Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Victory in Gull Lake

Last evening I attended the Gull Lake school board meeting on a sweltering night when they were to decide whether or not to allow two 7th grade science teachers to teach ID as they had been doing for the last couple of years. I am happy to report that after about a year of effort and controversy, the school board voted unanimously that ID could not be taught in science classes in that district, nor could the book Of Pandas and People be used in the 7th grade class where it had been used as a supplemental text for the past couple years by two teachers there. They did so in the face of a lawsuit threatened by the Thomas More Law Center on behalf of the two teachers, who claim that they have a right to teach ID in their classes even if those with authority over the curriculum do not agree.

I gave a brief talk to the board that focused on two things. First, the fact that many prominent ID advocates had themselves said that it was premature to talk about teaching ID in public school science classrooms because it is not yet a full fledged scientific theory and has not been established within the scientific community to warrant such inclusion. Specifically, I quoted Bruce Gordon’s statement that ID had been “prematurely drawn into discussions of public science education where it has no business making an appearance without broad recognition from the scientific community that it is making a worthwhile contribution to our understanding of the natural world.” Second, I sought to reassure the board that the lawsuit threatened by the TMLC has little hope of succeeding and that they almost certainly know that. As I wrote on the Michigan Citizens for Science webpage a few weeks ago, there are three precedents for such a suit. In all three, the complaint was dismissed and the dismissal upheld on appeal.

The final result in Gull Lake was as follows. The ad hoc committee that was formed to reach a resolution on the issue, which was made up of 7 people including the two teachers who were teaching ID, voted 5-2 against teaching ID, with those two teachers obviously being the 2 yes votes. It was then sent to all of the junior high and high school science teachers, where again only the two teachers in question thought it should be taught. It was then sent to the District Curriculum Council, which voted 15-0 against teaching ID. And last night, the school board vote to reject ID in science classrooms was unanimous. They did accept the committee’s recommendation that the board approve ID as a potentially suitable subject for a high school level elective course in social studies, humanities, political science or philosophy, but that would have to go through the normal process of being approved separately by the administration and could not begin until at least fall of 2006.

So all in all, a resounding victory for the advocates of quality science education. We now await the decision of the Thomas More Law Center on whether they will actually file the suit they have been threatening. In speaking with a couple members of the Gull Lake board last evening, it seemed that they were all expecting such a suit to be filed. I’m not so sure. The TMLC must know that they have virtually no chance of winning that suit, so if they file it will only be because they want either the media attention or the donations that would follow that attention. And at this point, they have their hands full with the Dover ID trial, and that frankly isn’t going well for them at this point either. So good news all the way around.

Comments

  1. #1 Dave S.
    June 14, 2005

    Excellent news Ed.

    That’s the dilemma the ID crowd faces every time. It can survive in the shadows, lurking in websites and PR releases and articles published by friendly houses, but it has to come into the bright light of day sooner or later, and whenever it does, it gets revealed for the sham that it truly is.

    I look forward to the resolution of the Dover situation.

  2. #2 Dan
    June 14, 2005

    Congratulations, Ed, on a job well done. This is a victory for both science and education. The administration at Gull Lake should also be commended for its dedication to the best interests of the students, and for the courage it took not to back down in the face of heavy-handed threats from Thomas More. This courage and dedication is no small thing, and it stands in sharp contrast to Gull Lake’s counterparts in Kansas and Dover.

    As to this:

    The TMLC must know that they have virtually no chance of winning that suit, so if they file it will only be because they want either the media attention or the donations that would follow that attention.

    Both of the reasons you cite are, sadly, sufficient for the creationists to move forward with a lawsuit. No publicity is bad publicity, and the spin that will ensue from Thomas More is so predictable that you could write the press release yourself. And, of course, anything that keeps the contributions flowing is a good thing. So, what’s your best guess? Will Thomas More file? Or do they simply spin and walk away?

  3. #3 Ed Brayton
    June 14, 2005

    Dan wrote:

    So, what’s your best guess? Will Thomas More file? Or do they simply spin and walk away?

    I really don’t know. Everyone I talked to last night seemed resigned to the fact that a suit would be filed. Bev Hundley, the curriculum director, said that their attorney, Lisa Swem, expected a suit. I expect Lisa has more of a feel for whether a suit will be filed than I do. She likely at least has had some direct contact with the TMLC on the matter. So I’ll defer to her judgement for now. But it’s tough for them to take a case for free knowing they can’t win the case, especially when they’re already footing the bill for the far bigger and more comprehensive trial in Dover and that one isn’t going well for them right now (I hope to be free to post some details on that soon, but for now I can’t). They have to calculate that it will bring in more in donations than it will cost them.

  4. #4 Jim Anderson
    June 14, 2005

    Congrats, Ed. When this sort of nonsense starts appearing in our district, which it invariably will, I’ll give you a call.

  5. #5 Scott
    June 14, 2005

    Ed:

    Thanks for continuing to fight the good fight. Some day, I’ll figure out how to email you a bottle of 12 year-old scotch.

    Scott (Eon)

  6. #6 raj
    June 15, 2005

    This is interesting, but I have one question. What has occurred in the midwest in the last 40 years or so that has resulted in an apparent anti-science revolution there? I grew up and was educated in a northern suburb of Cincinnati in the 1960s, and nobody in my school district had any problem with teaching of evolution in biology class. What has happened since the 1960s in the midwest that has resulted in this firestorm? This is a serious question.

    A second, less serious question, is whether it should be “Thomas Moore” instead of “Thomas More” I have no idea, but I understand the reference

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