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What the Supreme Court said about teaching Creation

    When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Louisiana “Balanced Treatment Act” requiring the presentation of scientific evidence for creation alongside that for evolution (Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578, 107 S.Ct. 2573, No. 85-1513, 1987), the decision did NOT prohibit the teaching of creation. Rather, the Justices said that this particular law defeated its own stated purpose by requiring that creation be taught side by side with evolution. Their reasoning was that the law’s stated purpose was to enhance academic freedom. However, teachers uncomfortable with creation would probably teach neither idea rather than having to teach both. This would limit academic freedom instead of enhancing it.
   The Court’s majority opinion stated that the law was not needed to protect academic freedom anyway because
“The Act does not grant teachers a flexibility that they did not already possess to supplant the present science curriculum with the presentation of theories, besides evolution, about the origin of life. Indeed, the Court of Appeals found that no law prohibited Louisiana public schoolteachers from teaching any scientific theory… The Act provides Louisiana schoolteachers with no new authority. Thus the stated purpose is not furthered by it.”
According to the Court, then, individual teachers have the freedom to teach any scientific theory.
    But would the Court allow an entire school district or even a state legislature to require the teaching of other theories about the origin of life besides evolution? Yes, providing the purpose is to enhance science instruction and not to endorse a particular religious doctrine. As the Court’s majority opinion in Edwards v. Aguillard said,
“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 might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction.”
    The Court did not prohibit the teaching of creation; on the contrary, it acknowledged the freedom of legislatures and school boards across the land to require the teaching of multiple theories of origins, as long as this teaching serves to enhance science instruction.
    To summarize these limits: as long as the principal purpose is not the advancement of religion, teachers may present any theory of origins which serves to enhance science education. It does not matter whether or not it coincides with religious beliefs. The question, then, is: Can we present the creation/evolution controversy in a non-religious way so as to enhance the effectiveness of science instruction? That’s what this web site is all about.


    There are certainly religious aspects to creation: God, morality, the meaning of life, original sin, and so on. However, there are also scientific aspects: WHAT WERE THE CONDITIONS AT THE BEGINNING?
    Evolution seldom deals with the religious aspects, but instead focuses on the conditions. Likewise, creation can ignore the religious aspects and focus on the conditions.
    You can find resources on this site that show how to do this. Thus, you can enhance the effectiveness of science education without making reference to religion.