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Judging Darwin: Understanding the New Distributive Model of Evolution Instruction

65 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2009 Last revised: 4 Aug 2010

Louis J. Virelli III

Stetson University College of Law

Date Written: Fall 2010


The debate over teaching evolution in public school science classes is changing rapidly. States have recently adopted new anti-evolution policy measures that represent a significant departure from previous efforts to curtail the teaching of evolution. These new measures employ what I describe in this Article as the “distributive model” of evolution education. The distributive model shuns legislative or regulatory prescriptions in favor of higher-order policy statements encouraging educators to promote critical thinking about scientific questions, including evolution. These policy statements empower individual educators to judge for themselves how best to engage in a critical review of evolution on a case-by-case basis. The emergence of the distributive model is critical to the future of evolution instruction because it portends a paradigmatic shift in the way we view evolution education policy. Prior to the introduction of the distributive model, courts consistently invalidated efforts to curtail evolution instruction under the Establishment Clause. This Article identifies the emergence of the distributive model and argues for a brand new way of looking at evolution instruction policy through the lens of administrative, rather than merely First Amendment, law. This new perspective is important because it offers a more holistic view of the distributive model’s highly dynamic policy environment than that provided by the Establishment Clause. More specifically, viewing the distributive model in accord with principles of administrative law reveals a number of significant political and legal issues independent from, and potentially preclusive of, Establishment Clause analysis.

Keywords: evolution, education, science, establishment clause, administrative law, constitutional law

JEL Classification: K1, K19, K3, K39

Suggested Citation

Virelli, Louis J., Judging Darwin: Understanding the New Distributive Model of Evolution Instruction (Fall 2010). Stetson University College of Law Research Paper No. 2009-05; University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, Vol. 13, no. 1, Fall 2010. Available at SSRN:

Louis J. Virelli III (Contact Author)

Stetson University College of Law ( email )

1401 61st Street South
Gulfport, FL 33707
United States
727-562-7329 (Phone)
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