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Scientific Creationism is the modern version of the old creation-evolution controversy. The history of this controversy may be described as a constant struggle between Fundamentalists, and Scientists who may have or may not have faith. This struggle has been studded with occasional public flare-ups, similar to the Oxford Meeting. To show what is going on, I provided here some information on the nature of the controversy from three characteristic events. One source of information is about a major, public confrontation which took place earlier in the twentieth century in Tennessee at the famous Scopes Trial. Another source I present here is a newspaper article with the title: "Darwin's Foes Lobbying for Equal Time in Schools. (The New York Times, Monday, April 7, 1980.) The third source is an account of my personal experiences with Luther Sounderland, who is an important representative of the Fundamentalist Creation Science position in the Syracuse area.
1. The Scopes Trial took place July 10-21, 1925, Dayton, Tennessee. The trial was far more publicized then the crime committed should have merited even then and even in Tennessee in the Bible Belt region of the United States. The culprit was a high-school teacher John T. Scopes, who was charged with violating state law by teaching the theory of evolution in the Dayton public school. In March 1925 the Tennessee legislature had declared unlawful the teaching of any doctrine denying the divine creation of man as taught by the Bible. And they meant business. Some saw in the situation the opportunity to present to the world the Fundamentalist position on the literal interpretation of the Scriptures, giving the trial a highly charged confrontation between Fundamentalist faith, and atheistic science. William Jennings Bryan was the prosecutor and Clarence Darrow the defender. The judge ruled out any questioning of the law's constitutionality and any attempt of trying to prove the validity of Darwin's theory. The trial was restricted to the single point whether or not John T. Scopes had taught evolution. Scopes, of course, admitted that he did teach evolution to hi s class. He was convicted and fined $100. On appeal, the state supreme court upheld the constitutionality of the 1925 law but acquitted Scopes on the technicality that he had been fined excessively. The law was repealed in 1967.
(A rather dramatized presentation of this trial has been made into a movie
by United Artists with the title, "Inherit the Wind", with Spencer
Tracy as the defending lawyer (1960). The movie was based upon the book by Jerome
Lawrence and Robert E. Lee.)
2. Darwin's Foes Lobbying for Equal Time in Schools, by Dena Kleiman. Excerpts from The New York Times. Monday, April 7, 1980.
In a sophisticated, nationwide campaign, public schools in virtually every state are being asked to revise biology curriculums so that the biblical account of creation can be included as an explanation for the origin of life.
The advocates of the creation concept have developed what they say is a science of their own "scientific creationism," drawing on the Book of Genesis, physics, fossils, and mathematical probability, among other things. They contend it is no less valid than the evolutionary biology that Darwin outlined.
More than 120 years after Darwin's publications of "Origin of Species," the teaching of creation has been revived far beyond the Bible Belt areas of the South and Middle West, despite the scientific community's continued rejection of the theory. In such disparate states as Indiana, Texas, California, Georgia and New York, the groups have had success in persuading parents, textbook commissions, legislators and school officials to buy supplementary textbooks on creation science and set up an equal-time policy.
Educators say that the success has been fueled by disenchantment with scientific advances and by the sentiment that basic values are being undermined by the complexities of modern way of life.
The advocates of creation deny that their campaign has any connection to their
religious belief. At least one federal Court, however, has ruled that requiring
the teaching of creation violates the First Amendment guarantee of separation
of church and state.
3. Luther Sounderland. In 1983 a phone call came from the Downtown Chancery Office from a representative of Bishop Harrison of Syracuse asking Le Moyne to send representatives to the Chancery Office and listen to a presentation to be given by Luther Sounderland on some matters of scientific creationism. Sounderland asked the Bishop a number of times to give him a hearing. Finally, the problem was resolved by setting up a meeting to which three of us, Dr. Charles Kelley from philosophy, Dr. William Barnett from theology, and myself (Dr. Andrew Szebenyi) from biology were asked to go Downtown and listened to the presentation of Mr. Sounderland. The conference started sometime in the early afternoon. I had a previous doctor's appointment at 4:30 on the same afternoon and so with apology I told Mr. Sounderland that I will have to leave shortly after four.
The presentation was heavy, trying to connect the biblical account of creation with the fossil record placing creation into time on a larger that six days scale. The explanation was rather selective, playing down or not mentioning such scientific facts which would not fit the theory. By the time I was leaving my head was spinning and I was filled with a deep sense of intellectual and physical discomfort. My disagreement about the presentation was so acute that I had no intention to argue any of the points. So without a word I left shortly after 4 pm to get to my appointment.
A couple of days later I received a letter from Luther Sounderland. The letter contained a set of propositions with dotted line under each, asking me to sign those I agreed with and not to sign those with which I disagreed. I read and considered every proposition with care, but after some deliberation I realized that I cannot sign a single one of the statements. I said so in my reply, and I also explained the two reasons why a cold not sign any of the statements. One was that to my mind they were either theologically incorrect because creation is a divine act, and as such it is not in time. Time and space are the created framework of the created world which we understand in our created human way as a process. The other reason was that I could not be eclectic in my science and look at some evidence and disregard others. Neither was I willing to play down the importance of some data just because they did not fit a hypothesis. I was not interested in proving a theory. I wanted to see the facts and from them to formulate some understanding. I mailed my reply. The only good that came from all this was that I felt the need to put my thoughts together and I wrotean essay called "Solution of a Controversy." (You can read this essay by clicking on the highlighted title.)
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