Following the famous Scopes "monkey trial" in 1925 religiously conservative state laws prohibiting the teaching of evolution in U.S. public schools were struck down by the U.S. supreme court in 1968.
Creationists have since insisted that creationism be taught in U.S. public school biology classes as an alternative to evolution theory. In 1987, the U.S. supreme court ruled that teaching creationism alongside evolution theory in public school science classes was unconstitutional because it advocated a particular religious belief and violated the separation of church and state.
Creationists then proposed that their intelligent design (ID) theory be taught in public schools alongside evolution theory. The intelligent design theory (c. 1989) proposes that observed living organisms are too complex to have resulted from natural selection and that therefore their designs must have resulted from the application of supernatural intelligence. The ID theory carefully avoids mention of the Bible and does not name any specific deity as the source of the supernatural intelligence and influence. Proponents thereby hoped to avoid conflict with the U.S. constitution and claim that ID is a valid "scientific" alternative to evolution theory.
Creationism, by proposing that the Earth and all the current species were created simultaneously in the recent past (sometimes stated as 4004 B.C.) conflicts directly with the huge mass of empirical evidence showing the progress of evolution over a very long period (~4 billion years). ID proponents could choose to believe that different species appeared sequentially on a similar schedule as that specified in evolution theory but that their development was directed by a supernatural intelligence and thus avoid the gross conflicts with empirical evidence.
Science has a long history of conflicts with religionists (e.g. Galileo). Developing a scientific theory becomes trivial if the theorist is free to invoke supernatural forces whenever he is unable to explain some observation. ID is therefore not considered to be "science" by the scientific community. In 2005 a U.S. district court ruled that ID is not science but rather a tenet of a religion, and that therefore it is unconstitutional to teach ID in public school science classes.
However, ID does have an adverse effect on scientific theories of evolution. ID and the scientific alternative evolutionary mechanics theories share a common characteristic: They both propose that traditional natural selection theory is inadequate to explain all of the observations. Followers of traditional natural selection can and sometimes do contend that anyone who does not believe traditional natural selection exclusively influences evolution must be religiously motivated. A climate is thus created in which any criticism of natural selection is seen as anti-science. Any suggestion that evolution theory might have scientific flaws or controversies is seen as weakening science (especially evolutionary science) in its endless battle with religionists. This inhibits writers and publishers from discussing valid scientific disagreements with traditional theory. The problem is especially severe regarding biology textbooks and educational material. Does a publisher include discussion of scientific issues and alternative evolutionary mechanics theories and thus risk being forced to include ID? It is much safer to exclude any mention of any deviation from traditional theory and continue to foster the illusion that no scientific issues and consequent dissent exist.
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