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Evolution: Evolution on Trial

A guide to accompany the Evolution Revolution exhibit.

Key Court Cases

Evolution has been controversial since its introduction.  One of the main battlegrounds over evolutionary theory has been the classroom, and teaching evolution has been challenged in the courtroom multiple times.  Here are the main U.S. cases:

The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, 1925

     The most prominent challenge of evolution in schools was the trial of John Thomas Scopes, a teacher accused of violating Tennessee's law prohibiting the teaching of evolution in a state-funded school.  Scopes was convicted, but the verdict was later overturned on a technicality.

Epperson v. Arkansas, 1968

      The Supreme Court ruled that Arkansas' ban on teaching evolution was unconstitutional because its primary purpose was religious, thus violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Edwards v. Aguillard, 1987

      The Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana requirement to teach "creation science" alongside the theory of evolution because it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Kitzmiller v. Dover, 2005

      A Pennsylvania district court judge struck down a school board's requirement mandating teachers to present intelligent design as an alternative to evolutionary theory.  Intelligent design was ruled to be a form of creationism, thus violating the First Amendment as previously decided in Edwards v. Aguillard.

While these are the main U.S. cases pertaining to evolution, they are certainly not the only relevant cases.  Others include:  Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971), McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education (1982), Peloza v. Capistrano School District (1994), and more.

Databases

These databases will contain information on the historical, social, and legal issues surrounding evolution. They can be accessed by College Park students, faculty and staff on or off campus. Visitors to the Priddy Library can access these resources on campus.

Online Resources

These websites deal with the legal issues surrounding evolution.  The Oyez Project and the US Courts websites are both great resources for any legal research.

Books