Dover Downed

, Julia A. Seymour, Leave a comment

A federal judge tried to avert skepticism of Charles Darwin’s theories in Dover, Pa., but doubters remain unconvinced.

According to Discovery Institute (DI) Senior Fellow Dr. John West, DI’s involvement and position on the 2005 Kitzmiller case was distorted in media accounts of the controversial case involving intelligent design science. “We want schools to teach more about evolution, not less,” said West, adding, “We don’t want to mandate the teaching of intelligent design.”

Dr. West, who is also an associate professor of Political Science at Seattle Pacific University, made these remarks at a recent Discovery Institute’s book event at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. West was joined by attorney Casey Luskin who co-wrote the book, Traipsing Into Evolution: Intelligent Design and the Kitzmiller vs. Dover Decision, with West, David DeWolf and Jonathan Witt.

The book is a critique of the ruling in the Kitzmiller case, which arose out of controversy surrounding a Dover Area School Board vote to require teachers read this statement to students in ninth grade biology class:

The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.

Because Darwin’s Theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.

Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves.

With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the Origins of Life to individual students and their families. As a Standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on Standards-based assessments.

Before the Dover School Board voted to mandate this, the Discovery Institute had contacted board member Bill Buckingham (now resigned), and told him the DI position which advocates a “teach the controversy” approach and not to mandate intelligent design teaching, explained West.

When we [DI] found out about the required statement, we publicly opposed it, West said, but the media didn’t make that clear.

“Dover didn’t have to happen,” said West.

Following up his clarification of DI’s involvement in Dover, West gave his criticisms of the ruling Judge John E. Jones III delivered in that case.

“I criticized him [Jones] as a judicial activist” because he ventured far outside the scope of the question he was faced with, said West. If he found that the board acted for “purely religious motivation” rather than secular he could have ruled it unconstitutional and that would have been the end of it.

“But, it seems he wanted to make history…His ruling is clearly an effort to determine future law with his opinion of religion,” said West, offering proof from Judge Jones’ ruling in the case: “We will offer our conclusion on whether ID is science not just because it is essential…but also in the hope that it may prevent the obvious waste of judicial and other resources which would be occasioned by a subsequent trial involving the precise question which is before us.”

Luskin also provided criticism of the Kitzmiller ruling, but served mainly to provide counterarguments for some of Judge Jones’ main reasons for ruling that intelligent design is not science. Jones provided six claims for ruling that intelligent design is not science, but Luskin explained that these claims were made by misrepresenting or denying facts.

The first claim was that intelligent design requires supernatural creation. But the fact is, Luskin points out, the very textbook in question during the trial (Of Pandas and People) says that science cannot study the supernatural and that ID theory only invokes intelligence. The judge also ignored statements made by scientists Scott Minnich and Michael Behe who said intelligent design does not try to determine the origin of the intelligence, Luskin added.

The second claim addressed by Luskin was Jones’ claim that ID has not been in peer-reviewed publications. At this point Luskin held up a binder full of peer-reviewed and published articles that discuss intelligent design theory.

“This was a flat out lie,” said Luskin.The Discovery Institute submitted amicus briefs that mentioned these articles, Luskin said.

The third claim Luskin discussed was Jones’ claim that there has not been testing and research done on intelligent design.

“Scott Minnich gave testimony of his own experiments [dealing with irreducible complexity],” said Luskin, but clearly Jones ignored this in his decision.

Lastly, Jones claimed that intelligent design theory stemmed from Thomas Aquinas, but the textbook Of Pandas and People states that “Advocates of design have included not only Christians and other religious theists, but pantheists, Greek and enlightenment philosophers…” said Luskin. The point being that the design argument is something people have considered for a long time and therefore, this is not a mere repackaging of creationism.

Julia A. Seymour is a staff writer for Accuracy in Academia.