First, a quick update on last Friday’s (nonexistent) blog/podcast episode. I think I am going to revise my tri-weekly posting schedule to a bi-weekly one, for no other real reason than human laziness. Well, maybe not that extreme, but I think I’d like to balance both this blog and my other technology-related blog in terms of posting frequency. Also, on weekends I travel (and leave after work on a Friday), I don’t have time to complete the podcast portion, which I would normally do in the evenings.
And now, on to the interesting content . . .
This weekend, I listened to an episode of The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe (an excellent podcast by the way) which brought up the court case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. I hadn’t really ever gotten around to reading the court’s decision myself, so I decided to take the time to find it and skim over it (it’s quite long). The Dover, PA court ruling struck down a mandate that had been passed to require all science teachers in the Dover school district to treat Darwin’s Theory of Evolution as “just a theory.” The teachers had been mandated by the Dover School Board to read the following to all of their 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 is still being 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 to see if they would like to explore this view in an effort to gain an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.
As is true with 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.
This caused a group of concerned parents to take the school board to court over the simultaneous demotion of Darwin’s comprehensive Theory of Evolution to “just a theory” and inclusion of the covertly religious ideas of Intelligent Design. For a better understanding of the whole process, here’s the PBS documentary that goes through the entire saga, entitled “Intelligent Design on Trial.” Considering the importance of this ruling in American education, science, and the law, I’d highly recommend watching this 2-hour explication of perhaps one of the most important court rulings in recent years:
What was perhaps most praised by scientists and concerned citizens, however, was the judge’s decision, that (as the title of this blog post indicates) really let the hammer of justice fall upon the arguments of the Intelligent Design movement. Here’s the conclusion of the Official Dover Opinion (the full text of which can be found here):
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.
Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID 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 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.
It’s hard to envision a more concise and damning critique of the Intelligent Design Movement’s siege of our public schools. While this will certainly not prevent any future attempts by Creation Scientists, they’re re-branding as Intelligent Design proponents, or whatever future incarnation of adherents to a replacement of science with Christian ideology, at least the Dover decision provides a strong denunciation of anything pseudo-scientific being injected into public school curricula.
Just for fun, here’s The Onion’s take on the whole Intelligent Design movement, a hilarious riposte with the headline “Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New ‘Intelligent Falling’ Theory.” Give it a read; it’s satire at its best. 🙂
Until next time, bonnes pensées.