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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Case Dismissed

Jeanne Caldwell's lawsuit against the Understanding Evolution Web site, a joint project of the University of California Museum of Paleontology and the National Center for Science Education, has been dismissed. A federal appeals court has upheld the lower court's decision in the case, in which Caldwell challenged the constitutionality of the site, saying it violates the separation of church and state with statements made under the section "Misconception: 'Evolution and religion are incompatible.'" The site explains that the "misconception that one always has to choose between science and religion is incorrect. Of course, some religious beliefs explicitly contradict science (e.g., the belief that the world and all life on it was created in six literal days); however, most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings. In fact, many religious people, including theologians, feel that a deeper understanding of nature actually enriches their faith."
Caldwell argues that the site, which is supported by a federal grant, violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment with government-endorsed religious messages. She uses the site, she says, to participate as an informed citizen in debates and decisions about science class materials (her kids attend California public schools), but the appeals court found "there is too slight a connection between Caldwell's generalized grievance, and the government conduct about which she complains, to sustain her standing to proceed." —Heather Wax