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A Brief History of the Controversy At the beginning of this century, some American citizens organized themselves against the teaching of Darwin's theory of natural selection, a move reflecting our society's changing social and educational traditions.For the first time, children were required to attend school well into their teens.The argument is often deeply emotional, and it always has political and legal dimensions.
They usually accept the framework of gradualism whenever the scientific community uses it.
But they often think that the fundamental origin of early life remains in the hands of a divine being, and they are often heartened by scientists' inability to create, in the Miller-Urey type of experiments, organic molecules more complex than amino acids.
The neo-Darwinists generally maintain a gradualist outlook, whereas the others allow for more rapid evolutionary change, but change that is still exclusively based on efficient causality.
The most important vehicle for evolution is thought to be natural selection acting on variations within the population.
In 1925 the famous Scopes "monkey trial" attempted to enforce a Tennessee statute against the teaching of evolution. Scopes, a public high school biology teacher, was convicted of breaking the law, the trial became an important victory for the proponents of Darwin's theory.
The publicity surrounding the trial portrayed the defense sympathetically: Scopes and his defenders were presented as informed, enlightened, and unbiased, and opponents to Darwinism were made to look ignorant and hateful.
This group is divided on what special qualities Homo sapiens may possess compared with those of other animals. This is a varied group of critics, both professional scientists (mostly in physics) and wide-ranging intellectuals, who are impressed by some of the difficulties in the Darwinian tradition.
Increasingly they accept the notion that humans are on some kind of continuum with other intelligent mammals such as primates, dolphins, and elephants. They thrive on the shortcomings of neo-Darwinism and the problems of the punctuated equilibrium viewpoint.
Some members of this group view mass extinctions as catastrophic, but others still insist that most so-called mass extinctions are merely variations of background extinctions.
All increasingly tend to think that extinctions are random, not directional.