Looking at the politics and science of our times with more than just what the ''Media'' feeds us in a Rational and objective way, with my own comments and observations.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
House committee rejects 'Intelligent design' bill
House committee rejects ‘intelligent design’ bill
BY LAURA KELLAMS
Posted on Thursday, March 17, 2005
Legislation that would require the state to teach the "theory of intelligent design" in public schools failed to get any support in an Arkansas House of Representatives committee on Wednesday.
Rep. Mark Martin, R-Prairie Grove, wants the state to teach, along with the theory of evolution, the theory that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause and not by an undirected process such as natural selection." Martin, who describes himself as conservative Christian, said he doesn’t want schools to teach children that God exists or that evolution is wrong. Scientific teaching simply should take on a more "agnostic" view, he said.
When he presented his House Bill 2608 to the Committee on Rules, the only discussion was why the bill had been assigned to that committee and not the Committee on Education, of which Martin is a member. Martin said he was puzzled, too, and said he can only assume it was a mistake.
After explaining his aims with the legislation, no one on the committee made a motion to recommend the bill to the House. "What I’m trying to do here is not to deal directly with the existence or non-existence of God, but restore to science the agnostic viewpoint that there could be or could not be rather than the dogmatism that actually currently exists... that absolutely precludes the existence of God," Martin said.
Martin, who is a biomechanical engineer, said he’s not sure about the theory of evolution but that there’s enough scientific evidence to show that there’s "a lot of truth" to it. "I don’t consider it in conflict with my strict Christian beliefs, or, quite frankly, my belief in the inerrancy of Scripture," he said. "I don’t believe that they have to be in conflict. I don’t have the answers to that stuff."
Martin’s own school-aged daughter is taught at home because he wants her education to be Bible-based, he said.
washingtonpost.com Battle on Teaching Evolution Sharpens By Peter SlevinWashington Post Staff WriterMonday, March 14, 2005; Page A01
WICHITA – Propelled by a polished strategy crafted by activists on America's political right, a battle is intensifying across the nation over how students are taught about the origins of life. Policymakers in 19 states are weighing proposals that question the science of evolution.
The proposals typically stop short of overturning evolution or introducing biblical accounts. Instead, they are calculated pleas to teach what advocates consider gaps in long-accepted Darwinian theory, with many relying on the idea of intelligent design, which posits the central role of a creator.
The growing trend has alarmed scientists and educators who consider it a masked effort to replace science with theology. But 80 years after the Scopes "monkey" trial -- in which a Tennessee man was prosecuted for violating state law by teaching evolution -- it is the anti-evolutionary scientists and Christian activists who say they are the ones being persecuted, by a liberal establishment.
They are acting now because they feel emboldened by the country's conservative currents and by President Bush, who angered many scientists and teachers by declaring that the jury is still out on evolution. Sharing strong convictions, deep pockets and impressive political credentials -- if not always the same goals -- the activists are building a sizable network.
In Seattle, the nonprofit Discovery Institute spends more than $1 million a year for research, polls and media pieces supporting intelligent design. In Fort Lauderdale, Christian evangelist James Kennedy established a Creation Studies Institute. In Virginia, Liberty University is sponsoring the Creation Mega Conference with a Kentucky group called Answers in Genesis, which raised $9 million in 2003.
At the state and local level, from South Carolina to California, these advocates are using lawsuits and school board debates to counter evolutionary theory. Alabama and Georgia legislators recently introduced bills to allow teachers to challenge evolutionary theory in the classroom. Ohio, Minnesota, New Mexico and Ohio have approved new rules allowing that. And a school board member in a Tennessee county wants stickers pasted on textbooks that say evolution remains unproven.
A prominent effort is underway in Kansas, where the state Board of Education intends to revise teaching standards. That would be progress, Southern Baptist minister Terry Fox said, because "most people in Kansas don't think we came from monkeys."
The movement is "steadily growing," said Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, which defends the teaching of evolution. "The energy level is new. The religious right has had an effect nationally. Now, by golly, they want to call in the chits."
Not Science, Politics
Polls show that a large majority of Americans believe God alone created man or had a guiding hand. Advocates invoke the First Amendment and say the current campaigns are partly about respect for those beliefs.
"It's an academic freedom proposal. What we would like to foment is a civil discussion about science. That falls right down the middle of the fairway of American pluralism," said the Discovery Institute's Stephen C. Meyer, who believes evolution alone cannot explain life's unfurling. "We are interested in seeing that spread state by state across the country."
Some evolution opponents are trying to use Bush's No Child Left Behind law, saying it creates an opening for states to set new teaching standards. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), a Christian who draws on Discovery Institute material, drafted language accompanying the law that said students should be exposed to "the full range of scientific views that exist."
"Anyone who expresses anything other than the dominant worldview is shunned and booted from the academy," Santorum said in an interview. "My reading of the science is there's a legitimate debate. My feeling is let the debate be had."
Although the new strategy speaks of "teaching the controversy" over evolution, opponents insist the controversy is not scientific, but political. They paint the approach as a disarming subterfuge designed to undermine solid evidence that all living things share a common ancestry.
"The movement is a veneer over a certain theological message. Every one of these groups is now actively engaged in trying to undercut sound science education by criticizing evolution," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
"It is all based on their religious ideology. Even the people who don't specifically mention religion are hard-pressed with a straight face to say who the intelligent designer is if it's not God."
Although many backers of intelligent design oppose the biblical account that God created the world in six days, the Christian right is increasingly mobilized, Baylor University scholar Barry G. Hankins said. He noted the recent hiring by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary of Discovery Institute scholar and prominent intelligent design proponent William A. Dembski.
The seminary said the move, along with the creation of a Center for Science and Theology, was central to developing a "comprehensive Christian worldview."
"As the Christian right has success on a variety of issues, it emboldens them to expand their agenda," Hankins said. "When they have losses . . . it gives them fuel for their fire."
Deferring the Debate
The efforts are not limited to schools. From offices overlooking Puget Sound, Meyer is waging a careful campaign to change the way Americans think about the natural world. The Discovery Institute devotes about 85 percent of its budget to funding scientists, with other money going to public action campaigns.
Discovery Institute raised money for "Unlocking the Mystery of Life," a DVD produced by Illustra Media and shown on PBS stations in major markets. The institute has sponsored opinion polls and underwrites research for books sold in secular and Christian bookstores. Its newest project is to establish a science laboratory.
Meyer said the institute accepts money from such wealthy conservatives as Howard Ahmanson Jr., who once said his goal is "the total integration of biblical law into our lives," and the Maclellan Foundation, which commits itself to "the infallibility of the Scripture."
"We'll take money from anyone who wants to give it to us," Meyer said. "Everyone has motives. Let's acknowledge that and get on with the interesting part."
Meyer said he and Discovery Institute President Bruce Chapman devised the compromise strategy in March 2002 when they realized a dispute over intelligent design was complicating efforts to challenge evolution in the classroom. They settled on the current approach that stresses open debate and evolution's ostensible weakness, but does not require students to study design.
The idea was to sow doubt about Darwin and buy time for the 40-plus scientists affiliated with the institute to perfect the theory, Meyer said. Also, by deferring a debate about whether God was the intelligent designer, the strategy avoids the defeats suffered by creationists who tried to oust evolution from the classroom and ran afoul of the Constitution.
"Our goal is to not remove evolution. Good lord, it's incredible how much this is misunderstood," said William Harris, a professor at the University of Missouri at Kansas City medical school. "Kids need to understand it, but they need to know the strengths and weaknesses of the data, how much of it is a guess, how much of it is extrapolation."
Harris does not favor teaching intelligent design, although he believes there is more to the story than evolution.
"To say God did not play a role is arrogant," Harris said. "It's far beyond the data."
Harris teamed up with John H. Calvert, a retired corporate lawyer who calls the debate over the origins of life "the most fundamental issue facing the culture." They formed Intelligent Design Network Inc., which draws interested legislators and activists to an annual Darwin, Design and Democracy conference.
The 2001 conference presented its Wedge of Truth award to members of the 1999 Kansas Board of Education that played down evolution and allowed local boards to decide what students would learn. A board elected in 2001 overturned that decision, but a fresh batch of conservatives won office in November, when Bush swamped his Democratic opponent, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), here by 62 to 37 percent.
"The thing that excites me is we really are in a revolution of scientific thought," Calvert said. He described offering advice in such places as Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio and Cobb County, Ga., where a federal court recently halted an attempt to affix a sticker to science textbooks saying evolution is theory, not fact.
'Liberalism Will Die'
Despite some disagreement, Calvert, Harris and the Discovery Institute collectively favor efforts to change state teaching standards. Bypassing the work of a 26-member science standards committee that rejected revisions, the Kansas board's conservative majority recently announced a series of "scientific hearings" to discuss evolution and its critics.
The board's chairman, Steve Abrams, said he is seeking space for students to "critically analyze" the evidence.
That approach appeals to Cindy Duckett, a Wichita mother who believes public school leaves many religious children feeling shut out. Teaching doubts about evolution, she said, is "more inclusive. I think the more options, the better."
"If students only have one thing to consider, one option, that's really more brainwashing," said Duckett, who sent her children to Christian schools because of her frustration. Students should be exposed to the Big Bang, evolution, intelligent design "and, beyond that, any other belief that a kid in class has. It should all be okay."
Fox -- pastor of the largest Southern Baptist church in the Midwest, drawing 6,000 worshipers a week to his Wichita church -- said the compromise is an important tactic. "The strategy this time is not to go for the whole enchilada. We're trying to be a little more subtle," he said.
To fundamentalist Christians, Fox said, the fight to teach God's role in creation is becoming the essential front in America's culture war. The issue is on the agenda at every meeting of pastors he attends. If evolution's boosters can be forced to back down, he said, the Christian right's agenda will advance.
"If you believe God created that baby, it makes it a whole lot harder to get rid of that baby," Fox said. "If you can cause enough doubt on evolution, liberalism will die."
Like Meyer, Fox is glad to make common cause with people who do not entirely agree.
"Creationism's going to be our big battle. We're hoping that Kansas will be the model, and we're in it for the long haul," Fox said. He added that it does not matter "who gets the credit, as long as we win."
Special correspondent Kari Lydersen in Chicago contributed to this report.
Not Intelligent, and Surely Not Science
(March 30, 2005 LA Times Comentary)
By Michael Shermer, Michael Shermer is founding publisher of Skeptic magazine and the author of "Science Friction: Where the Known Meets the Unknown" (Times Books, 2005).
According to intelligent-design theory, life is too complex to have evolved by natural forces. Therefore life must have been created by a supernatural force — an intelligent designer. ID theorists argue that because such design can be inferred through the methods of science, IDT should be given equal time alongside evolutionary theory in public school science classes. Nine states have recently proposed legislation that would require just that.The evolution-creation legal battle began in 1925 with the Scopes "monkey" trial, over the banning of the teaching of evolution in Tennessee.
The controversy caused textbook publishers and state boards of education to cease teaching evolution — until the Soviets launched Sputnik in the late 1950s and the United States realized it was falling behind in the sciences. Creationists responded by passing equal-time laws that required the teaching of both creationism and evolution, a strategy defeated in a 1968 Arkansas trial that found that such a law attempted to "establish religion" in a public school and was therefore unconstitutional. This led to new equal-time laws covering "creation science" and "evolution science."
In 1987, the Supreme Court, by a vote of 7 to 2, said teaching creation science "impermissibly endorses religion by advancing the religious belief that a supernatural being created humankind." This history explains why proponents of intelligent design are careful to never specify the true, religious nature of their theory and to insist that what they are doing is science. For example, leading ID scholar William Dembski wrote in his 2003 book, "The Design Revolution": "Intelligent design is a strictly scientific theory devoid of religious commitments.
Whereas the creator underlying scientific creationism conforms to a strict, literalist interpretation of the Bible, the designer underlying intelligent design need not even be a deity." But let's be clear: Intelligent-design theory is not science. The proof is in the pudding. Scientists, including scientists who are Christians, do not use IDT when they do science because it offers nothing in the way of testable hypotheses. Lee Anne Chaney, professor of biology at Whitworth College, a Christian institution, wrote in a 1995 article: "As a Christian, part of my belief system is that God is ultimately responsible. But as a biologist, I need to look at the evidence…. I don't think intelligent design is very helpful because it does not provide things that are refutable — there is no way in the world you can show it's not true.
Drawing inferences about the deity does not seem to me to be the function of science because it's very subjective."Intelligent-design theory lacks, for instance, a hypothesis of the mechanics of the design, something akin to natural selection in evolution. Natural selection can and has been observed and tested, and Charles Darwin's theory has been refined.Intelligent-design theorists admit the difference, at least among themselves. Here is ID proponent Paul Nelson, writing last year in Touchstone, a Christian magazine: "Right now, we've got a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as 'irreducible complexity' and 'specified complexity' — but, as yet, no general theory of biological design."
If intelligent design is not science, then what is it? One of its originators, Phillip Johnson, a law professor at UC Berkeley, wrote in a 1999 article: "The objective is to convince people that Darwinism is inherently atheistic, thus shifting the debate from creationism versus evolution to the existence of God versus the nonexistence of God. From there people are introduced to 'the truth' of the Bible and then 'the question of sin' and finally 'introduced to Jesus.' " On March 9, I debated ID scholar Stephen Meyer at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo. After two hours of debate over the scientific merits (or lack thereof) of IDT, Meyer admitted in the question-and-answer period that he thinks that the intelligent designer is the Judeo-Christian God and that suboptimal designs and deadly diseases are not examples of an unintelligent or malevolent designer, but instead were caused by "the fall" in the Garden of Eden. Dembski has also told me privately that he believes the intelligent designer is the God of Abraham.
The term "intelligent design" is nothing more than a linguistic place-filler for something unexplained by science. It is saying, in essence, that if there is no natural explanation for X, then the explanation must be a supernatural one. Proponents of intelligent design cannot imagine, for example, how the bacterial flagellum (such as the little tail that propels sperm cells) could have evolved; ergo, they conclude, it was intelligently designed. But saying "intelligent design did it" does not explain anything. Scientists would want to know how and when ID did it, and what forces ID used.In fact, invoking intelligent design as God's place-filler can only result in the naturalization of the deity. God becomes just another part of the natural world, and thereby loses the transcendent mystery and divinity that define the boundary between religion and science.
The connection is merely a strategy mainstream scientists use to discredit intelligent design, Buell said.
The word “God” is never used in the book. Instead, “Pandas” suggests Earth is created by an “intelligent agent,” a “personal agent” and a “master intellect.”
Its critics say “Pandas” steers clear of almost all reference to the Earth’s age in order to hold up to First Amendment challenges and to avoid alienating biblical creationists.
The book’s only reference on Earth’s age is this: “Some take the view that the earth’s history can be compressed into a framework of thousands of years, while others adhere to the standard old earth chronology.”
Michael Behe, a Lehigh University biochemist who wrote one of the chapters in “Pandas,” said he is unconcerned that the age of the Earth is not covered because it is covered in students’ primary biology books.
But Kenneth Miller, who co-authored with Joseph Levine “Biology,” the best-selling biology textbook in the country and the one used in Dover, is one of the most vocal critics of “Pandas.” He said the book’s hedging on the age of Earth is like teaching U.S. history but refusing to tell students the dates of the Revolutionary War.
* * *
The debate that led to the Dover Area School Board’s decision to insert intelligent design into its science curriculum started with a mother’s concern that the 1998 version of the district’s biology book was out of date.
As board members in June debated the merits of the teacher-recommended textbook “Biology,” the board’s curriculum chairman said he wanted a book that combined creationism with evolution.
“Two thousand years ago, someone died on a cross,” Bill Buckingham said at a June public meeting. “Can’t someone take a stand for him?”
Buckingham fought to have “Pandas” included in the curriculum as a “companion text” to the textbook “Biology,” published by Prentice Hall. But before the board could vote on Buckingham’s proposal to buy “Pandas,” 58 copies were donated by residents — whose names the district will not release — and several copies are now housed in the high-school library on the reference shelf. The remaining books are kept in a storage room. As of Friday, 10 people had checked out copies from the library.
Eleven parents who filed suit in December over Dover’s intelligent-design requirement have not asked “Pandas” to be banished from the school, but the federal lawsuit states the book should not be in the science classrooms.
* * *
Even Buell doesn’t recommend the book.
“If they would have contacted me, I would not have encouraged the people in Dover to use it because of other tools that are more up-to-date,” he said. “The idea of intelligent design and the evidence that supports it has gotten extraordinarily more strong than when it was originally printed.”
As for the criticisms that the book misrepresents the theory of evolution, Buell disagreed. He said the main point is valid — that the theory of evolution’s basic principal of life evolving through natural selection and genetic mutation isn’t possible.
“The authors and we feel those are the most powerful arguments,” he said.John West of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which is now at the forefront of the intelligent-design movement, said his organization didn’t have anything to do with “Pandas” and had little to say about it.
Behe, author of the pro-intelligent design book “Darwin’s Black Box,” thinks, for the most part, the book accomplishes what it sets out to do — namely, getting the message out “that there are other ways of approaching biology.”
Behe wrote the book’s chapter on blood clotting, in which he states that any one of the many components needed to stop bleeding on its own is like “a steering wheel that is not connected to the car.”
He said the entire concept of intelligent design is essentially a debate over random versus directed processes.
“Darwin’s idea of random mutations is, I think, at the heart of the big brouhaha,” Behe said.But Miller said it’s not true, even though the book may try to make it look that way.
“The book is just a shambles,” said Miller, a Brown University biology professor. He said to his knowledge, “Pandas” has never been used as part of any curriculum in the country.
While students in Dover are not required to use “Pandas,” Miller said, it’s a poor choice even as a voluntary reference manual. “One of the criticisms raised by educators is that this is simply not appropriate for the high-school level,” Miller said.
Rather, Miller said he recommends “Pandas” to graduate students. “If they can recognize why this book is so wrong, they know their biology,” he said. “If you’re a high-school student, you’re not going to be able to see the flaws in this.”
* * *
The mainstream scientific community raises a list of complaints, such as:· The book includes a graphic listing examples of “living fossils,” which includes the horseshoe crab, alligator and aardvark. It raises the question, “Why has an organism like the shark not changed for 150 million years?”
The obvious answer, scientists say, is that it didn’t need to.
According to Darwin’s theory, if a living organism possesses traits necessary to survive in its environment, it will pass on its genes to the next generation. If its environment changes and the living organism does not survive to sexual maturity, those genes will not get passed on.
Also, Miller said, while it is true that sharklike animals existed long ago, they are a different species than sharks today. It’s disingenuous to say they have not evolved, he said.· “Pandas” misrepresents paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould’s observations.
The book raises questions about whether punctuated equilibrium — the idea that evolution tends to be characterized by long periods of virtual standstill punctuated by episodes of very fast development — contradicts Darwin’s theory of slow, gradual change.
But the idea that punctuated equilibrium is “an admission of weakness in evolutionary theory was always baffling to Stephen Gould,” said Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education, which defends the teaching of evolution in public schools.
At issue is “Pandas’” argument that the fossil record is missing evidence of transitional organisms. It states, “... fossil forms first appear in the rock record with their distinctive features intact, and apparently fully functional, rather than gradually developing.”
But the National Academy of Sciences, in its 1999 booklet, “Science and Creationism,” states: “So many intermediate forms have been discovered between fish and amphibians, between amphibians and reptiles, between reptiles and mammals, and along the primate lines of descent that it often is difficult to identify categorically when the transition occurs from one to another particular species.”
In the chapter on “Biochemical Similarities,” the book points out that biochemical analysis of the bullfrog and the horse show that they are the same distance on the evolutionary ladder from the carp.
The book says this shows a flaw in Darwinism because the bullfrog should be more closely related to the fish.
But Miller said that’s an inaccurate interpretation of Darwinism.
“Are these guys intentionally distorting this to mislead readers?” he said. “Or do they just not get it?”
He said present-day amphibians are as far removed from the ancestors of the carp as horses and humans.
“It’s clear that the people who wrote ‘Pandas’ don’t understand that evolution is branching through time,” he said.
Perhaps the most glaring proof the book is outdated, scientists say, is on the subject of whales.In “Pandas’” chapter on “Gaps and Groupings in the Fossil Record,” the writer states, “the absence of unambiguous transitional fossils is illustrated by the fossil record of whales.”Scientists have long theorized that whales evolved from land mammals, but “Pandas” argues that mammals and whales are so different, there should be many transitional fossils. But none have been found, the book states.
But since the book came out in 1993, scientists have found three of those intermediate fossils or “missing links.”
“We have whales with legs, we have whales with feet, we have amphibious forms that look like weird seals,” Scott said. “We’ve got all these wonderful transitional morphologies, most of which were not described at the time even when the second version of ‘Pandas’ came out.”· Another omission, Miller said, is on the subject of extinction.
Throughout evolutionary history, new organisms appear and disappear all the time in the fossil record. “If they were perfectly intricately designed organisms,” Miller asks, “why do they die?”For example, there have been 22 documented species of elephants that have roamed the Earth. “If all 22 species were intelligently designed, why does he need 22 tries for two successful elephants?” Miller asked.
Darwin’s evolutionary theory explains it “quite nicely,” Miller said: In the struggle for existence, some will perish.Reach Lauri Lebo at 771-2092 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Excerpts from ‘Of Pandas and People’
On the intelligent designer· From page 14: “Darwinian evolution locates the origin of new organisms in material causes, the accumulation of individual traits. That is akin to saying the origin of a palace is in the bits of marble added to the tool shed. Intelligent design, by contrast, locates the origin of new organisms in an immaterial cause: in a blueprint, a plan, a pattern, devised by an intelligent agent.”
· From page 58: “. . . the experimental work on the origin of life and the molecular biology of living cells is consistent with the hypothesis of intelligent design. What makes this interpretation so compelling is the amazing correlation between the structure of informational molecules (DNA, protein) and our universal experience that such sequences are the result of intelligent causes. This parallel strongly suggests that life itself owes its origin to a master intellect.”· From page 150, “Intelligent design (cause) — Any theory that attributes an action, function, or the structure of an object to the creative mental capacities of a personal agent.”
“Pandas” further defines intelligent design, on page 150, “In biology, the theory that biological organisms owe their origin to a preexistent intelligence.”
On Earth’s age· From page 92: “While design proponents are in agreement on these significant observations about the fossil record, they are divided on the issue of the earth’s age. Some take the view that the earth’s history can be compressed into a framework of thousands of years, while others adhere to the standard old earth chronology.”
On transitional specimens in fossil record· From page 96: “The gaps result from the imperfect nature of the fossil record, only a small part of which was preserved, and it seems unlikely that future research will fill them. Support for the theory of evolution must come from other fields of study.”· From page 99-100: “Darwinists object to the view of intelligent design because it does not give a natural cause explanation of how the various forms of life started in the first place. Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact — fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc. Some scientists have arrived at this view since fossil forms first appear in the rock record with their distinctive features intact, and apparently fully functional, rather than gradually developing. No creatures with a partial wing or partial eye are known.”
On whales evolving· From page 101: “The absence of unambiguous transitional fossils is illustrated by the fossil record of whales. The earliest forms of whales occur in rocks of Eocene age, dated some 50 million years ago, but little is known of their possible ancestors. By and large, Darwinists believe that whales evolved from a land mammal. The problem is that there are no clear transitional fossils linking land mammals to whales.”
On “living fossils”· From page 88: “Why has an organism like the shark not changed for 150 million years (by the conventional time scale)? W.H. Thorpe, director of Subdepartment of Animal Behavior at Cambridge University in England said: What is it that holds so many groups of animals to an astonishingly constant form over millions of years? This seems to me the problem now (for evolution) — the problem of constancy, rather than that of change.”
On genetic variation and natural selection· From page 88: “There is a strong case based on experiment that there are limits to genetic variation, which diminishes the persuasive power of Darwin’s argument. Moreover, a growing number of scientists accept natural selection as a reasonable explanation for the modification of traits but not for the origins of new structures.”
Parents Kept Out of Dover Suit
They wanted to support the school board on intelligent design, but the judge won’t add them to the suit.
By LAURI LEBODaily Record/Sunday NewsSaturday, March 12, 2005
Six parents who say their children have a First Amendment right to hear about intelligent design won’t be able to join a federal lawsuit on the Dover Area School District’s behalf, a judge has ruled.
In court documents filed Thursday, Judge John E. Jones III said the parents have not demonstrated that their interests will not be adequately represented by Dover’s attorneys, who will likely “prosecute their defense vigorously.”
Also, Jones said, they could substantially increase the cost of the litigation, which could end up resting “squarely upon the shoulders of the Dover School District taxpayers.”Eleven parents filed suit against the district in December over the school board’s decision to make intelligent design part of the high-school biology curriculum. The parents believe the requirement violates the First Amendment’s clause prohibiting the government establishment of religion.
Intelligent design is the idea that life is too complex to have evolved solely through natural selection and therefore must have been created by an “intelligent designer.”In January, the six parents, who include newly appointed Dover school board member James Cashman, asked to join forces with the district, saying their children have a right to be aware that there “are gaps in the biological theory of evolution.”
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Eric Rothschild of Pepper Hamilton, said Jones’ decision was good news for both sides.
“I have no doubt about the sincerity or interest in the parents who defend having intelligent design taught,” Rothschild said. But, he added, “it’s helpful to both sides that we don’t have to incur the extra time and costs that this would have created.”
Jones also rejected the district’s request to dismiss five of the plaintiffs from the suit on issues of standing.
The children of two of the plaintiffs, Beth Eveland and Cynthia Sneath, are eight years away from taking the required biology class, which defense attorneys argued is too far into the future to be relevant. But Jones said there is no evidence that the “injury-triggering event” will not be in place by the time the children reach ninth grade.
As for three parents whose children have already taken biology — Julie Smith and Barrie and Frederick Callahan — Jones denied the motion to dismiss them from the suit but said he might entertain a new motion later.
The district’s lead attorney, Richard Thompson of the Thomas More Law Center, said he was disappointed by the ruling but said he hopes to revisit the issue again regarding the standing of Smith and the Callahans. In the meantime, he said, the district is whittling away at the plaintiffs’ arguments.
Reach Lauri Lebo at 771-2092 or email@example.com.
The other two intelligent design supporters running for office are Alina Kline and Michael Arnold.When he applied for a vacant seat in December, Arnold refused to answer how he felt about intelligent design.
"I thought it was an inappropriate question," he said.But now that he's a candidate, he's only too happy to make his feelings known."I support the direction the board's headed," Arnold said.