not receiving any religious instruction. However, relative religious points can still be expressed. The United States has not supported the system of religiously connected schools like Canada and some other nations. American laws require public agencies such as schools to be religiously neutral. There are several private Catholic and Protestant schools that support their kids receiving religious instruction in their daily school lives, but otherwise, it is illegal in the U.S. public school systems to promote the six-day biblical theory of Creation as demonstrated in a precise rendering of Genesis in any classroom. Since the 1987 decision of the Supreme Court, it is not even allowed to teach the view of biblical creation called “Creation Science” that was invented in the 1960s. Intelligent Design, or Simulation Creationism, was specially developed by Creationists to avoid violating creation science’s legal issues within schools. It is mainly observed that Creationists have been promoting Intelligent Design for as an alternative subject to be taught alongside the theory of Evolution in science classes. This is the case not only in Dover, but also in Kansas and elsewhere. Policies asking for the teaching of Intelligent Design still remain in Bluffton, Blount County, and Indiana, Tennessee. Several attempts have been made to combine Intelligent Design, or Simulation Creationism, into science curriculums in several states.
In the Kitzmiller case, the judge, John Jones III, was not convinced of the theory of Intelligent Design as a reliable scientific alternative to Evolution. The title he received of “the judge that ruled that Intelligent Design is not a science” reflected his decision. In a 139-page ruling, Jones ruled that the new Intelligent Design (ID) was nothing but another pure form of religion, and that was why teaching it in science classes would be illegal. Of course, it was a great triumph for science and science education, but several newspapers commented that other societies all across the country were still fighting with Creationism. With a definite anti-Intelligent Design decision in Kitzmiller, there may well be another Dover and possibly even other actions in the future. And to prove them right, within just a month, a small school district in the South was entangled in a lawsuit filed by parents against a mediation course on Intelligent Design.
When discussing these issues with people outside the United States, they are astonished by such events. They find it obscure that a strong, advanced, industrial nation that commonly sweeps the Nobel prize in science is home to a community in which almost half of them denies one of the foundational points of modern science. It is an excellent question to pose asking why Americans have this kind of problem with the theory of Evolution. There are multiple reasons for American anti-Evolutionism, most of which extend to the U.S.’s political, social, and religious histories.
The United States organized the division of church and state because the founding fathers knew the history of spiritual combat plaguing Europe. A powerful current of religious protest characterizes the history of religion in the U.S., especially by church members who develop an entirely distinct and very different idea of salvation. The United States has also encouraged a culture of decentralized DIY (do it yourself) theology, which produced many extinct and extant sects, but also including the Latter-Day Saints, Seventy-Day Adventists, Christian Science believers, Shakers, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others. The inclination for not following religious authority has a long history on the other side of the Atlantic.
The decentralization of religion comes into existence from the frontier tradition and also from the dissident tradition. There were no central governing bodies for much of early American history; if a frontier settlement wished for police stations, schools, firehouses, or other community services, they had to conceive methods of providing them. Outside help from the state government or territory was usually ineffective or unavailable, and the federal government was not capable enough to indicate services to frontier societies. If a community wanted churches, they were its own responsibility; they had to employ a minister and manage the funds to both construct and support a church. Local orientation and local control developed naturally, especially where the government decision-making was neither possible nor wanted.
In the U.S., education is controlled by several local authorities to a degree that is not observed in any other developed country. This may lead to speculation about America’s frontier history, where local control of education was a requirement that later became blessed as an ideal. Americans have always been seen as strongly defensive and protective of education’s power, even when it’s resulted in a great injustice regarding education opportunities. However, we can say that whatever the benefits and advantages of the local control of education may be, control of the subjects is undoubtedly not one of them. Creationism and Evolution controversy, one typically has to begin by describing that the U.S. does not have a national science subject agreed upon, which is why local school boards are composed primarily of the scientifically uninformed, eventually responsible for deciding what is being taught and when. When comparing 17,000 independent school districts in the United States, that type of administrative patchwork results in a highly non-uniform distribution of curricula. Some students learn about the solar system planets in grades 2 and 3, and some never even get around to it at all. There is a conflict among some districts requiring teachers who can teach Evolution, while some districts ignore it completely. Reasonably, this is surprising to those who live in such a country where national subjects are viewed as the source of strength in learning environments.
The regulation of curricula is finally starting to occur. However, the Regan administration’s report entitled “A Nation at Risk” called for the formation of subject matter curriculum standards. The procedure was taken up during the management of the first President Bush. Because of the decentralization of education in America, the governmental standards in history, science, and math would be instructional guides for the states as they emerged with their own standards and subject matter curricula. The National Science Education Standards published in 1996 were compelling as states conceived their individual standards. The reason for this is that the professional scientists who wrote the NSES content segment on Evolution presented it very well; hence, Evolution took its place in several states as part of their curriculum for the first time. Through many kinds of carrot-and-stick requirements, states would coerce or coax local school districts into accepting the state standards by keeping the states’ money from those districts that did not meet the state standards. Ironically, to improve the quality of science education, it triggered the present increase in anti-Evolution sentiment after the standard movement, leading Evolution supporters to provide further and even more effective explanations for their stance.
According to the federal educational law, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act passed in 2002 requires states to manage cyclic examinations for students with content based on the state standards. As per this law, school districts will be honored or punished. These high-stakes tests decide the subjects that will be examined and determine what will be taught. Because most of the states involve Evolution in their curricula, it is included on the test, and hence, it will be introduced regardless of individual preferences. If Evolution were to be taught in schools, it is a fact that it would increase anti-Evolutionism. The No Child Left Behind Act needed states to start examining science by 2007 to help address disputes over other Creationist activity and state science standards. Another significant reason that has allowed anti-Evolutionism to take its roots in America is the American tradition of letting everyone give their speech, fairly and freely. This is an excellent cultural quality, especially when making any political decisions about which ideas should be contemplated. However, it is not relevant when it comes to science. Whether the Sun goes around the Earth or Earth revolves around the Sun is not a matter of any opinion. Whether it is about living things that came into their present forms after modification from ancestors or were mainly created simultaneously is also not a matter of any opinion— and some Americans would prefer to think this way. When we make any inference from experimental evidence, it grows the cumulative scientific knowledge; the scientific society concludes that living things have descended from common ancestors while acquiring many modifications thanks to a vast amount of evidence. Like all scientific clarification, the theory of Evolution changes with new pieces of information and manners of observing the data; however, the primary idea of Evolution that is common ancestry remains solid. Still, the point of “fairness” and of “balancing” the theory of Evolution with a spiritual idea has tremendous traction in the American public.
Another clarification for anti-Evolutionism in the United States is the recognition of biblical literalism in Christianity in America. This spiritual culture is comparatively short compared to Christianity in Europe. A series of booklets were published between 1910 and 1915 with the title, “The Twelve Fundamentals.” These explained the back-to-basics style of American Christianity while giving intention to the Bible’s infallibility, which started a religious culture known as Fundamentalism. It is more favored in North America than in other portions of the world, and it is also within the biblical literalist culture of Fundamentalism that anti-Evolutionism discovers its roots. In this disagreement, the best-kept secret is that mainstream and Catholic Protestants habitually teach Evolution in their local schools. Their formal doctrinal positions on the theory of Evolution are typically a kind of “theistic Evolution.” They say that Evolution is part of God’s plan, and that God works through Evolution. Because of some uncertainty surrounding this matter, the standard Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, recently published an article by a scientist repeating the theological acceptance of Evolution. Historically, religious leaders have been effective and vigorous opponents of Creationism.
There is no trouble saying that anti-Evolution sentiment is mainly an American problem. However, it is being consigned to foreign countries, and in the past few years, NCSE has acquired reports of Creationist activity outside of the United States. Its pattern is quite different from American Creationism, though. Recently, Creationism “flare-ups” have happened in Brazil, Italy, and Serbia— all of which have controlled education systems in which central management has significant authority to conclude education policy. Anti-Evolution policies are highly imposed in all three of these countries, as confirmed by a top education official. In Serbia, for instance, the education minister, Ljiljana Colic, resolved to eliminate the theory of Evolution from the curriculum entirely. After objection from teachers, politicians, scientists, the clergy, and others, Colic resigned. This top-down system of education is very different from the decentralized American pattern, where anti-Evolutionist forces typically arise from popular activity.
In the United Kingdom, academies were established that were slightly different. A charter-school-type system was organized by the British government to develop the performance of students in low-performing areas. It was easy for citizens to function in self-supporting schools that received a vast amount of public money. Such academies were independent to explore curricula, organization, and labor policies in a “let a thousand flowers bloom” procedure to enhance public education. Sir Peter Vardy, a wealthy businessman, established such academies where Simulation Creationism was habitually taught beside Evolution, and British scientists seemed to be surprised by such happening. However, unlike American academics, they did not appear to express any objection by writing any outraged letters.
The conclusion in the Kitzmiller v. Dover court case was a great victory for science education in stating that the teaching of Intelligent Design in science classrooms was not legal as it is a form of Creationism and related to a religious concept. The decision taken by the judge was based on six weeks of data, a great deal of which centered upon the nature of science, the science of Evolution, and if there was any scientific verification for Intelligent Design. The theory of Intelligent Design is quite thin stuff. The main dispute is that the theory of Evolution is an incomplete scientific theory; hence, it is required to describe definite biological phenomena by supporting an intelligent agent’s direct activities, such as God’s. Therefore, proponents of Intelligent Design provide a list of long-disproved Creationist arguments about the assumed inability of Evolution, such as gaps in fossil records, the impracticality of constructing complex organisms via natural selection, etc.
It was exposed in the Dover trial that the religious foundation of Intelligent Design is no more than a workable Creationist strategy. Fallback Creationists may argue for maintaining the theory of Evolution with assumed “evidence against Evolution” alongside it, fulfilling Intelligent Design content; however, they try to avoid the constitutionally problematic “intelligent agent.” The prominent Intelligent Design think-tank, the Discovery Institute, is already introducing this, which they recognize as “Teach the Controversy.” Based on the public’s attraction to the fairness argument, they suggested that students specify all the evidence and determine for themselves. There is no doubt that the proposed evidence is erroneous science, and few would assert that students’ critical thinking will be enhanced by teaching them the wrong information.
Therefore, anti-Evolutionism will continuously be encouraged by some well-known and enthusiastic American minorities to the overall disadvantage of science education and science literacy. This situation is of significant concern since we appear to not be building well-educated college graduates. High schools and college programs in the biological sciences already have an inordinate percentage of foreign-born students. The lack of teaching of the theory of Evolution in high school could be a massive problem in American education’s politicization, and this results in simplifying the curriculum. Foreigners are confused that, while students in the scientific powerhouse— which is the United States— are being taught Creationism and getting misinformation about evolution, or somewhere students are even not being taught Evolution at all, students in foreign countries learn Evolution and then come to the U.S. for graduate education. The decision taken by Judge Jones in Kitzmiller’s favor may be a victory for science; however, there is still the huge problem of anti-Evolutionism in America that persists.