Intelligent Design Suffers Setback


Dec 20, USA (SUN/HPI) — A federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled today that a public school district in the south-central part of the state cannot require the inclusion of "intelligent design" [advocated by conservative Christians] in biology classes as an alternative to evolution. U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, issuing his decision in a case that was heard in the fall, ruled that the school board in Dover, Pa., violated the Constitution when it ordered high school biology teachers to read to students a short statement that cast doubt on Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and offered intelligent design as an alternative theory on the origin and development of life. Jones ruled that the requirement unlawfully promoted a religious purpose in a public school. The case produced one of the biggest courtroom battles over evolution since the landmark "Scopes Monkey Trial" in 1925, and it was closely watched in other jurisdictions that have seen heated debates between opponents and advocates of Darwin's ground-breaking 19th century theory.

In his ruling today, Jones said several members of the Dover Area School Board repeatedly lied during the trial to cover their motives for promoting intelligent design even as they professed religious beliefs, the Associated Press reported. "The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID [Intelligent Design] Policy," Jones wrote. Jones said advocates of intelligent design "have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors," adding that he did not believe the concept should not be studied and discussed, AP reported. But he concluded that "it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a pub lic school science classroom." Specifically, Jones said the school board's policy on intelligent design violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution.

In defending the board's policy, witnesses in a six-week trial last fall argued that intelligent design is a scientific theory and stressed that including it in the curriculum advanced secular goals of opening students' minds to another possible explanation for the origin of life. But Jones wrote in his 139-page opinion 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." Jones sharply criticized some of the school board members, writing, "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."

The case stemmed from the school board's decision last year to require 9th grade biology teachers to read four paragraphs to students regarding intelligent design at the start of lessons on evolution.

For more information, see the Washington Post article.


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