Rethinking Edwards v. Aguillard?: The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the Challenge of Intelligent Design
Date of Award
Master of Juridical Studies (MJS)
In 1987, in Edwards v. Aguillard, the United States Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional. a Louisiana statute that required the state's public schools to teach creationism if evolution is taught and to teach evolution if creationism is taught. The Court ruled that the statute violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution. That decision was the culmination of a series of court battles and cultural conflicts that can be traced back to the famous Scopes Trial. Although many thought, and continue to think, that creationism was dealt a fatal blow in Edwards, a new movement, made up of largely well-educated and well-credentialed scholars, has given new life to the debate that began with Scopes. The main thrust of this movement, known as Intelligent Design (ID), is that intelligent agency, as an aspect of scientific theory-making, has more explanatory power in accounting for the specified, and sometimes irreducible, complexity of some physical systems, including biological entities, than the blind forces of unguided matter. ID proponents also argue that the rejection of intelligent agency by mainstream science is the result of presupposing the philosophical doctrine of methodological naturalism, which ID supporters believe is not necessary for the practice of science qua science. Others argue that the teaching of naturalistic evolution may violate political liberalism's call to state neutrality. And yet others maintain that certain philosophical arguments—e.g., arguments for substance dualism, the existence of a first cause, and the existence of non-material entities and moral properties—reveal the weaknesses of materialism, a metaphysical position that ID proponents maintain is a necessary presupposition for the Darwinian edifice. These and other arguments will be discussed in Part III of this monograph.
Beckwith, Francis J., "Rethinking Edwards v. Aguillard?: The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the Challenge of Intelligent Design" (2001). School of Law Dissertations. 38.