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Evolution Revolution
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c. 1990: DNA Codes
(Rise of Evolution)

DNA codes offer new evidence of evolution. DNA, the genetic blueprint for living things, is like a text made up of chemical letters. For many decades, reading the sequence of letters in DNA was a painstaking process. But new technology now makes DNA sequencing relatively easy and inexpensive, which leads to an explosion of research. Evolutionary scientists now see, at a molecular level, how the DNA of various organisms has changed through time as these organisms have evolved.


c. 1990: Intelligent Design
(Evolution Challenged)

Intelligent design movement gains ground. Proponents of intelligent design theory, or ID, argue that there is irreducible complexity in the living world that cannot be explained by evolution. In public debate, they generally avoid using religious references, but "intelligent designer" may be implicit for God. Their arguments echo the ideas of Natural Theology, which fell out of favor among most scientists in the mid-19th century. In 1991, ID proponent Philip Johnson, a Harvard-trained professor of law at UC Berkeley, writes the popular Darwinism on Trial, which helps catalyze a growing movement.


1994-95: Textbook Disclaimers
(Battle in the Schools) (Reconciliation)

Do textbook disclaimers taint evolution? The school board of Tangipahoa Parish, La., passes a requirement that whenever evolution is taught, students must be informed that the material is "not intended to influence or dissuade the Biblical version of creation." Is it an act of reconciliation or, as critics charge, an effort to make evolutionary science appear shaky? The intent of a textbook disclaimer adopted by the Alabama Board of Education is clearer: All biology texts must note that evolution is "controversial" and "a theory, not a fact." By calling evolution "controversial," it casts a dark shadow on what most scientists maintain is the well-proven foundation of biology. The label also reflects the common misunderstanding that a "theory" is the opposite of a "fact" rather than a scientific framework supported by facts.


1996: Darwin's Black Box
(Evolution Challenged)

Darwin's Black Box brings converts and critics to ID. Intelligent design proponent Michael Behe argues that a living cell -- "Darwin's black box" -- is far too complex to have evolved in gradual steps. His favorite analogy is to a mousetrap, which requires many parts arranged in a specific way in order to function. Behe's popular book is so packed with details about molecular biology that it begs to be seen as serious science. But his book is severely criticized by many scientists -- including some of the very biologists whose work he cites as evidence against evolution.


1996: Pope John Paul II
(Reconciliation)

Pope John Paul II endorses evolution. John Paul II's papal letter proclaims there is no essential conflict between evolutionary science and the world's largest Christian faith. By distinguishing between body and spirit, his predecessor Pius XII opened the door for Catholic acceptance of evolution. Now, John Paul II goes a step further: "It is indeed remarkable," he writes, "that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory."


1999: Kansas
(Battle in the Schools)

Kansas drops evolution from school curricula. In a vote of 6-4, the members of the state board of education vote to drop evolution from their list of required science topics. Also struck from the list are the "Big Bang" and all references to Earth as billions of years old. Steve Abrams, one board member voting with the majority, argues that teaching intelligent design theory (ID) as an alternative to Darwinism doesn't depend on religious belief. School board elections the following year draw lobbyists and funds from around the nation and international media attention. In February 2001, the newly elected board reverses the anti-evolutionist decision.


1999: Columbine High School
(Evolution Challenged)

Columbine shooting spurs attack on evolution. The tragedy at Columbine High School leads to a general outcry that teenagers in America have lost their moral bearings. In Congress, conservative Republican Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas links this moral decline specifically to the teaching of evolution: "Our school systems teach the children that they are nothing but glorified apes who are evolutionized [sic] out of some primordial soup." DeLay's accusation, while outrageous to many, expresses a common fear anti-evolutionists have voiced for two centuries.

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1910 | 1925 | 1930 | 1950 | 1960 | 1970 | 1980 | 1990 | 2000

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