Creation, Evolution, and the Passing of a Judicial Giant

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We note the passing today of US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. As America’s judicial watchers assess his full legacy, we note that there were strong hints that he denied the evolution worldview. Last year, speaking at his granddaughter’s high school graduation, Scalia declared, “Humanity has been around for at least some 5,000 years or so, and I doubt that the basic challenges as confronted are any worse now, or alas even much different, from what they ever were.” Biblical creationists argue for 6,000 years as the age of the earth and humankind; evolutionists contend that humans evolved from an ape-like ancestor millions of years ago.

Justice Scalia was also one of the dissenters in the famous 1987 Edwards v Aguillard decision, where the Supreme Court ruled that a Louisiana law requiring that creation be taught alongside evolution in government-run schools was unconstitutional. Although in his dissent the late justice did not expressly say that evolution was scientifically suspect, a careful reading of it offers hints that Justice Scalia was not an evolution follower. For example, his dissent stated: “We have no basis on the record to conclude that creation science need be anything other than a collection of scientific data supporting the theory that life abruptly appeared on earth. Creation science, its proponents insist, no more must explain whence life came than evolution must explain whence came the inanimate materials from which it says life evolved. But even if that were not so, to posit a past creator is not to posit the eternal and personal God who is the object of religious veneration. Indeed, it is not even to posit the ‘unmoved mover’ hypothesized by Aristotle and other notably nonfundamentalist philosophers.”1

Justice Scalia also opposed abortion and gay “marriage,” two hot-button issues addressed in the Book of Genesis. As a traditional Roman Catholic, he apparently accepted the teachings of Genesis, in which humans are created in God’s image, thus making abortion wrong, and marriage is instituted as one man for one woman, starting with Adam and Eve.

Footnotes

  1. Editor’s note: in a previous version of this article, we quoted from another portion of Judge Scalia’s dissent. However, in that excerpt Scalia had summarized the beliefs of a creationist and did not necessarily subscribe to all that the creationist believed. We apologize for the error.

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