22 September 2005

Intelligent Design Trial To Begin Monday

A bill to promote intelligent design was introduced to the Pennsylvania State House Representatives on March 16, 2005. The bill, HB 1007, would amend the State Public School Code of 1949 to include a section entitled "Teaching Theories on the Origin of Man and Earth," which would allow school boards to approve the teaching of intelligent design in lessons on evolution. "Upon approval of the board of directors, any teacher may use supporting evidence deemed necessary for instruction on the theory of intelligent design," the bill reads. The bill does not provide a definition of intelligent design, but says that teachers may not, when teaching the theory, "stress any denominational, sectarian, or religious belief." According to the National Center for Science Education, the bill has met criticism from Pennsylvania scientists and the director of the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who remarked, "while this bill seeks to advance an anti-science agenda, we should view the introduction of this legislation as a golden opportunity to remind our legislators why it is so important that all Pennsylvania's public school students learn good science." (4/7/05)

Members of the Biology Department at Shippensberg University in Pennsylvania sent a letter to the Dover Area School Board expressing opposition to a decision last October to include Intelligent Design in the biology curriculum. In the letter, the biology professors argued that Intelligent Design is a "philosophical argument" that evades the scientific method because it directly implies the existence of an un-knowable "Intelligent Designer." The letter was written by Assistant Professor Pablo Delis and signed by 15 other faculty members as an expression of solidarity with Dover High School biology teachers, who refused to enforce the curriculum change in January. Dr. Delis wrote, "administrators or teachers enacting this modification of the curriculum are presenting students with misinformation about the content and process of science." (2/10/05)

In a letter to the Dover Area School District superintendant Dr. Richard Nilsen on January 6th, all but one teacher in the Dover Senior High School science department stated their refusal to read the four-paragraph disclaimer about evolution in front of their classes, as mandated late last year by the School District. In December, the biology curriculum was updated to include a clause requiring teachers to make students "aware of gaps/problems in Darwin’s Theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, Intelligent Design." The disclaimer, to be read at the start of the evolution unit in biology classes, refers to evolution as "theory, not fact" and offers students a reference book on Intelligent Design, called Of Pandas and People. The teachers refused to read the disclaimer on the grounds that it violated their professional integrity as established by the Pennsylvania's Code of Professional Practice and Conduct for Educators. The teachers wrote: "...students will inevitably (and understandably) believe that Intelligent Design is a valid scientific theory, perhaps on par with the theory of evolution. That is not true. To refer the students to Of Pandas and People as if it is a scientific resource breaches my ethical obligation to provide them with scientific knowledge that is supported by recognized scientific proof or theory." Due to a pending lawsuit over the science curriculum filed by Dover parents, the school board agreed to the teachers' request, and charged school administrators with the task of reading the disclaimers. (1/21/05)

On December 14, eleven parents from Dover, Pennsylvania -- represented by the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and attorneys from Pepper Hamilton LLP --filed suit in federal court to overturn the "intelligent design" policy of the Dover Area School Board. The plaintiffs in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District argue that teaching intelligent design -- which consists of discredited creationist criticisms of evolution, which are supposed to lead to the conclusion that supernatural intervention by an "intelligent designer" must have been responsible for the history of life -- is government establishment of religion when taught as science in a public school science class. Vic Walczak, attorney for the Pennsylvania chapter of the ACLU, said that "Teaching students about religion's role in world history and culture is proper, but disguising a particular religious belief as science is not," at the press conference announcing the suit. He added, "Intelligent design is a Trojan Horse for bringing religious creationism back into public school science classes." Reaction to the complaint was swift. A trenchant editorial in the York Dispatch began by observing, "The intelligent design/creationist clique on the Dover Area School Board now have the national media attention they've been angling for -- and so much for their mandated responsibilities to the students and district residents," and went on pointedly to describe the procedure for running for school board. Angie Yingling, a member of the Dover Area School Board who initially voted for the policy but later reversed her position and threatened to resign over the policy, told the Associated Press, "Anyone with half a brain should have known we were going to be sued." The Discovery Institute issued a press release calling on the board to withdraw and rewrite its policy. But Richard Thompson, an attorney for the Thomas More Law Center, which describes itself as a "not-for-profit public interest law firm dedicated to the defense and promotion of the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life," indicated that his firm would represent the Dover Area School District to defend the "intelligent design" policy. Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle, Thompson acknowledged that "religious implications" of "intelligent design," but expressed confidence in the prospects for a legal victory. NCSE's Nicholas Matzke took a different view, saying, "Evolution is great science and this intelligent design stuff is religiously motivated pseudo-science," adding, "it seems like a pretty clear-cut case to us." For the San Francisco Chronicle's story on Dover, visit: Here

In a surprise move, a Pennsylvania school board recently voted to include "intelligent design" in the district's science curriculum. At its meeting on October 18th, the Dover Area School Board revised the science curriculum to include the following: "Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin's Theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design. Note: Origins of life will not be taught." The district is now apparently the first school district in the country to require the teaching of "intelligent design" -- a move that prompted two school board members to resign and that is likely, locals fear, to result in a lawsuit. Casey Brown, a ten-year veteran of the school board who resigned over the vote, commented, "There seems to be a determination among some board members to have our district serve as an example; to flout the legal rulings of the Supreme Court, to flout the law of the land. They don't seem to care. I think they need to ask the taxpayers if they want to be guinea pigs," adding that the board has already spent almost one thousand dollars in legal expenses. The York Dispatch editorialized, "When it comes to including that mantra ["intelligent design"] as part of an official school curriculum it's a case of religious zeal playing with taxpayers money, and it's just plain wrong."

The National Center for Science Education's (NCSE) Executive Director Eugenie C. Scott told the York Daily Record, "Intelligent design is just a sham to get creationism into the curriculum," explaining that "even if [its advocates] haven't convinced the scientific community, they have been able to convince the politicians ... And that's too bad for the students in Dover." Concerned readers who are in, or who have family or friends in, the Dover, Pennsylvania, area are urged to get in touch with Nick Matzke (matzke@ncseweb.org) at NCSE. For a story on the vote in the York Daily Record, visit: Here. For further coverage on NCSE's web site, visit: Here (10/22/04)

Sources: American Insitute of Biological Sciences Public Policy Report, National Center for Science Education, National Science Teachers Association, and York Daily Record, Dover Area School District website.

Contributed by Emily Lehr Wallace, AGI Government Affairs Program and Katie Ackerly, AGI/AAPG 2005 Spring Intern.

Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.

Last updated on March 7, 2005

For the record, I am of the opinion that life on Earth is no accident as the Atheistic Evolutionists contend. There are sizable gaps in the theory of Evolution. That's right Evolution is a THEORY. So why are people who are opposed to all religion so opposed to it? Why are they offended at the symbol of a cross when it has no significance to them? Why do they oppose the 10 Commandments if they do not believe in the existance of the source of the words? And why do they care if a THEORY is presented as a THEORY and alternatives are discussed? Because when they remove religion from life, then their power grows. Keep in mind that in Nazi Germany (a socialist society) religion was opposed. In the Soviet Union, all religion was banned. In China, Cuba, Vietnam, North Korea, and Cambodia religion is suppressed. Why? Because GOD is a jealous GOD. And these Communist societies worship the State. And so do the Evolutionist Atheists in the USA. And unfortunately since the Scopes trial, they have taken hold. And with every court case where an Atheist wins removal of religion from public life, the Communist agenda in the USA is gaining ground.
Pay attention people. This case is going on under the radar. Blogger's 1st Amendment Pledge If the FEC makes rules that limit my First Amendment right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules. Gribbit is a contributing writer at Stop The ACLU and the co-founder and administrator of Stop The ACLU BlogBurst.

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