(Photos: Bush and Ape -- You decide if they appear related)
In a 6 to 3 vote on October 18, 2004, the Dover Pennsylvania School Board of Directors passed a resolution stating:
Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other
theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design.
The School Board was going to require teachers read the following statement to 9th grade biology students in January 2005:
The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin’s
Theory of Evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part. Because Darwin’s Theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.
Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually nvolves.
With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the Origins of Life to individual students and their families. As a Standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on Standards-based assessments.
A parent of 2 Dover School students filed a lawsuit against the School Board contending that the Intelligent Design policy violated the First Amendment’s prohibition against the government establishing any religion.
The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania agreed with the parents and held that the Dover School Board policy regarding Intelligent Design was unconstitutional pursuant to the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and to Article I, Section 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Kitzmiller v. Dover.
The Court noted that the “Discovery Institute”, the organization promoting the theory of Intelligent Design, had developed a policy document that states that the goal was to “defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies” and to “replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.”
The policy document also announced a 5 year strategic plan which set forth a goal of replacing “science as currently practiced with “theistic and Christian science.” The policy also described the final goal as being a “complete scientific revolution in which ID will supplant evolutionary theory.”
In his holding, Judge James Jones, III noted that “ every major scientific association that has taken a position on the issue of whether ID is science has concluded that ID is not, and cannot be considered as such.” The Court also noted:
Initially, we note that NAS, the “most prestigious” scientific association
in this country, views ID as follows:
Creationism, intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural
intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science because they
are not testable by the methods of science. These claims
subordinate observed data to statements based on authority,
revelation, or religious belief. Documentation offered in support of these
claims is typically limited to the special publications of their advocates.
These publications do not offer hypotheses subject to change in light of new
data, new interpretations, or demonstration of error. This contrasts with
science, where any hypothesis or theory always remains subject to the
possibility of rejection or modification in the light of new knowledge.
Additionally, the American Association for the Advancement
of Science (hereinafter “AAAS”), the largest organization of scientists in this
country, has taken a similar position on ID, namely, that it “has not proposed a
scientific means of testing its claims” and that “the lack of scientific warrant
for so-called ‘intelligent design theory’ makes it improper to include as part
of science education . . .” . Not a single expert witness over the course of the
six week trial identified one major scientific association, society or
organization that endorsed ID as science.
Supporters of Intelligent Design have attacked the Judge for his holding. Interestingly, Judge Jones is a conservative Judge who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2002. Yet the Judge knew he would likely come under attack by the Religious Right as a result of his opinion and he addressed it by stating:
Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy.
The Court went on to state:
The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.
Then, almost as emphasis on how ridiculous he thought the entire concept was of Intelligent Design and those who were promoting it, the court then “permanently” prohibited the school district from mentioning the topic and from disparaging Darwin’s theory. Specifically, the Court stated: "we will enter an order permanently enjoining Defendants from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District, from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution, and from requiring teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID."
As predicted by the Judge himself, the Discovery Institute, the prime promoter of Intelligent Design has attacked the Court on a personal basis and is preparing to appeal the decision. In a letter to the editor of the New York Times, Robert Crowther of the Discovery institute wrote:
Judge Jones’ ruling on intelligent design is rife with false assertions and mischaracterizations of the theory of intelligent design. Here are just a few:
It mischaracterizes ID as a supernatural explanation even though it isn't and even though expert scientists testified that this isn’t the case.
It falsely states that a key ID argument, irreducible complexity, has been refuted. It has not. Indeed, in just the past year Cambridge University Press published an entire volume titled “Debating Design” which shows the issue is still very much under discussion.
It asserts the factually false claim that ID proponents haven’t published peer reviewed papers. A number of peer-reviewed papers and ooks are listed on the Discovery Institute website at http://www.discovery.org/csc/
Most incredibly, this lower district court decision describes itself as the final answer for all courts, behaving and talking like it was handed down from the Supreme Court. A judge’s order doesn’t change the fact that there is digital code in DNA, that the laws of physics are finely tuned and that there are miniature machines in cells. Intelligent design research will go on and the scientific evidence will win out in the end.
Rather than admitting that the theory of Intelligent Design is a religious doctrine, the Discovery Institute is writing letters to editors claiming that scientists, and the court, are censoring free speech. Discussions on the Discovery Institute webpage indicate they view the Judge’s opinion as “extremist”.