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Old 12-20-2005, 01:28 PM   #1
Lucern
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HARRISBURG, Pa. - "Intelligent design" is "a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory" and cannot be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district, a federal judge said Tuesday, ruling in one of the biggest courtroom clashes on evolution since the 1925 Scopes trial.

Dover Area School Board members violated the Constitution when they ordered that its biology curriculum must include the notion that life on Earth was produced by an unidentified intelligent cause, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III said.

“We find 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,” he wrote in his 139-page opinion.

The ruling will not likely be appealed by the slate of new board members, who in the November election ousted the group that installed intelligent design, the new board president said Tuesday.

“The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy,” Jones wrote, adding that several members repeatedly lied to cover their motives even while professing religious beliefs.

The board’s attorneys had said members were seeking to improve science education by exposing students to alternatives to Charles Darwin’s theory that evolution develops through natural selection. Intelligent-design proponents argue that the theory cannot fully explain the existence of complex life forms.

The plaintiffs challenging the policy argued that intelligent design amounts to a secular repackaging of creationism, which the courts have already ruled cannot be taught in public schools.

The judge agreed.

“We conclude that the religious nature of ID would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child," Jones said.

The school board policy, adopted in October 2004, was believed to have been the first of its kind in the nation. It required students to hear a statement about intelligent design before ninth-grade biology lessons on evolution. The statement said Charles Darwin’s theory is “not a fact” and has inexplicable “gaps” and referred students to an intelligent-design textbook, “Of Pandas and People,” for more information.

Jones blasted the disclaimer, saying it "singles out the theory of evolution for special treatment, misrepresents its status in the scientific community, causes students to doubt its validity without scientific justification, presents students with a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory, directs them to consult a creationist text as though it were a science resource and instructs students to forgo scientific inquiry in the public school classroom and instead to seek out religious instruction elsewhere."

Jones wrote that he wasn’t saying the intelligent design concept shouldn’t be studied and discussed, saying its advocates “have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors.”

But, he wrote, “our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.”

The judge made a point of criticizing the school board members and the "breathtaking inanity" of their decision. “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," he wrote.

“Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge," Jones wrote. "If so, they will have erred. ... 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 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.”

Case divided the community
The controversy divided the borough of Dover and surrounding Dover Township, a rural area of nearly 20,000 residents about 20 miles south of Harrisburg. It galvanized voters to oust eight incumbent school board members who supported the policy in the Nov. 8 school board election. The ninth board member was not up for re-election.

The board members were replaced by a slate of eight opponents who pledged to remove intelligent design from the science curriculum.

They also will likely drop the old plan now that the judge has ruled, new board president Bernadette Reinking said. “As far as I can tell you, there is no intent to appeal,” she said.

Reinking said the new board will likely move the subject of intelligent design into some undetermined elective social studies class. She said the board will need to talk to its attorney before determining specific actions.

Eric Rothschild, the lead attorney for the families who challenged the policy, called the ruling “a real vindication for the parents who had the courage to stand up and say there was something wrong in their school district.”

Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., said he would like to appeal the decision, but it was up to the school board.

“What this really looks like is an ad hominem attack on scientists who happen to believe in God,” Thompson said of Jones’ ruling.

The dispute is the latest chapter in a long-running debate over the teaching of evolution dating back to the famous 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, in which Tennessee biology teacher John T. Scopes was fined $100 for violating a state law that forbade teaching evolution. The Tennessee Supreme Court reversed his conviction on a technicality, and the law was repealed in 1967.

Jones heard arguments in the fall during a six-week trial in which expert witnesses for each side debated intelligent design’s scientific merits. Other witnesses, including current and former school board members, disagreed over whether creationism was discussed in board meetings months before the curriculum change was adopted.

The case is among at least a handful that have focused new attention on the teaching of evolution in the nation’s schools.

Earlier this month, a federal appeals court in Georgia heard arguments over whether evolution disclaimer stickers placed in a school system’s biology textbooks were unconstitutional. A federal judge in January ordered Cobb County school officials to immediately remove the stickers, which called evolution a theory, not a fact.

In November, state education officials in Kansas adopted new classroom science standards that call the theory of evolution into question.

© 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Old 12-20-2005, 01:33 PM   #2
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Let's be sure this doesn't break the ban on religious topics as it is discussed. Not an easy thing to do given the topic itself!
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Old 12-20-2005, 01:37 PM   #3
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Good, seeing why this conclusion was correct shouldn't have to involve religion at all as it doesn't have anything to do with world views but with the nature and purpose of scientific research.
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Old 12-20-2005, 02:28 PM   #4
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Phew. Trusty judge.
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Old 12-20-2005, 02:40 PM   #5
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Good. Science is Science, and Religion is Religion, keep them apart.
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Old 12-20-2005, 03:47 PM   #6
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Quite right. ID has very little to do with religion, even though its proponents are generally very faith-based people.

ID, in and of itself, purports to be an "alternate scientific theory" but no definition or explanation of ID ever given makes the case that ID fits the accepted definition of "theory". ID begins with the conclusion that "all life was made as it is by an intelligent designer" and then finds evidence to prove the conclusion rather than by asking "how could life be so complex and diverse?" and reaching conclusions based on factual and reproduceable findings.

Bottom line, another victory for pure science! [img]graemlins/awesomework.gif[/img]
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Old 12-20-2005, 03:58 PM   #7
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I don't disagree with the decision, but I do believe it may be a bit of judicial activism.
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Old 12-20-2005, 04:01 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by Azred:
Quite right. ID has very little to do with religion, even though its proponents are generally very faith-based people.

ID, in and of itself, purports to be an "alternate scientific theory" but no definition or explanation of ID ever given makes the case that ID fits the accepted definition of "theory". ID begins with the conclusion that "all life was made as it is by an intelligent designer" and then finds evidence to prove the conclusion rather than by asking "how could life be so complex and diverse?" and reaching conclusions based on factual and reproduceable findings.

Bottom line, another victory for pure science! [img]graemlins/awesomework.gif[/img]
Well... considering that from our knowledge, there only one intelligent entity that could create life, and that's god, saying life was created "by an intelligent designer" is just another way of saying god.

That just remind me of Harry Potter and he who must not be named. It does not becomes another person if you change the appelation.
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Old 12-20-2005, 04:16 PM   #9
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Sure it does. If we change the appelation to "Ra" or "Osiris" or "Jupiter."
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Old 12-20-2005, 04:26 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by Timber Loftis:
Sure it does. If we change the appelation to "Ra" or "Osiris" or "Jupiter."
Those are still gods, and those religions a pretty much inactive and considered false by now.

The way I see it, those people that started ID were intending to get people to say life was created by someone, then they could have went a little farter and said. "Now that we agree life was created by someone and not evolution, why couldn't it be god?".

That's the kind of trick you pull on a kid when you want him to do something and he doesn't want to. You take it step by step. This is too obvious to work on most adults.

I'm pretty sure the judge saw the same way I did, too. That's probably why he shot it down.

[ 12-20-2005, 05:26 PM: Message edited by: Luvian ]
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