Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The Key to Dover

The most important issue in the Dover case is whether “intelligent design” is a genuine scientific theory or whether it is just old-fashioned creationism given a new label – old wine in new skins, to use a Biblical metaphor. Here’s powerful evidence for the plaintiffs, presented by their attorney during his opening argument and projected on a screen for all in the courtroom to see. First, the definition of “intelligent design” from the book, Of Pandas and People, the book that the Dover school board recommends and makes available to students:

“Intelligent Design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency with their distinctive features already intact: fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks and wings, etc.”

Now here is the definition of “creation” used in an earlier draft of the very same textbook:

“Creation is the theory that various forms of life began abruptly, with their distinctive features already intact: Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers and wings, mammals with fur and mammary glands.”

They took the same definition, almost word for word, and simply replaced the word “creation” with the phrase “intelligent design”. Likewise, the plaintiffs have produced many statements from school board members saying that they were searching for a way to get equal time for “creationism” in their science classrooms before they implemented the policy in question. So it seems that everyone seemed to think that ID and “creation” were identical ideas…right up until the point where they realized that was legally troublesome, then suddenly everyone is in agreement that they’re totally different ideas that have nothing to do with each other. Convenient, but absurd.

Comments

  1. #1 Grumpy
    September 28, 2005

    Unless I’m mistaken, proving that ID is nothing more than previously overruled Creationism is the only way for the plaintiffs to win. If ID is not religion, the 1st Amendment is no help. It’s not enough to show that ID is bogus or unscientific; only if it’s religious can it be disallowed.

    (Kind of like “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance: if it’s a non-religious God, it doesn’t offend the 1st Amendment.)

  2. #2 Dave S.
    September 28, 2005

    Isn’t there also ethics issues that need to be addressed? Surely the state code of ethics has something to say about knowingly teaching students crap, even if it passes the religious sniff test.

    You can read the PA teaching ethics code here.

    http://www.teaching.state.pa.us/teaching/cwp/view.asp?a=15&Q=76982

    Can you be qualified to teach about a theory that does not exist?

  3. #3 Ed Brayton
    September 28, 2005

    Grumpy wrote:

    Unless I’m mistaken, proving that ID is nothing more than previously overruled Creationism is the only way for the plaintiffs to win. If ID is not religion, the 1st Amendment is no help. It’s not enough to show that ID is bogus or unscientific; only if it’s religious can it be disallowed.

    Well, both issues are tied together here because of the Lemon test. The plaintiffs are arguing that the school board’s policy has no secular purpose or effect (the first two prongs of that test) because ID is not a genuine scientific theory but is merely creationism in a new suit. The school board will argue that there is a clear secular purpose and effect of exposing students to a genuine scientific theory such as ID. So the question of whether ID is a scientific theory and is adding to our understanding of the world is indeed a key issue in this case.

    Ken Miller’s job yesterday was to address the scientific merit of ID. Rob Pennock is testifying today and his job will be to address the question of what is and is not science and why ID is not scientific because it deals in questions of the supernatural. Barbara Forrest will testify in the next couple days and her job will be to address the history of the ID movement and show its religious roots and its tactical history of hiding those roots in order to pass legal muster. She will connect the dots between creationism and ID.

  4. #4 spyder
    September 28, 2005

    “if it’s a non-religious God,”

    one small point… the ‘non-religious’ god isn’t capitalized. Thus your choice to use the capital is in fact a religious artifact and does represent a trio of historically aligned monotheistic religions all from the Middle East region.

  5. #5 Ginger Yellow
    September 29, 2005

    You’d think that people fighting a case which hinges on the Lemon test would have the sense not to hire the Thomas More Law Centre, whose own website declares that their mission is “restoring and preserving” what they claim is the religious foundation of America.

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