McLean v. Arkansas Documentation Project
Preface: The creation-evolution controversy is one of the most significant and far-reaching controversies of our day. In 1925 a Tennessee judge declared the teaching of evolution illegal. By 1982 an Arkansas judge declared an Act for teaching creation (alongside of evolution) unconstitutional. This is one more court decision in a long line of precedent-setting court decisions that will have far reaching effects on the continued secularization of our society.
Some of the most significant decisions in this trend include:
1961 (Torcaso vs. Watkins) - Secular humanism recognized as a
religion protected by the First Amendment.
1962 (Engel vs. Vitale) - State-required devotional prayers
banned from public schools.
1963 (Abington vs. Schempp) - State-required devotional Bible
reading forbidden in schools.
1968 (Epperson vs. Arkansas) - Laws against teaching evolution
1980 (Stone vs. Graham) - Posting Ten Commandments in classroom
1982 (McLean vs. Arkansas) - Law mandating the teaching of creation (with evolution) banned in Arkansas.
The Arkansas trial was appropriately billed by many as "Scopes II." Media attended from all over the world. Since a secular outlook dominates the media,* their reports were understandably slanted. An even greater disappointment was the strange and conspicuous absence of the Christian media, for not a single reporter from any Christian magazine or paper was assigned to attend the trial. Consequently, even their stories were largely based on the slanted and distorted reports in the secular press.
Since the collaborators of this book were eyewitnesses to the entire trial, and since we had direct access to all the trial documents, witnesses, and attorneys, we feel an obligation to share the truth of what happened. With the exception of chapter two, this book is almost entirely documentary. The first chapter is a brief chronology of events while the third chapter gives a summary of the legal arguments for and against the Act. What transpired at the trial is found in chapters four through seven. This is an eyewitness account derived from the three author's notes, plus those of a newspaper reporter (Cal Beisner). The final (eighth) chapter is the written decision of Judge William Overton.
We hope that this book will help overcome both widespread factual distortion of the trial and misunderstanding of the issues. What happened in Arkansas should arouse all freedom-loving people. It should also serve as a powerful reminder that the survival of a free nation demands not only a free press but a fair press. One final lesson that should be learned from Arkansas is that the judgment of one man can have absolutely devastating consequences for the pursuit of truth in the public schools, as well as the freedom of teachers to express the truth. For on January 5, 1982, a federal judge in essence ruled for the first time in American history that it is unconstitutional to even imply the existence of a Creator in a public school science class or to teach any scientific theory that is not purely naturalistic. This is a long way from the "unalienable rights of the Creator" envisioned by our founding fathers. Indeed, what we saw discussed in Arkansas was not merely creationism in the classroom: We saw the Creator go to court and "lose"!
*See Chapter Two.
The McLean Project has obtained permission from Baker Books to publish four chapters excerpted from defense witness Dr. Norman Geisler's book, Creator In The Courtroom: Scopes II in which he gives his account of the testimony of the witnesses for both sides of the trial (note: this is not an official record of the trial): Creator In The Courtroom excerpts.
Preface: This volume represents an account of my experiences as a "theological" witness for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) at the "creationist" trial in Little Rock, Arkansas, December 7-9, 1981. Appended to that account are also reflections on the state of church, laboratory, and wider society in light of that controversy.
To my surprise, the contest enacted in that courtroom between fundamentalist "creation science" (aided by the State of Arkansas) on the one side, and scholarly religion, established science, and liberal teachers (aided by the ACLU and one of New York's most potent law firms) on the other side, proved to be more than the exciting spectacle I had expected—a spectacle worthy of extended and, where possible, humorous comment. More important, I found it opening up windows into the baffling complexity and frequently impenetrable obscurity of our present cultural life as an advanced scientific society. I realized that this case could help us understand in new ways how science and the religious manifest themselves in such a society, and the strange roles they perform and the bizarre ways they may there unite and interact. This realization has only grown as I have found myself speaking on this theme in the many colleges, universities, and laboratories I have visited since then. So, at the suggestion of my colleague Martin Marty, I embarked upon this account. My hope is that it may add to our present self-understanding as a society dedicated in large part both to science and to religion, and that it will encourage these two communities—both of whom are in part "to blame" for this controversy—to spend more of their energy and time seeking to understand each other.
Back-cover: The documents and essays in this book portray the Arkansas creation-science case, emphasizing its implications for our understanding of the proper relationship between science and society.
The documents include the original "Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act" of 1981, the initial briefs of the plaintiffs and defendants in the case that challenged the Act, the opinion of the court written by Judge William Overton, and several pieces of follow up legislation and legal opinion.
Essayists include attorneys from the New York firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, & Flom, who describe why they volunteered their services to the plaintiffs and what special problems they encountered I working with scientists, and several of the expert witnesses and advisors who organized the probing of the nature of sciencethat lay at the heart of the trial.
Sociologist Dorothy Nelkin explores the evolution of creationism from the time of the Scopes trial to the present; theologian Langdon Gilkey examines the interrelation of inquiry and belief; anatomist Joel Cracraft describes the scientific responses to creationism; philosophers Michael Ruse and Larry Laudan debate the implications of the definition of science finally adopted by the court; and historian Stephen Brush assesses the possible impact of creationism on education in the physical sciences.
Contemporary (mainstream) Articles
Anonymous Editor (1981) "Arkansas Prepares To Implement New Origins Law", Acts & Facts 10(6): 7.
Anonymous Editor (1981) "ACLU Sues To Overturn Creation Law In Arkansas ", Acts & Facts 10(7): 3.
Anonymous Editor (1981) "Arkansas Citizens Defend Balanced Treatment Law Against ACLU Attack", Acts & Facts 10(8): 1, 4.
Anonymous Editor (1981) "Update On The Arkansas Lawsuit On Creation Science", Acts & Facts 10(9): 3, 6.
Anonymous Editor (1981) "Wendell Bird Speaks To ACLU", Acts & Facts 10(9): 5.
Anonymous Editor (1981) "ACLU Lawsuit Against Creation Science", Acts & Facts 10(11): 2, 5.
Anonymous Editor (1981) "ICR Defeats ACLU Subpoena Attempt", Acts & Facts 11(1): 2, 4.
Clark, Harold W. (1982) "News and Comments: Arkansas Act 590" ("Reactions"), Origins 9(2):63-65, (Comments in reaction to Katherine Ching's article above).
Davis, Lori A. (1981) "Suit Asks For Repeal of Creation Evolution Law", Moral Majority Report 2(6):3.
Geisler, Norman (1982) "Creationism: A Case for Equal Time", Christianity Today 26(6):26-29 (witness for the defendants).
Gish, Duane T., et al. (1982) "The Arkansas Decision on Creation-Science", Impact #105.
Tkachuck, Richard D., Ed. (1981) "As We Go To Press. . .", Geoscience Reports (Fall 1981), No. 2 (scroll down to bottom of page).
Suggest a reference
If you know of any books or articles written about McLean v. Arkansas which are not listed here, please e-mail the reference to Troy Britain. Thank you.
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