Evolutionary progress:Darwin 1, creationists 0

In South Carolina, State Sen. Mike Fair of Greenville attempted to revive the century-old debate about the teaching of evolution in public school classrooms, but the fire seems to have gone out of that crusade.

Federal courts ruled years ago that both creationism and intelligent design – the approaches favored by biblical literalists – are not scientific theories and should not be taught in public schools. The literalists’ last stand is an effort to make the curriculum suggest doubts about a theory that scientists consider uncontroversial. No, thanks, educators are saying.

S.C. education leaders agreed only to state a simple fact: that “evolution, as with any aspect of science, is continually open to and subject to experimental and observational testing.”

Back in the 1920s, fundamentalists stormed through the South, preaching that teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution amounted to branding the Bible a book of lies. Mississippi enacted a ban after a legislator argued that Darwin’s theory made a monkey out of God. North Carolina rejected a ban after a young legislator named Sam Ervin argued that all it would do was “gratify the monkeys to know they are absolved from all responsibility for the conduct of the human race.”

Though only Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee banned teaching of evolution, in most Southern states the debate has periodically re-emerged South Carolina’s dispassionate handling of the issue suggests it’s over. Thank heavens.