Sept. 27, 2005 – Opening a landmark case yesterday, lawyers representing a group of parents sought to prevent a school from continuing to force what they see as religion into the science curriculum. The trial begins even as scientists continue to uncover more information detailing the continuing evolution of life on the planet.
Brought by eleven parents of ninth-grade students in a small Pennsylvania town, Kitzmiller et al. v Dover Area School District is the first trial around evolution in nearly 20 years. The parents are concerned that a recently adopted school policy requiring biology teachers to tell students about intelligent design and state that evolution is an unproven theory misinforms students on basic scientific fact. Intelligent design is the theory that life is so complex that an intelligent being must have created it and manipulated speciesâ€™ development over time.
In testimony yesterday, Brown University biology professor Kenneth Miller noted that most of the scientific community does not accept intelligent design, saying, "To my knowledge, every single scientific society in the United States that has taken a position on this issue has taken a position against intelligent design and for [Charles Darwinâ€™s] evolutionary theory."
Through think tanks, evangelical groups, sympathetic scientists and politicians, intelligent design is increasingly forcing its way into the national dialogue, despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of scientists and scientific foundations contend that the idea does not pass scientific muster.
Last month, scientists working on deciphering genomes found that humans and chimpanzees share 96 percent of the same genetic code. In a scientific experiment detailed in yesterdayâ€™s Washington Post, a group of scientists working with chimps showed that a formula arising out of Darwinâ€™s theory worked flawlessly in predicting genetic mutations.
Two weeks ago, the judge hearing the case turned down a dismissal motion put forth by the school district. In a statement announcing the decision, the American Civil Liberties Union, which is an acting counsel for the parents challenging the district, noted that several science teachers in the Dover district oppose the curriculum changes. Three members of the Dover School Board have resigned in protest of the October 2004 decision to teach intelligent design, the ACLU added.
Proponents of intelligent design claim theirs is a legitimate science. As part of the school boardâ€™s decision, science teachers must inform students that the recently published textbook, Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins, explaining the intelligent design theory is in the school library.
Leading biologists and education specialists have largely and resoundingly discredited the scientific basis of the book. In an assessment of the text for the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT), Richard P. Aulie, an evangelical Christian, warns that the bookâ€™s science is extremely flawed and that the text is really a "pragmatic maneuver in the present-day controversy."