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« Reiki Bullshit In Our Own Backyard The RantsCAP Alert: Good Idea, Bad Execution »

Dover Watch - Lawsuit Filed
2004.12.14 (Tue) 21:27

As expected, the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State have filed a lawsuit on behalf of eleven parents of Dover, PA school children as a result of the Dover mandate to teach so-called Intelligent Design in public schools. From the ACLU press release:

The lawsuit argues that teaching students about "intelligent design" in public school science classes entangles government with religion and violates the separation of church and state. Of Pandas and People, the alternative book available for students, was authored by advocates of so-called creation science and published by a Christian think-tank that aims to preach "the Christian Gospel and understanding of the Bible." ...

"Teaching students about religion’s role in world history and culture is proper, but disguising a particular religious belief as science is not," said ACLU of Pennsylvania Legal Director Witold Walczak. "Intelligent design is a Trojan Horse for bringing religious creationism back into public school science classes."

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United Executive Director, added, "Public schools are not Sunday schools, and we must resist any efforts to make them so. There is an evolving attack under way on sound science education, and the school board's action in Dover is part of that misguided crusade. 'Intelligent design' has about as much to do with science as reality television has to do with reality."

We at the Two Percent Company will be closely following the progress of this lawsuit. While it may seem like a foregone conclusion that science and reason will win the day, this case actually marks the first legal challenge to Intelligent Design. Sure, Intelligent Design is just a euphemism for biblical creationism, and sure it has been ruled to be unconstitutional to teach creationism — which was correctly categorized as religion and not science — in public schools. But Intelligent Design was created after that ruling with the specific purpose of taking the next step that creationism could not take. A lot will be leaning on the 1997 decision in Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish Board of Education, in which a U.S. District Court formally equated Intelligent Design to Creationism.

This time around, the bible-thumpers in Dover have worded their position very carefully to try to skirt the law. From the Dover School Board website:

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.

It almost sounds reasonable, right? Well, no, it sounds like thinly-veiled religious bullshit, and if it isn't intentionally confusing, then they need to focus on teaching writing in Dover as well as science, but you know what we mean. Forget the fact that disclaimers like this which single out evolution as merely a "theory" have been ruled to be unlawful — these bozos are willing to have another go at it.

In case you aren't familiar with the overview of the case, here's the guy who's leading the charge for the Dover fundies:

The revision was spearheaded by school board member William Buckingham, who heads the board’s curriculum committee.

“I think it’s a downright fraud to perpetrate on the students of this district, to portray one theory over and over,” said Buckingham. “What we wanted was a balanced presentation.”

Buckingham wanted the board to adopt an intelligent-design textbook, “Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins,” as a supplement to the traditional biology book, but no vote was ever taken. A few weeks before the new science curriculum was approved, 50 copies were anonymously donated to the high school.

Although Buckingham describes himself as a born-again Christian and believes in creationism, “This is not an attempt to impose my views on anyone else,” he said.

Perish the thought, William! We never suspected that you would want to impose your Christian views on anyone else! Why would you want to do that? Just because a central tenet of your religion is proselytizing — the act of witnessing for Jesus to convert unbelievers to the fold? Right.

The bottom line here, as the ACLU has said, is that Intelligent Design is nothing more than a Trojan Horse for teaching religion in schools. Should they win, the fundies would view this small step as a giant leap forward for theocracy. And they would be right.

— • —

In case you missed them, read our other Rants on Dover.


— • —
[  Filed under: % Creationism  % Government & Politics  % Religion  ]

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