NTS LogoSkeptical News for 22 December 2005

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Intelligent Decision


Thursday, December 22, 2005; Page A28

THE DECISION this week by U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III declaring unconstitutional the Dover, Pa., school board's advocacy of "intelligent design" is not binding on any other jurisdiction. In practical terms it doesn't matter even in Dover, where voters recently tossed out all but one of the school board members responsible for ensuring that high school biology students get advised of this "alternative" to classical evolutionary theory. It is nonetheless an important decision, both because it exhaustively documents how the theory of intelligent design is not science but cleverly repackaged creationism and because it rightly insists that such a religion-infused idea has no place in public schools. It therefore represents a model for judicial consideration of the proliferating effort to use intelligent design to undermine the teaching of biology.

Advocates of intelligent design don't talk about God, and they use scientific-sounding language. But Judge Jones's opinion, all 139 pages of it, makes abundantly clear that intelligent design -- which posits that the complexity of natural life shows distinctive elements of design -- is nonetheless religious at its core. While its partisans do not identify who the designer is, they offer a supernatural explanation for natural phenomena, which is an essentially nonscientific approach -- untested and indeed untestable. Their texts contain much of the same argumentation, some of it quite distortional of evolutionary theory and science, as earlier work on "creation science." And the school board adopted its policy of reading students a disclaimer that posed intelligent design as an alternative to evolution after hearings at which board members repeatedly expressed religious motivations -- a fact that some of them tried to obscure at trial. "It is ironic," Judge Jones wrote, "that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the [intelligent design] Policy."

The separation of church and state does not tolerate the promulgation of religion in public schools. Case law has clarified that this restriction prevents jurisdictions both from prohibiting the teaching of evolution and from requiring the teaching of creationism as science alongside it. Judge Jones has taken an important additional step, holding that it also forbids the teaching of creationism masked in scientific lingo, even without overt references to God. If a school district adopts a policy of promoting a religious cosmology, however couched, in an effort to undermine science and thereby instill religious values, that policy must fall. As other jurisdictions contemplate similar acts of what Judge Jones calls "breathtaking inanity," this is a good principle for courts to follow.

Advocates of 'Intelligent Design' Vow to Continue Despite Ruling


By Michael Powell Washington Post Staff Writer

Thursday, December 22, 2005; Page A03

A federal judge's ruling in Pennsylvania that "intelligent design" is religious fundamentalism dressed in the raiment of science has wounded a politically influential movement.

"It was a real disappointment," biochemist Michael J. Behe, who testified in the trial, said from his office at Lehigh University. "It's hard to say this chills the atmosphere, because if you're publicly known as an ID supporter you can already kiss your tenure chances goodbye. It doesn't help."

But Behe and other proponents of intelligent design emphasized that the court decision would not cast them into the political and cultural wilderness. They have pushed their theory, which holds that life is too complicated to have arisen without the hand of a supernatural creator, to the center of legislative debates in more than a dozen states, and they intend to keep it there.

Some politically influential backers of intelligent design warned that U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, who was appointed by President Bush, so overreached that his ruling will outrage and inflame millions of conservative and religiously observant Americans.

"This decision is a poster child for a half-century secularist reign of terror that's coming to a rapid end with Justice Roberts and soon-to-be Justice Alito," said Richard Land, who is president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and is a political ally of White House adviser Karl Rove. "This was an extremely injudicious judge who went way, way beyond his boundaries -- if he had any eyes on advancing up the judicial ladder, he just sawed off the bottom rung."

Jones's expansively written decision incorporated the scientific critique of intelligent design as pseudoscience in almost every detail. Legally, that decision is not binding in other states, such as Kansas, where the state school board is debating incorporating a critique of Darwinian evolution into its state standards.

Kansas officials said they would not mandate specific mention of intelligent design.

"The heart of science should be looking at the gaps in theory and trying to figure out what that's about," said Steve Abrams, a Kansas school board member. "This decision will perhaps have an effect on other states, but we don't talk about intelligent design."

Still, few advocates of intelligent design tried to hide their dismay with the judge's decision. The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank, wrote that the judge has a "pernicious understanding of what intellectual and religious freedom in America means." Some acknowledged that the decision foreshadows a much longer and more complicated battle for public acceptance.

Steve Fuller, a philosopher of science at the University of Warwick in England, whose politics tend to the left, said he worries that Jones's decision will drive an intriguing if still half-formed challenge to Darwinian theory out of the academy and into the theology schools. "The judge's ruling really puts the burden on the intelligent-design guys," Fuller said. "The judge's ruling that the theory is theology could become a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Other advocates take comfort in history. They note that in 1925, lawyer Clarence Darrow argued and lost the Scopes "monkey trial," in which a teacher was convicted of teaching that man descended from apes. But in the long run, that loss became a victory for evolutionary theory.

William A. Dembski, a philosopher and math professor at Southern Seminary in Louisville, wrote in his Web log that the loss in Pennsylvania means thousands more young people "would continue to be indoctrinated into a neo-Darwinian view of biological origins." But he wrote that the future is bright.

"ID is rapidly going international and crossing metaphysical and theological boundaries," Dembski wrote. "The important thing is ID's intellectual vitality."

Intelligent Design Derailed


Published: December 22, 2005

By now, the Christian conservatives who once dominated the school board in Dover, Pa., ought to rue their recklessness in forcing biology classes to hear about "intelligent design" as an alternative to the theory of evolution. Not only were they voted off the school board by an exasperated public last November, but this week a federal district judge declared their handiwork unconstitutional and told the school district to abandon a policy of such "breathtaking inanity."

A new and wiser school board is planning to do just that by removing intelligent design from the science curriculum and perhaps placing it in an elective course on comparative religion. That would be a more appropriate venue to learn about what the judge deemed "a religious view, a mere relabeling of creationism and not a scientific theory."

The intelligent design movement holds that life forms are too complex to have been formed by natural processes and must have been fashioned by a higher intelligence, which is never officially identified but which most adherents believe to be God. By injecting intelligent design into the science curriculum, the judge ruled, the board was unconstitutionally endorsing a religious viewpoint that advances "a particular version of Christianity."

The decision will have come at an opportune time if it is able to deflect other misguided efforts by religious conservatives to undermine the teaching of evolution, a central organizing principle of modern biology. In Georgia, a federal appeals court shows signs of wanting to reverse a lower court that said it was unconstitutional to require textbooks to carry a sticker disparaging evolution as "a theory, not a fact." That's the line of argument used by the anti-evolution crowd. We can only hope that the judges in Atlanta find the reasoning of the Pennsylvania judge, who dealt with comparable issues, persuasive.

Meanwhile in Kansas, the State Board of Education has urged schools to criticize evolution. It has also changed the definition of science so it is not limited to natural explanations, opening the way for including intelligent design or other forms of creationism that cannot meet traditional definitions of science. All Kansans interested in a sound science curriculum should heed what happened in Dover and vote out the inane board members.

The judge in the Pennsylvania case, John Jones III, can hardly be accused of being a liberal activist out to overturn community values - even by those inclined to see conspiracies. He is a lifelong Republican, appointed to the bench by President Bush, and has been praised for his integrity and intellect. Indeed, as the judge pointed out, the real activists in this case were ill-informed school board members, aided by a public interest law firm that promotes Christian values, who combined to drive the board to adopt an imprudent and unconstitutional policy.

Judge Jones's decision was a striking repudiation of intelligent design, given that Dover's policy was minimally intrusive on classroom teaching. Administrators merely read a brief disclaimer at the beginning of a class asserting that evolution was a theory, not a fact; that there were gaps in the evidence for evolution; and that intelligent design provided an alternative explanation and could be further explored by consulting a book in the school library. Yet even that minimal statement amounted to an endorsement of religion, the judge concluded, because it caused students to doubt the theory of evolution without scientific justification and presented them with a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory.

The case was most notable for its searching inquiry into whether intelligent design could be considered science. The answer, after a six-week trial that included hours of expert testimony, was a resounding no.

The judge found that intelligent design violated the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking supernatural causation and by making assertions that could not be tested or proved wrong. Moreover, intelligent design has not gained acceptance in the scientific community, has not been supported by peer-reviewed research, and has not generated a research and testing program of its own. The core argument for intelligent design - the supposedly irreducible complexity of key biological systems - has clear theological overtones. As long ago as the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas argued that because nature is complex, it must have a designer.

The religious thrust behind Dover's policy was unmistakable. The board members who pushed the policy through had repeatedly expressed religious reasons for opposing evolution, though they tried to dissemble during the trial. Judge Jones charged that the two ringleaders lied in depositions to hide the fact that they had raised money at a church to buy copies of an intelligent design textbook for the school library. He also found that board members were strikingly ignorant about intelligent design and that several individuals had lied time and again to hide their religious motivations for backing the concept. Their contention that they had a secular purpose - to improve science education and encourage critical thinking - was declared a sham.

No one believes that this thoroughgoing repudiation of intelligent design will end the incessant warfare over evolution. But any community that is worried about the ability of its students to compete in a global economy would be wise to keep supernatural explanations out of its science classes.

Schools Nationwide Study Impact of Evolution Ruling


By LAURIE GOODSTEIN Published: December 22, 2005

When the school board in Muscatine, Iowa, sits down next year for its twice-a-decade evaluation of the district's science curriculum, the matter of whether to teach intelligent design as a challenge to evolution is expected to come up for discussion.

Board members disagree about whether they will be swayed by a sweeping court decision on intelligent design released on Tuesday in Pennsylvania. A federal judge there ruled intelligent design "a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory" that must not be taught in a public school science class.

"I don't think that a judge in one state is going to be able to tell everybody in all other states what to do," said Paul Brooks, a school board member and retired principal in Muscatine who favors teaching intelligent design. "So I don't get too excited about what he said."

The board's vice president, Ann Hart, demurred. "This determination in Pennsylvania will help the cause," Ms. Hart said, "for those of us who think intelligent design should not be taught in public school science classes because of separation of church and state."

Educators and legislators in Muscatine and other communities that are considering intelligent design said they were learning about the results of the trial involving the school board in Dover, Pa., and had not read the decision.

The Dover board voted in October 2004 to have students listen to a statement at the start of biology class that said that evolution was a flawed theory and that intelligent design was an alternative they could study further. It was a limited step, but opened the door to a lawsuit from local parents that became the nation's first test case of the legal merits of teaching intelligent design.

The federal district judge in the Pennsylvania case, John E. Jones III, ruled after a six-week trial that intelligent design was "an interesting theological argument, but it is not science." He concluded that it was "unconstitutional to teach I.D. as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom."

Intelligent design is the proposition that biological life is so complex that it could not have randomly evolved, but must have been designed by an intelligent force.

Lawyers for the parents who sued the Dover board hailed the decision as a cautionary one for any state or school board flirting with intelligent design because Judge Jones ruled broadly on the very legitimacy of intelligent design as science.

The judge's 139-page decision dealt not only with the specific missteps of the Dover school board, but also traced the growth of the intelligent design movement from the remnants of creationism and creation science - which the Supreme Court declared in 1987 to be unconstitutional to teach in public school science class.

Intelligent design proponents gained support in Dover and across the country with the rallying cry to "teach the controversy" over evolution and open students' minds to competing theories. The National Center for Science Education in Oakland, Calif., has tracked efforts in at least two dozen states to introduce challenges to evolution in the curriculum. Some efforts hew more closely to the approach in Kansas, where the State Board of Education changed its standards to teach about flaws in evolutionary theory.

In South Carolina, State Senator Mike Fair has introduced a bill to encourage teaching criticism of evolution. Mr. Fair is also on a state education committee that is evaluating biology standards. He said although he had not read the Pennsylvania ruling, it offended him because it impugned board members' motives because they were Christians.

"This case hasn't settled anything," Mr. Fair said.

Kristi L. Bowman, a law professor at Drake University in Des Moines, said that technically the judge's ruling was legally binding only in part of Pennsylvania and that no other courts in the country must follow it.

"That aside," Professor Bowman said, "this is such a thorough, well-researched opinion that covers all possible bases in terms of the legal arguments that intelligent design advocates present, that I think any school board or state board of education thinking about adopting an intelligent design policy should think twice."

Professor Bowman attended part of the Dover trial and expects her article on intelligent design to be in The Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy.

The legal fees incurred may be "an even stronger cautionary signal to school districts around the country than the actual decision," Professor Bowman said.

The Dover school district is now liable for the legal fees incurred by the plaintiffs - which plaintiffs lawyers say could exceed $1 million. The plaintiffs were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, as wells as lawyers with Pepper Hamilton, a private firm.

Eric J. Rothschild, a Pepper Hamilton lawyer, said in a news conference after the ruling that holding the Dover board to a financial penalty would convey to other school districts that "board members can't act like they did with impunity." But Mr. Rothschild said the fees were still being totaled, and he left open the possibility that the lawyers might go after individual board members who voted for the intelligent design policy to pay the legal costs.

In Muscatine, the superintendent, Tom Williams, said he expected that the possibility of a legal battle would deter his board from adopting intelligent design.

"We do expose ourselves to some kind of risk if we go out on a limb," Mr. Williams said.

He added that he was not in favor of it because he saw intelligent design as creationism with "just a little different twist of terminology."

"We need to stick with what our teachers are trained to do, and they're not trained to teach religious philosophies," Mr. Williams said.

Texas District Adopts Disputed Text on Bible Study


By BARBARA NOVOVITCH Published: December 22, 2005

ODESSA, Tex., Dec. 21 -Trustees of the Ector County Independent School District here decided, 4 to 2, on Tuesday night that high school students would use a course published by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools for studying the Bible in history and literature.

The council is a religious advocacy group in Greensboro, N.C., and has the backing of the Eagle Forum and Focus on the Family, two conservative organizations.

The vote on the disputed textbook, for an elective Bible study course, has not ended the matter. Critics say the book promotes fundamentalist Protestant Christianity.

The district superintendent, Wendell Sollis, said Wednesday that he had recommended the textbook over a newer one by the Bible Literacy Project, published this year through the Freedom Forum and an ecumenical group of scholars and endorsed by a group of religious organizations.

"I felt like the National Council was a better fit for Odessa, because they're on several campuses here in Texas and because of their longevity," Mr. Sollis said.

David Newman, a professor of English at Odessa College, said he planned to sue the district because the curriculum advocated a fundamentalist Christian point of view.

The school board president, Randy Rives, said of the curriculum, which uses the King James Version of the Bible: "If you're going to teach something, it's better to use the source. I have complete confidence that we can teach this within the parameters of the law."

Professor Newman said, "If the beliefs of others don't match theirs, then the beliefs of others are irrelevant."

Last summer, the Texas Freedom Network, which promotes religious freedoms, asked a biblical scholar at Southern Methodist University, Mark A. Chancey, to examine the council course. Dr. Chancey said it had factual errors, promoted creationism and taught that the Constitution was based on Scripture.

A district trustee here, Carol Gregg, said she favored the Bible Literacy Project because it was "more user friendly toward teachers" and "more respectful of minority and majority" religious views.

Unlike the competing curriculum, it mentions several versions of the Bible.

Trustees vote 4-2 for National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools

http://www.oaoa.com/news/nw122105a.htm By David J. Lee

Odessa American

In a radical departure from previous public meetings, the bulk of people talking to the school board Tuesday night stood in favor of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools.

Following 12 addresses by members of the public — eight of which were for the National Council — and some discussion among the board, trustees voted 4-2 to use the National Council's textbook "The Bible in History and Literature" for an elective Bible class beginning in Fall 2006 in the local high schools.

"When we voted for a Bible curriculum in April, I thought we had a textbook," board president Randy Rives said. "Why use a book to study another book? … I agree with some who spoke tonight. If we can have a copy of the Constitution right here tonight, why not study that, rather than a book about it?"

The National Council's curriculum is a teacher's guide, and the textbook for the course is the Bible.

However, both trustees Carol Gregg and Floy Hinson said they could not approve of the National Council program.

"I'm a Christian. I'm a Methodist," Gregg said. "And I feel very judged by this audience tonight. Some people would probably make the argument that the National Council fits the views of most of our community. And I agree. But I feel like we have an obligation to protect the minority — the Jews, the Muslims, the Hindus and any other religious faith.

"We're a public school — we have to remember that," she said. "Each student should feel comfortable in this course."

Hinson said all he could do was echo Gregg's sentiments.

"There will be students in our district who are not comfortable with this course," he said. "My only concern here is for all of our students. I hope we're doing the right thing."

Meanwhile, the Ector County Independent School District almost certainly needs to begin preparation to defend itself against a lawsuit.

One Odessan, David Newman, an Odessa College professor who's been actively following the curriculum selection, has said he "on the record and unequivocally" would bring suit against ECISD if the trustees chose the National Council's curriculum.

"I'm not afraid of lawsuits," Rives said. "I believe we're doing what's best for our kids."

One of the speakers to address the board, attorney Steve Crampton, said Rives shouldn't fear lawsuits.

"A lot of talk about a lawsuit has been bandied about," said Crampton, who's also vice president of the National Council. "Let me say this as unequivocally as I can: We stand behind this curriculum 100 percent — academically, legally and, yes, financially. In the unlikely event you are sued, this district will not spend a dime. I'm here tonight to guarantee that."

Crampton's comments were met with a round of applause.

And though all speakers in favor of the National Council said the program has never been challenged in court, Dan Quinn, with the Texas Freedom Network, said it has happened before.

"In addition, parents in Florida successfully sued their school board over the adoption of the National Council's course materials," he said. "We released our report in August to alert school officials about the serious problems with the National Council's curriculum and actually to help them stay out of court."

Quinn issued a news release earlier this week warning of the possibility of a lawsuit if ECISD made the decision it did.

"The Texas Freedom Network is not threatening to sue anyone," he said. "Someone in Odessa, however, has clearly said he will sue if the school board adopts the National Council's flawed curriculum."

Quinn said the Texas Freedom Network issued its warning but leaves the rest in the hands of Odessans.

"The voters in Odessa will decide for themselves whether their school board members have acted wisely to protect their district and their tax dollars," he said.

Both curricula program's companies sent letters to the school district promising to absorb the cost of defending the district if it is sued in regard to course materials.

The meeting Tuesday night drew an overflow crowd. About 150 people filled every seat and stood along the walls in the boardroom, while 20 others gathered in a nearby room to watch the board meeting on closed-circuit television. Forty to 50 others stood in the foyer of the ECISD Administration Building, while still others stood on the steps outside the building.

Many people in the crowd were students and parents of students in the district. In fact, three high school students addressed the board.

"Let's keep America great," Ashley Anderson, a Permian High junior, said. "Keep that book in the process. That's what the National Council is about."

Vanessa Chavez, an OHS sophomore echoed that, saying she prefers the National Council's program because it uses the Bible as a textbook.

"Using the Bible as a text adds a dimension to education that you can't get from using it as a reference," she said.

Of the four who spoke in favor of the Bible Literacy Project — two of which were employees of the program — University of Texas of the Permian Basin professor Steve Jenkins strongly cautioned the board.

"I, too, have read both curricula," he said. "I'm quite concerned that if you use the King James Bible and spend taxpayer money to purchase that, you're endorsing one Protestant view. That's not constitutional."

Newman told the board he fears proselytization in the course.

"Advocacy is a subtle thing," he said. "It can be at the end of an invocation, or it can happen in the National Council's curriculum."

Several board members Tuesday night said they approved of both courses — Gregg, Hinson, Doyle Woodall, Butch Foreman — but had a preference of one over the other.

"In the last three weeks, I've had 140 phones calls in favor of the National Council," Woodall said. "I've had zero calls in favor of the other one … as an elected official, I feel it's my responsibility in this case (to vote for the National Council's program."

The board also voted 6-0 to:

Retroactively give all ECISD teachers a $1,000-a-year raise.
Honor five secondary schools for winning Gold Performance Acknowledgement from the Texas Education Agency.
Honor 23 projects that received grants from the ECISD Education Foundation.
Approve the Hart Intercivic eSlate Voting System to be used in all elections. County commissioners approved the same system July 26, and the hospital district approved it Aug. 2. All governmental entities using the systems must approve it.
Appoint Rodney Hurt, Wade Hudman, Carol Gregg, Michael Ashton and Phil Fouche Jr. as representatives to the Ector County Tax Appraisal District.
Approve asbestos abatement at Dowling Elementary.

Board decision draws mixed reaction


Both sides of debate express strong opinions

By Jay Gorania Odessa American

Reaction Tuesday night to the 4-2 decision by the ECISD to adopt the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools was divided. And few would argue that there was a lack of passion from either side of the fence.

John Waggoner came as a concerned citizen in favor of the National Council's position and was pleased with the board's decision.

"It's a good fit for Odessa because it uses the Bible as the text, as opposed to using a text to discuss the Bible. That doesn't make sense," he said.

However, Deece Eckstein, a director for People for the American Way Foundation, was disheartened by the decision. "We have warned them three times that it's academically insufficient and constitutionally impermissible. And contrary to what was said at the meeting, they have been sued, and they have lost in Lee County, Fla.," he said.

Eckstein said his organization hasn't determined if it will take legal action, though it is considering it as an option.

"They said 52 school districts are using it, but under Freedom of Information requests it's been found that only eight school districts have said they use it," he said.

Ryan Valentine, a director for the Texas Freedom Network, echoed Eckstein's views.

"I believe religion, not education, was the key factor here. Enshrined in the Constitution is the protection of religious freedom, but this curriculum is the clear favoring of one religious perspective: protestant Christianity," he said.

Joseph Skinner, who attends Life Challenge United Pentecostal Church, understands that some may have concerns about the decision that was made, however, he fully endorses the National Council's curriculum.

"I could see what they're saying, but if you want to teach the Bible, you don't want someone biased against the Bible teaching about it. It seems that the other program is biased against the Bible," he said.

Between 25 to 40 churchgoers from Life Challenge demonstrated outside the ECISD Administration Building, displaying posters stating "Give us the Bible" and "Bible as Text Book."

After the vote they were chanting "victory" in celebration of the board's decision.

Talia Gray was holding one of the posters in favor of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools' position.

She was adamantly opposed to the Bible Literacy Project.

"I think it has twisted views, questioning God's character. It only teaches the Bible as literature, and it doesn't teach the Bible as history. (The National Council) teaches the Bible as literature but also as history," she said.

How the Anti-Evolution Debate Has Evolved


History News Network 12-20-05

By Charles A. Israel

In this last month of the year, when many Americans thoughts are turning to holidays--and what to call them--we may miss another large story about the intersections of religion and public life. Last week a federal appeals court in Atlanta listened to oral arguments about a sticker pasted, and now removed, from suburban Cobb County, Georgias high school science textbooks warning that evolution is a theory, not a fact. The three-judge panel will take their time deciding the complex issues in the case. But on Tuesday, a federal district court in Pennsylvania ruled the Dover Area ( Penn.) School Boards oral disclaimers about scientific evolution to be an unconstitutional establishment of religion. The school districts statement to students and parents directed them to an alternative theory, that of Intelligent Design (ID); the court ruled found that ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism. (Kitzmiller opinion, p. 31) Apparently in a case about evolution, genealogical metaphors are unavoidable.

Seemingly every news story about the modern trials feels it necessary to refer to the 1925 Tennessee Monkey Trial, the clash of the larger-than-life legal and political personalities of William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow in the prosecution of high school teacher John Scopes for teaching evolution in violation of state law. As an historian who has written about evolution, education, and the era of the Scopes trial, I will admit the continuities between 1925 and today can seem striking. But, these continuities are deceiving. Though the modern court challenges still pit scientists supporting evolution against some parents, churches, and others opposing its unchallenged place in public school curriculum; the changes in the last eighty years seem even stronger evidence for a form of legal or cultural evolution.

First, the continuities. In the late 19th century religious commentators like the southern Methodist editor and professor Thomas O. Summers, Sr. loved to repeat a little ditty: When doctors disagree,/ disciples then are free to believe what they wanted about science and the natural world. Modern anti-evolutionists, most prominently under the sponsorship of Seattles Discovery Institute, urge school boards to teach the controversy about evolution, purposefully inflating disagreements among scientists about the particulars of evolutionary biology into specious claims that evolutionary biology is a house of cards ready to fall at any time. The court in the Dover case concluded that although there were some scientific disagreements about evolutionary theory, ID is an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion not science. In a second continuity, supporters of ID reach back, even before Darwin, to the 19th century theology of William Paley, who pointed to intricate structures like the human eye as proof of Gods design of humans and the world. Though many ID supporters are circumspect about the exact identity of the intelligent designer, it seems unlikely that the legions of conservative Christian supporters of ID are assuming that Martians, time-travelers, or extra-terrestrial meatballs could be behind the creation and complexity of their world.

While these issues suggest that the Scopes Trial is still relevant and would seem to offer support for the statement most often quoted to me by first year history students on why they should study history--because it repeats itself--this new act in the drama shows some remarkable changes. Arguing that a majority of parents in any given state, acting through legislatures, could outlaw evolution because it contradicted their religious beliefs, William Jennings Bryan campaigned successfully in Tennessee and several other states to ban the teaching of evolution and to strike it from state-adopted textbooks.

Legal challenges to the Tennessee law never made it to the federal courts, but the constitutional hurdles for anti-evolutionists grew higher in 1968, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Epperson that an Arkansas law very similar to the Tennessee statute was an unconstitutional establishment of religion. The laws purpose, the court found, was expressly religious. So anti-evolution was forced to evolve, seeking a new form more likely to pass constitutional muster. Enter Creation Science, a movement that added scientific language to the book of Genesis, and demanded that schools provide equal time to both Creation Science and biological evolution. Creation Science is an important transitional fossil of the anti-evolution movement, demonstrating two adaptations: first, the adoption of scientific language sought to shield the religious purpose of the statute and second, the appeal to an American sense of fairness in teaching both sides of an apparent controversy. The Supreme Court in 1987 found this new evolution constitutionally unfit, overturning a Louisiana law.

Since the 1987 Edwards v Aguillard decision, the anti-evolution movement has attempted several new adaptations, all of which show direct ties to previous forms. The appeal to public opinion has grown: recent national opinion polls reveal that nearly two-thirds of Americans (and even higher numbers of Alabamians) support teaching both scientific evolution and creationism in public schools. School board elections and textbook adoption battles show the strength of these arguments in a democratic society. The new variants have been far more successful at clothing themselves in the language--but not the methods--of science. Whether by rewriting state school standards to teach criticisms of scientific evolution (as in Ohio or Kansas) or in written disclaimers to be placed in school textbooks (as in Alabama or Cobb County, Georgia) or in the now discredited oral disclaimers of the Dover Area School Board, the religious goal has been the same: by casting doubt on scientific evolution, they hope to open room to wedge religion back into public school curricula. But as the court in yesterdays Dover case correctly concluded, Intelligent Design is an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion not science. Old arguments of a religious majority, though still potent in public debate, have again proven constitutionally unfit; Creationists and other anti-evolutionists will now have to evolve new arguments to survive constitutional tests.

Mr. Israel is Associate Professor of History at Auburn University and author of Before Scopes: Evangelicals, Education, and Evolution in Tennessee , 18701925 (University of Georgia Press, 2004).

Ice Age Footprints Said Found in Outback


Hundreds of human footprints dating back to the last Ice Age have been found in the remote Australian Outback, an official and media reported Thursday.

The 457 footprints found in Mungo National Park in western New South Wales state is the largest collection of its kind in the world and the oldest in Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported.

The prints were made in moist clay near the Willandra Lakes 19,000 to 23,000 years ago, the newspaper reported ahead of archeologists' report on the find to be published in the Journal of Human Evolution.

State Environment Minister Bob Debus said the site showed a large group of people walking and interacting.

"We see children running between the tracks of their parents; the children running in meandering circles as their parents travel in direct lines," Debus told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

"It's a most extraordinary snapshot of a moment or several moments in the life of Aboriginal people living on the edge of the lake in western New South Wales 20,000 years ago," he added.

The first print was reported by a local Aboriginal woman two years ago and a team of archaeologists led by Bond University archaeologist Steve Webb uncovered more than 450, the newspaper said.

Webb was not immediately available for comment.

Texas District Adopts Disputed Text on Bible Study


December 22, 2005 By BARBARA NOVOVITCH

ODESSA, Tex., Dec. 21 -Trustees of the Ector County Independent School District here decided, 4 to 2, on Tuesday night that high school students would use a course published by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools for studying the Bible in history and literature.

The council is a religious advocacy group in Greensboro, N.C., and has the backing of the Eagle Forum and Focus on the Family, two conservative organizations.

The vote on the disputed textbook, for an elective Bible study course, has not ended the matter. Critics say the book promotes fundamentalist Protestant Christianity.

The district superintendent, Wendell Sollis, said Wednesday that he had recommended the textbook over a newer one by the Bible Literacy Project, published this year through the Freedom Forum and an ecumenical group of scholars and endorsed by a group of religious organizations.

"I felt like the National Council was a better fit for Odessa, because they're on several campuses here in Texas and because of their longevity," Mr. Sollis said.

David Newman, a professor of English at Odessa College, said he planned to sue the district because the curriculum advocated a fundamentalist Christian point of view.

The school board president, Randy Rives, said of the curriculum, which uses the King James Version of the Bible: "If you're going to teach something, it's better to use the source. I have complete confidence that we can teach this within the parameters of the law."

Professor Newman said, "If the beliefs of others don't match theirs, then the beliefs of others are irrelevant."

Last summer, the Texas Freedom Network, which promotes religious freedoms, asked a biblical scholar at Southern Methodist University, Mark A. Chancey, to examine the council course. Dr. Chancey said it had factual errors, promoted creationism and taught that the Constitution was based on Scripture.

A district trustee here, Carol Gregg, said she favored the Bible Literacy Project because it was "more user friendly toward teachers" and "more respectful of minority and majority" religious views.

Unlike the competing curriculum, it mentions several versions of the Bible.


Of Faith and Facts: Ruling correctly separates science and religion


03:31 PM CST on Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Yesterday's ruling that the body of thought dubbed intelligent design should not be injected, by mandate, into science classrooms is correct.

It is important to understand, however, what the ruling does not do. In drawing a line between science and other modes of thought, such as philosophy or religion, the judge did not elevate science above those other modes. Nor did the ruling suggest that any branch of science, including Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection, is fixed, immutable or immune to scrutiny.

Public schools can and should address important questions about the origin and meaning of life through the social sciences, literature and comparative religions. It would be wrong to preface those lessons with a warning that the ideas presented are unsupported by science. Each discipline has its own validity, and part of a student's intellectual journey is to draw upon each of them in fashioning a worldview.

Scientists, no less than philosophers or theologians, are fired not by what is known but by what is unknown. It is merely that each discipline proceeds by its own rules of inquiry and that preserving those rules is vital to the integrity of their quest.

The rules of science require that hypotheses be verified by empirical data, gathered through experiments that can be replicated. Eventually, over time, as enough data is confirmed, an overarching scientific theory, such as the theory of gravitation, quantum mechanics or evolution, emerges. It expresses an established consensus, but not a rigid, unchanging certainty. That would be a violation of the scientific spirit.

Intelligent design could gain a place in science classrooms by producing measurable data, through experiments that can be replicated that support the existence of a designer. That, Federal District Judge John E. Jones III ruled in the Dover, Pa., case, is what they have not done.

"The evidence presented in this case," he wrote, "demonstrates that ID is not supported by any peer-reviewed research, data or publications." The Dover school board, he wrote, practiced intellectual chicanery by promoting creationism, which the Supreme Court previously found unscientific, in the guise of intelligent design.

Perhaps, ultimately, this is a battle that does not need fighting. Belief in a creator is valid, with or without scientific underpinnings. Some mysteries are probably irreducible, and, for that, both science and faith can be glad.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Intelligent Design and Darwinism: Science Will Prevail


By: Homunculus · Section: Diaries

How intelligent people on this site, who so "get it" regarding abortion (see Leon's brilliant story of today) yet are so oblivious to the validity and importance of Intelligent Design, is beyond me. I guess it ultimately is the wannabe intellectualism of the Krauthammer wing of the red-staters couched in fear of dismissal and ridicule by the omniscient northeastern academic elite. Yet it is they (the academics) who have a vested interested in evolution as a cultural lever in favor of the secularist agenda. It is the science equivalent to the MSM; untenured young scientists who do not toe the Darwinian line wind up in Siberia.

Evolutionary theory is culturally left-wing and secular, with dramatic cultural impact. It is an ultimate catalyzer of abortion and overall license for drugs, sex and rock-n-roll in the godless culture of the secularist ("...and if you can't be, with the one you love, love the one you're with").

After two diaries on the subject of Intelligent Design and Evolution and the rash of nonsense coming even from people who seem intelligent in general on other subjects, I abandoned the idea of trying to teach ID 102 after 101 was flunked by the majority of the class. But today's court case and the worry of some Red-State mainstays that an eruption on this rarefied site might once again occur on this uncomfortable topic goaded me into one last effort at persuading the cripple and infirmed. Alas, I know it is futile, but what the heck. Yet any site with enough gumption and spine to post photos of aborted babies has my eternal respect and support; it can also handle my mild rantings on ID. Thanks for the cyberspace, guys.

Against my better judgment, let's give one last shot at divining sanity. Here is reality.

Neo-Darwinian evolution is a theory that has been deemed "settled science" by mainstream scientists, and ardently supported by the MSM, not because it is good science but because it carries with it the ultimate reality (if it were really true) that there is no God / Creator.

The same Darwinists encourage the rope-a-dope misperception that Darwinism isn't atheistic, even though their most notable advocates (i.e. Richard Dawkins) laugh up their sleeves that anyone would actually buy that nonsense.

The Darwinists repeat the mantra "Intelligent Design is thinly disguised Biblical Creationism" over and over; I have every Google news post on ID for over 8 months, and they hit daily with many entries; 90% of the stories are on that topic: ID is Genesis/Creationism in sheep's clothing. It is a well orchestrated smear campaign by people who know little about science, neo-Darwinian theory and especially Intelligent Design. Neal Boortz today parroted the same nonsense on his radio show and he knows less about science than I know about his "fair tax" ideas, which is a lot (although I'm inclined to like his tax thinking).

Question: Where are the Red State truth detectors? Answer: Wishing this topic would go away because they don't want to face making a stand that could get them ostracized by the academic elite as stupid Bible-thumpers. (Ground control to Major Tom).

4. Evolutionists do not want the major problems inherent in their theory taught in public schools, which is the only thing true ID advocates really want at this time (ID science is new and a work in progress). Darwinian evolutionary theory is junk science that has been propagated because of it's cultural impact (check out a western Europe that has gone (vast) majority atheist/agnostic/secularist since WW II; check out how many millions of abortions of babies in this country since 1973?). If Evolution were somehow culture-neutral it would have been given-up years ago for the unproven and unprovable pipe dream, "just so" story it is. If it were a new theory today it would never make it past the metal detectors of the peer review boards. But it isn't new and it is culturally explosive. So it is championed by the left, and for some reason some otherwise intelligent conservatives agree, for fear of being labeled Creationist hicks and hayseeds.

And yet those same conservatives wonder articulately why liberals can't see that aborting a baby is wrong. It is because the liberals believe in evolution, that there is no God and there is no eternal consequence to having it "their way". And that is correct. If there is no God, let's eat, drink, be merry and abort unwanted babies because after all, it's my life and I'll do what I dang well please (now let's all sing a rousing chorus of "Imagine").

5. Finally, Intelligent Design science is about complexity. Darwin assumed life was a simple thing, as easy to make as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein monster or as postulated by the defunct theory of Primordial Soup. Now, with modern scientific methods (including REALLY GOOD microscopes), we see beyond the veil to the details of living structure. Everyone, even the Darwinists, now agree life is extraordinarily complex. ID says "we only see this complexity when it comes from intelligent sources, like Mt. Rushmore or a piano or an apple pie". ID says the odds of this complexity occurring by naturalistic explanations are beyond impossible. The fascinating thing about ID is that it's not about who the designer is, but that these living structures demonstrate what is otherwise known as "information" which is only the product of intelligence and never by nature. No one could make that statement accurately 50 years ago. Today it is a case that cannot be refuted.

And neo-Darwinian evolution has no proof. It's "gaps" that are downplayed by the elite of academia are not gaps at all, unless you think the Grand Canyon is an ant hill. The gaps are actually major flaws and inconsistencies, any one of which would immediately disqualify any other culturally-neutral scientific hypothesis. But Darwinism is the secular King Kong, the 50,000 pound gorilla that gives science nerds standing with liberal politicians and secular trend setters, an unholy alliance if ever there was one.

ID will continue to learn how to become persuasive to more and more people as the years go by. Evolution will not ever be able to prove itself; the fossil record isn't there and won't be. In the meantime, as we struggle to end the catastrophe of abortion, remember that what we approve (or acquiesce to) WILL lead to consequences we never want or expect. Birth control pills (a very good thing) lead to promiscuity in females and the sexual revolution that begat abortion-on-demand. It was all catalyzed by the agnosticism of the mainline churches in Europe and America driven by the atheism of Darwinism and the philosophy of David Hume and his followers.

Reality is a wonderful thing. People tend to stray from it for a season. Then we look back and realize we were wrong. Our culture is beginning to get it right on abortion; we're going to win that battle some day soon, at least in America (not that it will ever completely stop, but the abortion industry will die and the mass killings will stop).

Intelligent Design is the leading edge of science facing the antagonism of the old guard, and facing all the fascism inherent in usurping the status quo. The good news is, if ID is not so, it will go away. ID is playing in the big leagues, with real scientists that do real science. But Darwinists are hanging on to an antiquated theory that likely will fall in a decade. Ultimately I believe in science, and science will prevail. If it really demonstrates (which I believe it has already) that the complexity of life cannot occur by the means of neo-Darwinism, so be it. Even if that happens, it won't mean that Genesis is literally true or that God even created the universe. Remember that Francis Crick believed it was space aliens (Panspermia) that seeded life on earth. Faith will still be faith, regardless of what science discovers.

As our culture comes back to reality after a generation of acid-induced (secular) schizophrenia, our science will become more scientific and less driven by cultural machinations. That will be a good thing, no matter where Intelligent Design and Darwinism land. No judge's ruling in Pennsylvania in 2005 will make any impact on this fight. It is a fight about science, and in the end, science will prevail.

Let's hope that regardless of the outcome, we can never give in to the amorality and immorality of the secularists. Our money says "In God We Trust", and we are "one Nation, under God", not because of science but because of faith in something much bigger than science.

Our parent's generation has been called the Greatest Generation because they stood against the tyranny of secularist ideologies. Our Woodstock / Baby Boom generation is the worst generation. We have given the world millions of dead babies, lost souls and shattered dreams; we have lived John Lennon's (Lenin's) song "Imagine", and while imaging there is no hell created it on earth in the process. We were cool in the tie-die with our Bob Dylan platitudes. And now that we're grownup we are ridiculously rich. But so many are lost, and so many continue to shrug like Atlas while Rome burns and babies die.

Yes, I believe Darwin has a lot to answer for, unless it is true, in which case everything happens via natural necessity and morality is therefore subjective and an optional luxury that will ultimately doom human life on this planet. One cannot have it both ways; but leave it to the Baby Boomers to demand their cake and eat it too. The ID / Darwin argument exemplifies the psychosis of our wounded generation. As an optimist, I believe insight will prevail. But to paraphrase that great Baby Boomer poet David Crosby, "it's been a long time coming; it's been a long time gone".

Dec 20th, 2005: 23:44:38

The Darwinist Inquisition Against Intelligent Design


An Interview with Dr. Elliot Pines, an advocate of Intelligent Design

By: Steven Lackner Issue date: 12/19/05 Section: Opinion Article Tools: Page 1 of 1

The debate over Darwinism raging throughout the country has made its way to Yeshiva University. The YU summer book project, the book project dinner, and a lecture provided by self-proclaimed Darwinist and Atheist Michael Ruse, are all examples of how the issue has invaded our campus. But so far there has been no room in YU for Intelligent Design.

If not even Yeshiva University is willing to host a lecturer or sponsor an even-handed debate on the issue of Intelligent Design as part of the book project, then is there a forum for Intelligent Design anywhere?

In the interest of fairness and to provide the balance that is currently lacking, I interviewed Dr. Elliot Pines PhD, a scientist and Intelligent Design advocate, to briefly discuss the Theories of Evolution and Intelligent Design. A qualified voice must be heard in response to the likes of Ruse, who lamely claims Intelligent Design is merely based on "stupid arguments."

Many do not understand the nuances of the Intelligent Design position, and ignorantly assume that Intelligent Design forecloses the possibility of any evolution. Nothing could be further from the truth. Dr. Pines emphasizes that the problem lies not with breeding-limited single-component variation, microevolution (e.g., beak form), but with the Darwinist postulation of system-level transformation, or macroevolution (e.g., lizard to birds).

Ardent believers in the Theory of Evolution have levied false charges against Intelligent Design, calling it "a guise for religion" or "Creationism." The truth of the matter is that Intelligent Design makes no reference to any religion. Unlike Creationism, it does not involve Genesis or the Biblical explanation of the origin of man. In fact, many proponents of Intelligent Design believe that the universe is 13.7 billion years old despite the fact that a literal interpretation of Genesis leaves us with a universe that is only six thousand years old. The fact that Darwinists disingenuously resort to this unfounded labeling is an indication of their inability to provide adequate answers to the questions posed by Intelligent Design proponents.

Dr. Pines explains the basic arguments against Darwin's theory. He first observes that "the idea that biological systems are uniquely exempt from the mathematics of information theory is absurd," and that it is impossible for complex information systems to arise from "a random series of training environments." He further emphases that "ignoring the fact that the ratio of available stable to unstable states decays exponentially with increasing complexity is to pursue the imaginary."

Biochemistry is used to support design, unlike religions that are based on faith or tradition. Pines cites renowned Intelligent Design biochemist Michael Behe's principle of "Irreducible Complexity," defined by Behe as "a single system which is composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, and where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning." (Darwin's Black Box, page 39). They see this as clear evidence of design.

There are those who have tried to disprove Behe's arguments and it is important to understand the inadequacy of their response. Darwinist Dr. Ken Miller, who often sports a mousetrap spring as a tie clip, states that complexity is not an issue. He observes that parts of a mousetrap, defined by Behe as "irreducibly complex," can have independent functions evolving in complexity over time. The base of the mousetrap, says Miller, can be used as a paperweight, the spring as a tie clip. Pines says Miller's tie clip antics are "cute" but countless objects can clip a tie, and anything with weight can serve as a paperweight. Given that myriad items can efficiently operate as a tie clip, paperweight, etc, how many random groupings ofthese objects have the specificity to operate in any stable complex system?

Pines says that when pressed, an Evolutionist "cannot provide anything remotely resembling a step-by-step process in which an actual complex system could evolve."

The arguments against macroevolution do not end there. Focusing on the probabilities of macroevolution, Pines says "mathematical models demonstrate the time it would take for the first living cell to evolve would be the age of the universe times ten to an exponent in the thousands. Yet we see such appear in less than 100 million years of geological time, possibly far less." He challenges Evolutionists "to counter with even a crude model of the way they claim that evolution happens." He points out that the "vast majority of mutations on active DNA are known to be negative [damaging to fatal]" adding that Darwinism's "historical pattern of fraud has left me more than a little suspicious."

Charles Darwin himself devised his theory prior to any understanding of the cell structure and before the discovery of "what makes molecular machines," or DNA. Darwin uses the words "we may well suppose" over 700 times. As Pines put it, "That's not real science."

This debate over evolution is currently taking place throughout the country. The school board of Dover, Pennsylvania, all of whose members have been voted out in a recent election backlash, were sued for requiring a mere four paragraph statement to be read in science class explaining that there are alternatives to the Theory of Evolution. Some have made the outlandish claim that something as innocuous as a four-paragraph statement somehow violates the First Amendment and that religion is being forced upon young students. But informing students that there is another point of view, that there are scientists who question the Theory of Evolution, in no way violates the Establishment Clause (the phrase "separation of church and state" appears nowhere in the Constitution).

Intelligent Design is not a religious ideology and therefore cannot in any way be affected by the First Amendment. Our Founding Fathers did not mandate an unfair and unbalanced education in the Constitution. Forcing students to hear one side of a heated scientific debate is not a threat. As a matter of fact, not informing students of alternative theories is pure indoctrination. The attack on Intelligent Design is part and parcel of the ACLU tactic to file a lawsuit against anything remotely resembling religion in the public sector.

It is important to dispel the myths surrounding the First Amendment because there are those who use it as fodder to attack anything religious. The amendment provides for freedom of religion, not from religion. As John Adams said: "Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." Suing over the words "Under G-d" in the pledge, Ten Commandments displays, and even the lighting of the massive Chabad menorahs on government property, are examples of the Secular-Left's crusade against religion. In 1796 George Washington said, "Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle." That does not sound like the type of guy who would support the prohibition of Intelligent Design Theory in our public schools.

"Academics should be about freedom of thought and open debate. Let students read both sides of the issue. It's like an inquisition for any student who goes into the field," says Dr. Pines. "We need the pendulum to swing in the other direction." Dr. Pines challenges the propriety of Evolutionists lecturing on Intelligent Design. "If one man is representing both his side and the other side, watch out! The propaganda meter goes up."

Evolutionist Dr. Kenneth Miller will be speaking at YU, without rebuttal, on Dec 19th.

Intelligent vs. Non-intelligent Design


By J. James Estrada (12/21/05)

A federal judge has spoken. John E. Jones III has declared in a Pennsylvania case that teaching Intelligent Design in public schools cannot be allowed because it will "advance religion". What this comes down to is this, do you believe in God and His Word or do you believe in Englishman Charles Darwin and his theory? Each requires a display of faith.

A theory is just that. Ask a Darwinist to explain the "eye". Darwin himself could not. How does the eye evolve? It either functions or it does not. Did animals wander aimlessly for millions of years waiting for the eye to become an eye?

And for all those who believe that evolution is a part of creation, all you have to do is open the big black book on the shelf that's gathering dust. Just read the opening chapter in Genesis.

For that matter, I would ask Barbara Walters, who spent some time this week wondering about Heaven, to open the book to John and Chapter 14.

If one were to visit an automobile manufacturing facility, one would witness "intelligent design". I don't think the workers there just take various car parts and throw them into a "Big Three" soup and hope for the best. Likewise, God did not take cosmic parts, sprinkle star dust on them and scatter them in a Fourth-of-July style "Big Bang" to start the universe.

"Oh, God," said the angel Michael. "There's something brewing in that planet down there." "And what is that?" said God. "A single cell amoeba has just split in two!" declared Michael. "Really?" said God. "Do you think it will evolve into something of interest?" "Hard to tell," said Michael. "Well, keep me informed…I've got to keep my eye on the Earth. I think I've finally perfected a substance I like to call Man. The only thing is, he has a hard time believing I made him. I think I'll let him name all the animals." Michael looked puzzled. "Why would you let him do that?" he asked. God responded, "So he'll use his God-given ability to realize that he's not that monkey's uncle."

Copyright 2005 J. James Estrada

Feelings mixed about ruling that nixes intelligent design



While the debate over intelligent design's place in the classroom has reached the national stage, in Northeastern Pennsylvania the issue has hardly been a blip on the radar.

Educators and school board members in districts across Lackawanna County said the controversial alternative to evolution has rarely been brought up at board meetings or in conversations with parents.

"This is not something we really had to face too much," said Jody DeRitter, Ph.D., Abington Heights School Board vice president and English professor at the University of Scranton.

Intelligent design proposes that biological life originated from an intelligent, unidentified source. Its supporters have said the idea offers insight into how life has developed, and the source is open to interpretation. It was originally introduced by people of Christian faith.

Critics have railed against it as veiled creationism, questioning its place in science class — let alone public schools. Creationism is a belief that God created the universe.

Not in schools

Federal Judge John E. Jones III agreed with those critics Tuesday morning, ruling the Dover School Board's policy of teaching intelligent design in a high school biology class was unconstitutional. He described it as being steeped in Christian thought and not a science.

Locally, many biology teachers and public school officials agreed with the ruling, while some faith leaders found it disheartening.

"You cannot teach biology today except in the light of evolution," said Margaret Loughney, a biology teacher at Scranton High School.

"I'll show you how it happened," Ms. Loughney said. "But I am not going to tell you or try to explain to you why did it happen."

Ms. Loughney and others said they felt the questions raised by intelligent design were better suited for church or home, and they questioned its scientific validity.

"There is no (way) you can test or prove it," Scranton School Board member Kathleen McGuigan said. "That's the problem with it. I think religion is a personal matter. I teach my children their religion at home and through our church."

Open to interpretation

Local faith leaders were also disheartened by the ruling.

"It's an alternative way to look at the universe, and kids should be exposed to it," said Rabbi Aaron Peller of Temple Hesed.

Rabbi Peller described intelligent design as a way to address how the universe and life began, not as religious dogma.

"Intelligent design does not have to be religious," he said.

Tom Williams, a biology professor at Baptist Bible College, agreed.

Mr. Williams, who taught high school science for 14 years, said he wasn't surprised by the ruling, but he doesn't connect intelligent design to creationism.

"The most damage that was done today was the link that Judge Jones has made between the intelligent design movement and creationism," he said.

Mr. Williams, who uses a standard textbook in his biology classes, said he felt the idea of intelligent design is worth raising in some educational settings. He also teaches a philosophy of science class, where he said he thought the idea would fit naturally.

"I would look at intelligent design as being something that we might want to incorporate in discussion somewhere in education," he said.

Contact the writer: jbrodesky@timesshamrock.com

©The Times-Tribune 2005

Newspapers Played Key Role in Dover 'Intelligent Design' Debate


By Greg Mitchell

Published: December 21, 2005 1:00 PM ET

NEW YORK In the Dec. 5 edition of the New Yorker, Margaret Talbot chronicled the battle in Dover, Pa., over the teaching of "intelligent design" in the local classrooms. The case had become a national cause celebre, with locals in November voting out the board members who had foisted the idea on the schools, and televangelist Pat Robertson warning that, after that, the small town now would have to go it alone with no help from God if a tornado or plague or rain of frogs hit.

On Tuesday, a federal judge, John E. Jones III, ruled that the intelligent design scheme was unconstitutional, drawing national headlines. But how did this fiasco come to pass?

What's interesting, if little known, is that Talbot had clearly described one major reason in her article.

Asked in a Q&A at the New Yorker's Web site about what factors contributed to the case, Talbot replied: "One consistent division I noticed, and that I wrote about, was between people who read and trusted the very good local newspapers [nearby York has two, which is pretty unusual for a small American city these days] and those who just didn't trust them. The plaintiffs were the newspaper readers; the pro-intelligent-design school-board people were the newspaper rejecters."

The two York papers are the York Daily Record and The York Dispatch.

The Daily Record carried a hard-hitting editorial today. Here is much of it.


They lied.

William Buckingham and Alan Bonsell wanted to bring God into high school biology class, and in the process, they lied.

They lied about their motives. They lied about their actions. They lied about what they did or didn't say at public meetings.

They even lied when they claimed newspaper reporters lied in stories about Dover school board meetings.

In his ruling on the Dover case, U.S. Judge John E. Jones III said it was "ironic" that individuals who "proudly touted their religious convictions in public" would "lie" under oath.

Yes, ironic -- at the very least. But also sinful according to the 9th Commandment.

And perhaps also criminal. We can only hope that the appropriate authorities are investigating possible perjury charges in this case. There should be some consequences for what Mr. Bonsell and Mr. Buckingham have done in depositions and on the witness stand by otherwise misrepresenting the facts.

Not to mention what they've done to their community.

They've cost Dover its reputation. The district, even after sensibly voting out the entire school board, again has been made a national laughingstock -- last week "The Daily Show" aired yet another embarrassing and insulting piece on Dover.

They have potentially cost Dover taxpayers perhaps a million or more in legal fees. The judge has indicated the plaintiffs are entitled to such fees.

The unintelligent designers of this fiasco should not walk away unscathed. They've damaged and divided this community, and there should be repercussions -- a perjury investigation -- beyond a lost election.

The ruling suggests board members who approved the ID policy were shockingly ill-informed and lackadaisical about what they were getting the district into. They allowed themselves, taxpayers and students to be made grunts on the front lines of the national culture wars without bothering to learn what they were fighting for.

Turns out it was a lie….

In short, Judge Jones got it exactly right, eviscerating the pathetic case put forth by the defense. The district's policy was religiously motivated and espoused religion, thus violating the constitutional separation of church and state.

No lie.

Greg Mitchell (gmitchell@editorandpublisher.com) is editor of E&P.

What's wrong with intelligent design, and with its critics


from the December 22, 2005 edition

By Alexander George

AMHERST, MASS. – This week, a federal judge ruled that intelligent design may not be taught in the science classrooms of Pennsylvania's public schools. I agree with the verdict, but we need to be careful about our reasons for supporting it. Most critics of intelligent design seek to undermine it by arguing that the doctrine is not science. It's actually religion passing itself off as science. Hence, its teaching constitutes religious instruction. The Constitution disallows the state's establishment of religion. Therefore, intelligent design cannot be taught in the classroom. The problem with this argument is that it requires making the case that intelligent design is not science. And the intelligibility of that task depends on the possibility of drawing a line between science and non-science. The prospects for this are dim. Twentieth-century philosophy of science is littered with the smoldering remains of attempts to do just that.

Science employs the scientific method. No, there's no such method: Doing science is not like baking a cake. Science can be proved on the basis of observable data. No, general theories about the natural world can't be proved at all. Our theories make claims that go beyond the finite amount of data that we've collected. There's no way such extrapolations from the evidence can be proved to be correct. Science can be disproved, or falsified, on the basis of observable data. No, for it's always possible to protect a theory from an apparently confuting observation. Theories are never tested in isolation but only in conjunction with many other extra-theoretical assumptions (about the equipment being used, about ambient conditions, about experimenter error, etc.). It's always possible to lay the blame for the confutation at the door of one of these assumptions, thereby leaving one's theory in the clear. And so forth.

Let's abandon this struggle to demarcate and instead let's liberally apply the label "science" to any collection of assertions about the workings of the natural world. Fine, intelligent design is a science then - as is astrology, as is parapsychology. But what has a claim to being taught in the science classroom isn't all science, but rather the best science, the claims about reality that we have strongest reason to believe are true. Intelligent design shouldn't be taught in the science classroom any more than Ptolemaic astronomy and for exactly the same reason: They are both poor accounts of the phenomena they seek to explain and both much improved upon by other available theories.

The suspicion that religion is lurking somewhere in intelligent design theory is correct, but its locus is often misidentified. The religion isn't in the claims of intelligent design themselves. Rather, the religion is in the motivation for pushing a poor account of the natural world into the science curriculum.

I think there are two reasons why people shy away from this way of viewing the matter. First, if you call intelligent design "poor science," then it seems you've allowed intelligent design a foot in the door by accepting that it's science. Science versus non-science seems like a much sharper dichotomy than better versus worse science. The first holds out the prospect of an "objective" test, while the second calls for "subjective" judgment. But there is no such test, and our reliance on judgment is inescapable. We should be less proprietorial about the unhelpful moniker "science" but insist that only the best science be taught in our schools.

The second reason has to do with politics. The courts have had something to say about the constitutional guarantees of the separation of church and state. They've had nothing to say about the unconstitutionality of teaching bad science. Hence, if you wish to use the courts to stop school boards from introducing intelligent design into the curriculum, it seems you've got to argue that intelligent design isn't a science but a religious doctrine. If we're to be honest, either we should find alternatives to the courts to protect our curricula from bad science, or we should start arguing in court that the separation of church and state would be violated by intelligent design's injection into the science curriculum on account of its predominantly religious motivation.

• Alexander George is a professor of philosophy at Amherst College.

Case Seen as Setback to Intelligent Design


Wednesday December 21, 2005 9:31 PM


AP Religion Writer

A federal judge's ruling that intelligent design is faith masquerading as science is being viewed by all sides involved with the issue as a setback, though not a fatal blow, for the movement promoting the concept as an alternative to evolution.

Intelligent design advocates say the judge's lengthy, pointed rebuke of the concept Tuesday in a case out of Pennsylvania may energize supporters, many of whom view his opinion as part of a broader pattern of hostility by courts and the government to religion in public schools.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones criticized the ``breathtaking inanity'' of the 2004 decision by the Dover Area School Board to insert intelligent design into the science curriculum. He called the concept ``a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism'' and said the board's policy violated the constitutional separation of church and state. Intelligent design holds that living organisms are so complex that they must have been created by some kind of higher being.

``This galvanizes the Christian community,'' said William Dembski, a leading proponent of the theory and a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a Seattle think-tank that promotes intelligent design research. ``People I'm talking to say we're going to be raising a whole lot more funds now.''

From a legal perspective, the decision's immediate consequences are very limited. The school system is not expected to appeal, because several board members who backed intelligent design were voted out of office in November and replaced by candidates who reject the policy.

Yet opponents contend intelligent design advocates have emerged from the case substantially weakened. The ruling will likely influence judges in other districts and discourage other school officials from pursuing similar policies, said K. Hollyn Hollman, general counsel for the Baptist Joint Committee, a Washington group that promotes separation of church and state.

Battles over evolution are already being waged in Georgia and Kansas.

``Because it was a six-week trial, with a lot of testimony from proponents of intelligent design as well as critics from the scientific community, it's going to have a big impact,'' Hollman said. ``It had a pretty full hearing.''

The court defeat also comes at a time when movement leaders are failing to win support even among scientists sympathetic to their religious world view.

The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, an association of more than 100 U.S. schools, said its members have a wide range of approaches to the issue. In fact, most conservative Christian colleges are far from embracing intelligent design.

The John Templeton Foundation, a major funder of projects that aim to reconcile religion and science, has given none of its $36 million in annual science-related grants to intelligent design research, said foundation spokeswoman Pamela Thompson. ``We do not consider it a hard science,'' she said. ``We feel that it is not something that's important to universities.''

Dembski, of the Discovery Institute, formerly taught at Baylor University, a Baptist school in Texas, but left following opposition on the issue from other faculty members. He now leads the Center for Science and Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

The Rev. Albert Mohler, the seminary president, criticized Christian schools for rejecting intelligent design, saying they are intimidated by the ``secular establishment.''

However, Uko Zylstra, a biologist and dean for natural sciences at Calvin College, a Christian school in Grand Rapids, Mich., said intelligent design is not catching on at his college and others because it is based on philosophy, not science.

``We don't think this is how the problem should be articulated,'' Zylstra said. ``The strength of intelligent design is as an apologetic - that God is the creator, but not a scientific explanation.''

Michael Cromartie, an evangelical and vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Washington institute that addresses religious issues, said it was important to remember that the movement is ``very, very young.'' He said it was too new to be judged a success or failure.

``There are all kinds of smart, young scientists who are emboldened by the literature they read in the intelligent design movement and they're going to become important professors,'' Cromartie said. ``Dover wasn't a Supreme Court decision. It's a local decision. Local decisions are very important, but they don't end the conversation.''

The Orignal Statement by the Dover School Board


Published: December 20, 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 involves.

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.

Judge Rejects Teaching Intelligent Design


By LAURIE GOODSTEIN Published: December 21, 2005

HARRISBURG, Pa., Dec. 20 - A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that it was unconstitutional for a Pennsylvania school district to present intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in high school biology courses because it is a religious viewpoint that advances "a particular version of Christianity."

Judge Jones also excoriated members of the Dover, Pa., school board, who he said lied to cover up their religious motives, made a decision of "breathtaking inanity" and "dragged" their community into "this legal maelstrom with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources."

Eleven parents in Dover, a growing suburb about 20 miles south of Harrisburg, sued their school board a year ago after it voted to have teachers read students a brief statement introducing intelligent design in ninth-grade biology class.

The statement said that there were "gaps in the theory" of evolution and that intelligent design was another explanation they should examine.

Judge Jones, a Republican appointed by President Bush, concluded that intelligent design was not science, and that in order to claim that it is, its proponents admit they must change the very definition of science to include supernatural explanations.

Judge Jones said that teaching intelligent design as science in public school violated the First Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits public officials from using their positions to impose or establish a particular religion.

"To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect," Judge Jones wrote. "However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions."

The six-week trial in Federal District Court in Harrisburg gave intelligent design the most thorough academic and legal airing since the movement's inception about 15 years ago, and was often likened to the momentous Scopes case that put evolution on trial 80 years earlier.

Intelligent design posits that biological life is so complex that it must have been designed by an intelligent source. Its adherents say that they refrain from identifying the designer, and that it could even be aliens or a time traveler.

But Judge Jones said the evidence in the trial proved that intelligent design was "creationism relabeled."

The Supreme Court has already ruled that creationism, which relies on the biblical account of the creation of life, cannot be taught as science in a public school.

Judge Jones's decision is legally binding only for school districts in the middle district of Pennsylvania. It is unlikely to be appealed because the school board members who supported intelligent design were unseated in elections in November and replaced with a slate that opposes the intelligent design policy and said it would abide by the judge's decision.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said at a news conference in Harrisburg that the judge's decision should serve as a deterrent to other school boards and teachers considering teaching intelligent design.

"It's a carefully reasoned, highly detailed opinion," said Richard Katskee, assistant legal director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, "that goes through all of the issues that would be raised in any other school district."

Richard Thompson, the lead defense lawyer for the school board, derided the judge for issuing a sweeping judgment in a case that Mr. Thompson said merely involved a "one-minute statement" being read to students. He acknowledged that his side, too, had asked the judge to rule on the scientific merits of intelligent design, but only because it had to respond to the plaintiffs' arguments.

"A thousand opinions by a court that a particular scientific theory is invalid will not make that scientific theory invalid," said Mr. Thompson, the president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, a public interest firm in Ann Arbor, Mich., that says it promotes Christian values. "It is going to be up to the scientists who are going to continue to do research in their labs that will ultimately determine that."

The scientists who have put intelligent design forward as a valid avenue of scientific research said they were disappointed by Judge Jones's ruling but that they thought its long-term effects would be limited.

"That was a real drag," said Michael J. Behe, a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University who was the star witness for the intelligent design side. "I think he really went way over what he as a judge is entitled to say."

Dr. Behe added: "He talks about the ground rules of science. What has a judge to do with the ground rules of science? I think he just chose sides and echoed the arguments and just made assertions about our arguments."

William A. Dembski, a mathematician who argues that mathematics can show the presence of design in the development of life, predicted that intelligent design would become much stronger within 5 to 10 years.

Both Dr. Behe and Dr. Dembski are fellows with the Discovery Institute, a leading proponent of intelligent design.

"I think the big lesson is, let's go to work and really develop this theory and not try to win this in the court of public opinion," Dr. Dembski said. "The burden is on us to produce."

Mainstream scientists who have maintained that no controversy exists in the scientific community over evolution were elated by Judge Jones's ruling.

"Jubilation," said Kenneth R. Miller, a professor of biology at Brown University who has actively sparred with intelligent design proponents and testified in the Dover case. "I think the judge nailed it."

Dr. Miller said he was glad that the judge did not just rule narrowly.

Jason D. Rosenhouse, a professor of mathematics at James Madison University in Virginia and a fervent pro-evolution blogger said: "I was laughing as I read it because I don't think a scientist could explain it any better. His logic is flawless, and he hit all of the points that scientists have been making for years."

Before the start of a celebratory news conference in Harrisburg, Tammy Kitzmiller, a parent of two daughters in the Dover district and the named plaintiff in the case, Kitzmiller et al v. Dover, joked with other plaintiffs that she had an idea for a new bumper sticker: "Judge Jones for President."

Christy Rehm, another plaintiff, said to the others, "We've done something amazing here, not only with this decision, but with the election."

Last month, Dover, which usually votes majority Republican, ousted eight school board members who had backed intelligent design and elected the opposition that ran on a Democratic ticket.

Witold Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, who helped to argue the case, said, "We sincerely hope that other school districts who may have been thinking about intelligent design will pause, they will read Judge Jones's erudite opinion and they will look at what happened in the Dover community in this battle, pitting neighbor against neighbor."

The judge's ruling said that two of the most outspoken proponents of intelligent design on the Dover school board, William Buckingham and Alan Bonsell, lied in their depositions about how they raised money in a church to buy copies of an intelligent design textbook, "Of Pandas and People," to put in the school library.

Both men, according to testimony, had repeatedly said at school board meetings that they objected to evolution for religious reasons and wanted to see creationism taught on equal footing.

Judge Jones wrote, "It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the I.D. policy."

Mr. Bonsell did not respond to a telephone message on Tuesday. Mr. Buckingham, a retired police officer who has moved to Mount Airy, N.C., said, "If the judge called me a liar, then he's a liar."

Mr. Buckingham said he "answered the questions the way they asked them." He called the decision "ludicrous" and said, "I think Judge Jones ought to be ashamed of himself."

The Constitution, he said, does not call for the separation of church and state.

In his opinion, Judge Jones traced the history of the intelligent design movement to what he said were its roots in Christian fundamentalism. He seemed especially convinced by the testimony of Barbara Forrest, a historian of science, that the authors of the "Pandas" textbook had removed the word "creationism" from an earlier draft and substituted it with "intelligent design" after the Supreme Court's ruling in 1987.

"We conclude that the religious nature of intelligent design would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child," the judge said. "The writings of leading I.D. proponents reveal that the designer postulated by their argument is the God of Christianity."

Opponents of intelligent design said Judge Jones's ruling would not put an end to the movement, and predicted that intelligent design would take on various guises.

The Kansas Board of Education voted in November to adopt standards that call into question the theory of evolution, but never explicitly mention intelligent design.

Eugenie Scott, executive director, National Center for Science Education, an advocacy group in Oakland, Calif., that promotes teaching evolution, said in an interview, "I predict that another school board down the line will try to bring intelligent design into the curriculum like the Dover group did, and they'll be a lot smarter about concealing their religious intent."

Even after courts ruled against teaching creationism and creation science, Ms. Scott said, "for several years afterward, school districts were still contemplating teaching creation science."

Kenneth Chang contributed reporting from New York for this article.

Judge Says 'Intelligent Design' Is Not Science


December 21, 2005 THE NATION

He calls a school board's effort to teach it as an alternative to evolution unconstitutional.

By Henry Weinstein, Times Staff Writer

A federal judge, saying "intelligent design" is "an interesting theological argument, but … not science," ruled Tuesday that a school board violated the Constitution by compelling biology teachers to present the concept as an alternative to evolution.

The ruling came after U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III heard 21 days of testimony in a closely watched trial that pitted a group of parents against the school board in the town of Dover, Pa.

In October 2004, the board had required school officials to read a statement to ninth-graders declaring that Charles Darwin's ideas on evolution were "a theory … not a fact," and that "gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence."

"Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view," the statement said.

Jones, a church-going conservative who was appointed to the federal bench by President Bush in 2002, said the statement was clearly designed to insert religious teachings into the classroom. He used much of his 139-page ruling to dissect arguments made for intelligent design.

Legal experts described the ruling as a sharp defeat for the intelligent design movement — one likely to have considerable influence with other judges, although it is only legally binding in one area of Pennsylvania.

The "overwhelming evidence" has established that intelligent design "is a religious view, a mere relabeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory," Jones wrote.

Public remarks by school board members, he said, made clear that they adopted the statement to advance specific religious views.

Testimony at the trial included remarks from a board meeting, where one of the backers of the intelligent design statement "said words to the effect of '2,000 years ago someone died on a cross. Can't someone take a stand for him?' " the judge noted.

Supporters of intelligent design argue that biological systems are so complex that they could not have arisen by a series of random changes. The complexity of life implies an intelligent designer, they say. Most of the movement's spokesmen take care not to publicly say whether the designer they have in mind is equivalent to the God in the Bible. On that basis, they argue that their concept is scientific, not religious.

But Jones said the concept was inescapably religious.

"Although proponents of the [intelligent design movement] occasionally suggest that the designer could be a space alien or a time-traveling cell biologist, no serious alternative to God as the designer has been proposed by members" of the movement, including expert witnesses who testified, Jones wrote.

Remarks by board members that they had secular purposes in mind — to improve science teaching and to foster an open debate — were a "sham" and a "pretext for the board's real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom," he wrote.

Anticipating attacks, Jones said his ruling was not the "product of an activist judge."

He said school board officials had lied in their testimony and excoriated them for not bothering to understand what intelligent design was about before making their decision. He rebuked what he called the "breathtaking inanity of the board's decision."

"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 intelligent design, he wrote.

The school district will not appeal the ruling, said Patricia Dapp, who was elected to the Dover board this year. The supporters of intelligent design have been voted out of office, and eight members of the board now oppose the concept, she said.

The Dover trial, in which Jones heard testimony from leading advocates of intelligent design as well as experts on evolutionary theory, was one of several battlegrounds for intelligent design in the last year.

In January, a U.S. district judge in Georgia ruled that the school system in Cobb County, near Atlanta, had violated the Constitution by requiring stickers to be placed on biology textbooks casting doubt on the theory of evolution.

This month, a federal appeals court in Atlanta considered arguments in the case, with at least one judge expressing doubts about the lower court ruling.

In Kansas, the state Board of Education has changed the definition of science to permit supernatural explanations.

That reliance on the supernatural was key to Jones' rejection of the Dover school board's position.

Intelligent design arguments "may be true, a proposition on which this court takes no position," he wrote, but it "is not science."

"The centuries-old ground rules of science" make clear that a scientific theory must rely solely on natural explanations that can be tested, he wrote.

That portion of the decision won praise from Kenneth R. Miller, a biology professor at Brown University in Providence, R.I. He was the lead expert witness for the parents in the case and is the author of biology textbooks used in college and high school classrooms.

Miller testified that it was crucial that scientific propositions be able to be tested.

To illustrate his point, Miller, an avid fan of the Boston Red Sox, testified that when his team beat the New York Yankees in the 2004 baseball playoffs, a fan might have believed "God was tired of [Yankee owner] George Steinbrenner and wanted to see the Red Sox win."

"In my part of the country, you'd be surprised how many people think that's a perfectly reasonable explanation for what happened last year. And you know what? It might be true. But it certainly is not science … and it's certainly not something we can test," Miller said.

Supporters of intelligent design denounced Jones' ruling along the lines the judge had predicted.

"The Dover decision is an attempt by an activist federal judge to stop the spread of a scientific idea … and it won't work," said John West, associate director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute. The institute, based in Seattle, is a major backer of the intelligent design movement.

"Anyone who thinks a court ruling is going to kill off interest in intelligent design is living in another world," West said.

Richard Thompson of the Thomas More Law Center, the lead lawyer for the school board members, called the ruling an "ad hominem attack on scientists who happen to believe in God."

"The founders of this country would be astonished at the thought that this simple curriculum change [was] in violation of the Constitution that they drafted," he said.

But Lee Strang, a constitutional law professor at Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor, Mich., which advocates a greater role for religion in public life, said that given Supreme Court precedents and the evidence that Dover school board members had religious goals in mind, Jones' ruling was inevitable.

The Supreme Court in 1987 barred the teaching in public schools of what backers called creation science. The concept of intelligent design emerged after that ruling, Jones noted in his ruling.

Douglas Laycock of the University of Texas School of Law said the ruling would probably have considerable influence because it came after a trial in which "both sides brought in their top guns" to testify.

The judge's detailed ruling "will be quite persuasive to other judges and lawyers thinking about provoking a similar case elsewhere," he said.

Marci Hamilton, a professor at Cardozo School of Law in New York, who is an expert on religious freedom issues, agreed that the ruling could have broad ramifications.

"These are tough times to rule against a religious group," Hamilton said. "This decision sends a message to judges that it is not anti-religious to find things like intelligent design unconstitutional."

Eric Rothschild, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers, called the ruling "a real vindication of the courage [the parents] showed and the position they took."

The testimony, he said, had demonstrated that "the emperor had no clothes. The judge concluded that intelligent design had no scientific merit" and could not "uncouple itself from religion."

'Breathtaking inanity'

Excerpts from a 139-page ruling by U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, which bars a public school district in Dover, Pa., from teaching the concept of intelligent design in biology class.


"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."


"The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the board who voted for the intelligent design policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the intelligent design policy."


"Both defendants and many of the leading proponents of intelligent design make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general."


"We find that the secular purposes claimed by the board amount to a pretext for the board's real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom."


"Defendants' asserted secular purpose of improving science education is belied by the fact that most if not all of the board members who voted in favor of the biology curriculum change conceded that they still do not know, nor have they ever known, precisely what intelligent design is."


"Any asserted secular purposes by the board are a sham and are merely secondary to a religious objective."


"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 intelligent design, who in combination drove the board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy."

Source: Reuters

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Dover Intelligent Design Decision Criticized as a Futile Attempt to Censor Science Education


SEATTLE, Dec. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- "The Dover decision is an attempt by an activist federal judge to stop the spread of a scientific idea and even to prevent criticism of Darwinian evolution through government-imposed censorship rather than open debate, and it won't work," said Dr. John West, Associate Director of the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute, the nation's leading think tank researching the scientific theory known as intelligent design. "He has conflated Discovery Institute's position with that of the Dover school board, and he totally misrepresents intelligent design and the motivations of the scientists who research it."

"A legal ruling can't change the fact that there is digital code in DNA, it can't remove the molecular machines from the cell, nor change the fine tuning of the laws of physics," added West "The empirical evidence for design, the facts of biology and nature, can't be changed by legal decree." In his decision, Judge John Jones ruled that the Dover, Pennsylvania school district violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by requiring a statement to be read to students notifying them about intelligent design. Reaching well beyond the immediate legal questions before him, Judge Jones offered wide-ranging and sometimes angry comments denouncing intelligent design and praising Darwinian evolution.

"Judge Jones found that the Dover board violated the Establishment Clause because it acted from religious motives. That should have been the end to the case," said West. "Instead, Judge Jones got on his soapbox to offer his own views of science, religion, and evolution. He makes it clear that he wants his place in history as the judge who issued a definitive decision about intelligent design. This is an activist judge who has delusions of grandeur." "Anyone who thinks a court ruling is going to kill off interest in intelligent design is living in another world," continued West. "Americans don't like to be told there is some idea that they aren't permitted to learn about. It used to be said that banning a book in Boston guaranteed it would be a bestseller. Banning intelligent design in Dover will likely only fan interest in the theory."

"In the larger debate over intelligent design, this decision will be of minor significance," added Discovery Institute attorney Casey Luskin. "As we've repeatedly stressed, the ultimate validity of intelligent design will be determined not by the courts but by the scientific evidence pointing to design."

Luskin pointed out that the ruling only applies to the federal district in which it was handed down. It has no legal effect anywhere else. The decision is also unlikely to be appealed, since the recently elected Dover school board members campaigned on their opposition to the policy. "The plans of the lawyers on both sides of this case to turn this into a landmark ruling have been preempted by the voters," he said.

"Discovery Institute continues to oppose efforts to mandate teaching about the theory of intelligent design in public schools," emphasized West. "But the Institute strongly supports the freedom of teachers to discuss intelligent design in an objective manner on a voluntary basis. We also think students should learn about both the scientific strengths and weaknesses of Darwin's theory of evolution."

Drawing on recent discoveries in physics, biochemistry and related disciplines, the scientific theory of intelligent design proposes that some features of the natural world are best explained as the product of an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. Proponents include scientists at numerous universities and science organizations around the world.

SOURCE Discovery Institute
Web Site: http://www.discovery.org

Waterloo in Dover


By Steve Verdon

Just not the kind of Waterloo Intelligent Design (ID) Proponent William Dembski was hoping for. It appears that the judge in the Dover case has ruled rather broadly and this bodes ill for ID in general. This in turn, in my view, bodes ill for creationists of all stripes.

The problem for creationists in general is that ID represents one of the last stages of evolution of creationist "theory" before it goes extinct. ID is creationism with all the references to God removed and tarted up in sophisticated language of mathematics and biology to make it look more like science than any previous incarnation of creationism. When you look at the history of science education and evolutionary theory in the U.S. the path for the creationists has not been a very good one. They have gone from a position of complete dominance and legal superiority (teaching evolution and evolutionary theory was illegal in some states) to the being slowly replaced by evolutionary theory, to being declared illegal, and now we have this sterile and stripped down version of creatinism that can't even mention God.

One of the problems for ID advocates is that the judge asked the following question in his decision (you can find the decision here --it is a pretty good sized pdf so I'd recommend downloading it first),

We must now ascertain whether the ID Policy "in fact conveys a message of endorsement or disapproval" of religion, with the reasonable, objective observer being the hypothetical construct to consider this issue.

The answer can't be anything other than, "Yes, ID conveys a message of endorsement or disapproval of religion." The reason is simple. If one were to look at ID writings on the topic they would eventually come across William Dembski's Law of Conservation of Information, as well as Dembski's paper on Searching Large Spaces. These two things point to the impossibility of certain biological features arising naturally. This leaves only a supernatural explanation, which leaves the only explanation being some sort of deity. Of course, Dembski did not testify at the trial an his arguments were not part of the trial. However, the judge did look at other evidence that also lead to the same conclusion. Specifically the judge traced, in detail, the history of creationism and ID as I did above (briefly). Here is part of the decision that is relevant,

Next, and as stated, religious opponents of evolution began cloaking religious beliefs in scientific sounding language and then mandating that schools teach the resulting "creation science" or "scientific creationism" as an alternative to evolution. However, this tactic was likewise unsuccessful under the First Amendment. "Fundamentalist organizations were formed to promote the idea that the Book of Genesis was supported by scientific data. The terms 'creation science' and 'scientific creationism' have been adopted by these Fundamentalists as descriptive of their study of creation and the origins of man."


The court found that creation science organizations were fundamentalist religious entities that "consider[ed] the introduction of creation science into the public schools part of their ministry." Id. at 1260. The court in McLean stated that creation science rested on a "contrived dualism" that recognized only two possible explanations for life, the scientific theory of evolution and biblical creationism, treated the two as mutually exclusive such that "one must either accept the literal interpretation of Genesis or else believe in the godless system of evolution," and accordingly viewed any critiques of evolution as evidence that necessarily supported biblical creationism… The court concluded that creation science "is simply not science" because it depends upon "supernatural intervention," which cannot be explained by natural causes, or be proven through empirical investigation, and is therefore neither testable nor falsifiable.


Among other reasons, the Supreme Court in Edwards concluded that the challenged statute did not serve the legislature's professed purposes of encouraging academic freedom and making the science curriculum more comprehensive by "teaching all of the evidence" regarding origins of life because: the state law already allowed schools to teach any scientific theory, which responded to the alleged purpose of academic freedom; and if the legislature really had intended to make science education more comprehensive, "it would have encouraged the teaching of all scientific theories about the origins of humankind" rather than permitting schools to forego teaching evolution, but mandating that schools that teach evolution must also teach creation science, an inherently religious view… The Supreme Court further held that the belief that a supernatural creator was responsible for the creation of human kind is a religious viewpoint and that the Act at issue "advances a religious doctrine by requiring either the banishment of the theory of evolution from public school classrooms or the presentation of a religious viewpoint that rejects evolution in its entirety."


We initially note that John Haught, a theologian who testified as an expert witness for Plaintiffs and who has written extensively on the subject of evolution and religion, succinctly explained to the Court that the argument for ID is not a new scientific argument, but is rather an old religious argument for the existence of God. He traced this argument back to at least Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, who framed the argument as a syllogism: Wherever complex design exists, there must have been a designer; nature is complex; therefore nature must have had an intelligent designer… The syllogism described by Dr. Haught is essentially the same argument for ID as presented by defense expert witnesses Professors Behe and Minnich who employ the phrase "purposeful arrangement of parts."

I'd say just these parts (and yes there is more...much more) are devastating to the ID proponents in this case, and in all future cases. Also Phillip Johnson's Wedge Document/Strategy was dragged into the case, and was used as evidence against ID. The judge also uses quotes of many of the prominent proponents of the ID movement that clearly endorse a religious viewpoint, and that many in the ID movement describe ID as a religious movement. No wonder the Discovery Institute didn't want this trial to happen. They had to know they'd lose and lose badly. The judge arrives at this conclusion,

The weight of the evidence clearly demonstrates, as noted, that the systemic change from "creation" to "intelligent design" occurred sometime in 1987, after the Supreme Court's important Edwards decision. This compelling evidence strongly supports Plaintiffs' assertion that ID is creationism re-labeled. Importantly, the objective observer, whether adult or child, would conclude from the fact that Pandas posits a master intellect that the intelligent designer is God.

Overall, the decision is pretty brutal on the defense (the ID proponents). The judge notes that the Dover policy is misleading, inconsistent, questionable in regards to honesty, and confusing to students about the nature of science. In other words, far from teaching a legitimate controversy in a scientific field and allowing for academic freedom the policy has precisely the opposite effect.

Dr. Padian bluntly and effectively stated that in confusing students about science generally and evolution in particular, the disclaimer makes students "stupid."

So, we have a decision that debunks the "academic freedom" argument, the "teach the controversy argument", that "ID is science" argument, and leaves proponents of ID, creationism and their supporters with very little left to stand on.

More at the Panda's Thumb.

Intelligent design supporters attack court ruling


(Harrisburg, PA-AP) December 20, 2005 - Supporters of "intelligent design" are denouncing Tuesday's court ruling in Pennsylvania, calling it an "attack on scientists who happen to believe in God."

A federal judge ruled Dover Area School Board members violated the Constitution by ordering teachers to bring up the theory before teaching evolution. Backers of intelligent design claim evolution can't fully explain the existence of complex life forms.

Last month, voters ousted eight of the nine school board members who ordered biology teachers to add the subject to their lessons. And the new president of the board says "there is no intent to appeal" the ruling. She says intelligent design will likely be shifted into some elective social studies class.

A lawyer for families who challenged the policy says the ruling vindicates "parents who had the courage to stand up and say there was something wrong."

AJC Applauds Court Decision against Intelligent Design in Pennsylvania Schools


December 20, 2005 – New York – The American Jewish Committee applauds today's court decision rejecting as unconstitutional the introduction of intelligent design theories into the science classes of Dover, Pennsylvania public schools.

"Today's ruling is a significant blow to those who are attempting to intrude religious dogma, under the guise of science, into the nation's public schools," said Jeffrey Sinensky, AJC's general counsel. "Intelligent design is not a scientifically accepted theory, but a religious theory similar to creationism, which has no place in the science classroom of a public school. Any discussion of creationism or intelligent design would be more appropriate in a history or comparative religion class, as opposed to a science curriculum."

In Kitzmiller v. Dover School District, plaintiffs challenged the Dover school board's decision that required high school biology teachers to read a disclaimer referencing intelligent design prior to teaching evolution. Rejecting the school board's mandated disclaimer, United States District Judge John E. Jones III wrote, "The disclaimer's plain language, the legislative history, and the historical context in which the ID policy arose, all inevitably lead to the conclusion that defendants consciously chose to change Dover's biology curriculum to advance religion."

Intelligent design is a theory of creation which posits that a higher being is responsible for the design of the universe, since the world is a complicated, elaborate system of life which only a higher being could have created.

Judge Jones, in his ruling, concluded that intelligence design is not a science, and cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

"The secular purpose claimed by the Board amount to a pretext for the Board's real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public classroom, in violation of the Establishment Clause," Jones said.

"The court's ruling underscores that the appropriate place to teach religion is in churches or synagogues, and not in the public schools," said Sinensky. "We hope that today's ruling will give pause to other school boards around the country that are flirting with the idea of introducing intelligent design into science curricula."

AJC is a staunch defender of the separation between church and state in the public school curriculum, particularly in the science classroom. In this vein, AJC has submitted amicus briefs in the key legal cases concerning evolution and creationism over the years, including Edwards v. Aguillard. Most recently, AJC joined this year in a coalitional brief filed with the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Selman v. Cobb County, where a school district required disclaimer stickers to be posted on science textbooks that teach evolution.



21.12.2005. 10:09:36

A US court has banned a Pennsylvania school district from teaching intelligent design in biology classes, dealing a blow to the alternative to evolution favored by some evangelists.

The closely watched case was a key battle in an ideological war waged by Christian activists against Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection.

Despite claims it is a religious theory not rooted in fact, advocates had hoped to introduce intelligent design into schools across the US District Court Judge John Jones lashed out at the "breathtaking inanity" of the governing school board in the town of Dover which backed the concept that nature is so complex it must be the work of a superior being.

"Our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom," he said.

The 139-page ruling found that teaching intelligent design violated the "establishment clause" of the First Amendment to the Constitution, which bars a state-mandated religion.

ID not science

"In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not," he said.

The court found that the concept was an offshoot of creationism, which the Supreme Court has already ruled cannot be forced into schools.

Judge Jones said the board had thrust an "untestable alternative hypothesis" to evolution into the classroom.

"It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID policy."

Voters ousted eight members of the schoolboard in November, prompting famed television evangelist Pat Robertson to warn they had rejected God.

"If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God," Robertson said on his 700 Club show.

Opponents of intelligent design described the ruling as "wonderful."

"This is a very important decision, Judge Jones has reaffirmed that in this country, public servants shall not use their public office to impose their religious views on others," said Stephen Harvey of law firm Pepper Hamilton.

Plantiff Tammy Kitzmiller, a parent who brought the case, said "intelligent design is not science. Intelligent design is about religion."

But supporters of the theory vowed to fight on. "Anyone who thinks a court ruling is going to kill off interest in intelligent design is living in another world," said John West, of the Discovery Institute think tank, which advocates intelligent design.

Different theories

White House spokesman Scott McClellan did not criticise the ruling, but said President George W Bush, who draws strong backing from Christian conservatives, believed such decisions were up to school districts.

"The president has also said that he believes students ought to be exposed to different theories and ideas so that they can fully understand what the debate is about."

The ruling was the latest in a flurry of court judgments on the role of religion in US society, which has seen Supreme Court justices rule on the proper use of the Ten Commandments on state property.

The case has drawn comparisons to the Scopes trial of 1925, in which a biology teacher was convicted of violating Tennessee law by teaching evolution, a precedent-setting case on the role of the Bible in US public life.

In an October 2004 vote, the Dover School Board required teachers to read pupils a statement stating that Darwin's "theory of evolution" was not a "fact" and contained "gaps."

Students were also to be informed about an intelligent design textbook called "Of Pandas and People."

Judge Jones accurately predicted the reaction of intelligent design advocates, in this politically sensitive case.

"Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred."

Discovery's West hit back: "this is an activist judge who has delusions of grandeur."

SOURCE: World News

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