ACLU Should Follow the Evidence Where it Leads, in Law and in Science

NOV. 12, 2004 – “In courts of law, material issues of fact are decided on the evidence, not motives,” says Seth Cooper, an expert on the legal aspects of teaching evolution. “But the ACLU continues to insist on making this Cobb Co. disclaimer case about motives. Why don’t they deal with the evidence?”

The disclaimer case is a lawsuit brought by the ACLU challenging the Cobb Co. Ga. school district’s right to insert a sticker into high school biology textbooks which states: “This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.”

“Perceived motives are irrelevant,” notes Cooper, an attorney with Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture. “Whether a parent in the community might be religious certainly has no bearing on whether neo-Darwinian and chemical evolutionary theories are supported by scientific data. But such motives are also largely irrelevant to the issues being decided by the judge in this case.”

According to Cooper, Establishment Clause cases such as this one concern actions made by government, not parents. The sticker was adopted by the school board, so the effect and purpose of the school board’s action is central to the constitutional analysis.

In an earlier order, Judge Clarence Cooper held he would not impute motives of parents to the School Board in adopting the sticker. The Judge also held the sticker had a dual secular purpose of promoting critical thinking and reducing parental offense in light of expanded evolution coverage in the science curriculum.

“Careful study and open-mindedness are part of good science education,” says Cooper. “Why doesn’t the ACLU want children to learn with an open-mind?”

Far more important than stickers is the academic freedom of teachers and students to discuss the growing scientific controversy surrounding neo-Darwinian and chemical evolutionary theories. The ACLU has now threatened these rights by suing, claiming that no scientist disagrees with such theories. “The ACLU is wrong,” adds Cooper. “Academic freedom should be protected.”

Cooper, along with Atlanta attorneys George M. Weaver and Kevin McMurry, submitted an amicus brief to the federal court on behalf of over thirty doctoral scientists. The brief highlights the scientific controversy surrounding neo-Darwinian and chemical evolutionary theories and the importance of critical thinking skills in science education.

“Although the sticker did not receive a strong defense at trial, the Judge’s decision will hopefully reflect the U.S. Supreme Court’s recognition in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) that it is permissible to teach ‘scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories,’” says Cooper.

For more information on this issue visit Discovery’s Georgia Resources page

About Seth Cooper
Seth Cooper is an attorney and Program Officer, Public Policy & Legal Affairs for Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.

About Discovery Institute
Discovery Institute is a non-profit, non-partisan, public-policy, think tank which promotes ideas in the common sense tradition of representative government, the free market and individual liberty. Current projects include: technology, the economy, science and culture, regional transportation, and the bi-national region of “Cascadia.”

Discovery Institute

Discovery Institute promotes thoughtful analysis and effective action on local, regional, national and international issues. The Institute is home to an inter-disciplinary community of scholars and policy advocates dedicated to the reinvigoration of traditional Western principles and institutions and the worldview from which they issued.