Cdesign propentsists...

Not even bill size in Geospiza finches evolves as fast as creationist tactics.

The PBS series NOVA presented an excellent documentary titled 'Judgement Day: Intelligent Design on Trial' outlining the latest in a long list of judicial successes for the teaching of evolution in the United States. The case was the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover School District in the US District Court of the Middle District of Pennsylvania presided over by President Bush appointee John E. Jones III. The Dover, PA school board required teachers to present intelligent design (ID) as an alternative to evolution and steered students to the pro-ID text 'Of Pandas and People' of which copies were conveniently donated to the school by an anonymous benefactor.

This case was a triumph for science education. Judge Jones' decision concluded not only that the defendants in the case clearly had a religious agenda in violation to the first amendment establishment clause but also that they concealed this agenda to give the appearance of a secular purpose. Former school board members William Buckingham and Alan Bonsell were found to have lied in their original depositions as to the source of the 'Of Pandas and People' texts. Money for the text was raised in Buckingham's church and essentially laundered through Alan Bosnell's father. Judge Jones' decision however went beyond these particulars and declared that there was no evidence presented during the course of the trial to convince him that ID was a valid scientific pursuit, much less a well supported scientific theory.

Central in this case was the 'Of Pandas and People' text. There are many heroes in this case but perhaps the most damning evidence against the constitutionality of the Dover policy came from Southeastern Louisiana University philosophy professor Barbara Forrest. To demonstrate that the ID approach of 'Of Pandas and People' was truly creationism in disguise and thus in violation of the establishment clause as a public school text the plaintiffs subpoenaed the publishers of 'Pandas' to provide early drafts of the text. Forrest combed over thousands of pages and found that the language of the drafts changed to mesh the religious message with the latest judicial rulings.

For example, in 1987 the US Supreme Court case of Edwards versus Aguillard ruled that a Louisiana statute requiring equal time for "creation science" and evolution was in violation of the establishment clause. Drafts of 'Pandas' prior to the Edwards v. Aquillard ruling used the term "Creator" while post Edwards v. Aquillard "creator" was replaced with more vague and less overtly religious terminology like "intelligent agent". The NOVA documentary highlighted one of the more blatant examples of this "evolution" of creationism in response to the "selection" imposed on the movement by the courts and the US Constitution. In their haste to change the text to less obvious religious terminology to get around legal restrictions the publishers of 'Pandas' left behind some obvious editorial clues to their real goals. Places in the text that previously read "creationists" suddenly in later drafts appeared as "cdesign propentsists" and later as "design proponents". A clear editorial transitional form. Congrats to Dr. Forrest. One could not expect more from even the best paleontologists!

Kitzmiller v. Dover represents a stunning defeat for ID. The strategy of ID as a wedge to move the US from a secular society to one dominated by the particular religious views of a segment of the population is exposed in this ruling. It is also made clear that the acceptance of the science of evolution is not tied to any particular theistic or atheistic belief or political ideology. There could not be a better judge for this ruling. A political conservative appointed by a conservative president.

'Judgement Day: Intelligent Design on Trial' did an excellent job presenting the issues at stake in the Dover case. Ironically one of the quotes that stuck with me from the program was from one of the defendant's attorneys Patrick Gillen of the Thomas More Law Center.

"Does science education have to be so narrow, so technical, so deferential to the existing paradigm that we can't even introduce students to what may be the next great theory" Patrick Gillen - Thomas More Law Center

The answer to Gillen's question is yes. Science is narrow. It is limited to those ideas that are testable against the empirical evidence. The range of scientific theories that should be taught in the public schools is also narrow, restricted to those theories that enjoy the support of the available evidence. As an explanation for the origins of biological diversity evolution has enjoyed the support of the empirical evidence for 150 years. ID has no scientific support and worse yet it is not testable as science. There may very well be a "great next theory" out there but until that theory accumulates some actual support then it has no place in the science classroom.