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A matinee performance of “Inherit the Wind” by  UD’s Resident Ensemble Players will cap the Saturday Symposium, which focuses on evolution.
A matinee performance of “Inherit the Wind” by UD’s Resident Ensemble Players will cap the March 23 Saturday Symposium, which focuses on evolution.

Evolution controversy

Photos by Evan Krape and Kevin Quinlan

Symposium on March 23 to feature expert talks, theatrical performance

When Joan DelFattore talks about anti-evolutionism, one of the first things she points out is that the movement itself has evolved over the years in response to new scientific and legal challenges.

“In an ironic sort of way, the history of anti-evolutionism has been evolutionary,” said DelFattore, professor emerita of English and legal studies at the University of Delaware. “When the situation has changed, the movement has adapted.”

For example, at the time of the 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial” in Tennessee, the First Amendment was considered to apply only to the federal government, allowing states to use religion as the basis for laws banning the teaching of evolution. But a 1940 U.S. Supreme Court ruling found that states also were required to protect religious freedom.

A matinee performance of “Inherit the Wind” by UD’s Resident Ensemble Players will cap the Saturday Symposium, which focuses on evolution. Actor Michael Gotch portrays science teacher Bertram Cates, who is charged with teaching evolution
A matinee performance of “Inherit the Wind” by UD’s Resident Ensemble Players will cap the Saturday Symposium, which focuses on evolution. Actor Michael Gotch portrays science teacher Bertram Cates, who is charged with teaching evolution.

From then on, the anti-evolution movement began seeking new ways — ones that wouldn’t be viewed as promoting religion — to preserve the ability of states to outlaw the teaching of evolution, DelFattore said. When those efforts failed in the courts, she said, supporters changed tactics again and began promoting creationism and then intelligent design as what they hoped would be considered scientific alternatives to evolution.

“They were trying to get to a point where the courts can’t say: ‘It’s not science,’ ” she said. “But it hasn’t worked.” Courts continued to rule that teaching intelligent design as an alternative to evolution is not science but, instead, has a religious basis.

DelFattore will expand on her research into the issue at a March 23 Saturday Symposium at UD.

“Inherit the Wind: A Century of Controversy” is a daylong program that will feature talks by experts on the subject, culminating with a matinee performance of the University’s Resident Ensemble Players’ Inherit the Wind. The play, a courtroom drama that was inspired by the Scopes trial, raises issues still under debate today, including science and religion, free speech and academic freedom.

A matinee performance of “Inherit the Wind” by UD’s Resident Ensemble Players will cap the Saturday Symposium, which focuses on evolution. Stephen Pelinski (left) portrays prosecutor Matthew Harrison Brady, and Lee E. Ernst is defense attorney Henry Drummond.
A matinee performance of “Inherit the Wind” by UD’s Resident Ensemble Players will cap the Saturday Symposium, which focuses on evolution. Stephen Pelinski (left) portrays prosecutor Matthew Harrison Brady, and Lee E. Ernst is defense attorney Henry Drummond.

The symposium, to be held from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Roselle Center for the Arts, includes talks, lunch and a ticket to the play. General admission is $35; admission for Delaware students and teachers is $15; for those who already have a ticket to the play, the cost is $20 for the symposium and lunch.

The registration deadline is March 21, while ticket supplies last. To register, visit this website.

DelFattore’s talk, “From Dayton to Dover: A Brief History of Anti-Evolutionism in the U.S.,” will trace the movement until 2005, when a landmark case concerning the mandated teaching of intelligent design was heard in Dover, Pennsylvania.

She will be followed by John E. Jones III, the federal judge who presided over that case, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. He will discuss the case and legal actions that have occurred since it was heard.

Other speakers will include John Jungck, professor of biological and of mathematical sciences at UD, whose talk will focus on “How Evolution Informs Social Justice.” Sandy Robbins, producing artistic director of the REP, will lead a “talk-back” after the Inherit the Wind performance.

More information about the speakers is available here.

A matinee performance of “Inherit the Wind” by  UD’s Resident Ensemble Players will cap the Saturday Symposium, which focuses on evolution.
A matinee performance of “Inherit the Wind” by UD’s Resident Ensemble Players will cap the Saturday Symposium, which focuses on evolution.

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