Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Judge Rules That "Intelligent Design" Has No Place in Public School

In the matter of Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District in Pennsylvania, in which parents of students enrolled in the public schools objected that the imposition of "Intelligent Design" theory into high school science classes was an unconstitutional establishment of religion, U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones III has just handed down his decision ... and he agrees with the parents. Full text of the judge's decision here (pdf file).


As a finding of fact, Judge Jones writes that "an objective observer would know that ID [Intelligent Design] and teaching about 'gaps' and 'problems' in evolutionary theory are creationist, religious strategies that evolved from earlier forms of creationism." In other words, "Intelligent Design" is indeed a Trojan Horse meant to sneak religion back into school curriculums, and any self-respecting Trojan would recognize it instantly for what it is.

Judge Jones is particularly sharp in his writing (starting on page 36, of this 139-page decision!) of what an "objective student" would assume upon hearing the mandated statement regarding Darwin and "Intelligent Design" that the Dover School Board ordered its 9th grade science teachers to read aloud at the beginning of the school year. Devastating analysis.

But by far the most far-reaching part of the judge's decision is this: "...we find it incumbent upon the Court to further address an additional issue raised by Plaintiffs, which is whether ID is science .... While answering this question compels us to revisit evidence that is entirely complex, if not obtuse, after a six week trial that spanned twenty-one days and included countless hours of detailed expert witness presentations, the Court is confident that no other tribunal in the United States is in a better position than are we to traipse into this controversial area" (p. 63). Having said that as prelude, the judge then rules that Intelligent Design is NOT science "in the hope that [my ruling] may prevent the obvious waste of judicial and other resources" in other jurisdictions where fundamentalist and right-wing activists are seeking to subvert evolutionary science with religious dogma.

Furthermore, the judge observes that Intelligent Design, in its attempts to cast doubt on evolution, deliberately distorts the scientific evidence of evolution under the mistaken opinion that to discredit evolution is also to prove Intelligent Design. Not so, says the judge: Intelligent Design "has utterly no place in a science curriculum" (p. 89).

By inference, at least, El Presidente makes an appearance in the judge's decision here: "...ID's backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard. The goal of the IDM [Intelligence Design Movement] is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID" (p. 89). It was George W. Bush, if you recall, who back in September (or was it October?) opined that he thought "the controversy" of evolution v. Intelligent Design could justifiably be taught.

The judge's opinion comes close to comedy when he characterizes the way some Dover school board members lied on the witness stand (they gave "non-credible testimony" that they were not -- no, never! -- acting out of a religious intent). That they should lie is curious to the judge, considering their faith that they were doing the work of their Lord Jesus Christ in wedging Intelligent Design into the Dover school curriculum. "They lied outright" (p. 105), says the judge. If they thought they were acting purely under the guiding spirit of the Lord, why would they purjure themselves denying it?

When called to a Higher Godly Purpose in the Culture Wars, the judge astutely notes, legislative bodies like the Dover School Board often finds itself exactly where the Religious Right wants it: "...one unfortunate theme in this case is the striking ignorance concerning the concept of ID amongst Board members" (p. 121). Several of them were led by the nose and literally did not know what they were voting to put into their school's science classes. Yes, the judge called that by its plain name ... "ignorance."

And here I've spent five full hours reading the judge's decision, and I've got Christmas presents to wrap!

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