Since the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925, the debate over creationism versus evolution has raged in America.

The United States Supreme Court essentially ended the debate (or so it thought) when, through a series of decisions culminating with its 1987 decision in Edwards v. Aguillard, it ruled that teaching creationism in public education classrooms violated the First Amendment’s guaranteed separation of church and state.

Undeterred, creationists began refining the argument for creationism as a science, culminating with the theory of Intelligent Design. ID is the theory that life on Earth is too complex to have happened by random natural selection (i.e., Darwin’s Theory).

Recently, however, a federal district court judge ruled that even mentioning ID — not teaching it, but simply mentioning it — violates the constitutionally required separation of church and state. This judge found that ID is really nothing more than creationism reframed as science.

Social conservatives will, no doubt, claim the opinion represents yet another example of an “activist” federal judge thwarting the will of the people. The problem with that argument, however, is that this particular judge, the Honorable John E. Jones III, was appointed to the federal bench by none other than George W. Bush and was confirmed by a unanimous United States Senate.

If any president in history was capable of sniffing out potentially “activist” judges (whatever that means) certainly it is President Bush. So what does it say that a Bush appointee called ID “nothing less than the progeny of creationism”? To me, it says this issue is not as black and white as either extreme might like to suggest.

As an attorney, I believe in a strong First Amendment and adamantly support the separation of church and state. But as a Christian, I also believe that, even if you subscribe to Darwin’s theory of evolution (which I do) or the Big Bang theory (again, which I do), these beliefs are not mutually exclusive of belief in an Almighty Creator (unless, of course, you take the Bible 100 percent literally, which I don’t, but that is a whole other subject).

Because no matter what these theories prove, they leave one giant question unanswered because they fail to explain our very existence at the most fundamental level. While these theories explain how we got here, they do not explain how it all started to begin with.

If there was a big bang, the question still remains: Who put the pieces in place to start the big bang and who started the process rolling in the first place? In my mind, it was God. As my father used to say, when he looked up at the sky, “How could all that have happened by accident?” Or when he looked at my children after they were born: “It isn’t a miracle that things go wrong sometimes, the miracle is that they go right most of the time.” And when he said miracle, I know he was talking about God.

So that begs the question: Does mentioning gaps in Darwin’s Theory equate to advancing religion? The recent policy, which was to be read to ninth grade biology students at the beginning of biology class, said only this: “The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part. Because Darwin’s theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.” Is any part of this untrue?

Darwin’s Theory is just that — a theory. It cannot be proven beyond a doubt, at least not presently. And there are gaps in Darwin’s theory for which there is no sound or generally accepted scientific explanation. And a theory is, in reality, a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations. It’s all true. And there is no mention of God or anything else that even remotely smells like religion.

I suspect the part that got the IDM (Intelligent Design Movement) in trouble was the following section: “Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves.” But even this section hardly seems to constitute government favoring one religion over another or favoring religion over nonreligion.

I once read an article in a national weekly news magazine that interviewed some very well-respected scientists who, after all their years trying to unlock the secrets of life, concluded there had to have been an Intelligent Designer behind it all. It made sense to me because, like my dad alluded to, there is only so much explaining we can do. At some point, our ability to rationally explain ends, leaving us with the unanswered questions. And that is where faith bridges a gap.

My best friend since fourth grade went to medical school later in life and, somewhere along the road, became an atheist. He simply could not believe that God would allow the misery and suffering he saw during medical school. For him, life started “because,” and there is no explaining it beyond that.

For me, I cannot accept that idea. Until someone explains who created the “stuff” that became the big bang, or who put the “things” on Earth that evolved into us, I will continue to believe in God.

And even as someone who supports the constitutional separation of church and state, I think this latest decision went too far. With respect to any theory, students were encouraged to keep an open mind by this policy, and the policy left the discussion of the origins of life to individual students and their families (where, in my opinion, it belongs).

I am not decrying the judge as an “activist” or anything else — as a general matter, I think the whole notion of “activist judges” is simply another way of whining about not getting your way. But I do not agree with his decision.

Simply saying ID exists as an alternative explanation to our very existence, without trying to teach it, does not support one religion over another or religion over nonreligion. It merely points out that there exists in our country another viewpoint on our existence. And that theory is, at this stage of our existence, every bit as provable as Darwin’s.

Matthew R. Scott is a member of the Rockwall City Council.

Recommended for you