January 15, 2004
117 Harvard Law Review 964
Law, Darwinism, and Public Education: The Establishment Clause and
the Challenge of Intelligent Design
Francis J. Beckwith
Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
2003. Pp. xxxii, 185. $ 24.95.
"Darwin's great contribution ... was the final demolition of the idea that nature is the product of intelligent design."
A perception common to laypeople, peripheral scientists, and scholars alike is that basic evolutionary theory is inherently an empirical scientific claim that does not purport to address metaphysical claims similar to those addressed by classical religions. In large part because of this perception, naturalistic evolution has long enjoyed a pedagogical monopoly in our nation's public schools.
However, its dogmatic presentation has not escaped significant controversy from a diverse group of critics. Most recently, a small but tenacious group of sophisticated and well-credentialed scientists, philosophers ,and legal scholars have argued that the common perception of evolution as free from inherent naturalistic philosophical implications is simply mistaken. n3 This group, known as the Intelligent Design (ID) movement, also insists that *intelligent agency" provides an origins paradigm that is better supported by the empirical evidence and gives greater coherence to our scientific observations and philosophical intuitions than does the philosophy of methodological naturalism (MN) underlying evolutionary orthodoxy (p. xiii).
Not surprisingly, critics have loudly protested that the presentation in public school of any origins theory that alludes to a "designer" violates the Establishment Clause - even when, as is the case with the ID movement, the allusion is strictly predicated upon empirical and philosophical evidence without sectarian trappings. In Law, Darwinism, and Public Education, Francis Beckwith applies his background in philosophy and law to the considerable task of answering whether the presentation of ID in public schools violates current Establishment Clause jurisprudence, ultimately arguing that it does not. However, while a principled constitutional analysis would suggest permitting the presentation of ID in schools, the linchpin of the movement's success likely turns on better educating relevant legal actors about the practical relationship between evolution and MN.
Read the entire article on the Francis Beckwith website.