Darwin 1, God 0
Darwin, 1; God, 0: Intelligent Design or Incompetent Design?
By David Thorstad
The United States seems to keep fighting old battles. It has never stopped fighting the Civil War, but the hottest such battle being fought these days is between god and Darwin, creationism and evolution, faith and science. The fire-and-brimstone supernatural explanations of the Earth’s origins in the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial have been repackaged.
Biblical literalism is no longer fashionable, except among know-nothing Christian fundamentalists. But the old obscurantism and disdain for science persist, under a less crude rubric: “intelligent design” (ID).
ID took a serious hit on December 20 when a judge in Pennsylvania, in a sweeping ruling in the first case to test its merits as an alternative to evolution in a high school biology class in the town of Dover, sharply rebuked ID advocates. Judge John E. Jones III, a Republican appointed by President George W. Bush, ruled that “intelligent design” is not science and that teaching it in public schools would be a violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits public officials from seeking to impose a particular religion. Teaching ID as an alternative to evolution advances “a particular version of Christianity,” he said. He harshly criticized members of the Dover school board for their “breathtaking inanity” in dragging the community into “this legal maelstrom with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.” He denounced them for having lied to cover up their religious motives in voting to have teachers read students in a biology class a brief statement to the effect that there were “gaps in the theory” of evolution and that intelligent design was another explanation they should study (see attached text). ID is not science, and to claim that it is would require changing the very definition of science to include supernatural explanations. He criticized a “national public interest law firm eager to find a test case on I.D.” for driving the board “to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy.” The firm in question is the Thomas More Law Center, a Catholic outfit in Ann Arbor, Michigan, that promotes “Christian values” and, among other things, opposes homosexuality. Its lead lawyer, Richard Thompson, denied on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer that his group had actively sought out the case, despite assertions to that effect in the group’s own propaganda.
The judge traced the roots of the ID movement back to Christian fundamentalism and said: “We conclude that the religious nature of intelligent design would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child. The writings of leading I.D. proponents reveal that the designer postulated by their argument is the God of Christianity.”
“To be sure,” he stated in his 139-page decision, “Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect. 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.” (See excerpts from the decision below.)
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1987, in Edwards v Aguillard, that teaching “creation science” in public schools violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment “because it lacks a clear secular purpose.” This ruling meant the end of overtly religious terminology in antievolution efforts by Christian believers and led to their replacing “creation science” with “intelligent design.”
In October 2004, the Dover Area Superintendent, Richard Nilsen, approved the donation of fifty copies of Of Pandas and People, which is about intelligent design, as a reference book for the classroom. An earlier draft of this book used the word “creationism,” but following the 1987 Supreme Court ruling, the authors substituted “intelligent design” for it, a subterfuge the judge saw through. On October 18, 2004, in a 6–3 vote of the school board, the school district became the first in the country to require the teaching of intelligent design in a high school biology class.
That December, eleven parents sued the school district and the board, claiming that the board’s decision violated the constitutional separation of church and state. They were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). U.S. Middle District Court Judge Jones heard arguments in this lawsuit for six weeks from September 26 to November 4, 2005, and issued his ruling on December 20. His ruling is legally binding only for the middle district of Pennsylvania. It is unlikely to be appealed because in November (just a few days after the end of the trial), Dover, which usually votes majority Republican, voted all eight school board members who had supported intelligent design out of office and elected the opposition, which ran on a Democratic Party ticket. Those new board members said they would abide by the judge’s decision. Following the vote, the quasi-fascist televangelist Pat Robertson, fresh from urging Bush to assassinate Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, denounced the voters in Dover on his TV show, The 700 Club: “I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God; you just rejected him from your city.”
Issues and Arguments
The intelligent design movement asserts that life-forms are too complex to have been formed by natural processes, such as natural selection or evolution, and therefore must have been formed by a “higher intelligence.” They don’t identify that “intelligence.” Most adherents believe that it is “god,” particularly the Christian god. But it could be aliens, a time traveler, or some other New Age–type fantasy creature or force. The ID movement postulates an explanation that requires supernatural intervention, and thumbs its nose at the scientific method by making assertions that cannot be subjected to scientific inquiry and that therefore belong to the realm of religious speculation, faith, and superstition. As the New York Times editorialized (December 22), “The judge found that intelligent design violated the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking supernatural causation and by making assertions that cannot 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 inspiration for the Dover ID policy was blatant. Board members behind the policy repeatedly expressed religious reasons for opposing evolution, though they tried to hide this during trial testimony. The judge accused two of the main proponents, Alan Bonsell and William Buckingham, of blatantly lying during their testimony to hide the fact that they had raised money in church to purchase the Pandas book for the school library. Several lied repeatedly to hide their religious motivations for pushing ID on the school district. Some supporters, the judge said, “had utterly no grasp of ID”; one board member “consistently referred to ID as ‘intelligence design’ throughout her testimony.” “It is ironic,” he observed caustically, “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.”
An editorial in the York Daily Record (a Pennsylvania paper) went further: “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…. 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.” ID advocates do not all agree on a definition of their own theory. The Pandas book, for instance, says: “Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency with their distinctive features already intact, fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks and wings, etc.” The most important witness for the ID side was Michael J. Behe, a biochemist from Lehigh University and author of the best-selling book Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. Asked during the trial if that definition wouldn’t still make sense if the words “intelligent design” were replaced by “creationism,” he replied that the excerpt was “somewhat problematic” and was not consistent with his own definition, yet he had not objected to it when he reviewed the textbook. (He claimed he had only reviewed his own contribution, on blood clotting. If true, that would be an odd and unprofessional publishing procedure.) In his view, ID is a theory that can accept some aspects of evolution, such as changes in organisms over time, although he rejects the Darwinian theory of random natural selection. ID, he said, “focuses exclusively on the proposed mechanism of how complex biological structures arose.” When asked what the mechanism was that ID was proposing, he hedged: “It does not propose a mechanism in the sense of a step by step description of how these structures arose”; he added that “the word mechanism can be used broadly” and that it is “intelligent activity.” He denied that this circular “reasoning” was tautological. Behe invokes his concept of “irreducible complexity” to justify his belief in intelligent design. He uses a mousetrap as an example of an “irreducibly complex” system. The trap, he argues, cannot be the result of successive modifications, as held by the theory of evolution. Rather, it would have to spring into existence complete, without evolving. According to him, “natural selection can only choose among systems that are already working,” and therefore must have been designed. That strikes me as sophomoric, tendentious, illogical, and false. Even if a mousetrap is disassembled, some parts of it could still be functional (e.g., a catch used as a fishhook, a spring as a key chain). Some Enlightenment philosophes argued that a clock had to have a clockmaker—but a clock is obviously not a biological organism so the analogy seems absurd and impossible to take seriously.
Behe also considers some biological systems as “irreducibly complex”—for example, flagella (propulsive organs of some bacteria) or the “exquisitely coordinated mechanism that causes blood to clot.” But science has shown that in fact some parts of the flagellum can function alone and are used by bacteria to inject poison into cells. Although this is a different function, Kenneth R. Miller, professor of biology at Brown University, points out, “it nonetheless can be favored by natural selection.” Apparently unfamiliar with the stacks of books and journals in the courtroom dealing with the evolution of the human immune system (for him, a mystery for which “scientific literature has no answer”), Behe simply dismissed them. Little Rock columnist Gene Lyons commented in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette: “Indeed, his version of ID seems to boil down to the idea that God created the first living cell several billion years ago, placed it on the primordial earth, fixed himself a bowl of popcorn and sat back to enjoy the show. Maybe he did. Asked what ‘mechanism’ the designer used, Behe offered none. In short, ID not only fails to qualify as a scientific theorem, it’s not even a hypothesis. It’s the equivalent of a 3 a.m. dormitory bull session about The Meaning of Life. The good news is that whatever Americans may tell pollsters about evolution when it’s falsely equated with atheism, when circumstances force them to think seriously, the majority reaches the right conclusion.”
At a lecture at the University of Minnesota last September 24 sponsored by a “Christian study center,” Behe rehashed his mousetrap and flagellum arguments and concluded that life is too complex to be explained by Darwinian notions of natural selection or random mutation. “The evidence for design,” he said repeatedly, “is the purposeful arrangement of the parts.” According to a report in City Pages (November 23, 2005), “Though he talked for a long time, this was in effect his entire argument.” Biologist and blogger P.Z. Myers said that Behe’s arguments “exceeded my expectations of suckiness. It was an evening of phony rhetoric, smug self-aggrandizement, and utter vacuity—and the audience of complacent Christians ate it up. That part of the audience that consisted of atheists and competent scientists and, I presume, honest Christians found it appalling.” Although Behe talked for an hour, “in all that time he didn’t give one specific hypothesis, he didn’t describe any evidence, and he didn’t propose one single line of research that an ID-friendly scientist could follow. This was a completely empty talk, a hollow shell with a few buzzwords and fallacious analogies to make his cheerleaders happy. He’s a fraud. I can’t say that it was an entirely wasted evening, though. I learned that Intelligent Design creationism is still dead in the water, and that one of the few legitimately credentialed scientists working within the movement is still an empty babbler without a whisper of scientific support.”
Virtually all biologists dismiss Behe’s arguments. In their recent book The Plausibility of Life (Yale University Press), Marc Kirschner (founding chair of the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School) and John Gerhart (a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley) present their theory of “facilitated variation” to address a major question in evolution: How can small genetic changes develop into complex, useful body parts? They assert, reports the Boston Globe (October 23, 2005), that “while random genetic mutations in our DNA code cause variations, these mutations do not create random effects (a traditional working assumption of many evolutionists). Instead, all organisms have maintained an essentially intact set of vital mechanisms—metabolism, reproduction of DNA, growth mechanisms, and more—for at least 2 billion years. These elements, along with a long-conserved body plan common to many animals, serve as the platform for subsequent, often more visible variations.” An example they cite is the elephant’s trunk, the elk’s antlers, and the narwhal’s tusk. Although they appear distinct, the “modular structure of life” means that these body parts are really just different expressions of the same type of genetic activity—“funneled through the process of natural selection, in which variations useful to a particular environment tend to survive over time.”
“People should be asking about the nature of complexity, not just how complex it is,” Kirschner told the Globe. “You look at a clock, and you see that every part is purposely made. That’s what you would do if you were an Intelligent Designer. But instead, when you look at biology, you find that there are very few types of parts, and they are being co-opted from one place to another. We have a Lego-like capacity to very easily generate new structures.”
Of course, anyone can see evolution going on all the time, not just in the fossil record. Fast-evolving flu viruses are an example. Doonesbury poked fun at creationism in a December comic strip that showed a doctor with a man just diagnosed with tuberculosis. “Are you a creationist?” the doctor asks. “Why, yes, yes, I am. Why do you ask?” the patient replies. “Because I need to know whether you want me to treat the TB bug as it was before antibiotics… or as the multiple-drug-resistant strain it has since evolved into.” Patient: “Evolved?” Doctor: “Your choice. If you go with the Noah’s Ark version, I’ll just give you streptomycin.” Patient: “Um… What are the newer drugs like?” Doctor: “They’re intelligently designed.” (See www.doonesbury.com.)
Numerous examples of natural selection could be cited. A century ago, for instance, the African village weaverbird was introduced on the island of Mauritius, and on Hispaniola the bird has existed for more than two centuries. Neither island has the parasitic diederik cuckoos that plague the weaverbird elsewhere by laying similar-looking eggs in their nests. The cuckoo eggs hatch first and the other eggs are removed from the nest. In response, the weaverbirds have changed the color or spotting patterns on their eggs, making it easier to detect an alien egg. But on the two islands, there is a reduced variation in the eggs of individual birds and within clutches, with a greater reduction on the island where the birds have existed longer without the cuckoo threat (“Birds Adjust for Unwanted Guests,” New York Times, November 29, 2005, D3).
Another example of how species can evolve when they become geographically isolated is that of the monarch flycatcher. Scientists have identified thirteen species of this bird that shared a common ancestor in Australia or New Guinea 2–5.6 million years ago. These descendants spread thousands of miles to other islands, as far away as Hawaii, undergoing changes at a rapid rate. Dr. Christopher E. Filardi, a biologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, determined that one lineage tripled its body size in less than a million years. Poetically, this “evolutionary wave” came full circle when flycatchers from the Solomon Islands colonized Australia and New Guinea (“In Give and Take of Evolution, a Surprising Contribution from Islands,” New York Times, November 22, 2005, D2).
The modern understanding of how new species evolve was laid in the mid-twentieth century by the ornithologist Ernst Mayr (1904–2005), who based his theory on the study of birds in the Pacific islands.
Many similar examples could be given involving insect wings, lizards, and other animals, both extinct and living.
People who haven’t given much thought to the subject sometimes point to the human eye as an example of a complex organ that couldn’t possibly have evolved, but had to be designed by a presumably “intelligent designer.” But the eyes of insects and mammals, Kirschner and Gerhart noted, according to the Globe, “each of which appear to be singularly complex, share important biochemical building blocks and connections among their components.” Moreover, there are apparent oddities in the structure of the human eye (such as inverted images, or the receptor cells being located behind a membrane curtain) that at the least raise questions about how intelligently designed the eye is after all.
Don Wise, professor emeritus of geosciences at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, advocates a different phrase: “incompetent design.” He points to a lack of intelligent design in the way the human animal has evolved. “The thing that is closest to all of us is our own skeleton, and there are certainly all kinds of stupidity in our design…. All of our pelvises slope forward for convenient knuckle-dragging, like all the other great apes…. Look at the teeth in your mouth. Basically, most of us have too many teeth for the size of our mouth.” Wise says that if he were to redesign things, he would “put fewer teeth in our mouths,” rearrange bones in the face “so that it could drain properly,” straighten the pelvis “so we wouldn’t have to have that bend” (which results in primates getting ruptured disks and lower back pain from walking on two feet), get rid of the appendix and the tonsils, redo the eye. He says that “evolutionarily all of these things make sense,” but in terms of intelligent design “they’re idiocy.” Wise has written lyrics to be sung to the tune of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”:
My bones proclaim a story of incompetent design.
My back still hurts, my sinus clogs, my teeth just won’t align.
If I had drawn the blueprint, I would cer-tain-ly resign.
Evo-Evo-Evo-lution! Design is but a mere illusion.
Darwin sparked our revolution. Science SHALL prevail!
(Interviewed by Maggie Wittlin, Evolution & Ecology, November 15, 2005)
“The best argument against ‘intelligent design,’” writes columnist Nicholas D. Kristof (“The Hubris of the Humanities,” New York Times, December 6, 2005), “has always been humanity itself. At a time when only 40 percent of Americans believe in evolution, and only 13 percent know what a molecule is, we’re an argument at best for ‘mediocre design.’” One-fifth of Americans still believe that the Sun goes around the Earth. This is almost five hundred years since Galileo was put on trial by the Roman Catholic Church in 1633 for embracing the Copernican view and 505 years since the church burned Giordano Bruno at the stake for concluding that stars are suns. It took the church nearly five hundred years to admit that it was wrong and Galileo was right, but this news hasn’t filtered down yet to millions of Americans. Only about half of them, Kristof observes, “know that humans did not live at the same time as dinosaurs.” Public acceptance of evolution has gone down from 45 percent to 40 percent over the past two decades. Jon Miller, a professor at Northwestern University medical school who has studied attitudes toward evolution in thirty-four countries, found that only Turkey’s population has a lower level of support for evolution than Americans. All this, as well as widespread belief in a personal devil, heaven and hell, Purgatory, and other bizarre or superstitious concepts, demonstrates an abysmal lack of scientific knowledge among a population that barely knows DNA from the Trinity.
A 2001 Gallup poll found that 45 percent of Americans believe that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so”; 37 percent believe that “Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process”; only 12 percent believe that “Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process” (Michael Shermer, “Design, Inc.” Skeptic 12.1 : 77; see www.skeptic.com for informative and often entertaining exposés of superstitious beliefs, fraudulent scams like “faith healing” and magic tricks, UFO “abductions,” Internet conspiracy “theories,” and the like). According to a recent report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, nearly half of U.S. states have low academic standards in science. The authors gave twenty-two states a D or an F for the way they are teaching evolution. Kansas got a special distinction, an F minus, for the decision in November of its State Board of Education to redefine science to remove the words “natural explanations” from the definition of science, which used to read: “Science is the human activity of seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us.” The new definition calls science “a systematic method of continuing investigation that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena.” The only purpose behind this legalistic sleight of hand is to open the door to “supernatural explanations” instead of natural ones for natural phenomena.
Following the Kansas decision, Bobby Henderson, who, according to a report in the New York Times (December 27, 2005, D3), “variously describes himself as a concerned citizen, amateur pirate and a person of negligible education,” created an online Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which holds that “an invisible and undetectable Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe.” The FSM movement argues (on Henderson’s Web site, www.venganza.org) that his belief is no less worthy of inclusion in science classes than intelligent design.
The Fordham Institute study, the New York Times states (December 8, 2005), “appears to support concerns raised by a growing number of university officials and corporate executives, who say that the failure to produce students well-prepared in science is undermining the country’s production of scientists and engineers and putting the nation’s economic future in jeopardy.” Some of the U.S. ruling class recognize the danger in such pervasive ignorance and that if U.S. corporations are to be able to compete with the rapid advances in technology among their competitors abroad, the education system cannot neglect scientific instruction and progress. The New York Times and other major newspapers, for instance, have come out against the teaching of “intelligent design.” The Wall Street Journal, in contrast, published an editorial earlier in the year that supported it. Creationists and Christian fundamentalists, however, don’t care about such considerations because their heart beats only for the day—which they believe could arrive at any moment—when Jesus will come again and sweep them up into heaven in the Rapture.
Even though the Dover ruling is not legally binding on school districts throughout the country, the opinion is so well researched, and so thoroughly covers all possible bases in terms of the legal arguments ID advocates make, that it might deter other school boards and state boards of education from trying to adopt an ID policy. The legal fees the advocates now face could be an even stronger deterrent. Those fees, which the Dover school district is now obliged to pay, could exceed $1 million for court costs and legal fees to lawyers from the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and lawyers with a private firm. It is possible that these lawyers will go after individual board members who voted for the ID policy to pay these costs.
Challenges to evolution in school curriculums are under way in two dozen states, and some resemble the Kansas approach of changing science standards to teach about perceived flaws in evolutionary theory.
“Intelligent design isn’t science even though it pretends to be,” said the Vatican’s chief astronomer, the Rev. George Coyne, Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, in November. “If you want to teach it in schools, intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science.” That’s exactly what some ID advocates will now try to implement. The day of the Dover ruling, a Texas school district decided that high school students in Odessa would study the Bible in history and literature, using a course published by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, a religious advocacy group in Greensboro, North Carolina, that is backed by two right-wing organizations, the Eagle Forum and Focus on the Family. The program promotes fundamentalist Protestant Christianity and uses the King James Version of the Christian holy book. Other similar programs exist, and advocates have rushed to publish Op-Ed columns calling for teaching the Bible as literature or history. A case might reasonably be made to include teaching the Bible, along with holy books and teachings of other religions, as part of a comparative religion or literature course, but Christian fanatics are not suggesting that Native American religions, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Taoism, Buddhism, or any other “heathen” faiths be included in such courses. Merely being a Christian hardly would seem adequate qualification for someone to teach such a course in any case; a better job might be done by a comparative literature expert, an agnostic, or an atheist, who might be more neutral or objective. (Believers could be brought in as exhibits.) But the proposal seems foolish at a time when U.S. schools are failing to adequately teach reading, spelling, writing, mathematics, science, music, art, critical thinking, or even physical education. Religionists have screwy priorities that can only prove divisive, contentious, and, in the end, do students and the country a disservice.
The ACLU’s president, Nadine Strossen, wrote in the group’s newsletter, Civil Liberties (fall 2005), that the issue ultimately has to be won in the court of public opinion: “Public opinion polls consistently show that a majority of Americans believe that both creationism (more extreme than ‘intelligent design’) and evolution should be taught in public schools. Some of this support comes no doubt from the fact that many people simply believe in creationism. Another group of supporters presumably takes the understandable—and normally admirable—position that ‘both sides should be taught.’ The ACLU is, in short, promoting a position that is not immediately accepted by a majority of our fellow citizens.
“That, of course, is not news. The ACLU is frequently, and admirably, in this position…. The problem in Dover is not science versus religion; rather, it is that one form of religious belief, which is not accepted by other religious believers, was wrongly promoted as if it were a science.”
That is true, but behind it lies a more fundamental conflict: between a materialist, scientific approach to understanding reality and an idealist, antiscientific, frequently superstitious attempt to promote religion in the secular domain. ID efforts represent a dangerous blurring of the line between the two that smacks of theocracy. This is occurring in the context of many other steps, including by government, to expand the influence of Christianity in public life, even at taxpayers’ expense, and at a time when the United States has a ruling gang that acts like it is playing out a role from the book of Revelation, determining both domestic and foreign policy in ways that not only fill their pockets with cash, but that might help to hurry up the second coming of Christ, the Rapture, and the much-anticipated triumphal thousand-year reign of Christ on Earth. Clearly, the efforts of ID advocates to impose religious and pseudoscientific beliefs on the secular educational system seem destined to continue to heat up the “culture wars” in the United States.
One letter writer to the New York Times had a novel suggestion: “If the intelligent design crowd is going to sell literal reading of the Bible as science, I recommend teaching people to turn water into wine. I would support that change in the education system.”
The ID effort shows the need not merely to separate the church from the state, but to separate the schools from the church.
Of course life looks designed, because it was—from the bottom up, by evolution.
Intelligent design’s religious agenda
“The objective is to convince people that Darwinism is inherently atheistic, thus shifting the debate from creationism vs. evolution to the existence of God vs. the non-existence of God. From there people are introduced to ‘the truth’ of the Bible and then ‘the question of sin’ and finally ‘introduced to Jesus.’”
—Philip Johnson, Church & State magazine (1999) on the “wedge” strategy
“Intelligent Design opens the whole possibility of us being created in the image of a benevolent God…. The job of apologetics is to clear the ground, to clear obstacles that prevent people from coming to the knowledge of Christ…. And if there’s anything that I think has blocked the growth of Christ as the free reign of the Spirit and people accepting the Scripture and Jesus Christ, it is the Darwinian naturalistic view.”
—William Dembski, National Religious Broadcasters convention, February 6, 2000
“Father’s [the Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s] words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism. When Father chose me to enter a Ph.D. program in 1978, I welcomed the opportunity to prepare myself for battle.”
—Jonathan Wells, author of the antievolution book The Icons of Evolution
Statement the Dover School Board decided to have teachers read to students
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.
Excerpt from the ruling on intelligent design by Judge John E. Jones III
In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether I.D. is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that I.D. cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.
Both defendants and many of the leading proponents of I.D. 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. Repeatedly in this trial, plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.
To be sure, Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect. 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 citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the board who voted for the I.D. 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 I.D. policy.
With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of I.D. have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that I.D. should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach I.D. as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.
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 I.D., who in combination drove the board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy.
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.
[This article appeared on www.etuxx.com in English and in a German translation.]