Television Reviews : 'Darwin, Dinosaurs' Issue Not Extinct

Anyone who thinks that the debate over the teaching of evolution in our public schools is passe should take a look at "God, Darwin and the Dinosaurs," a "Nova" segment airing tonight at 8 on Channels 28 and 15 and at 9 on Channel 50.

If anything, the battle is heating up--witness the California State Department of Education ruling last month forcing a Christian school in Santee to separate its creationist teachings from its science courses. Religious fundamentalists fighting for the right to teach the biblical view of creation have taken a new tack--teaching creationism as a science --that promises to make the famous Scopes Monkey Trial look like a minor skirmish in the ongoing war over the separation of church and state.

Producer-writers Thomas Lucas and Larry Engel have done a solid, balanced job delineating complex legal and religious issues. Teachers, scientists and religious leaders from both sides are given sufficient time to make their points.

The historical information in "God, Darwin and the Dinosaurs" is fascinating stuff, showing the incredible impact Charles Darwin's theory had on 19th-Century science and 20th-Century social movements. We are also reminded that Scopes was convicted, that the Tennessee law stayed on the books until 1957, and that the law was used as a model in other states, and that it wasn't until the 1950s that there was a rebirth of science teaching.

Although "God, Darwin and the Dinosaurs" drags a bit toward the end, it is nonetheless an enlightening and interesting look at an emotional issue that all-too-often devolves into name-calling arguments.

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