The evolution of antievolution policiesDecember 17, 2015
KNOXVILLE -- Organized opposition to the teaching of evolution in public schools in the United States began in the 1920s, leading to the famous Scopes Monkey trial. It continues today, but has evolved significantly from the outright bans.
In a new study from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS), the evolutionary history of antievolution efforts in state legislatures is statistically reconstructed in a phylogenetic tree to reveal the genealogical relationships among lawmaking efforts over the past decade.
The study sheds light on the strategies used by creationists to influence the way biology is taught in the classroom.
While US courts have consistently ruled that teaching explicitly religious alternatives to evolution, such as creation science or intelligent design, violates the US Constitution, creationists have continued to fight legal and political battles to undermine the teaching of evolution.
The study, published today in the journal Science, shows the detailed 'family relationships' of antievolution legislation in the US from 2004 to the present. The phylogenetic analysis tracks the copying and modification of the text of the legislative proposals over the last ten years, which total 65 bills.
In 2004, antievolutionist legislation began to shift tactics due to likely challenges to the constitutionality of 'intelligent design.' In the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover decision, a federal court held that teaching intelligent design in the public schools was unconstitutional, and afterwards, policies encouraging 'critical analyses' of evolution and other topics became dominant.
The study shows the origin of this now-common tactic of urging a critical approach in antievolutionist language in the bills.
"The strategy of encouraging 'critical analysis' of not just evolution and origin-of-life studies, but also of human cloning and global warming was essentially invented in a 2006 school board policy passed in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana. This combination proved popular, and legislative bills using this tactic have since been proposed in many states, and were passed in Louisiana and Tennessee," explained lead author Nick Matzke, a former NIMBioS postdoctoral fellow and now a fellow at the Australian National University.
The study also found that antievolution bills show evidence of 'descent with modification,' suggesting that anti-evolutionist legislators copy bills recently proposed or passed, rather than writing new bills from scratch. In addition, although the antievolution bills usually avoid mentioning creationism, most could be tied directly to creationism through statements in the legislation or by the bills' sponsors.
"Creationism is getting stealthier in the wake of legal defeats, but techniques from the study of evolution reveal how creationist legislation evolves," Matzke said.
Photo Caption: Teachers at a workshop learn new tips for teaching evolution. A new study reveals strategies used in state lawmaking to influence the teaching of evolution in public schools.
Photo Credit: NIMBioS
The National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis is an NSF-supported center that brings together researchers from around the world to collaborate across disciplinary boundaries to investigate solutions to basic and applied problems in the life sciences.
Australian National University
National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS)
Related Evolution Articles:
The evolution of cells and organisms is thought to have been preceded by a phase in which informational molecules like DNA could be replicated selectively.
A new study by University of Arizona biologists helps explain why different groups of animals differ dramatically in their number of species, and how this is related to differences in their body forms and ways of life.
A genome project, comprising six evolutionary biologists from Professor Axel Meyer's research team from Konstanz and researchers from China and Singapore, sequenced and analyzed the genome of the tiger tail seahorse.
Rapid evolution of other species happens all around us all the time -- and many of the most extreme examples are associated with human influences.
Landscapes are formed by a combination of uplift and erosion.
How enzymes -- the biological proteins that act as catalysts and help complex reactions occur -- are 'tuned' to work at a particular temperature is described in new research from groups in New Zealand and the UK, including the University of Bristol.
On Nov. 11, 1954, Syuiti Mori turned out the lights on a small group of fruit flies.
A team of researchers, among them a zoologist from the University of Cologne, has succeeded in reconstructing a 160 million year old compound eye of a fossil crustacean found in southeastern France visible.
Evolution may be more intelligent than we thought, according to a University of Southampton professor.
Organized opposition to the teaching of evolution in public schoolsin the United States began in the 1920s, leading to the famous Scopes Monkey trial.
Related Evolution Reading:
Why Evolution Is True
by Jerry A. Coyne (Author)
"Coyne's knowledge of evolutionary biology is prodigious, his deployment of it as masterful as his touch is light." -Richard Dawkins
In the current debate about creationism and intelligent design, there is an element of the controversy that is rarely mentioned-the evidence. Yet the proof of evolution by natural selection is vast, varied, and magnificent. In this succinct and accessible summary of the facts supporting the theory of natural selection, Jerry A. Coyne dispels common misunderstandings and fears about evolution and clearly confirms the scientific truth that... View Details
Evolution: The Cutting-Edge Guide to Breaking Down Mental Walls and Building the Body You've Always Wanted
by Joe Manganiello (Author)
Joe Manganiello first gained recognition around the world for his incredible, sculpted body while winning both popular and critical praise as the star of HBO's True Blood. Now, from the man that Magic Mike director Steven Soderbergh called “walking CGI,” comes the cutting-edge guide to achieving the perfect body and therefore enhancing your overall quality of life.
With a build that men envy and women adore, Joe Manganiello is more than qualified to write the end-all guide to sculpting the perfect body. His fit physique catapulted him to the top of the list of... View Details
Evolution: A Visual Record
by Robert Clark (Author)
Stunning images to reawaken us to the scientific process that drives the amazing diversity of life on earth
Evidence of evolution is everywhere. Through 200 revelatory images, award-winning photographer Robert Clark makes one of the most important foundations of science clear and exciting to everyone. Evolution: A Visual Record transports readers from the near-mystical(human ancestors) to the historic (the famous 'finches' Darwin collected on the Galapagos Islands that spurred his theory); the recently understood (the link between dinosaurs and modern birds)... View Details
Improbable Destinies: Fate, Chance, and the Future of Evolution
by Jonathan B. Losos (Author)
A major new book overturning our assumptions about how evolution works
Earth’s natural history is full of fascinating instances of convergence: phenomena like eyes and wings and tree-climbing lizards that have evolved independently, multiple times. But evolutionary biologists also point out many examples of contingency, cases where the tiniest change—a random mutation or an ancient butterfly sneeze—caused evolution to take a completely different course. What role does each force really play in the constantly changing natural world? Are the plants and animals that... View Details
Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be
by Daniel Loxton (Author), Daniel Loxton (Illustrator)
Evolution is the process that created the terrible teeth of Tyrannosaurus rex and the complex human brain, clever enough to understand the workings of nature. Young readers will learn how a British naturalist named Charles Darwin studied nature and developed his now-famous concepts of natural selection and survival of the fittest. And how modern-day science has added to our understanding of the theory of evolution. Can something as complex and wondrous as the natural world be explained by a simple theory? The answer is yes, and now Evolution explains how in a way that makes it easy to... View Details
Evolution: Making Sense of Life
by Carl Zimmer (Author), Douglas J. Emlen (Author)
Science writer Carl Zimmer and evolutionary biologist Douglas Emlen have produced a thoroughly revised new edition of their widely praised evolution textbook. Emlen, an award-winning evolutionary biologist at the University of Montana, has infused Evolution: Making Sense of Life with the technical rigor and conceptual depth that today’s biology majors require. Zimmer, an award-winning New York Times columnist, brings compelling storytelling to the book, bringing evolutionary research to life. Students will learn the fundamental concepts of evolutionary theory, such as natural... View Details
Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique
by J. P. Moreland (Editor), Stephen C. Meyer (Editor), Christopher Shaw (Editor), Ann K. Gauger (Editor), Wayne Grudem (Editor)
The debate about biological origins continues to be hotly contested within the Christian church. Prominent organizations such as Biologos (USA) and Faraday Institute (UK) insist that Christians must yield to an unassailable scientific consensus in favor of contemporary evolutionary theory and modify traditional biblical ideas about the creation of life accordingly. They promote a view known as “theistic evolution” or “evolutionary creation.” They argue that God used—albeit in an undetectable way—evolutionary mechanisms to produce all forms of life. This book contests this... View Details
by Douglas J. Futuyma (Author), Mark Kirkpatrick (Author)
Extensively rewritten and reorganized, this new edition of Evolution--featuring a new coauthor: Mark Kirkpatrick (The University of Texas at Austin)--offers additional expertise in evolutionary genetics and genomics, the fastest-developing area of evolutionary biology. Directed toward an undergraduate audience, the text emphasizes the interplay between theory and empirical tests of hypotheses, thus acquainting students with the process of science. It addresses major themes--including the history of evolution, evolutionary processes, adaptation, and evolution as an explanatory... View Details
Evolution: The Human Story
by DK (Author)
How did we develop from simple animals inhabiting small pockets of forest in Africa to the dominant species on Earth? Traveling back almost eight million years to our earliest primate relatives, Evolution: The Human Story charts the development of our species from tree-dwelling primates to modern humans.
Investigating each of our ancestors in detail and in context, from the anatomy of their bones to the environment they lived in, Evolution: The Human Story profiles every human relative and ancestor discovered to date, and illustrates them in lifelike form.
Amazingly... View Details
Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis
by Michael Denton (Author)
More than thirty years after his landmark book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (1985), biologist Michael Denton revisits his earlier thesis about the inability of Darwinian evolution to explain the history of life. He argues that there remains “an irresistible consilience of evidence for rejecting Darwinian cumulative selection as the major driving force of evolution.” From the origin of life to the origin of human language, the great divisions in the natural order are still as profound as ever, and they are still unsupported by the series of adaptive transitional forms predicted by... View Details