By Paul DesOrmeaux
This article appeared originally in the December 2008 Skeptical Briefs newsletter and is used by permission of the Skeptical Inquirer.
Following is a concise, authoritative, and warped timeline that more or less accurately presents the history and “facts” behind the development of creationism, creation science, Intelligent Design, and more importantly, scientific illiteracy. For an alternative, but parallel, perspective of the “other theory,” purchase the 27th Edition of Darwin’s final publication, “The Human Evolution Colouring Book.”
Days 1 through 6 In the beginning, God creates night and day, firmaments, heaven, fruit trees, poison ivy, seeds, marijuana, every living creature–including a male and female, beasts, fowl, creepy-crawly things, and killer bees–the concept of multiplication, and then, unfortunately, pulls a groin muscle.
Day 7 through the 16th century Most of Europe buys into the facts about creation as laid out in the Bible. Without the oppressive burden of science and reason, Europeans are quite religious and thankful for the deity’s blessings, such as the murderous Crusades, the Black Death, the Inquisition, witch hunts, and brand-new Christian torture devices, including the rack, thumbscrews, the head crusher, and the saw, to name a few. Toward the end of the 16th century, the first YMCA is built.
16th century to 1858 Although creationists don’t yet exist, they begin getting somewhat nervous because naturalists discover different fossils in different rock strata, suggesting that different animals may have existed in different eras, and that Earth may be older than the biblical contention of 6,000 years, especially after the discovery of a 35,000-year-old fossilized enlarged prostrate.
1859 Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, which he later modifies to increase sales by shortening it to Harry Potter and the Origin of Species. His book suggests that humans evolved through a system of natural selection, which “creationists” immediately attack as laughable and absurd and offer the more reasoned scientific version that humans were made in God’s image from clay, mud, and a rib.
1910 By now, the theory of evolution is widely accepted by most scientists, but there is a clear undercurrent of hostility and opposition from certain religious groups since the best-selling bumper sticker of the year reads “Darwin’s A Dodo!”
1918 A number of anti-Darwinists voice their concern that teaching evolution as a fact in schools will undermine the creation story, overshadow the moral lessons of Christianity, and negatively impact Christian fundamentalist student’s self-esteem.
1922 William Jennings Bryan initiates a campaign to convince state lawmakers to ban the teaching of evolution in public schools and promises students an alternate textbook with plenty of pictures of a naked Eve and Adam cavorting in the Garden of Eden.
1925 After Tennessee passes a law prohibiting the teaching of evolution in state-funded schools, substitute school teacher John Scopes stands trial and is found guilty for teaching Darwin’s theory. After several appeals, the charges are eventually dismissed on the technicality that, while in the jury box, the jurors should not have been allowed to derisively dress in monkey costumes.
For the next half century or so, the anti-evolution proponents prevail and the teaching of evolution practically disappears from public-school texts, with the notable exception of the Fun with Dick and Jane and the Leakeys reader.
1957 When the Soviets launch the first satellite, Sputnik, into outer space, the U.S. government has a cold-war anxiety attack and passes the National Defense Education Act for the purpose of emphasizing science education in public schools, which includes the teaching of evolution and the physics of the Wham-o Frisbee.
1959 The one-hundredth anniversary of Darwin’s famous book “sparks” a renewed interest in evolutionary biology. Readers from all over the country rush to the bookstores to purchase the bestseller ‘Twixt Twelve and Twenty by singer Pat Boone.
1961 Henry Morris and John Whitcomb publish The Genesis Flood, which advocates a literal interpretation of the Bible, meaning the earth is somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 years old, a global flood once covered the earth as described in Genesis, and the Noah family is kept awake for 40 days and 40 nights by the relentless and vicious fighting between the Brachiosauruses and Tyrannosaurus Rexes, as well as the nonstop barking of two extremely nervous poodles.
1963 A Christian creation organization, the Creation Research Society, is formed to disprove all scientific theories of evolution, while at the same time use science to prove the Genesis account of creation. The first meeting ends in chaos and arguments when one of the members forgets to bring the necessary scientific equipment for testing their hypothesis: a slide rule, a copy of the Old Testament, a Ouija board, and a Magic 8-Ball.
1968 The U.S. Supreme Court in Epperson vs. Arkansas rules that the 1928 Arkansas law banning the teaching of evolution in public schools is unconstitutional because it’s “…contrary to the mandate of the First, and in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, and was written on the side of a brown grocery bag.”
1972 Henry Morris forms the Institute for Creation Research to promote research and the teaching of “creation science,” a novel approach that uses the “scientific” method to prove the Genesis account of the Bible by offering scientific answers to questions like: What was God sitting on when he created the universe out of nothing? The ICR is still active today as a leading advocate for creation science and shows its dedication to the Bible by soliciting donations in shekels only.
1981 The Louisiana legislature passes the “Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science in Public School Instruction Act,” which requires that if schools are going to teach evolution, they must also teach creation science, and if they are going to teach foreign languages, they must also teach speaking in tongues.
1987 After two lower courts rule against Louisiana’s 1981Creation Act–another attempt to introduce religious doctrine in public schools–the state appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court (Edwards v Aguillard). The majority rule that the Act is unconstitutional, a decision reached by nine judicial coin flips: seven heads and two tails. The two “dissenting” Justices, conservatives Scalia and Rehnquist, write that the ruling is “obviously a sign from Satan.”
1989 A newly published textbook, Of Pandas and People, attacks the theory of evolution and, without mentioning a supernatural god, offers evidence that living forms, as well as the universe, were designed by some intelligent force, or intelligent designer, who also spontaneously wrote, published, and designed Of Pandas and People from landfill waste.
1991 Philip Johnson, considered the “father of Intelligent Design,” publishes Darwin on Trial, in which he exhaustively challenges most of the evidence for evolution by natural selection using classical argument techniques, such as logic, facts, and asking God what he should think.
1993 A revised edition of Of Pandas and People is intelligently redesigned.
1996 Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box is published, in which he sets out to prove that “irreducibly complex” biological systems could not have randomly evolved from simpler and disparate biological parts and therefore must have been “designed” by an undefined intelligent designer or “Lone Arranger.” Behe’s examples of “irreducible complexity” include the perfectly structured human eye, the bacterial flagellum, and the U.S. Tax Code.
1996 Pope John Paul II shocks the Christian world by declaring his belief that the Catholic religion and evolution are compatible; however, he assures his flock that God is responsible for the human soul, which first appears about 550 million years ago in the Cambrian fossil record.
2005 In Kitzmiller v. Dover, a handful of parents, supported by atheist-like organizations, bring a lawsuit in federal court against the Dover Area School District, which is trying to introduce its public-school students to Intelligence Design as a possible alternative theory to evolution. Judge Jones decides in favor of the plaintiffs, writing: “The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory, and I’d like to thank you goddamn atheists for blowing my chances at a U.S. Supreme Court vacancy under the Bush administration!”
2008 A new documentary entitled Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed in This Movie ridicules the theory of evolution, strongly suggests that evolution inspired the Holocaust, portrays ID advocates as victims of discrimination, and supports the indisputable scientific fact that co-writer and star, Ben Stein, has serious structural problems in his brain’s frontal lobe. Ironically, the movie actually proves why the public needs MORE science in the classroom. It walks away with one Cannes Film Festival award: the Golden Dunce Cap.
Skeptical satirist Paul DesOrmeaux teaches at Rochester Institute of Technology and Monroe Community College and writes humorous articles for a number of well-known skeptical magazines and newsletters. His goal is to introduce skepticism to a broader audience by combining reason and science with humor and satire to expose myths, pseudoscience, fraudulent claims, and general nonsense.