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Massachusetts Medical Society




Religious arguments have permeated debates on the role of the law in medical practice at the beginning and the end of life. But nowhere has religion played so prominent a role as in the century-old quest to banish or marginalize the teaching of evolution in science classes. Nor has new genetics research that supports evolutionary theory at the molecular level dampened antievolution sentiment. Requiring public-school science teachers to teach specific religion-based alternatives to Darwin's theory of evolution is just as bad, in the words of political comedian Bill Maher, as requiring obstetricians to teach medical students the alternative theory that storks deliver babies. Nonetheless, stork lore is not religious lore, and the central constitutional objection to banning evolution from the public-school curriculum or marginalizing it is that this would violate the “establishment clause” of the First Amendment, which provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The United States has had two waves of religion-inspired antievolution activism, and a decision by U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones III made just before Christmas 2005 marks the end of the third wave.


From The New England Journal of Medicine, George J. Annas, Intelligent Judging: Evolution in the Classroom and the Courtroom, Volume 354, Page 2277 Copyright ©(2006) Massachusetts Medical Society. Reprinted with permission.

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