PLoS Biology | www.plosbiology.org000May 2008 | Volume 6 | Issue 5 | e24
n 2004, the school board in Dover,Pennsylvania, voted to requireits 9th grade science teachersto read a statement questioningthe validity o evolutionary theory.“Because Darwin’s Theory is a theory,”teachers were instructed to say, “it continues to be tested as new evidenceis discovered. The Theory is not aact. Gaps in the Theory exist or which there is no evidence.” Studentsin Dover High School were alsoencouraged to explore the concept o intelligent design (ID), describedin the statement as “an explanationo the origin o lie that diers romDarwin’s view.” Multiple copies o the ID text
O Pandas and People
weremade available, and the school boardstated that “Students are encouragedto keep an open mind. The schoolleaves the discussion o the Origins o Lie to individual students and theiramilies”.By promoting ID and questioningevolution, Dover’s elected schoolboard aligned itsel with nationalpublic opinion, which consistently shows a majority avors teachingBiblical creationism in addition toevolution . Moreover, a 2005poll conducted by the Pew Forumon Religion and Public Lie reportsthat 38% o Americans would preerthat creationism was taught insteado evolution . But the Doverpublic school teachers, citing ethicalobligations, were unmoved by publicpressure and reused to comply withtheir board’s directive. The highschool’s science teachers issued astatement arguing:
“…i I as the classroom teacher read the required statement, my students will inevitably (and understandably) believe that Intelligent Design is a valid scientifc theory, perhaps on par with the theory o evolution. That is not true. To reer the students to ‘O Pandas and People’ as i it is a scientifc resource breaches my ethical obligation to provide them with scientifc knowledge that is supported by recognized scientifc proo or theory”
To scientists, the teachers’ positionis noncontroversial. Alternativeapproaches to evolution like ID area “hoax” at best and “aith” at worst [4,5]; in neither case do they haveany place in a science curriculum.The National Academy o Sciencescalls evolution “the central concept o biology” , and three respectednational organizations have providedmodel high school curriculumguidelines with evolution as a uniyingtheme [7–9].
Teaching Evolution: Law, Policy,and Practice
Unlike John Scopes (see Figure 1), theTennessee biology teacher convictedo teaching evolution (a convictionupheld in the 1925 case o
Tennessee v. John Scopes
), the plaintis and teachersin Dover prevailed in the courts whenthe Dover classroom disclaimer wasdeclared unconstitutional. Consistent with earlier cases in other states,the court in
Kitzmiller v. Dover
oundthat ID—like other more explicitly religious alternatives to evolution—must be excluded rom public schoolclassrooms as a violation o theConstitution’s Establishment Clause[10,11]. Judge John E. Jones III’sruling could not have been stronger:the Dover school board’s actions wereo “breath-taking inanity” and an“utter waste o monetary and personalresources .” Victories in cases like
areimportant to the scientic community, which devotes time and resources toexclude the teaching o nonscienticalternatives to evolutionary theory.These victories have paid dividendsin policies at the state and local level. Although the United States has nonational curriculum guidelines or
Evolution and Creationism in America’sClassrooms: A National Portrait
Michael B. Berkman
, Julianna Sandell Pacheco, Eric Plutzer
Berkman MB, Pacheco JS, Plutzer E
(2008)Evolution and creationism in America’s classrooms:A national portrait. PLoS Biol 6(5): e24. doi:0.37/ journal.pbio.006024
© 2008 Berkman et al. This is anopen-access article distributed under the termso the Creative Commons Attribution License,which permits unrestricted use, distribution, andreproduction in any medium, provided the originalauthor and source are credited.
ID, intelligent design; NSES, NationalScience Education StandardsMichael B. Berkman is Proessor o Political Science,Julianna Sandell Pacheco is a Ph.D. candidate inPolitical Science, and Eric Plutzer is Proessor o Political Science and Academic Director o the PennState Survey Research Center in the Department o Political Science, The Pennsylvania State University,University Park, Pennsylvania, United States o America.* To whom correspondence should be addressed.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.orgEssays articulate a specifc perspective on a topic o broad interest to scientists.doi:0.37/journal.pbio.006024.g00
On May 7, 925, John T. Scopes was arrestedor teaching evolution at Rhea County HighSchool in Dayton, Tennessee. When theamous “monkey trial” ended, Scopes wasconvicted o violating a Tennessee law thatmade it a crime to “teach any theory thatdenies the story o the Divine Creation o manas taught in the Bible, and to teach insteadthat man is descended rom a lower ordero animals.” Since that time, teachers havebeen on the ront lines o the battles betweenevolutionary biology and alternatives such asintelligent design and creationism.