September 22, 2005

From Darwin to Dover: An Overview of Important Cases in the Evolution Debate

Almost 150 years after Charles Darwin published his groundbreaking theory on the origins of life, Americans are still fighting over evolution. If anything, the controversy is growing in both size and intensity.

Recent polls indicate that challenges to Darwinian evolution have substantial support among the American people. According to a July 2005 survey sponsored by the Pew Forum and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 60 percent believe that humans and other animals have either always existed in their present form or have evolved over time under the guidance of a Supreme Being. Only 26 percent agree with Darwin that life evolved through natural selection. Finally, the poll found that 64 percent of Americans support teaching creationism alongside evolution in the classroom.

This view is not shared by the nation’s scientists, most of whom reject challenges to evolution. They often describe the most recent challenger – intelligent design – as little more than creationism dressed up in scientific jargon. Many scientists don’t even want to debate intelligent design proponents, arguing that doing so would give the movement a legitimacy it does not deserve.

Although the intelligent design movement is barely 10 years old, it has already become the main vehicle for challenging Darwin in the classroom. But will efforts to introduce students to intelligent design and other challenges to evolution pass constitutional muster?