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and testing them against the natural world. Nevertheless, in recent years scientists have been forced to confront a resurgence of opposition to evolution in the political realm of public education. This new antievolutionism is called “intelligent design” (ID). Its proponents allege that it is a revolutionary new scientific explanation for complex adaptations, that it is purely secular and definitely not creationism, and that it is therefore pedagogically and legally appropriate for public school biology classrooms. However, an analysis of ID shows that in both content and history, it is a subset of an earlier antievolution movement known as creation science.


The creationism/evolution battle began in the 1920s as a by-product of the acrimonious split of American Protestantism into “fundamentalist” and “modernist” camps. Fundamentalism arose in the early 20th century in reaction to issues such as modern historical criticism of the Bible, technological and social progress, and evolution (Marsden, 1991; Armstrong, 2000). Modernists moved toward viewing the Bible as allegorical and as a product of human history, whereas fundamentalists tried to defend what they viewed as “the fundamentals” of the Christian faith by adopting a strict doctrine of biblical inerrancy, wherein the entire text of the Bible was considered to be divinely inspired truth and without error (and usually, but not always, to be interpreted literally).

Open conflict between modernists and fundamentalists was suppressed by the drive for Prohibition and by World War I. But after the war, the populist politician William Jennings Bryan decided that “Darwinism” had been the cause of German militarism as well as a threat to traditional religion and morality (Marsden, 1991). In the early 1920s, he spearheaded a national crusade against the teaching of evolution in the public schools, which in the previous decades had become common in textbooks and thus in the curriculum (Grabiner and Miller, 1974). Bans on teaching evolution were passed in several states (Larson, 2003).

Bryan’s campaign peaked in the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, TN, where he was humiliated on the stand by Clarence Darrow; he died a few days later. But although fundamentalism was discredited in the eyes of the media, Tennessee’s ban on teaching evolution was not overturned. Other states and many local jurisdictions enacted laws or policies that discouraged or forbade the teaching of evolution, and evolution rapidly disappeared from high school textbooks.

Evolution was not part of the precollege curriculum for 40 years, until fears of technologically falling behind the Soviet Union led in the late 1950s to federal money for new science textbooks—unusually for the time,

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