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Act 590 of 1981, General Assembly, State of Arkansas

The Act required equal treatment between evolution and creation in public schools. This Act was signed into law on 19 March 1981 by Governor Frank White and injoined on 5 January 1982 by Judge William R. Overton of the United States District Court. The grounds for the injunction were that the Act fostered religion in schools, which is illegal by the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

One of the interesting points of the Act was that it forced the court to decide on a definition of science. This definition states that regarding a scientific theory

  1. It is guided by natural law;
  2. It has to be explanatory by reference to natural law;
  3. It is testable against the empirical world;
  4. Its conclusions are tentative, i.e., are not necessarily the final word; and
  5. It is falsifiable.
as set out in Section IV(c) of Overton's decision. For more information on exactly what these terms meant in the context of the trial read the testimony of Michael Ruse.

The exact preamble of the original Act reads as follows (original was in all caps)

An act to require balanced treatment of creation-science and evolution-science in public schools; to protect academic freedom by providing student choice; to ensure freedom of religious exercise; to guarantee freedom of belief and speech; to prevent establishment of religion; to prohibit religious instruction concerning origins; to bar discrimination on the basis of creationist or evolutionist belief; to provide definitions and clarifications; to declare the legislative purpose and legislative findings of fact; to provide for severability of provisions: to provide for repeal of contrary laws; and to set forth an effective date.
It is written in the decision that this act is "codified as Ark. Stat. Ann. §0-1663, et seq. (1981 Suppl.)."

For more information about the issues revolving around this act see But Is it Science? ed. by Michael Ruse.

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