YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

It's Religion, Not Science

December 14, 1986

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments the other day in a case that puts Louisiana's "Creation Law" on trial. Can the state require schools that teach Darwinian evolution to teach "creation science" as well?

This case should be open and shut, as it has been in every court that has heard it so far. "Creation science" isn't science at all. It's religion. And requiring that it be taught in schools is an establishment of religion in violation of the First Amendment.

The state of Louisiana has tried to dress the law up as something else, maybe academic freedom. But in unguarded moments the state's fundamentalist religious purpose has crept out. Unfortunately for the state, the Constitution does not allow religion to be taught in the public schools.

What's more, arguing that evolution is wrong is like arguing that the Earth is flat. There was an odd piece about this issue last week in the Wall Street Journal. Tom Bethell, a media fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, wrote that biologists were stumped when asked, "Can you tell me anything you know about evolution, any one thing that is true?"

We can think of plenty to be said on behalf of evolution. In fact, biology since Darwin has provided one of the most splendid stories of verification in the history of science. Specifically, everything that we have learned about genetics, molecular biology and DNA since World War II supports the idea that life originated once on Earth billions of years ago and that all living things have evolved from the molecules formed then. "Creation science" would have you believe that the Earth is less than 6,000 years old.

When Darwin proposed his theory in 1859, he had no idea what the mechanism of heredity was. At the turn of this century, biologists identified the gene as the carrier of the genetic message. Then, in the early 1950s, James Watson and Francis Crick explained how the DNA molecule itself carried the genetic code, an accomplishment for which they received the Nobel Prize.

It turns out that the closer two organisms are in evolution, the closer is their DNA as well. Humans evolved from apes. The DNA of humans and chimpanzees is almost identical.

A century after Darwin, we learned the mechanism of heredity, and it matches Darwin to a "T." Furthermore, with very few and minor exceptions, all living things share the same genetic code. The same sequence of DNA makes the same protein in humans and amoebas and whales and hummingbirds. This extraordinary fact supports the idea that life began once.

All in all, molecular biology offers powerful support to the basic idea of Darwinian evolution. There is no reason to think that the theory is wrong. There is certainly no reason to think that a religious doctrine based on revelation is closer to the truth.

Los Angeles Times Articles