“If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for me.”
(A U.S. Congressman to Dr. David Edwards, head of the Joint National Committee on Language, about the necessity of a modern commercial nation to be multi-lingual.)
All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry against his consent; no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship.
Deception by trickery or sophistry
Religious fundamentalists are sincere on their view of the World as a battleground between Good and Evil. For them anything that undermines faith in God, specially with regards to children, is utterly evil. The teaching of Science to children is seen as a threat to children indoctrination. They fail to understand that Science is not about what to believe but rather a method to perceive Reality. Teaching religious ideas as fact undermines science education by misinforming students about the scientific method — the basis for science literacy. The scientific method teaches students the fundamentals of science — how to observe data, perform experiments and form scientific theory. Religious explanations for creation are not science – they cannot be confirmed or denied by the scientific method. Teaching them as science confuses and misleads students about the scientific method, thereby warping their ability to live in a technology-driven society.
However, it must be said that there is perversion of language and there are religious groups that use the language of science to mislead and actually undermine a scientific conceptualization of Reality. Religious opponents of evolution have cloaked religious beliefs in scientific sounding language and then mandating that schools teach the resulting “creation science” or “Intelligent Design” as an alternative to evolution. Intelligent Design organizations are fundamentalist religious entities that consider the introduction of creation science into the public schools part of their ministry. Creation science rested on a “contrived dualism” that recognized only two possible explanations for life, the scientific theory of evolution and biblical creationism, treated the two as mutually exclusive such that “one must either accept the literal interpretation of Genesis or else believe in the godless system of evolution,” and accordingly viewed any critiques of evolution as evidence that necessarily supported biblical creationism. Creation science is simply not science because it depends upon supernatural intervention, which cannot be explained by natural causes, or be proven through empirical investigation, and is therefore neither testable nor falsifiable.
The argument for Intelligent Design (ID) is not a new scientific argument, but is rather an old religious argument for the existence of God, traced back to at least Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, who framed the argument as a syllogism: Wherever complex design exists, there must have been a designer; nature is complex; therefore nature must have had an intelligent designer. Although proponents of ID occasionally suggest that the designer could be a space alien or a time-traveling cell biologist, no serious alternative to God as the designer has been proposed. The writings of leading ID proponents reveal that the designer postulated by their argument is the God of Christianity. Dramatic evidence of ID’s religious nature and aspirations is found in what is referred to as the “Wedge Document.” The Wedge Document, developed by the Discovery Institute’s Center for Renewal of Science and Culture. The Discovery Institute, the think tank promoting ID whose CRSC developed the Wedge Document, acknowledges as “Governing Goals” to “defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies” and “replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.”
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. As we will discuss in more detail below, it is additionally important to note that ID has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community, it has not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor has it been the subject of testing and research.
Science is an abstraction, an ideal, The human brain is limited in its ability to perceive reality. Science is by definition, a work in progress, an approximation to reality, an iterative process of understanding never completed. The flowing and uncertain nature of Science is hard to grasp by the religious mind that perceives everything that happens as full of moral meaning within crisply defined boundaries between Good and Evil. From the point of view of religious fundamentalists, Science is a competing religion, although a silly one at that. Then the scientific community is under attack with this straw-man argument against evolution:
But if design, conversely, is rational, why do so many scientists reject it? Because this is not an issue of science, but of religion. Their religion is that of materialism and naturalism, and they are under no illusions as to the implications of design.
Any effort to introduce a theological doctrine into public school science curricula would inevitably offend some teachers and students. After all, a Protestant fundamentalist’s “literal” reading of Genesis would likely differ markedly from that of a Catholic or an Orthodox Jew.
Both public school educators and religious leaders should be concerned about the prospect of biology lessons degenerating into debates on Biblical or religious interpretation.
Evolution by natural selection, at its core, works like this: living organisms are characterized by heritable variation for traits that affect their survival and reproductive abilities. This heritable variation originates from the (truly random) process of mutation at the level of DNA (although Darwin didn’t know this, he observed that there was variation and noted that somehow it was heritable from one generation to the next). Natural selection then is the differential survival and reproduction of organisms that have (heritable) traits that allow them to do better in the struggle for life. That’s it, but the concept is profound because the process of evolution turns out to be largely the result of two components: mutations (which are random) and natural selection (which, again, is not random). It is the joint outcome of these two processes that—according to evolutionary theory—explains not only the diversity of all organisms on Earth, but most crucially the fact that they are so well adapted to their environment: those that weren’t did not survive the process. Indeed, many organisms do not survive or reproduce, with the result that more than 99 percent of the species that ever existed have by now gone extinct.
You may find it intuitively difficult to believe that two relatively simple natural processes can produce the complex order we observe in living organisms. But the beauty of science is that it so often shows our intuitions to be wrong. Because nature does not always function according to our common sense or intuition, the scientific method a necessity on the quest of the human race for survival.
Evolution is both a theory and a fact, contrary to simplistic creationist views. How can this be? Evolution is a fact in the sense that it is beyond reasonable doubt that living organisms have changed over time throughout the history of the earth. It is a theory in the sense that biologists have proposed a variety of mechanisms (including, but not limited to, mutation and natural selection) to explain the fact of evolution.
The theory of evolution is a fundamental concept of biology and it is supported by the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence. Simply eliminating evolution from the public school curriculum in order to ease community tensions would do a great disservice to all students. It would deny public school students an adequate science education – which is more and more becoming a necessity for professional success in a high-tech world.
Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins is a controversial 1989 (2nd edition 1993) school-level textbook written byPercival Davis and Dean H. Kenyon and published by the Texas-based Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE). It espouses the pseudoscientifictheory of intelligent design—namely that life shows evidence of being designed by an intelligent agent (specifically, a god). The book presents various polemical arguments against the scientific theory of evolution. In 2007 a third edition of the book was published under the title The Design of Life: Discovering Signs of Intelligence in Biological Systems.
The book argues that the origin of new organisms is “in an immaterial cause: in a blueprint, a plan, a pattern, devised by an intelligent agent.” The text is non-committal on the age of the Earth, commenting that 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.” The book raises a number of objections to the theory of evolution, such as the alleged lack of transitional fossils, gaps in the fossil record and the apparent sudden appearance ex nihilo of “already intact fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc.” The book makes no explicit reference to the identity of the intelligent designer.
Kevin Padian, a biologist at University of California, Berkeley reviewed the book and called it “a wholesale distortion of modern biology.” Michael Ruse, a professor of philosophy and biology, reviewed it, saying “this book is worthless and dishonest.” Gerald Skoog, Professor of Education at Texas Tech University, wrote in his 1989 review that the book reflected a creationist strategy to focus their “attack on evolution”, interpreting the Edwards v. Aguillard ruling as though it legitimised “teaching a variety of scientific theories”, but the book did not contain a scientific theory or model to “balance” against evolution, and was “being used as a vehicle to advance sectarian tenets and not to improve science education”.
The title Of Pandas and People apparently refers to biologist Stephen Jay Gould’s book The Panda’s Thumb, possibly in hope that people would be confused by the similar titles, or as retaliation for arguments made in the earlier book. Gould used the giant panda‘s “thumb”, which was found to be an evolved sesamoid bone, to support his argument that “ideal design is a lousy argument for evolution” and that “odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proofs of evolution – paths that a sensible God would never tread but that a natural process constrained by history, follows perforce.”
There are currently two editions of the book, the 1989 first edition edited by Charles Thaxton, and the 1993 second edition, which included a “Note to Teachers” by Mark D. Hartwig and Stephen C. Meyer. A third edition was retitled The Design of Life. Jon Buell, the president of the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, said that the ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District that intelligent design was religious would make the textbook “radioactive” in public schools and would be “catastrophic” for the marketability of both the (then) present (second) edition and the (then) forthcoming third edition, citing possible losses of around US$500,000. The renaming of the book is viewed by some as way of mitigating this and at the same time distancing the book from past controversy.
For the 1993 edition, Michael Behe wrote a chapter on blood clotting, presenting arguments which he later presented in very similar terms as “irreducible complexity” in a chapter in his 1996 bookDarwin’s Black Box. Behe later agreed that they were essentially the same when he defended intelligent design at the Dover Trial.
The book is published by the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE), a non-profit organization founded by ordained minister Jon Buell in Richardson, Texas, in 1980 as a tax-exempt charitable and educational organization, with articles of incorporation which stated that its purpose includes “proclaiming, publishing, preaching [and] teaching…the Christian Gospel and understanding of the Bible and the light it sheds on the academic and social issues of the day”. In the original Internal Revenue Service tax-exemption submission, Buell described the foundation as a “Christian think-tank” and stated that the organization’s first activity would be the editing of a book “showing the scientific evidence for creation”. Co-author Percival Davis later acknowledged that religious concerns underlay the writing of the book; in a November 1994 interview with the Wall Street Journal, he commented: “Of course my motives were religious. There’s no question about it.”
The Louisiana “Balanced Treatment Act” case — Edwards v. Aguillard — was decided by the Supreme Court in 1987. The court determined that teaching creationism in public schools violated theEstablishment Clause of the United States constitution, but that alternative scientific theories could be taught. While the decision ruled out any return to teaching traditional Young Earth creationism in science classes, it did offer an opening for those willing to recast creationist doctrine in the language of science.
In 1987 a further draft of the book was produced with the new title Of Pandas and People, which still had the definition “creation means that various forms of life began abruptly”, and used the term “creationists”:
The basic metabolic pathways (reaction chains) of nearly all organisms are the same. Is this because of descent from a common ancestor, or because only these pathways (and their variations) can sustain life? Evolutionists think the former is correct, creationists accept the latter view.
The outcome of the case prompted significant editorial changes to the book. Dean H. Kenyon had presented an affidavit to the court in which he defined “creation science” as meaning “origin through abrupt appearance in complex form”, which did “not include as essential parts… catastrophism, a world-wide flood, a recent inception of the earth or life,… the concept of kinds, or any concepts from Genesis or other religious texts”, but this attempt to re-define creation science did not succeed in the Edwards case. Thaxton, who was working on the Pandas book, needed a new term after the Supreme Court case, and found it in a phrase he “picked up from a NASA scientist – intelligent design”. He thought “That’s just what I need, it’s a good engineering term….. it seemed to jibe… And I went back through my old copies of Science magazine and found the term used occasionally.” In a new draft of Pandas, approximately 150 uses of the root word “creation”, such as “creationism” and “creationist”, were systematically changed to refer to intelligent design, The definition remained essentially the same, with “intelligent design” substituted for “creation”, and “intelligent creator” changed to “intelligent agency”:
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, wings, etc.
The term “creationists” was changed to “design proponents”, but in one case the beginning and end of the original word “creationists” were accidentally retained, so that “creationists” became “cdesign proponentsists”.
The basic metabolic pathways (reaction chains) of nearly all organisms are the same. Is this because of descent from a common ancestor, or because only these pathways (and their variations) can sustain life? Evolutionists think the former is correct, cdesign proponentsists accept the latter view.
FTE founder Jon Buell says that the word creationism was a “placeholder term” whose definition “changed to include a religious context after the draft was written, so the writers changed the word.” However, the proof that intelligent design was creationism re-labeled played a significant part in the Kitzmiller trial, and “cdesign proponentsists” has been described as “the missing linkbetween creationism and intelligent design.”
Of Pandas and People was published in 1989 by “Haughton Publishing Co.” This was the assumed name of a Mesquite, Texas, printing firm, Horticultural Printers, Inc., which mainly served the agricultural industry and had no other books in print, nor any in-house writers or science advisors. (It should not be confused with the well-known children’s and school textbook publisher,Houghton Mifflin). Printing costs were met by donations to the FTE, whose members were told in a December 1988 fundraising letter that donors would receive an enameled box with a panda on the lid as a gift. The box would “become a pleasant reminder to pray for our work”, as Buell put it.
Following the book’s publication in 1989, the FTE embarked on a lengthy campaign to get the book into use in schools across the United States. Previous creationist efforts to dilute or overturn the teaching of evolutionary theory had relied largely on a “top-down” approach of pro-creationist legislators passing laws to regulate science education in schools. However, these had repeatedly failed to survive court challenges. The FTE took a “bottom-up” approach instead, mobilizing local Christian conservative groups to push school boards and individual teachers to adopt the book and also to get themselves elected to school boards and local educational committees.
Buell told supporters:
|“||Biology teachers are generally easy to contact, available for a meeting on short notice, and receptive. If you would like to be a part of this ‘quiet army’, please let us know right away. Those choosing not to enlist may wish to support those who do by their prayers.||”|
The FTE provided publicity materials to its supporters to assist them in promoting the adoption of the book. These included a video of testimonials by pro-ID scientists and a promotional script, including “lines to take” on contentious issues.
For instance, on the controversial issue of ID’s perceived overlap with religion, the FTE’s suggested response read:
|“||I agree that personal beliefs should not be taught in science classrooms, but intelligent design is not a personal belief; it is accepted science, a view that is held by many highly qualified scientists.||”|
The FTE was aided in this effort by “traditional” creationist organizations such as the Institute for Creation Research, which sells Of Pandas and People through its own online shop and catalogue. The book was explicitly marketed by retailers as a creationist work; in the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case, donated copies of the book were accompanied by a catalog which listed Pandas under “creation science.”
Many of the book’s arguments are identical to those raised by creationists, which have been dismissed by the scientific community. In fact, a comparison of an early draft of Of Pandas and People to a later 1987 draft showed how in hundreds of instances the word “creationism” had been replaced by “intelligent design” and “creationist” replaced by “intelligent design proponent”, while “creator” was replaced by “agency” or “designer”.In his 2007 book Monkey Girl Edward Humes describes how this change was made after Edwards v. Aguillard settled that teaching “Creation Science” in public schools was unconstitutional.
Scientific and education professional groups have strongly criticized Of Pandas and People and have opposed its use in schools. Science educator Gerald Skoog described it as “a vehicle to advance sectarian tenets and not to improve science education” and said “This book has no potential to improve science education and student understanding of the natural world.”
A review of Of Pandas and People by paleontologist Kevin Padian of the University of California at Berkeley for the National Center for Science Education‘s Bookwatch Reviews in 1989 called the book a “wholesale distortion of modern biology”, and says that FTE’s writers had misrepresented such topics as the Cambrian explosion, the history of birds, and the concept of homology.Padian described the treatment of homology in Of Pandas and People as “shameful”, citing:
|“||They pretend that the Tasmanian wolf, a marsupial, would be placed (classified) with the placental wolf if evolutionists were not so hung up on the single character of theirreproductive mode by which marsupials and placentals are traditionally separated. This is a complete falsehood, as anyone with access to the evidence knows. It is not a matter of a single reproductive character, but dozens of characters in the skull, teeth, post-cranial bones (including the marsupial pelvic bones), soft anatomy, and biochemistry, to say nothing of their respective fossil records, that separate the two mammals. About the closest similarity they have going for them is that they are both called “wolf” in English. The same criticism can be applied seriatim to the authors’ mystifying discussion of the red and giant “pandas”.||”|
Padian’s conclusion was: “It is hard to say what is worst in this book: the misconceptions of its sub-text, the intolerance for honest science, or the incompetence with which science is presented. In any case, teachers should be warned against using this book.”
In fact, the many errors and misleading statements in this text were immediately recognized almost from its first publication by a variety of scientists and educators. Reviews describing the errors and misrepresentations in Pandas have appeared in many publications, including Scientific American (July 1995, Science and the Citizen, “Darwin Denied”).
Science is an open enterprise, and scientific inquiry thrives precisely because no scientific theory or idea is ever immune from criticism, examination, or testing in the crucibles of experiment and observation. When I first opened the pages of Pandas and read the fine words presented by its authors in the name of free and open inquiry, I expected a text that might genuinely challenge students to examine the assumptions of what they had learned and evaluate scientific theory in an objective manner. To say that I was disappointed is to put it mildly. What I found instead was a document that contrived not to teach, but to mislead.
Pandas mis-states evolutionary theory, skims over the enormous wealth of the fossil record, and ignores the sophistication of radiometric dating, How sad it would be, given the need to improve the content and rigor of science instruction in this country, for this book to be offered as part of the educational solution. There is a great deal that we do not know about the origin of life on this planet, but that does not mean that science is obliged to pretend that it knows nothing, or to engage in a kind of scientific relativism, pretending that all speculations about the origin of our species are equally correct. The most compelling reason to keep this book out of the biology classroom is that it is bad science, pure and simple.
Science education today faces many challenges. Our teachers must deal with an ever-changing landscape of scientific advance and technological innovation that continually changes the ground upon which they educate their students. Biology education, in particular, will be the key for many of our students as they attempt to prepare themselves for the challenges of the next century, and therefore it is especially important that teachers be supported, not hindered, in their attempts to educate students in the life sciences. The many errors and misrepresentations that inhabit the pages in Of Pandas and People will, quite honestly, serve to hinder teachers as they attempt to cover the stunning range and diversity of contemporary biology. I believe it is best not to burden science faculty with the needless task of overcoming the many errors and misconceptions written into this book.
Kenneth R. Miller
Professor of Biology
Providence, Rhode Island 02912
The FTE’s activist approach has produced heated controversies in several US states as Christian conservatives and school boards sought to adopt Of Pandas and People in public schools, against the opposition of mainstream scientists, educators and civil liberties organizations. This has caused several notable controversies, culminating in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case in Pennsylvania in which the contents and antecedents of the book came under unprecedented scrutiny.
In Alabama, 11,800 people signed a petition which was presented to Alabama’s school textbook committee, endorsing intelligent design and urging the adoption of Of Pandas and People as a class textbook. In January 1990 the book was withdrawn from consideration by its publishers, the Haughton Publishing Co., who said that they “backed off because they weren’t given [the] chance to defend [the] book.”
By 1990, a public campaign was mounted in Idaho to urge the state school board to adopt Of Pandas and People. However, the book was rejected by the board.
In January 1993, right-wing members of the school board of Vista, California, sought to include Of Pandas and People in the school science curriculum. A teachers’ committee voted unanimously to reject the book saying it lacked scientific merit. The board eventually backed away from plans to require creation science to be taught in science classes.
In September 1994, residents of Louisville, Ohio, voted 121-2 to urge the local school board to adopt Of Pandas and People. Creationism had been taught openly in district schools until a lawsuit forced a change of policy in 1993; in the wake of the decision, the district was given 150 copies of the book.
In October 1994, school officials in St. Lucie County, Florida, distributed copies of the book to every high school and one middle school in the county to be reviewed by teachers and principals for use as a possible supplement for science classes. The response from teachers was negative but county school officials still planned to distribute the books to school libraries so teachers and students could use it as a resource. According to the local Civic, Business and Ministry Coalition, copies of the book were purchased by the Coalition from the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego, California, and were sent to school administrators on the grounds that it was “a good, science-based text appropriate for school children”. The Coalition was reported to have met administrators on several occasions to promote creation science. However, the county school board did not find out about the matter until January 1995.
The Wall Street Journal reported in November that according to the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, 22,500 copies of the book had been printed and teachers and curriculum buyers in 48 states had bought it. Fifteen school districts had ordered quantities large enough to indicate classroom use, but had not been identified “for fear of embroiling them in controversy”.
In January 1995, conservative members of the Plano, Texas, school trust proposed to adopt Of Pandas and People as a supplement to the existing curriculum course materials. The district school board unanimously voted to bar the book’s acquisition following an outcry from local residents, many of whom attended the board’s meeting wearing buttons with a red “X” over a panda. Two of the proponents of the book subsequently lost their seats on the Plano school board.
In April 1997, the school board of Chesapeake, Virginia, purchased copies of the book for the libraries of each of the district’s 15 high schools and middle schools. The acquisition was made on the recommendation of School Superintendent W. Randolph Nichols, but the board stated that the book was intended for use “as a resource book, not as a science book” and that it was not endorsing creationism.
In June 1999, the school district in Burlington, Washington, approved a local science teacher’s proposal to use extracts from Of Pandas and People in the classroom “so long as he balances it with enough support for teachings on evolution which he always included in his courses but about which he says he has doubts — especially in terms of the origin of the human race”. The decision followed an earlier demand by the American Civil Liberties Union, that the teacher, Roger DeHart, should cease his years-long practice of teaching intelligent design in his classes. He stated that he needed to counterbalance the inclusion of information that was “at best wrong and at worst fraudulent” in the standard pro-evolution textbooks used in Burlington schools.
That same year, another attempt to introduce Of Pandas and People into Idaho schools was reported to have been rejected by the state textbook committee.
In March 2000, the science curriculum director of the Kanawha County, West Virginia, school district selected Of Pandas and People as a textbook “that presents Darwin’s Theory of Evolution as theory, not fact” following pressure from the local community and teachers. A committee of science teachers unanimously voted to purchase copies of the book, but ultimately decided to abandon the idea for fear of litigation. A Christian conservative legal group, the Thomas More Law Center, offered to represent the county for free if any litigation arose but its offer was rejected. A proposal to buy the book for school libraries was eventually rejected by the school board, though a conservative member of the board pledged to pay for at least 14 copies out of her own pocket.
In Pratt, Kansas, the local school board voted to remove any mention of macroevolution, the age of the Earth, and the origin of the Universe from science curriculum, but rejected a bid to adopt Of Pandas and People for educational purposes.
Of Pandas and People became the focus of a litigation and controversy in Dover, Pennsylvania in 2004 after the Dover Area School Board endorsed it as a reference book. Perhaps inevitably, the ensuing court case was dubbed the “Panda Trial” by the media in an allusion to the famous “Monkey Trial” of 1925.
Although the board did not actually purchase the book, 60 copies were donated to the district by an anonymous party. It was revealed in court that a school board member asked his church for donations for the purchase of those books although that board member had denied all knowledge of the source of donation in an earlier deposition. Amid an international controversy, the board also became the first in the US to promote the teaching of intelligent design in the classroom, sparking a lawsuit, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, by the American Civil Liberties Union and other plaintiffs.
The FTE became involved in the Dover controversy when it became clear that Of Pandas and People would be a major focus of litigation. The foundation filed a motion to join the defending side in June 2005, arguing that a finding that intelligent design was religious would destroy FTE’s ability to market its textbooks within the district, and affect its ability to market the textbooks to any public school in the United States. Had the motion been granted, the FTE would have become a co-defendant with the Dover Area School Board, and able to bring its own lawyers and expert witnesses to the case. However, William A. Dembski, co-author of the new Pandas edition, and the Discovery Institute withdrew from the case. The Judge told the defendants: “To me it looks like Mr. Dembski was dropped as an expert because he didn’t want to produce, or because his employer didn’t want to produce the manuscript [on subpoena to the court] of The Design of Life.”
In his decision on the motion, Judge John E. Jones III ruled that FTE was not entitled to intervene in the case because its motion to intervene was not timely, describing FTE’s excuses for not trying to become involved earlier as “both unavailing and disingenuous”. Judge Jones also held that FTE failed to demonstrate that it has “a significantly protectable interest in the litigation warranting intervention as a party” and that its interests will not be adequately represented by the defendants.
While FTE did not become a party Jon A. Buell, the director of FTE testified on July 14, 2005, at the Dover Trial. Buell denied having known about actions of the Thomas More Law Center to which the Judge said it “strains credulity”.
In November 2005, eight of the nine members of the Dover school board were voted out of office and replaced with candidates who opposed the previous board’s decision to introduce intelligent design and lay doubts on evolution.
On December 20, 2005, the US District Court ruled that intelligent design is not science and is essentially religious in nature and the board’s requirement endorsing intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in science classes unconstitutional on the grounds that its inclusion violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
The judge in the Dover trial specifically referred to Pandas in his decision, stating:
|“||As Plaintiffs meticulously and effectively presented to the Court, Pandas went through many drafts, several of which were completed prior to and some after the Supreme Court’s decision in Edwards, which held that the Constitution forbids teaching creationism as science. By comparing the pre and post Edwards drafts of Pandas, three astonishing points emerge: (1) the definition for creation science in early drafts is identical to the definition of ID; (2) cognates of the word creation (creationism and creationist), which appeared approximately 150 times, were deliberately and systematically replaced with the phrase ID; and (3) the changes occurred shortly after the Supreme Court held that creation science is religious and cannot be taught in public school science classes in Edwards. This word substitution is telling, significant, and reveals that a purposeful change of words was effected without any corresponding change in content …. The weight of the evidence clearly demonstrates, as noted, that the systemic change from “creation” to “intelligent design” occurred sometime in 1987, after the Supreme Court’s important Edwards decision.||”|
|—Judge John E. Jones III, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District|
The newly elected board unanimously rescinded the policy on January 3, 2006.
In September 2006, John West, a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, began a campaign to have the American Library Association declare the book the “Banned Book of the Year”, but this was dismissed by Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Deputy Director of the American Library Association‘s Office for Intellectual Freedom: as the book was not removed from school libraries (and its inclusion was only formally challenged once, for “inaccuracy”) it does not qualify as “banned”
What has been the outcome of court cases testing whether creationism and intelligent design constitute suitable material for public school instruction?
David H. Bailey
11 May 2011 (c) 2011
There have been three major court cases in the United States testing whether creationist or intelligent design material may be taught or promoted in public schools. Here is a brief summary of each case, and an overview of the decisions. For full details, see the references to the actual court decisions at the end.
McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education
This U.S. District Court case stemmed from a 1981 law signed by the Governor of Arkansas entitled “Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act.” This law mandated that “Public schools within this State shall give balanced treatment to creation-science and to evolution-science.” Several groups filed suit, on three grounds:
- violation of the first amendment (that the government may not prohibit or favor specific religions);
- violation of a right to academic freedom under the free speech clause of the first amendment, and
- that the Act was impermissible vague.
Among the plaintiffs, in addition to parents and teacher organizations, were clergy of the United Methodist, Episcopal, Roman Catholic, African Methodist Episcopal Churches, Presbyterian, and Southern Baptist denominations. In addition, 72 Nobel prize-winning scientists and numerous scientific organizations filed court briefs describing creation science as a religious, not a scientific, movement.
The judge found that the law did indeed violate separation of church and state. He based his decision on what is known as the “Lemon” test, named after a 1971 court decision: “First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion … ; finally, the statute must not foster ‘an excessive government entanglement with religion.'” The judge found that “creation science” is characterized by belief in:
- Sudden creation of the universe, energy, and life from nothing;
- The insufficiency of mutation and natural selection in bringing about development of all living kinds from a single organism;
- Changes only within fixed limits of originally created kinds of plants and animals;
- Separate ancestry for man and apes;
- Explanation of the earth’s geology by catastrophism, including the occurrence of a worldwide flood; and
- A relatively recent inception of the earth and living kinds.
Based on expert testimony, Judge Overton concluded that “creation science” is “simply not science,” and instead is undeniably a religious notion promoted by certain fundamentalist movements. Thus, Overton ruled, “The Act therefore fails both the first and second portions of the test in Lemon v. Kurtzman.”
Edwards v. Aguillard
In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a Louisiana “Creationism Act,” which prohibited the teaching of the theory of evolution in public elementary and secondary schools unless accompanied by instruction in the theory of “creation science.”
In its decision, the Supreme Court struck down the law. They ruled [Supreme1987]:
The Act is facially invalid as violative of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, because it lacks a clear secular purpose. … The Act does not further its stated secular purpose of “protecting academic freedom.” It does not enhance the freedom of teachers to teach what they choose and fails to further the goal of “teaching all of the evidence.” … The Act impermissibly endorses religion by advancing the religious belief that a supernatural being created humankind.
Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District
This U.S. District case arose after the Dover [Pennsylvania] School of Directors passed a resolution stating “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 is not taught.” Subsequently the School District announced that teachers would be required to read the following statement to their biology classes [Lebo2008, pg. 62]:
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 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.
In the wake of these actions, a group of parents filed suit, and a widely publicized trail was held.
In his strongly-worded decision, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones struck down the school district’s actions, characterized intelligent design (ID) as not science, emphasized that evolutionary theory is in no way antithetical to religion, and castigated the Dover School Board for its divisive and deceptive tactics (here “ID” is an acronym for “intelligent design”) [Jones2005, pg. 136-138]:
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.