Atoms and Eden

Science vs religion
The 2010 books Atoms & Eden, by Steve Paulson, and Science vs Religion, by American sociologist Elaine Howard, present the results of a surveys and interviews of over 1700 physical scientists and social sciences at top American and European research universities on the ongoing tension and irreconcilablilities between science and religion in practice in the education system. [12]
In court, science vs religion legal cases refers to court resolved disputes that involved or embroiled modern physical science in some way or another in direct or indirect tensioned conflict with religion, of which views tend to misalign.

The surface motives for such cases in many causes are elusive, but the underlying motive, in a general sense, is summed up well by Edward Humes, from his recent book on the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, involving the teaching of man's origins in high school:

“The implications were fairly horrifying when it came to man’s place in this Darwinian world. Higher purpose was gone. And what of the soul? Only men had souls, it was said, but if humans shared a legacy with apes and sharks and slugs, did that leave room for a soul? For an afterlife? The logic of Darwin suggests that human existence is nothing more than a happy accident brought about by blind chance.”

In other words, in attempting to pinpoint the religions repercussions of newer scientific findings e.g. that the "earth moves" (Galilei trail, 1633), that "people are human molecules synthesized from atoms in a great process" (Sales trial, 1775) that "humans are descendant from lower animals" (Darwin trials, 1925-), "that stem cells have souls" (Stem cell trails, 1998-), etc., the task is not at all simple, but generally has to do with the newly discovered fact, theory, procedure, or scientific finding erodes away at and is generally abrasive to higher purpose, and as such is contestable.

Of science connected legal cases, those in the field of legal thermodynamics, i.e. those cases which directly involve the laws of thermodynamics, the set of laws that govern the operation of the known universe, to the effect that the ruling was either amended towards the guidelines of the laws of thermodynamics, thus relieving tension, or against the guidelines of the laws of thermodynamics, thus increasing tension, are of great interest.

Some of these science-conflicting cases are listing below (a work in progress):

Galileo before the Holy Office (1633)

The pinnacle spectacle of the science v. religion legal case, adjacent, physicist Galileo Galilei on trail in 1633 for “suspicion of heresy” for his “moving earth theory” and support of the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus’ 1543 heliocentric model.

Galileo's view and telescope findings disagreed with Aristotle’s 350BC geocentric model of the universe, a view supported by the Catholic Church, as was at odds with several passages from the Bible, namely that "the earth cannot be moved". [11]
Galileo v. Roman Catholic Church
(Galilean inquisitions)
1633Galileo GalileiIn 1609, Italian physicist Galileo Galilei began making telescope observations, publishing the results the following year in his the Starry Messenger, findings which began to allude to the conclusion that the “earth moves”, a view at odds with the established and accepted Aristotelian views of the Church and passages from the bible such as:

“The world is established and cannot be moved.”

A 1613 dinner party conversation on this topic between the Duke of Tuscany, the Duchess of Tuscany, the person who gave Galileo his professorship, Benedetto Castelli, a physics professor, and Cosimo Boscaglia, a philosophy professor, ended with Boscaglia accusing Galileo of heresy, because moving earth theory conflicts with Biblical stationary earth theory.

Galileo was eventually was tried in 1633 as depicted below:
Decision: Galileo was convicted of heresy, made to recant his views, and was put under house arrest for the remainder of his life.
Sales v. The Chatelet1775 Jean SalesIn 1770, French philosopher Jean Sales published the first volume of his The Philosophy of Nature: Treatise on Human Moral Nature, in which he outlined the revolutionary view that people are types of molecules, which he named as “human molecules”, and that these millions of human molecules presently populating the earth, as he put it, were formed or synthesized through a “great process in which so many millions of atoms of the earth became so many millions of human molecules.”

The book was condemned by the Chatelet, a Paris courthouse and prison, in 1775 after which Sales was imprisoned and later sentenced to perpetual banishment on what have been called "absurdly inadequate grounds".
The State of Tennessee v. Scopes
(Scopes Monkey trial)

(v. creationism)
Scopes Monkey trial
In Tennessee, in 1925, the newly passed Butler act illegal to each evolution in school:

"That it shall be unlawful for any teacher in any University and all other public schools of the State which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, to teach any theory that denies the Story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals."

Bryan book sale (1925) 400pxThe law was introduced by farmer (and part time high school teacher) John Butler (pictured) who specifically intended it to prohibit the teaching of evolution; his reasoning being, as he later reported:

"I didn't know anything about evolution when I introduced it. I'd read in the papers that boys and girls were coming home from school and telling their fathers and mothers that the Bible was all nonsense."

Prior to this statement, in circa 1920, at the Primitive Baptist church, Butler was said to have listed to a sermon about young woman in his Tennessee community who enrolled in a biology course at a nearby university, and after finishing the course returned home, the preacher said, and was no longer a Christian. The theory of evolution was said to have destroyed her faith in god.

Darwin is right (1925)
Butler asked himself whether evolution could turn one his own three boys into an atheist. Could this happen to his neighbors’ children? Could this happen in his the high schools of his own Macon County, where evolution was currently being taught?

It just wasn’t right, Butler thought, that parents could bring their children up to be God-fearing, only to have a taxpayer-supported biology teacher rob them of their faith. Evolution fit into a strong concern he had about education: it replaced the solid, land-based values of his neighbors with more cosmopolitan and irreligious values.

In this direction, in 1922 Butler ran as a Democrat for state representative and in his campaign fliers promised voters in his district that he "would work to protect schoolchildren from the effects of the godless doctrine of evolution".
Scopes Monkey Trial 400
Three years later, when the Scopes “Monkey” Trial came to Tennessee, Butler told an interviewer that the dairy farmers and sheep ranchers of this rural district overwhelmingly supported his stand against teaching evolution. “Ninety-nine people out of a hundred in my district thought just as I did,” Butler said. “I say ninety-nine out of a hundred because there may be some hold different from what I think they do, but so far as I know there isn’t a one in the whole district that thinks evolution—of man, that is—can be the way scientists tell it.”

In the end, high school biology teacher John Scopes was accused of violating the state's Butler Act that made it unlawful to teach evolution. Scopes was found guilty, but the verdict was overturned on a technicality and he was never brought back to trial. An outspoken representative in the trial was a Reverend Jim Grove (above) who believed that "evolution is the road to atheism".
Sputnik launch
(ramped up science focus)
1957The teaching of evolution was formerly banned in four states; and evolution theory was barely mentioned, or avoided entirely, in most schools and textbooks for the previous three decades, owing to public and political pressure against textbook publishers. With the Russian launch of Sputnik, President Dwight Eisenhower pushed for ramped up science and math education as a matter of national security. [3]
United States v. Grayson

Free will
(v. determinism)
1978United States v GraysonSynopsis: Established the Supreme Court's stance on free will as being a "universal and persistent" foundation of the system of law, distinct from "a deterministic view of human conduct that is inconsistent with the underlying precepts of the criminal justice system."

Repercussion: A scientific non-belief in the theory of free will is considered an illegal view in modern times; said another way "any scientific developments that threaten our notion of free will would seem to put the ethics of punishing people for their bad behavior in question." [1]

A lawyer-style cartoon (adjacent) of United States v. Grayson. [10]
McLean v. Arkansas

(v. creation science)
1982Harold MorowitzSynopsis: The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas by various parents, religious groups and organizations, biologists, and others who argued that the Arkansas state law known as the Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act (Act 590), which mandated the teaching of "creation science" in Arkansas public schools, was unconstitutional because it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Judge William Overton handed down a decision on January 5, 1982, giving a clear, specific definition of science as a basis for ruling that creation science is religion and is simply not science. The ruling was not binding on schools outside the Eastern District of Arkansas but had considerable influence on subsequent rulings on the teaching of creationism. [4]

In the trial, American biophysicist and biological thermodynamics expert Harold Morowitz (pictured) was tasked with demonstrating that the origins of life did not violate the laws of thermodynamics, and gave expert testimony in the case. [5] The transcript, available online, is a fairly humorous read; Morowitz states, for instance, in reference to creation scientists, that “they play fairly fast and loose with the second law of thermodynamics.” [6]
Edwards v. Aguillard

(v. creation science)
1987 Intelligent design (etymology)Synopsis: was a legal case about the teaching of creationism that was heard by the Supreme Court of the United States. The Court ruled that a Louisiana law requiring that creation science be taught in public schools, along with evolution, was unconstitutional because the law was specifically intended to advance a particular religion. It also held that "teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to school children might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction." [7]

Repercussion: the ruling that the teaching "creation science" was unconstitutional, made by the Supreme Court, made that determination applicable nationwide.
Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District

(v. intelligent design)

(job security)
2005Bonsell and BuckinghamSynopsis: a lawsuit filed by a group of parents against their creationism-believing, evolution-doubting school board; several high school science teacher has their jobs threatened if they taught Darwinian evolution, and in particular human origins. [3]

Bonsell: “Evolution is fiction: students will be made aware of the gaps and problems in Darwin’s theory of evolution and also of the alternative theory of creation by an intelligent designer.”
Buckingham: “It’s inexcusable to teach from a book, laced with Darwinism, saying that man descended from apes and monkeys”.

Dover high school
Alan Bonsell (left), a auto and radiator repair shop owner, who was concerned with "issues of morality", or the lack thereof, associated with teaching evolution and the origins of man, and Bill Buckingham (right), a retired police officer, were two members of the Dover school board who advocated bringing intelligent design into the science classroom.

In the trial, evidence (graph depicted above) showing how the word "intelligent design" came into the American vernacular, following the 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard ruling, that creationism and creation science are not subjects permissible to be taught in public schools, was presented.
Stem cell research
(government funding)

In 1998, privately funded research led to the breakthrough discovery of Human Embryonic Stem Cells (hESC). This prompted the Clinton Administration to re-examine guidelines for federal funding of embryonic research.

The Obama administration has not removed the most important impediments to embryonic stem-cell research; currently, federal funding is only allowed for work on stem cells that have been derived from surplus embryos at fertility clinics. The general issue is that embryos are the work of God and thus it is immoral to use them for research, or that, supposedly, the “soul enters the zygote” at or very near the moment of conception, sometime before embryo reaches the 150-cell-state. The decision to uphold these legal impediments is said to be a clear concession to the religious convictions of the American electorate.

The head advisor to this decision to not allow stem cell research is American physical chemist and geneticist Francis Collins, the Obama-appointed head of the National Institute of Health (NIH), the institute in charge of an annual budget of $30 billion, the largest scientific research funder on the planet.

Collins, in his own words, states that culled his views on God from Irish-born British writer C.S. Lewis, and atheist (15) turned theist (31) turned Christian (33) and his theory of “universal morality” as presented in his works such as the The Chronicles of Narnia.

Collins holds the view, as described in his 2006 book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, that after evolution had prepared a sufficiently advanced “brain”, that at some point God gifted humanity with the knowledge of good and evil, what he calls the “moral law”, with free will, and an immortal soul, and that some humans use their free will to break the moral law, leading to an estrangement from God, for which Jesus is the solution.

In regard to stem cells, Collins considers embryos created via somatic-cell nuclear transfer to be distinct from those formed through the union of sperm and egg, the former being “not part of God’s plan to create the human individual”, the latter being “very much part of God’s plan.” [8]

1. Harris, Sam. (2010). The Moral Landscape: How Science can Determine Human Values (pg. 106) Free Press.
2. Scopes Trial – Wikipedia.
3. (a) Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (2005) – Wikipedia.
(b) Humes, Edward. (2007). Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America's Soul (four state ban, pg. 7). Harper Perennial.
4. McLean v. Arkansas – Wikipedia.
Banks, Rey C. (2006). “Mason Students Have Access to one of the World’s Foremost Researchers on the Origins of Life: Harold Morowitz”, The Mason Gazette, 14 Aug.
6. McLean v. Arkansas Documentation Project. (1982). “Testimony of Dr. Harold Morowitz”, Professor of Biophysics, Yale University (Plaintiffs Witness).
7. Edwards v. Aguillard – Wikipedia.
8. Harris, Sam. (2010). The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Moral Values (pgs. 160-173). Free Press.
9. (a) Linder, Doug. (2004). “John Washington Butler”,
(b) John Washington Buttler –
(c) The Scopes Trial in Dayton –
10. United States v. Grayson –
11. (a) Galileo affair – Wikipedia.
(b) Geocentric model – Wikipedia.
(b) Aristotelian physics – Wikipedia.
(c) Galileo before the Holy Office – a 19th century painting by Joseph-Nicolas Robert-Fleury.
12. (a) Ecklund, Elaine H. (2010). Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think. Oxford University Press.
(b) Paulson, Steve. (2010). Atoms and Eden: Conversations on Religion and Science. Oxford University Press.

External links
Epperson v. Arkansas – 1968
Daniel v. Waters – 1975
Hendren v. Campbell – 1977
Scopes museum photos –

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