Date registered: Sep 2005
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Intelligent Design Loses Again
Court: No 'intelligent design' in class
Tuesday, December 20, 2005; Posted: 11:10 a.m. EST (16:10 GMT)
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (AP) -- "Intelligent design" cannot be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district, a federal judge said Tuesday, ruling in one of the biggest courtroom clashes on evolution since the 1925 Scopes trial.
Dover Area School Board members violated the Constitution when they ordered that its biology curriculum must include the notion that life on Earth was produced by an unidentified intelligent cause, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III said.
Several members repeatedly lied to cover their motives even while professing religious beliefs, he said.
The school board policy, adopted in October 2004, was believed to have been the first of its kind in the nation.
"The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy," Jones wrote.
The board's attorneys had said members were seeking to improve science education by exposing students to alternatives to Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection. Intelligent-design proponents argue that it cannot fully explain the existence of complex life forms.
The plaintiffs challenging the policy argued that intelligent design amounts to a secular repackaging of creationism, which the courts have already ruled cannot be taught in public schools.
The Dover policy required students to hear a statement about intelligent design before ninth-grade biology lessons on evolution. The statement said Charles Darwin's theory is "not a fact," has inexplicable "gaps," and refers students to an intelligent-design textbook, "Of Pandas and People," for more information.
Jones said advocates of intelligent design "have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors" and that he didn't believe the concept shouldn't be studied and discussed.
But, he wrote, "our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom."
The controversy also divided the community and galvanized voters to oust eight incumbent school board members who supported the policy in the November 8 school board election.
The case is among at least a handful that have focused new attention on the teaching of evolution in the nation's schools.
Earlier this month, a federal appeals court in Georgia heard arguments over whether evolution disclaimer stickers placed in a school system's biology textbooks were unconstitutional.
A federal judge in January ordered Cobb County school officials to immediately remove the stickers, which called evolution a theory, not a fact.
In November, state education officials in Kansas adopted new classroom science standards that call the theory of evolution into question.
Text of the school's statement
Text of the statement on "intelligent design" that Dover Area High School administrators have been reading to students at the start of biology lessons on evolution:
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 in the library along with other resources 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.
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