Vanderbilt Law Review


Jay D. Wexler

First Page



The controversy over teaching evolution in public schools is once again hot news. Ever since the Supreme Court decided in 1987 that Louisiana could not constitutionally require teachers to give equal time to teaching creation science and evolution, critics of evolution have adopted a variety of new strategies to change the way in which public schools present the subject to their students. These strategies have included teaching evolution as a "theory" rather than as a fact, disclaiming the truth of evolutionary theory, teaching arguments against evolution, teaching the allegedly nontheistic theory of intelligent design instead of creationism, removing evolution from academic standards or prohibiting the teaching of evolution, changing the word "evolution" in state science standards to something less controversial, stocking school libraries with texts advocating alternatives to evolution, and establishing elective creationism courses, among others. These steps have created significant public controversy in many states and have resulted in several lawsuits and threatened lawsuits. For instance, Kansas's decision to eliminate macroevolution from state educational standards made national and international headlines in the summer of 1999, while a Louisiana law requiring teachers to read disclaimers about evolution was held unconstitutional by the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and missed being taken up by the Supreme Court by a single vote.

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