Originally created 01/10/01

Board votes against teaching creation



AIKEN - Glenn Wilson's crusade to make creation part of Aiken County's science curriculum was crushed Tuesday when the school board decided against it.

The unanimous vote surprised almost no one because school administrators have said for weeks that teaching creation conflicts with the U.S. Constitution, which separates church and state. Everything points to creation as a religious tenet because the theory is based largely on the Bible's book of Genesis, officials said.

For two years, Mr. Wilson, a parent of two, has asked board members for a curriculum change that would give God - or at least a "higher power" - some credit when teachers talk about how the world began.

His contention is that either creation should be taught along with evolution or nothing should be taught about the origin of life.

But school board attorney Bill Burkhalter said Tuesday that teaching both would make a mockery of the Constitution and teaching neither "clearly fails to follow the minimum requirements and testing standards" laid out by state law.

In South Carolina, only evolution is taught and questions on the theory are on standardized tests. State-approved science standards don't mention creation, but teachers are free to tell pupils that many people believe in it.

"To not teach the state science curriculum would fail the academic needs of all Aiken County students," Vice Chairman Art Hadden said. "It also would subject the board and district to very costly litigation that we would most likely lose."

But Mr. Wilson said after the vote that he was not shaken by the decision, which means that Aiken County might be ground zero for the next Scopes trial.

"This fight has just started," he said. "Tonight was Fort Sumter, and they fired the first shot."

For the Scopes trial in 1925, jurors, lawyers and 200 newspapermen sat cramped for 15 days in a small-town courtroom in Dayton, Tenn. At the eye of the legal storm was John T. Scopes, a likable football coach and science teacher who was found guilty of breaking a Tennessee law that made it illegal to teach evolution.

At issue then and now is how the world began. Some say evolution is the answer. The theory, first brought forth by Charles Darwin, holds that Earth is billions of years old and life forms developed over millions of years. Another possibility is biblical creationism, which holds that Earth and most of its life forms came into existence nearly 6,000 years ago and in just six days.

Reach Chasiti Kirkland at (803) 279-6895.