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God versus nature debate continues between creationism and evolution

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New Delhi | Friday, Dec 18 2015 IST
 
Organised opposition to the teaching of Darwins theory of evolution in public schools in the United States began in the 1920s, leading to the famous Scopes Monkey trial and it continues today, but has evolved significantly from the outright bans.In a new study from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS), the evolutionary history of anti-evolution efforts in state legislatures is statistically reconstructed in a phylogenetic tree (branching diagram) to reveal how law-making efforts over the past decade have similar roots (genealogical relationship).The study sheds light on the strategies used by creationists to influence the way biology is taught in the classroom.While creationists content that God created man and other living beings, theory of evolution outlines how life evolved over billions of years from simple unicellular organisms to complex multicellular organisms, including humans.While US courts have consistently ruled that teaching explicitly religious alternatives to evolution, such as creation science or intelligent design, violates the US Constitution, creationists have continued to fight legal and political battles to undermine the teaching of evolution.The study, published in the journal Science, shows the detailed 'family relationships' of anti-evolution legislation in the US from 2004 to the present.The phylogenetic analysis tracks the copying and modification of the text of the legislative proposals over the last ten years, which total 65 bills.In 2004, anti-evolutionist legislation began to shift tactics due to likely challenges to the constitutionality of 'intelligent design.'In the 2005 Kitzmiller vs Dover decision, a federal court held that teaching intelligent design in the public schools was unconstitutional, and since then, policies encouraging 'critical analyses' of evolution and other topics became dominant plank of anti-evolutionists."The strategy of encouraging 'critical analysis' of not just evolution and origin-of-life studies, but also of human cloning and global warming was essentially invented in a 2006 school board policy passed in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana, explains lead author Nick Matzke, a former NIMBioS postdoctoral fellow and now a fellow at the Australian National University.This combination proved popular, and legislative bills using this tactic have since been proposed in many states, and were passed in Louisiana and Tennessee."The study also found that anti-evolution bills show evidence of 'descent with modification,' suggesting that anti-evolutionist legislators copy bills recently proposed or passed, rather than writing new bills from scratch.In addition, although the anti-evolution bills usually avoid mentioning creationism, most could be tied directly to creationism through statements in the legislation or by the bills' sponsors."Creationism is getting stealthier in the wake of legal defeats, but techniques from the study of evolution reveal how creationist legislation evolves," Matzke said.UNI YSG SV 0855

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