These students were not asking for evolution to be muted in their classrooms. They simply wanted Special Creationism to be taught along side evolution.
These students articulated that they wanted to be given all of the facts and then be allowed to decide for themselves what was true. They felt that Special Creationism had merit and needed to be taught along side evolution so that they can make an informed decision.
While this petition was student led, I'm confident (though not certain, of course) that an adult or two were behind this effort.
I suspect this because I started a bible study back in my high school years. Despite my religious enthusiasm in those days, an adult prompted me to meet with my high school principal to gain permission to meet. He prepped me with legal information as leverage (which actually backed my principal into a corner when she first seemed hesitant to comply). Also, adults supported our meetings which furthered our drive as students. We didn't impose our meetings on others and did not meet during school hours. We could meet before or after, according to the law at the time (which I think is still valid, for those of you who insist that prayer has been taken out of school).
So, I'm confident these students had similar influences even thought they were probably just as passionate about this debate as the adults who possibly put them up to this petition.
During the formal presentation of their petition to the school board, the students eloquently made their case. And many of the students who supported the petition donned black T-shirts with white type that read:
Just give us the facts and then let us decide.
And on the back of their snazzy black T-shirts was printed the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Nice touch, I must say.
Students kept insisting to the school board that they deserved to have all the facts. Somehow, they seemed to "know" that Special Creationism was as valid as evolution and deserved to be taught in their biology classrooms. "Just give us all the facts and then leave us to decide", they reiterated.
Interesting . . .
Honestly, I loved their T-shirts. I want one! But I don't think they really understood what they were asking. I think they only fashioned their words to sound like they wanted all the scientific information that was available to them.
But what they really said was:
Just give us the facts and we'll decide which ones we like and don't like.
Because the fact is, Special Creationism is not a scientific theory.
Special Creationism doesn't help us understand why a monster strain of Tuberculosis is on the rise. Nor does Special Creationism give us clues as to how we stop it.
Intelligent Design doesn't answer questions about why certain people are immune to the AIDS virus and how that may one day help us achieve a cure.
Special creation "theory" doesn't help HIV patients live longer by understanding that the virus evolves as it continually duplicates inside it's host-victim.
As an HIV patient takes medication for a while, a variant of the AIDS virus becomes resistant to the medication as the other variants of the virus die off in the patient's system. As a result, a dominant strain overcomes the medication and causes the patient's condition to worsen.
If planned carefully, medication can be paused for a period of time. During this time, the resistant variant starts to make varied strains of the virus again. But in doing so, the resistant HIV population becomes dwarfed by it's own diverse offspring of viruses which are once again susceptible to medication. This tactic has extended the survival and health of patients who are battling AIDS.
The insight for this treatment plan comes from acknowledging and studying evolution. Not from studying Special Creation or Intelligent Design.
Think of another example. What if you were studying fish in a pond? You needed to find out why the fish were contracting a fungus that was killing many of them. You soon discover that some of the fish are sexual in their reproduction and others are asexual (clones).
You learn from observation that the healthiest fish are offspring of sexual parents while the asexual fish become sick by the fungus most often.
During your study, the pond dries up due to a drought. All the fish either die or migrate. But fortunately, the pond fills up with water again after the drought and the fish population returns.
Ugh! But you see the previous health trends reverse! Now the asexual are healthier than the sexual fish and the fungus seems to hit the sexual population extra hard.
Can Intelligent Design answer this question?
No. But studying evolution can.
The genetic diversity in the asexual fish is always very low. So the fungus can run amok with the asexual fish because they have little diversity driving traits that resist infections.
But when the pond dried up, the fish population shrank so much that the sexual population of fish had to inbreed in order to survive! As a result, the sexual fish became more clone-like than the asexual fish; the diversity of their gene pool fell lower than their asexual counterparts!
After understanding the problem, the solution can easily fixed the problem. Find some genetically diverse fish that reproduce sexually and add them to the pond. The offspring of the sexual fish become resistant to the fungus just as before-- all thanks to studying evolution.
If you must insist that Special Creationism is science, then the ways of creation must be studied through the theory of evolution.
Evolution is a fact. Of course we don't understand everything about it. And while we don't know if we humans came from slime billions of years ago, we do know that we have common ancestors with other species of apes from millions of years ago.
So when you say that you simply want the facts, be sure that you really mean that. That's what a good scientist strives for-- just the facts.
Even the uncomfortable ones.
So those students in Lafayette, Indiana were getting the facts. Some of the students simply didn't like what the facts started to imply concerning their literal interpretation of the bible. As a result, they decided that they wanted an alternative to the facts instead.
As it turns out, the school board kindly and gently rejected their petition.
And most of the biology and chemistry teachers at Jefferson High School wiped sweat from their brows as they sighed a great sigh of relief.