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« Planet of the Bushes The RantsDover Watch - The Shot Ignored 'Round the World »

Dover Watch - The Eleventh Hour (Plus Cobb County Appeal!)
2005.01.18 (Tue) 01:25

As the reading of the Dover intelligent design statement draws near, the blogosphere seems to be holding its breath. The York Daily Record, with no other shoe to drop just yet, reported on some of the behind-the-scenes action:

Attorneys for the Dover Area School District have cited a position espoused by U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., in their defense of the district's proposal to include the concept of intelligent design in high school biology classes.


The language of the so-called "Santorum Amendment" was adopted into the conference committee report of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act. The amendment says, "Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society."

Santorum's amendment is not part of the final language of the No Child Left Behind Act and does not mandate the teaching of alternate theories regarding the origins of life.

But according to a September 2003 letter to a major proponent of intelligent design, Santorum and two other congressional Republicans said the amendment's inclusion in the conference committee report "therefore represents the official view not only of the Conference Committee but of the United States Congress as a whole about how science instruction should proceed under the No Child Left Behind Act."

"We take that language in the fact that it was part of the final conference report, regarded on par with the authority of law," said Richard Thompson, President of the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., and lead counsel for the Dover school district. "Courts go to the reports to discover the intent of legislation. Report language has historically been considered."

It would be hysterical if they weren't seriously thinking this would work (and if the current epistemological climate in this culture didn't seem so promising for such tactics). Let's start with the proposed (and rejected) amendment:

"Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society."

On the surface, this seems like a very good idea. Help students "understand the full range of scientific views that exist." The thing is, intelligent design is not science. Pure and simple. It offers no evidence or suggestions for experimentation, it makes no testable predictions, and it is entirely unfalsifiable. It is not a "scientific view," and therefore does not fall into the "full range of scientific views."

So why does the Dover school board insist that this language clears the way for intelligent design in public schools? We'll turn to Richard Thompson of the Thomas More Law Center, who said:

"Courts go to the reports to discover the intent of legislation. Report language has historically been considered."

Very well, Mr. Thompson, let's discuss intent. We can see your intentions clearly: to defend the religious freedom of Christians (read: make sure Christians enjoy unique, special privilege in our country), restore "time honored family values" (read: enforce Biblical Law), and protect the sanctity of human life (read: strip women and the terminally ill of their rights to live — and die — as they choose, in favor of protecting the existence of clumps of non-sentient cells). Your intentions, Mr. Thompson, and those of the Dover school board members, are clearly spelled out.

And if you're really interested in looking at things "historically," read Judge Clarence Cooper's recent decision in Selman v. Cobb County, where he discusses how...

In Epperson, the Supreme Court declared an anti-evolution statute unconstitutional because it "select[ed] from the body of knowledge a particular segment which it proscribe[d] for the sole reason that it is deemed to conflict with a particular religious doctrine."


Similarly, in Edwards, the Supreme Court declared that a balanced treatment statute was unconstitutional because "[o]ut of many possible science subjects taught in the public schools, the legislature chose to affect the teaching of the one scientific theory that historically has been opposed by certain religious sects."

So in case Mr. Thompson is simply baffled by why the courts — and all rational people — keep insisting that the Intelligent Design agenda is religious, we'll spell it out: the only reason that anyone has ever brought forward a complaint about public school science classes teaching evolution (and evolution only) has been because of their religious beliefs. Disguising your talk of "creation" with talk of "intelligent design," and coyly making references to a "supremely intelligent designer who may or may not be the Judeo-Christian God," doesn't magically make your religious motivations go away, nor does it make them invisible to judges and the rest of the world.

Fundamentalists are constantly trying to have their cake and eat it too — forcing their religion on others by claiming "it's as scientific as evolution theory," and wailing about evolution being taught in public schools because "it's as religious as creationism." When one tactic doesn't work, creationists — whether they call themselves Intelligent Designists or anything else — try another, no matter how contradictory the two approaches might be. When they're called on their bullshit, of course, they lie.

As for the Cobb County sticker case, Reed A. Cartwright over on The Panda's Thumb is keeping well on top of that. He reported today that the Cobb County school board was deciding whether or not to appeal Judge Cooper's decision. In the comments, Nick Matzke confirms the news with an article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In case you can't access the article, here are the salient points.

As if taking a federal judge's ruling against them as fighting words, the Cobb County school board voted Monday to appeal a court order to remove evolution disclaimers from textbooks.

In a 4-2 vote, board members said U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper's decision "amounts to unnecessary judicial intrusion into local control of schools," according to a statement they released immediately after the vote.

The decision came after members met with lawyers for three hours in closed session.

"We have to make our best judgment based on the facts," said Curt Johnston, a member who was chairman when the board adopted the disclaimers in 2002. He said the board believes the facts show the judge erred when ruling that the disclaimers — which call evolution "a theory, not a fact" — convey an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

In their statement, the board said it felt "condemned . . . for taking a reasonable approach to address the concerns of [Cobb] citizens on a controversial issue."


The disclaimers read: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."

Six parents sued to remove the stickers saying the disclaimers violated the principle of separation between church and state. Cooper heard three days of testimony, plus closing arguments, in November. He issued his ruling Thursday.


Board Chairwoman Kathie Johnstone read the board's statement aloud Monday, although both she and Laura Searcy voted against the appeal. Johnstone, the only one of seven members not on the board when the disclaimers were written, said she personally felt "it's time to move on."

"I'm worried about the toll it will have on the district," she said.

Board members said they would pursue the appeal at no additional cost, a promise stemming from board attorney Glenn Brock's pledge to do his remaining work on the case for free. Brock's law firm has charged the board roughly $74,000 so far.

Brock said he will request a stay as early as today from the judge's order that the disclaimers be removed immediately.

Round and round we go...stay tuned.

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

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


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