Print Issue Volume 90 - No. 4

Note, Fruit of the Poison Tree: A First Amendment Analysis of the History and Character of Intelligent Design Education

Since the famous Scopes Trial in 1925, religious groups have struggled to introduce into public school science education a theory of human origin predicated on a supernatural creator. The latest theory to challenge evolution is Intelligent Design. Although this theory makes no explicit reference to religion or God, it propounds an unidentified supernatural agent who designed all life. As public school districts around the country start to consider adding Intelligent Design to their science curricula, proponents of evolution are claiming that it is merely another inherently religious idea that public schools cannot constitutionally teach.

This Note evaluates the constitutionality of teaching Intelligent Design in public school science classes. It applies both the test that the Supreme Court uses to evaluate Establishment Clause challenges in the education context and an alternative test used by some lower courts and commentators.

Intelligent Design is the latest in a long line of religious theories the teaching of which has consistently been struck down by the federal courts. Independent of this historical pedigree, Intelligent Design postulates the inherently religious idea that a supernatural designer created life. Because of this historic link to creationism and inherently religious nature, teaching Intelligent Design in public school science classes violates the Establishment Clause.

Additionally, this Note considers and rejects two commonly proposed justifications for teaching Intelligent Design: academic freedom and the furtherance of scientific literacy. However, it concludes with an explanation of how public schools can constitutionally present a comprehensive human origin education while also describing Intelligent Design and the controversy surrounding its teaching.

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