Yesterday a federal judge in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, issued his long-awaited ruling in the intelligent design (ID) case. As I feared, he ruled against the Dover school system’s inclusion of intelligent design in biology classes. While I am disappointed at the ruling, I am not disheartened, and you should not be either.
In his 139-page opinion, Judge John E. Jones concluded that “it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.” In reaching this decision, he found that intelligent design is not “science” because its ideas can’t be either verified or falsified through normal scientific methods.
Jones also ruled that intelligent design “cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.” He called the claimed secular purpose for including ID in the curriculum—improving science education—“a pretext for the Board’s real purpose”: to promote religion in the public school classroom. (The secular purpose test is decisive in these kinds of cases.) Now, I strongly disagree, but this tells us what has to be done in other cases if we are going to succeed.
Jones was particularly hard on school board members who, in his opinion, lied “time and again . . . to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.” His conclusions about the “real purpose behind the ID policy” were based on what happened outside school board meetings and not just inside them. He pointed to the history of the policy’s adoption and statements made by the policy’s supporters.
By way of anticipating the reaction to the ruling, Jones emphasized that “he wasn’t saying the intelligent design concept shouldn’t be studied and discussed . . . ” And this is the key: In Kansas and other jurisdictions, the teaching is permitted, not mandated. Always seek an open forum, so all sides can be discussed, and science compared to science.
As a lawyer, this case reminds me of the old adage that bad cases make bad law. In this case, I fear, well-intentioned school-board members overplayed their hand: Given the current state of Establishment Clause jurisprudence, there was little chance of the policy, as written, withstanding a constitutional challenge.
The Discovery Institute understands this: In its statement on this case, Discovery opposes “efforts to get the government to require the teaching of intelligent design.” It sees the divisiveness engendered by such policies as likely hindering “a fair and open discussion of the merits of intelligent design among scholars and within the scientific community . . . ” What’s more, Discovery doubts that most teachers know enough about ID to “teach about it accurately and objectively.”
“How can I be an optimist,” you ask, “in the face of yesterday’s decision?” Because I know that if we equip ourselves and do our job, truth will out. We should not despair. Our case is compelling if we frame it carefully, ask the right questions, and expose the claims of Darwinists.
To do this, it means you and I need to equip ourselves. My suggestion to you is that you call us here at BreakPoint (1-877-322-5527) so we can tell you how to get your hands on material that will equip you well to make a case—a case that is strong and will withstand constitutional challenge.
For further reading and information:
The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel.
Martha Raffaele, “Judge Rules against Pa. Biology Curriculum,” Associated Press, 21 December 2005.
John G. West, “Discovery Institute’s Position on Dover, PA ‘Intelligent Design’ Case,” Discovery Institute, 21 September 2005.
“Excerpts from ‘Intelligent Design’ Ruling,” Washington Post, 20 December 2005.
Amy Worden, “Federal judge: Intelligent design unconstitutional,” Philadelphia Inquirer, 20 December 2005.
See BreakPoint’s research and information page on intelligent design and evolution.