If you want to understand how evolution has challenged the constitutionality of the separation of church and state, Mano Singham from Case Western Reserve University provides a concise and chronological history in his new book, God vs. Darwin: the War between Evolution and Creationism in the Classroom (Rowman & Littlefield, 2009).
God vs. Darwin comes just weeks before the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's landmark book, On the Origins of Species, which has been at the center of the debate over how the diversity of all living things came about. Did it happen largely through the mechanism of natural selection as Darwin proposed or, as religious fundamentalists believe, did some supreme being craft the universe about 6,000 years ago along with all the species we see around us, and in particular, design humans with higher thought processes?
The country's early leaders saw the potential dangers of having religion and religious establishments become too closely aligned with government and penned a Constitution with a First Amendment to protect freedoms of speech and the practice of all religions from Congressional interference. Later the 14th Amendment extended that ruling to state and local governments.
"The First Amendment places limits on what you can and cannot do in the public school classroom," says Singham, director of the University Center for Innovation in Teaching and Education at Case Western Reserve University and adjunct associate professor of physics. "That amendment has been fleshed out over time, but many misunderstandings about that history exist."
He set about writing the book to clarify those misconceptions.
"School districts cannot take a position that endorses or opposes religion," he says, and adds that time and again, people have reworked language to try to bypass the Constitution in order to either oppose the teaching of evolution or to bring prayer and Bible readings back into the classroom.
|Contact: Susan Griffith|
Case Western Reserve University