How crazed are the creationists? A good history of creationism can be found at Eugenie Scott’s National Center for Science Education in this article: Antievolutionism and Creationism in the United States.
That website has additional information about creationism’s litigation history here: Ten Significant Court Decisions. They also offer a more general history of creationism: Brief History of Creationism — From the Middle Ages to “Creation Science”.
From those and other sources we learn that at first, creationists were quite open about their anti-science intentions. Tennessee’s 1925 Butler Act, which was what John Scopes violated when he taught evolution to his class, was a flat-out prohibition against teaching the evolution of man from lower animals. The law remained on the books in Tennessee until it was finally repealed in 1967.
Tennessee wasn’t alone. The US Supreme Court struck down an Arkansas statute that prohibited the teaching of evolution in the public schools. Epperson v. Arkansas in 1968.
That seems to have signaled the end of creationist honesty in such efforts. After that they got sneaky.
If you’re wondering about current outbreaks of the Discovery Institute‘s model law currently showing up in state legislatures (the so-called Academic Freedom Act), you should know this this is not a new phenomenon. According to Antievolutionism and Creationism in the United States, cited above:
During the early 1980s, a series of bills promoting “equal time” for creation science were introduced in at least 26 state legislatures, some more than once (Scott 1994). Most of them were clones of a model bill developed by a South Carolina respiratory therapist, Paul Elwanger, which was influenced by an ICR model resolution for equal time. [“ICR” is the Institute for Creation Research.]
In 1982, a federal court struck down another Arkansas law, this one called the “Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act.” McLean v. Arkansas.
The creationists tried again in Louisiana, with the “Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science in Public School Instruction Act”. According to Wikipedia, the Act did not require teaching either creationism or evolution, but did require that when evolutionary science was taught, “creation science” had to be taught as well. The law was struck down by the US Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard in 1987.
That pretty much ended the “teach both sides” game. After that, the creationists realized that the religious approach wouldn’t work in state-run schools, so they claimed that their beliefs were were actually scientific, but that didn’t fool too many people. In 1990, a federal court prohibited the fraud of “creation science” from being taught in science class in Webster v. New Lenox School District.
Then the creationists invented a new fraud, Intelligent Design (ID), which was supposed to simultaneously: (1) inspire — and attract money from — millions of semi-literate creationist rustics; and (2) fool all the judges, who knew the prior litigation history of creationism, but who would somehow fail to see what every creationist could readily see — that ID is nothing but creationism disguised in an ill-fitting suit, but still wearing soiled bib overalls underneath. ID was exposed and utterly demolished in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.
But they won’t give up. The creationists are under the illusion that if they could only conjure up the right verbal formula, they will somehow succeed. So they use slogans that vaguely echo the civil rights controversies, and then they promote rather obvious ploys like the Academic Freedom Act, and they complain about viewpoint discrimination and academic persecution.
You might think that at some point it would dawn on them that they’re not fooling anyone — each new reincarnation they invent is obviously the latest chapter in a very old and very transparent plot. But so far they don’t seem discouraged. Yet their attacks on evolution are never new, their arguments are never based on scientific research, and their ideas never make any sense. None of their lies is ever persuasive — except to uneducated rubes who will believe literally anything.
Sooner or later, just as Arkansas and Louisiana passed “equal time” laws in the 1980s, some state will pass one of the new “Academic Freedom” laws, and some silly teacher will then be encouraged to teach the “theory” of Noah’s Ark in a science class. There will be litigation. It will be expensive, and the outcome is all but assured. After that, some new attempt will be launched. And when that fails there will be another. And then another. It will be a long time before this madness ends — if it ever does.
So brace yourselves. In all likelihood, for the rest of your lives you’ll be hearing slogans like “critical analysis,” “teach both sides,” “strengths and weaknesses,” “academic freedom,” and “viewpoint discrimination.” Creationists will be demanding “Let the children decide!” and “Stop the censorship.” They’ll be asking: “What are you afraid of?” and “Why do you persecute those with whom you disagree?”
The appropriate response to such people should be something like this: “We’re trying to live as rational beings in a successful civilization, and we want nothing to do with your Dark Ages thinking. If you can’t leave us alone, then return to your caves!”
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It’s a way of making money for unscrupulous leaders, who know they have plenty of proud-to-be-ignorant Americans to fill their coffers. As long as it’s profitable, it will continue
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