Ouachita Parish, a northern county in Louisiana, has bought into the DI’s “strengths and weaknesses” position and, as a result, set up a Dover trap for their local school districts to fall into. Here’s a description of the policy:
The policy states that the district “understands that the teaching of some scientific subjects such as biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning, can cause controversy and that some teachers may be unsure of the district’s expectations concerning how they should present information on such subjects.”
To that end, it says, “teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.”
It sounds not only inoccuous, but very reasonable. The reality, of course, is that this is the old ID win in a new skin. All it really means to encourage teachers to teach the “strengths and weaknesses” is that they encourage teachers to use all of the arguments made by the ID movement, just don’t label them as such. The big secret, the single fact that exposes this sham, is that ID is nothing but arguments against evolution.
ID is nothing more than a set of arguments pointing out alleged weaknesses in evolutionary theory. The fact that those weaknesses are almost invariably either highly distorted or exaggerated, and in some cases outright false, is one serious problem; the fact that each and every one of them, without exception, is taken directly from creationist literature is, from a legal standpoint, an even bigger problem.
The history of anti-evolutionism in the US is unmistakablly clear. What it shows is an ever-evolving movement that continually changes names and strategies but continues to make the same arguments. The hope, of course, is that everyone will be fooled by the change in label and not notice that the substative positions are exactly the same. Judge Jones in the Dover case saw this for precisely what it is, a dishonest public relations effort masquerading as science.
Even before the Dover case took place, the ID movement had already begun to shift its rhetorical strategy from advocating the teaching of ID to teaching the “strengths and weaknesses” or the “arguments for and against” evolution. This is a rhetorical strategy only because, as I noted above, to advocate the teaching of ID can only mean advocating the teaching of the various arguments concerning the weaknesses of evolution made by the ID movement. Judge Jones wrote:
“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 is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID.”
What the Ouachita Parish policy does is invite teachers and school districts to start using ID material in their science classrooms. The moment they do so, lawsuits will be filed. And just like in Dover, it won’t be difficult to trace the history of the arguments and the movement and show that it is nothing more than old fashioned creationism with a fancy new label attached to it in the hope that no one will notice. But Federal judges are a lot harder to fool than local school board officials and county supervisors.