a journal of analysis and comment
advancing public understanding of religion and education
Vol. 33 No. 3
Few topics can raise the temperature of our rhetoric more than discussions of the origins of life. Proponents of creationism or intelligent design argue that their perspective should have a place alongside evolution and natural selection in the science classroom. Many who support evolution as mainstream thinking argue that creationism and ID cannot be subject to verification and have no place in teaching science. Studies of public opinion and scientists themselves reveal this divide. In a 2005 survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 64 percent of the US population thinks creationism should be taught with evolution in the classroom. Only 26 percent believe natural selection evolved life. And scientists are not of one mind on matters relating to religion. In a mid-1990s survey of biologists, physicists, and mathematicians, 40 percent reported belief in a God to whom one may pray expecting an answer. This study replicated a 1914 survey that produced similar results.
The evolution/ID controversy has been addressed by the Courts over the years, most recently in the high profile Dover decision of 2005 that ruled against teaching intelligent design in the science classroom. The 139 page decision was viewed a victory by one camp while at the same time acknowledged as not being the final word. Challenges are expected to continue in other forms.
Much has been written in the popular press on this topic, but we decided to devote an issue to various aspects of this discussion that provide some deeper (and perhaps, in an instance or two, controversial) analysis and comment along the continuum of perspectives. We open with legal scholar Charles Russo’s review of major Court decisions from which the parameters of the discussion have evolved. For the second article, we invited rhetoric professor emeritus and Discovery Institute fellow John A. Campbell to address the topic. With his colleague, Taz Daughtery, he argues for "Teaching the Contexts" as a way into the discussion. Philosopher Robert E. Money, Jr. weighs in with a critique in "Problems in the Philosophical Bases of Intelligent Design." Earth science professor Lynn A. Brant questions the presumed outcomes of some ID and evolutionary thinkers alike in his piece, "Challenging the Myth of Human Superiority." In an article with implications beyond its initial context, Guy Lancaster offers an interesting historical analysis of this issue as it played out in the early 1980s in Arkansas in ""This Evolution Bit is Straight from Satan": McLean v. Arkansas Board Education and the Democratization of Southern Christianity. And finally, editorial board member Robert J. Nash shares his approach to this problem in the college classroom in "A Clash of Opposing Worldviews: How One Professor Teaches the Intelligent Design/EvolutionControversy."
The cover art is provided by Lynn Brant, one of our authors in this issue, and is a photomicrograph of two species of diatoms from Iowa’s Clear Lake. He provides the following description: "Diatoms are microscopic, single-celled algae that play an important role in aquatic ecosystems. There are some 12,000 described species which are only a small fraction of the number that exist. Diatoms fix the energy of the sun, providing food for organisms higher in the food chain, enabling fish to swim and eagles to soar."
Michael D. Waggoner, Editor
Religion and Education