The Defeat of ‘Intelligent Design’ in Pennsylvania

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Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District is a landmark case in the 150-Year Creationism War. The Dover School District voted in late 2004 to require the teaching of “intelligent design” as an alternative to the scientific theory of evolution (heavily influenced by the Discovery Institute’s propaganda), and they were promptly sued by a group of eleven outraged parents.

The resulting decision was an utter defeat for the intelligent design shills; star witness Michael Behe was forced to admit under cross examination that there are no peer-reviewed articles by ID advocates, and that the definition of “scientific theory” he was attempting to promote was so vague it could also be applied to astrology. (Despite this crushing blow, the ID movement refuses to go quietly into that dark night.)

The judge in the case, John E. Jones III, a Republican appointed by George W. Bush, ruled that the school district’s policy was unconstitutional, and issued a 139 page decision (available here) that’s remarkable for the conclusions it reaches about the origins and nature of the “intelligent design” movement, and very harsh in its criticism of the groups and individuals who promote it.

Aspects of the judge’s decision bear directly on recent discussions on these issues at LGF; here are some of the more interesting quotes:

“For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the religious nature of ID [intelligent design] would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child” (page 24)

“A significant aspect of the IDM [intelligent design movement] is that despite Defendants’ protestations to the contrary, it describes ID as a religious argument. In that vein, the writings of leading ID proponents reveal that the designer postulated by their argument is the God of Christianity.” (page 26)

“The evidence at trial demonstrates that ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism” (page 31)

“The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory.” (page 43)

“Throughout the trial and in various submissions to the Court, Defendants vigorously argue that the reading of the statement is not “teaching” ID but instead is merely “making students aware of it.” In fact, one consistency among the Dover School Board members’ testimony, which was marked by selective memories and outright lies under oath, as will be discussed in more detail below, is that they did not think they needed to be knowledgeable about ID because it was not being taught to the students. We disagree.” (footnote 7 on page 46)

“After a searching review of the record and applicable caselaw, we find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the Court takes no position, ID is not science. We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980’s; and (3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community.” (page 64)

“[T]he one textbook [Pandas] to which the Dover ID Policy directs students contains outdated concepts and flawed science, as recognized by even the defense experts in this case.” (pages 86–87)

ID’s backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard. The goal of the IDM is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID.” (page 89)

“Accordingly, 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, in violation of the Establishment Clause.” (page 132)

In his Conclusion on pages 136–138 of 139 of this decision he writes:

The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents. […]

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID 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 ID Policy. With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID 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 ID, 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.

UPDATE at 7/4/08 5:09:00 pm:

Here’s a very good PBS Nova show about the Dover School District controversy:

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