Victory for evolution in Dover
A Pennsylvania judge ruled Dec. 20 that the Dover Area School Districts
science curriculum, which required the presentation of intelligent design (ID)
the belief that the complexity of life is evidence that a superior intellect
must have designed it as an alternative to evolution, is unconstitutional.
The Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover trial began Sept. 26, after parents sued the
school district, which had required teachers to read a statement about ID prior
to discussions of evolution in high school biology classes. Closing arguments
wrapped up the case about six weeks later, and after more than a month spent
reviewing the case, John E. Jones III, a federal judge for the U.S. District
Court in Harrisburg, Pa., appointed by President Bush, announced a decision.
To preserve the separation of church and state, Dover Area School District
teachers may not disparage the scientific theory of evolution and
also may not refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID,
Jones wrote in his decision. We find that while ID arguments may be true,
a proposition on which the court takes no position, ID is not science.
is a home-run, grand-slam kind of decision.
National Center for Science Education
Thus, this first federal case to challenge ID comes as a victory for the plaintiffs,
who were supported by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Center
for Science Education (NCSE). This is a home-run, grand-slam kind of decision,
says Nick Matzke of NCSE, who says that he worked full-time to provide the plaintiffs
lawyers with the history of creationism and scientific information about evolution.
Matzke says that Jones seems to have found the plaintiffs argument convincing
that ID is simply a new label for creationism. In his statement, Jones specifically
discussed the districts use of the reference book Of Pandas and People,
of which 50 copies were donated to the district in October 2004. During the
hearing, Jones discovered that soon after the Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that
creation science could not be taught in public schools, all occurrences of the
word creationism in Of Pandas and People were replaced with intelligent
design. He also said that the school board the defendants
lied to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID
John West of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based center that promotes ID,
announced in a Dec. 20 press release that although Jones found that the Dover
Board acted from religious motives, he went too far in offering
his own views of science, religion and evolution. Anyone who thinks a
court ruling is going to kill off interest in intelligent design is living in
another world, West said in the press release.
NCSEs Matzke says that he is interested to see what actions the Discovery
Institute takes over the next year. Dover schools may no longer allow the teaching
of ID, but Matzke thinks that creationists may continue to promote their ideas
under new names. As long as theres a large number of religious people
who take that [creationist] view, Matzke says, evolution is going
to remain controversial in this society. Still, Wesley Elsberry, also
of NCSE, says that school boards across the nation will likely look to this
case as a precedence case, and will not view ID with favor.
Just two weeks after the judge announced his decision, Dover schoolboard members
voted to officially remove ID from its curricula. Meanwhile in Kansas, State Department
of Education members continued to revise science standards to write around material
copyrighted by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Teachers
Association. In October, those two groups revoked copyright privileges for use
of their materials, saying that the recent science standards draft distorts
the definition of science and emphasizes controversy in the theory of evolution.
For links to past and related coverage of the Dover case, visit the original
Web Extra story published online
on Dec. 20 and in the archive at www.geotimes.org/WebextraArchive.html.
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