court answers intelligent design challenge

Some good news on the intelligent design in biology classes debate…

On Tuesday a federal judge ruled that Pennsylvania’s Dover Area School District broke the law when it became one of the first school districts in the United States to include intelligent design in its science curriculum.

It seems that the school board in Dover, Pennsylvania had required a statement about the shortcomings of evolutionary theory to be read out and the students be referred to “Of Pandas and People” for more information about intelligent design. Turns out the board concealed local church activity (in fundraising to make copies of the book available, etc), and thus the judge held that the principle of separation of church and state was violated.

“The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy,” 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 ID Policy.”

But the really interesting part is that the trial conducted an extensive (and at times arcane) review of the science underlying intelligent design. Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe was forced to concede that a definition of “science” including intelligent design would also include astrology. The judge ultimately wrote:

“In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether [intelligent design] is science. We have concluded it is not.”

Of course this has already been branded as judicial activism.

Here’s what’s really funny. Dover students were read a four-paragraph statement that stated, among other things, evolution is a theory, not a fact, and that this theory contains “gaps.” Well. If evolution is being taught properly, those very issues are covered as well! As a working theory, scientists continue to investigate issues that might support it, modify it, or even contradict it. The theory of evolution has changed considerably since Darwin’s day (he would not even recognise aspects of it) because of new information (in particular genetics and genes, which were unknown in Darwin’s day). And of course there are gaps. They are busy being filled in, and no doubt some larger gaps will result in modification of the theory. That’s what science is. It isn’t even the case that a creator is ruled out. There simply is no evidence one way or the other, so the theory procedes completely independently of that. If such proof comes up, it will fit right in. That’s the beauty of science.

Does that mean we shouldn’t question where we came from, or why, or how? Of course not. I happen to believe there is a creator, myself. But such discussion goes into a philosophy class, or a religion class. Either of which are perfectly legitimate classes available to American students.

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