An evolutionary analysis of anti-evolution legislation

Enlarge (credit: Nick Matzke/Science)

We're just a few days from the 10th anniversary of Kitzmiller v Dover, the case that declared teaching intelligent design in science classrooms an unconstitutional imposition of religion. The sound legal defeat at Dover, however, hasn't convinced people who dislike evolution from trying to limit its use in public education. Instead, they've simply adapted to the new legal environment by developing new tactics.

If all that adapting to the environment sounds a bit like evolution to you, you're not alone. Nick Matzke played a key role in the Dover trial, and he went on to graduate studies in evolutionary biology. In a short report that's being released by Science, Matzke describes how you can apply evolutionary analysis to the dozens of bills that have targeted science education in various states. The results look a lot like evolutionary lineages, with lots of dead ends and the rapid expansion of successful innovations.

Matzke used to work for the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), which helped support the plaintiffs at the Dover trial. He's most famous for finding another evolution analog in a key test there: a search of early drafts of the intelligent design text promoted by the school board turned up a "transitional fossil." Early drafts of the book were focused on the overtly religious concept of creationism and used the term repeatedly.

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